Written by: Kevin Cann
My daughter is a big fan of the Marvel movies. We were watching the original Spiderman movies recently and in one of these moves, Spiderman is so stressed with work, school, and his duties as a superhero that he loses his powers.
This made me think quite a bit about powerlifting. The first couple of years can lead to you feeling invincible as your numbers just continue to climb. These beginner gains can really give you a false sense that you can just show up and train consistently and good things will happen.
As you get older, responsibilities begin to pile up. Maybe you were a college student when you began lifting and now a new career is taking up much more of your time and energy. Perhaps, you got promoted and this position requires more time and energy. Perhaps you got a significant other that wants some of that time and energy as well. Life will continue to pile these things on.
Humans have finite resources. We spend an average of 3 to 4 hours per day just controlling our thoughts and emotions from a baseline level. This doesn’t include anything extra that life might throw at us like traffic, or an annoying boss.
Making decisions decreases our mental resources. This is why all elite athletes have routines. How much time do you waste looking for your keys or thinking about what to eat for lunch? Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day to avoid this wasting of resources. Some jobs require a lot of decision making, and this is exhausting to our brains.
Research has shown that controlling thoughts and emotions, as well as resisting temptations, decreases mental resources. Subjects gave up in less than half of the time when attempting to complete a puzzle as well as a grip test, that also showed a decrease in force.
Then we stay up late to catch up on our favorite tv shows, have drinks with friends, and scoff at meditation and spirituality because we believe in science. Meditation is a way in which we can give our brain a rest and allow it to recover some of the necessary resources. Also, if we do not do this, sleep at night becomes recovery for the brain and not the body, making recovery even more difficult. This is true even if you have high quality sleep.
Spirituality allows you to step outside of yourself and create some space between you and your problems. In religion, God can be that space. People often talk to God about their problems. That is creating space compared to those who just get lost in their own minds. A lot of athletes tend to be religious, and I do not think that is a coincidence.
Now, I am not saying to start going to church on Sundays. However, this is something to really think about. Since religion has been replaced with scientism, we have seen a rise in mental health issues. We are not built to take on all the problems of the world. It can be overwhelming.
People who meditate show a decrease in anxiety before the administering of a pain stimulus, lower perceived ratings of the pain, and faster recovery from the pain when compared to those that do not meditate. This is as important to the athlete as brushing their teeth. It only takes a few minutes every day, but people will disregard it because they don’t see an immediate impact. Or even tangible benefits.
Having faith allows you to believe in something bigger than yourself. Believing in God, something you cannot touch or see, helps in these situations because many of the things that you have to do to be an elite athlete requires some faith. You can’t see or touch the benefits of meditation; you just need to have faith.
Self-awareness exists to help us with self-regulation. The more self-aware we are, the better our self-regulation. Meditation builds this self-awareness. For performance, we need to be aware of our thoughts and emotions and allow them to pass without judgment.
Our mind needs to be blank when we are lifting. Instead, most lifters will have strong conscious thoughts as they are lifting instead of a soft awareness of something to bring them into the present moment. These lifters cannot regulate their self, because they lack the awareness to do so, and if they are not doing the work to improve this, will be stuck in a rut sooner than later.
Lifters instead will blame a coach and the program for their lack of perceived success. They might then decide to grab the same program as a national champ because “It worked for them” and what is the risk of dropping cheap money on it?
Sports creates discipline to do these things because they weed out the ones that won’t. Yes, talent will get some people further than others, but at some level, everyone is talented, and these things become a difference maker. A much bigger difference maker than your choice of pre-workout or what color your knee sleeves should be.
Average is average for a reason. Most people will not do the extra things they need to. They will assume they can do it all and blame a coach or a program when it doesn’t work out. Eventually they will bounce around and try a few other things, with limited success, and just quit the sport. I have been around long enough to see this quite a few times.
One of the best parts of powerlifting is that anyone can compete. You might even compete at a local meet against a world champion. No other sport is like that. This is also the worst part about powerlifting because people fail to understand what it really takes to get to that level. Other sports weed those people out through the years, but not this one.
You can’t do it all, and at times there is just not enough resources to push lifting. Work on other aspects as you get other life pieces lined up, and then push the lifting again when it is appropriate. If you still want to make progress, which many of you do, you need to do these extra things. They are not optional.