Lately I’ve been riding what feels a lot like a roller coaster in pretty much all aspects of Life, even in what I consider to be one of my anchors, training. Certain things go miraculously well for a while then suddenly that flips and something else is going great and whatever had just gone well sits sullenly in the corner for a spell while I attempt to figure out the wherefore and the why.*** Throw into this mix the details of a career change, a husband switching employers, junior high school starting for the daughter, and a regional powerlifting meet approaching and suddenly I’m looking at trees more often and missing the forest. In these circumstances, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae and forget the big picture; you can get so wrapped up in wondering what the heck is wrong with your deadlift that you forget to look at all the ways in which you are making progress toward your big, long-term goals.
***I think part of it is that there is an unwritten rule in powerlifting that all three lifts cannot simultaneously be progressing very well in any one training cycle; that one lift always lags slightly in some way until after the magic of a taper, when all things come together. If this isn’t a rule, please don’t tell me.
A friend sent me a supportive message that really surprised me yesterday and also made me stop and think. It was a wonderful and unexpected note (thanks, Geoff!) that I received just after a tricky training session, one in which my body was doing its thing pretty decently, but in which my mind fought me the entire time by wanting to be somewhere else and was challenging whether I actually had it in me to get through that session (I chose to ignore it, but it was a continuous and arduous process).
The message essentially said really nice things about one of my general long-term goals at exactly the right time, a time when all I was thinking about were the million little things that go through a busy woman’s mind right after training (Why did my right hip go wonky during that squat in the last set? That’s new. What does it mean? How’s my weight? Are my squats deep enough now that I’ve turned my toes out a little more? My hip mobility needs more work… how can I fit that in and what should I do? I’m hungry and need food now… What’s a good choice for supper? Will I be too hungry when I get home to make a good choice? I should have a shake now so I won’t eat something dumb. How are my openers for the meet? Are we out of toilet paper? We women think too much sometimes, maybe.) These little things add up more to doubt and chaos than affirmation and surety.
And then another friend (who is generally quite restrained with praise) voiced a reaction to reading it that surprised me perhaps even more because he’s not prone to such affirmations; his was a casual “Yeah, he’s basically saying what we’re all thinking.” On the way home from the gym, I thought about the other knowledgeable people who have said similar things to me at varying times and how much their confidence in me means to me and how damned lucky I am to have them around me.
The other day I was asked to speak with a group who are training to pursue alternative careers for women and want to work in trades in which women are relative newcomers. It was a great talk and I think I got more out of meeting them and preparing the talk than they may realize. We talked about many things, including the importance of surrounding yourself with the people who pull you up, how to break tasks down into manageable pieces, why the idea of limitations is self-imposed and therefore unnecessary, what fear can do and how to build courage, and why big dreams matter. One of the pieces of advice that I gave them is one that I clearly need to plaster on the walls of my own house, “Look through the curve. When you ride a bike, you encounter curves all the time. You steer through those by looking ahead to where you want to go. Your bike and body will do what it takes to negotiate the curve if you give it direction. If you stare at the wheel, you’ll go off-course. Stare at the handlebars and you may lose the ability to adjust to bumps that crop up in front of you. Never lose sight of the end of the curve.”
It is far easier to bide one’s time, working all the while, waiting for the moment when all the things for which one has worked come to a conjunction, when one has quiet and firm confidence in both one’s own ability and that the path chosen is right. Looking through the curves to my goals is what lets me say that the powerlifting meet coming up is one tool that I’m using to get to my ultimate destination and it’s not in and of itself critically important. It is a short-term goal with a purpose that exceeds any total that I might put on the board. The purpose of this meet for me is to build confidence, increase experience, learn competition skills including fueling during the meet, timing warmups, working on anxiety and adrenaline control, and controlling when and how I flick on that switch that pumps me up. This meet is going to allow me to put a higher total on the board and test different aspects of all three lifts; it will teach me how far my confidence and let me increase that a bit, without delving into the realm of needless risks.
I’ve not always been good at having patience with myself and I see now that the times when I’m the least patient, when I’m in the greatest rush to see results or to reach an ending are the times when I’ve doubted my ability to get there. Like starving people who overeat when faced with food, there’s a tendency to rush to the feast in the face of uncertainty. I now know that the numbers I want to put on the platform will come in the next few years and that rushing them may, in fact, do me more harm than good. I can do this. My dreams do scare me a little/lot, and that’s normal, but it’s a good scared, an excited scared. Having good people around me who remind me of this and show me many different ways of looking at competition, training, and Life, so that I can find the aspects and components that work for me is a gift.
Self-belief is internal and can only truly come from within, but important others can help us feed and shape it.
Thanks, guys. You know who you are. I am grateful for everything.