Flexing your inner badass at the bar.
In my happy place, I’m away from the world and all its noise. I’m free from unnecessary thought and distraction. In this place, there’s no mom, no writer. There’s just a girl using her mind, her breath, and her body to move some weight around.
It’s a typical Monday night lifting class over at CrossFit Dodge City (CFDC). A couple of us arrive early to get in a set of bench press and some mobility work before our coach arrives. The chatter flies as we go about our business and cheer on the class finishing a pretty tough endurance workout. We’ve got a great little family dynamic happening over at CFDC complete with balls to the wall encouragement and a little sibling-type rivalry. So, yelling at your box mates as they slog through the work out of the day (WOD) while you merrily roll out your tight spots is more than a little satisfying. You also know they’d do the same if the role was reversed. And tomorrow, it likely will be.
The last of the lifters straggle in and we get down to it starting with a light row and a little PVC pipe warm-up to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing. Through all of this, the conversation’s steady and the laughter’s heavy. We’re here to work, but Monday night’s also a place to talk out your shit, share weekend adventures, and tease the hell out of each other while supporting the challenging lifts and personal bests (PR) with a lot of hollering, high fives, fist bumps and F-Bombs. And sometimes, there’s a little singing and dancing.
With the night’s movements up on the board and the music pumping, it’s time to sink or swim. That’s how things roll around here. Despite being my happy place, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There’s a lot of hard work to get through before you reach your goals—whatever they may be—including technical skills learned through expert coaching, drills, and learning to leave your ego at the door.
Dipping my hands in chalk, my head moves to the beat of the music as I gently rub my hands together and make a mental note that it might be time to file away some of those hard-earned calluses. Soft hands are totally overrated, right?!
Loudly following the words to a favourite song, I make my way back to the bar, take a quick glance to see that I’ve loaded it evenly and the plates are secure. I place my feet under the bar, rub my hands together one last time and grip them around the cool steel. I move my shoulders over the bar and straighten my back.
I flex my feet within the confines of my trusty Converse sneakers, wiggle my toes, and firmly plant my heels. My muscles contract as I tighten up the slack in my arms, squeeze my butt, lift my chest and move my shoulder blades down and back.
I close my eyes, clear my mind, and inhale deeply. My eyes open the instant I pull the bar from the ground, and it stays close to my body as it makes its way up past my knees and softly brushes my quads. My legs push against the floor as the bar continues on its vertical path and I pull it back towards my hips as they drive forward. Connecting with my upper thighs, the bar accelerates and becomes weightless as my elbows move high and outside. With cat-like ninja reflexes, I rotate my elbows down and quickly drop my body beneath the bar sinking into a squat position. Keeping both my elbows and my chest up, I dig in, push my legs to standing position and exhale. Sweet satisfaction. Woot—fist pumps all around!
I add a little weight, take a little rest, talk a little, then step back to bar and repeat the process until I fail the lift, or—most likely—when my coach notices my form’s gone to hell and he tells me I need to drop some weight and work on my technique. Kick in the teeth—laser eyes to the coach.
Failure can be a little on the sweet side and ease herself in slowly, or she can get bitchy with a swift slap to the ego early on. It all depends on where your head’s at that particular day and during that particular movement. There’s also the matter of how you’ve slept, what you’ve eaten and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. But, it’s all good. We all bomb out at some point. What we do when we fail is where it’s at.
When you step up to the bar, the hardest thing working against you is yourself. And I’m definitely my own worst enemy. No matter the weight on the bar, it all comes down to whether I can clear my mind, dig in, and face fear. Simply showing up isn’t always enough.
Lifting builds strength and confidence, and it has the ability to shift mindsets. It’s really easy to throw a toddler-approved hissy fit after you’ve failed a lift you’ve been working on for weeks, maybe even months. It’s even easier, and far less embarrassing, to only focus on your strengths. But neither of those gets you anywhere.
Some lifters enjoy the speed it takes to successfully complete the lift, some enjoy mastering a technical skill, while some enjoy the immense satisfaction that comes from hitting a personal best. And some of us like all three. But, it’s not PR city every time you step up to the bar. Lousy performances happen more often than not. And, it’s okay to get frustrated, to get pissed off, and to want to quit. It’s okay to have a little chip on your shoulder.
Just don’t turn into an insufferable jackass. Instead, remain calm, cool, and collected. Use that fire to flex your inner badass, dust off your ego, and get back to it.