Of Course It's Heavy, it's Weightlifting

originally Posted on Monday, February 13, 2012 3:32 PM
In The Odyssey, Odysseus is the only sailor from his ship who makes it home.  now, barring the years of distraction caused by hot women, he generally made it through some pretty hard times.  He didn't take it easy and just keep doing what he knew he could.  Odysseus challenged his limits, he overcame the intellectual and physical riddles, and he resisted the ease of the Lotus flower. We all have that pesky little flower in front of us, trying to let us accept the life of light weights and certainty of what is to come at the end of each lift.  But not Odysseus.  He did the heavy lifting.  

Heavy means it's hard to pick up and put overhead.  Not just difficult to do physically, but hard, struggling, things may fall out of your body to make it happen.  I don't do heavy cleans anymore, because it's difficult to get my body into position to do them, and it's hard for my CNS to react quickly enough for me to get under the bar.  I'm getting close to heavy lifts, but it's going to take me another few months before I do them regularly.  So yes, the 140 cleans I'm doing now are light.  They are NOT easy for my body to do, but they also don't tax me the way a truly heavy lift would.  Heavy also means the bar doesn't magically fly into the air and stay overhead.  The weight should be so heavy to you that you MUST move quickly under the bar to succeed. Do this, often, and weights that were once heavy are so no longer.  

Many people say that heavy is a relative term.  It is; people are stronger than others.  Therefore, what is heavy for one person may not be heavy for another.  However, big weights are not relative.  Just because it's a heavy lift for you doesn't mean it's big weight.  Not lifting big weight doesn't negate your struggle triumphs, or efforts.  It just means you won't be chilling out with this chick on the medal platform come July: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderlifter/5059547171/

"This is a waist the spirit breaks its arm on.
The gods themselves, against you, struggle in vain.
This broad low strong-boned brow; these heavy eyes;
These calves, grown muscular with certainties;
This nose, three medium-sized pink strawberries                   
---But I exaggerate. In a little you will leave"   Randall Jarrell, "A Girl In a Library"

(Sorry, back to my point know.  36-24-36 makes some guys crazy, but 5'10" and 200 pounds makes me pay special attention.)

Though she's snatching 145 kg, or 317 pounds, I guarantee you she thinks its heavy.   How do I know that?  BECAUSE IT"S WEIGHTLIFTING, and IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE HEAVY.  Snatching isn't supposed to be some magical transportation of your body which puts a bar overhead; the bar isn't supposed to feel weightless in your hands when you pull it.  However, you are expected to move your butt in an athletic manner and get under the weight.  If you don't try to do this, and if you don't start succeeding, you won't be able to lift heavy.  Conversely, if you just pull on the weight and move like it's heavy, you won't be able to athletically get under it.  You need to understand the movement to succeed.  To understand the movement, you must sacrifice yourself to it.  

Sacrificing yourself to the movement doesn't involve candles and burning bushes.  Sacrificing yourself to the movement means focusing on it and making your body do what is necessary.  At the point where you, as a lifter, try to move from being a beginner to being truly competitive, you must be willing to both fail and to radically change how you interact with others.  You must make your lift the center of your universe.  The platform, your shoes, the audience-- nothing matters but you and your body.  That bar will do what you make it do.  

I get that turning this corner is difficult.  I did it, and I continue to do it.  I struggle with this many workouts.  There's an ease in your mind when you know you will make a weight.  I stand on record here with these words:  always lifting a weight you feel psychologically comfortable with is cheap and crass.  It's the twinkie of the workout world.  It's sacharine, easy, and you know you can always get it.  However, it leaves you unprepared and unfullfilled.  But there's more flavor to heavy lifting.  And only by doing it, by going through the HEAVY motions, will you get better.  Some days you need the easy lifts- they are and will always be there.  Going heavy, though, is different from making an easy lift often.  It's challenging psychologically.  But the payoff is huge.  Those lifts which are difficult, which require 100% technique just be be barely made with all your strength, striving for years to achieve that level of perfection, that desire and sacrifice is the obsession of the artist and the true competitor.   


Alfred, Lord Tennyson

It little profits that an idle king, 
By this still hearth, among these barren crags, 
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole 
Unequal laws unto a savage race, 
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. 
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink 
life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed 
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those 
that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when 
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 
Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name; 
For always roaming with a hungry heart 
Much have I seen and known---cities of men 
And manners, climates, councils, governments, 
Myself not least, but honored of them all--- 
And drunk delight of battle with my peers, 
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. 
I am part of all that I have met; 
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough 
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades 
Forever and forever when I move. 
How dull it is to pause, to make an end. 
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! 
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life 
Were all too little, and of one to me 
Little remains; but every hour is saved 
From that eternal silence, something more, 
A bringer of new things; and vile it were 
For some three suns to store and hoard myself, 
And this gray spirit yearning in desire 
To follow knowledge like a sinking star, 
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, my own Telemachus, 
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle--- 
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill 
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild 
A rugged people, and through soft degrees 
Subdue them to the useful and the good. 
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere 
Of common duties, decent not to fail 
In offices of tenderness, and pay 
Meet adoration to my household gods, 
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine. 
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail; 
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners, 
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me--- 
That ever with a frolic welcome took 
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed 
Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old; 
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil. 
Death closes all; but something ere the end, 
Some work of noble note, may yet be done, 
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods. 
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks; 
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep 
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends. 
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. 
Push off, and sitting well in order smite 
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds 
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 
Of all the western stars, until I die. 
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down; 
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles, 
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. 
Though much is taken, much abides; and though 
We are not now that strength which in old days 
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are--- 
One equal temper of heroic hearts, 
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will 
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 

Michael McKennaComment