WHY I COACH WITH PASSION 6/12/2015
Often times when I see myself or others getting frustrated with weightlifting I like to say “Hey, this is just exercise. Relax.” When I make this statement I am only telling a half-truth. It is just exercise in the literal sense, but it is capable of being so much more than that. When I see somebody missing a lift because they are obviously afraid or doubting themselves the empathetic part of my brain lights up. I can feel what they are going through because I have been through that as well. I know what it is like to get frustrated and slam the bar down or yell in anger after a missed lift. I made that same exact mistake hundreds of times before I realized how incredibly detrimental it was to my progress and the progress of those around me. This essay is meant to elaborate on why I coach the way I coach and to explain why I am so passionate about helping others understand that although this is “just exercise,” it is so much more than that at the exact same time.
When I first decided I wanted to improve in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting I had very little understanding of what improvement would actually entail. I would miss lifts on a regular basis and instead of keeping myself calm and learning from the lift I would lash out in anger or I would allow myself to be consumed by my fear of mistakes or self doubt. I created habits every time I did these things. The choices I made in those moments would inevitably affect the choices I would make in future moments when similar situations would present themselves to me. I was not making progress as quickly as I desired because I did not yet have an understanding that progress in this sport does not come quickly.
The barbell is a tool capable of teaching us exponentially more than how to be physically strong. This may seem extremely strange to people that do not challenge themselves when it comes to weightlifting or perhaps do not partake in this beautiful sport at all. In every lift we have an opportunity to teach ourselves how to overcome fear, how to trust what we know, how to be willing to make a mistake and look back on it after, how to blend patience with aggression, to build belief in ourselves, to trust that we are strong, and to create habits that will undoubtedly carry over into every other thing we do in this life.
If you string enough choice together you create what is known as a habit. A habit is literally defined as “ a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” Human beings are creatures of habit whether we like it or not. When we take the time to reflect on our behavior and choices we have made throughout our day, week, month, year or life we can see what type of habits we have. This does not require a magnifying glass or microscope. It only requires that we are truthful with ourselves and those around us. Something much easier said than done for most.
I lifted with anger, impatience and fear when I first started Olympic Weightlifting. I did not truly understand how these habits I had already created throughout my life were affecting the way I approached the barbell. I was unaware that with each and every ounce of anger I allowed myself to have when I would make a mistake; that with every heavy lift I allowed myself to be consumed by fear I was playing into those bad habits I had unknowingly created throughout my life. It was never my intent to create those habits. The barbell exposed me. The barbell became not only a tool that would force me to confront these demons on a daily basis if I wanted to improve, but it became the tool capable of helping me to create new habits, teaching me how to overcome fear of mistakes or heavy weight and more importantly teaching me how to learn from my mistakes instead of allowing myself to be angered by them.
When High Road Barbell Club started all I wanted was to help people improve their weightlifting. They signed up for this Barbell Club because that is what they desired. What I started to notice though is that everybody seemed to carry around many of the bad habits that I myself had been carrying with me as well. As the leader of this team I could not allow myself to make those negative choices anymore. I could not allow myself to get angry, frustrated or down simply because a lift or a lifting session did not go the way I desired. Although I lifted in a relatively empty gym most of the time and nobody could see me, I could still see myself. I had to decide to lead by example even if nobody was looking. The further away I got from my bad habits the closer I got to creating good habits. I learned more about patience, I learned more about self-control and most importantly the barbell helped me practice overcoming fear and doubt. I’ve been inspired by every single person I have seen set foot in this gym day in and day out. Most people do not have the amount of time to work on these things or analyze their own behavior and approach to the barbell the way I do. I could see myself in them. I saw their fear as my fear, I saw their doubt as my doubt, and when I saw them succeed I wanted nothing more than for them to understand that every single lift they attempt is a success simply because they are willing to attempt something the majority of people are not.
After dedicating a large amount of time to establishing the correct movement patterns with Olympic Weightlifting good habits get created as far as that aspect of the sport is concerned. This requires much patience and attention to detail. The majority of people are able to achieve pretty good movement in a relatively short amount of time when given the proper amount of coaching and attention. Beyond that, we must lift heavy weight to find out when the mind gets in the way of the body and slows down/breaks down the movement leading to missed lifts. In the process of providing this challenge for the members of High Road Barbell Club I see some progress, but I also see a consistent repeat of the same mistakes, FEAR and DOUBT. I see individuals on a weekly basis getting to the point where they no longer trust themselves, trust what allowed them the opportunity to make a heavier attempt and it seems as though they no longer trust me. I see the look on their faces that I used to have on mine. I would become so consumed by fear of a mistake or a missed lift that I would totally lose focus on what was really important, creating the greatest opportunity for success. To create the greatest opportunity for success we must be as aggressive as we possibly can in order to exert the greatest amount of force to move the weight. Will the lifts always be perfect when we do this? Probably not, but this sport is not always about perfection in my opinion, it is about progress. In order to overcome fear and doubt we must establish new habits by making different choices than we have in the past. If you know you are missing lifts because of fear, frustration, doubt and/or any other mental roadblock then why would you continue to make that choice week in and week out? If there is 1 mistake and that mistake is not giving everything you have I believe it is a challenge to overcome, but you have the opportunity in each moment to overcome it and create a whole new habit eliminating that problem of being consumed by doubt and fear.
I coach with passion because I care about people, because I love people. I coach with passion because I BELIEVE IN PEOPLE. I believe everyone is capable of achieving anything they put their mind to if they are willing to commit to this goal and put in the required work. I coach with passion because I do not want to see people I care about make the same counterproductive choices I made in the past. For a long time I had nobody helping me, coaching me when it came to this sport. I never really knew how much fear was holding me back until my brother, an amazing coach and human being, called me out on it. He told me that I just had to decide whether or not I wanted to be afraid or be strong. This wasn’t just a commitment to being physically strong, but through that process I would have to commit to being stronger mentally as well. I see others going through this process and I want to help them overcome the self-imposed obstacles faster than I did. I address these issues and provide guidance as best I can. Guidance that I didn’t have for an extended period of time. The bad habits we practice in one aspect of life often bleed out into others. I make an effort to help people understand that because I am passionate about their success, but I can only do so much.
I want to challenge you to develop a new positive habit every time you touch the barbell. The habit of believing in yourself. The habit of recognizing fear or doubt and overcoming these negative thoughts. I challenge you to believe in yourself as much as I believe in you. I should not be more passionate about your success than you are, inside or outside of the gym. I want you to believe in yourself the way I believe in you. You have unlimited potential in every aspect of life. The only way to work towards it is to be willing to alter the habits you have created that have been holding you back and making a conscious effort to establish new habits that will help you achieve any goal you have ever had for yourself.
It is better to have the courage to admit that you are afraid and not mentally prepared to lift a certain weight than to lie to the world and have the barbell show everyone the truth.