“In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”
Carlos Casteneda, Journey to Ixtlan
When one takes on the challenge and journey of competition a new door is then opened… and it is one hell of a ride.  Every choice now has more emphasis on it with greater rewards and even more amplified consequences.  For a long time, when I found Weightlifting, I simply trained it, without competition.  The reward was becoming stronger, but there was no real consequence for failure (barring you didn’t get injured).  This makes it an activity of leisure.  While simply performing the lifts correctly will make you stronger, you will never really be chasing your potential.  Just… going through the motions, really.
The gifts that come with competition are not just the prospects of winning.  The victories come in the pressure and perseverance… and not just on the competition platform itself.  I have said before, and will continue to do so: You are not truly Weightlifting until you compete.  This isn’t about bragging rights… this is about so much more.
IMG_1594Initially, competition will push you much harder, because you know now that you have to perform, and that failure is real, and no longer private.  You expose your strengths and weaknesses for all of the world to see, and these days with media the way it is… it really can become all of the world.  And, if you are competing for the win, for a podium, or a place in a national competition… the Weight simply must become heavier.
IMG_1538It starts even in the warm-ups.  Now, I’m no longer trying to “get warm.”  The placement of my feet, the attention to how my body is moving; my hips, my ankles, my speed… is it there?  Is it working today?  Being tired is no longer an excuse… you must push.  Are my pulls working?  How about my turn over?  What kind of a day is today?  Am I visualizing the lifts correctly?  Where is my balance?  Forward or backwards?  Am I on?  You haven’t even put any weight on the bar yet.  This is all important to you now, because you are no longer working out.  You are a competitive athlete.  Now, you are training.  And, it is not “ok” to miss training sessions.  Your opponents are training, and the wolves are at your door.  You must find anywhere to get it in, often revolving your life around it.
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It spills over into the parts of your life that aren’t in the training gym.  It affects all of your decisions.  It determines what I will eat, and at what times of the day.  I have to pay attention to my sleep cycles, and how much sleep I am getting.  I have to sacrifice much in the way of leisure.  To be great at this sport… any sport, you must be selfish.  You must sacrifice the Friday nights for early Saturday training… at least if you want to be worth a shit.  You must pass over going to do things with friends and family.  And, the largest yields of success do not come from one decision, but many decisions made over many years.  It is the culmination of your efforts.  Motivation only gets you so far, I can still be motivated and fuck it all up.  This is about discipline and focus.
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Every training movement now has more emphasis behind it.  Every miss is a reminder that you can lose, either to your own mind, or another opponent.  Every make is a victory you earned from the work and sacrifices you have been putting in and making.  There is no more room for, “oh wells” and “better luck next time.”
All of this added pressure, however, bares rewards.  You are taking, head on, the demons in your world.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to compete, especially in Weightlifting.  When you step out on that platform you become something so much more than what you were.  You have to channel all of your energy, all of your focus, your strength, discipline, speed, power, doubt, fear, perseverance, courage… into a mere couple of seconds.  And, it is basically athletic binary code: you either are a 1, or 0.  The lift is either made, or it is not.  The barbell does not lie.
Capture111And when you do make that lift, that is the real reward.  All of the pressure comes pouring off of you.  It is an indescribable feeling.  All of that building tension rewards you with transcendence.  You did it. And, most importantly… you did it when it mattered.  You see, that is the key: when it counts.  Anyone can go into a gym and lift.  But the pressure that is on the platform, it is enough to crush you, or build you.  It all depends on the choices you make, the decisions, what you put into it. It all depends on… you.
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Every movement, every kilogram of weight added or taken away is a choice with consequences and rewards. Every time you grab the barbell, it is an opportunity to succeed, or fail.  This is a sport of power and precision.  You get six attempts.  Three only for each lift.  That is it.  Every decision you have made, and are about to make now weighs, literally, on the bar, and on your shoulders.  The wolf is always behind you, snarling, pushing you to run harder as it chases you with every breath.  This is no longer about feeling good, toning up, becoming healthier, or having fun.  This is more.  This is about transcendence.  This is the life of the competitive athlete.  This is the sting of the sport.
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