Last week I had sort of a milestone lift. My programmed deadlift weight was one that I’ve had my eye on since last winter, a 2x bodyweight deadlift. Interestingly what ended up making the lift noteworthy to me was not so much the weight on the bar, but the difference in my attitude going into the lift. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that what happens to a person is less important than what happens within a person. That lift served as a measure of a bit of what has happened within me.
Deadlift is usually the last lift of my session. Before deadlifting that day, I had to get through heavy squats and heavy bench presses. So it didn’t surprise me to notice, as I drove into Baltimore, that I had tiny butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t decide, though, if they were floating on excitement or fear. I had managed the pieces that were under my control as best as I could. I had forced myself to go back to sleep when I woke up early so I would be well rested. I had eaten well the day before and had extra breakfast before training, so I would have enough fuel. I had respected the recovery process on the previous rest day so my body could rebuild and not be further worn down. But even controlling what I could, recent failed attempts on lifts have taught me that little is guaranteed. Lifting heavy weights is not like going into a fitness class where you are ensured that by the end that you be sweaty and feel like you’ve had a “good workout”. There seems to be an X factor with heavy lifting that lies outside of the pieces we can control and that for seemingly unknown reasons becomes evident for me on certain days. I knew I was up for a lot of work, but whether I would be able to do it all was up in the air.
As I drove, I decided that the feeling that was keeping those butterflies aloft was more like the somewhat uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty, a cross between excitement and fear that results from the recognition that despite our best efforts to be in control, we really aren’t. Some people seem to love that feeling. Maybe that’s why they ride the big roller coasters. For me it’s a different story. Uncertainty makes me a little anxious. I’m the one on the ground taking pictures of my family on the roller coaster. But instead of taking a step deeper into that discomfort by focusing on the value I had placed on a 230# deadlift, I managed to take a step back, to downplay the emotional attachment I had to that weight and instead I decided to watch with vested curiosity, from behind a camera lens, to see how the whole thing unfolded. I walked into Fivex3 thinking, “Well … we’ll just see what happens.”
In viewing myself both as an objective observer of the outcome and also as the one working to create it, in acknowledging that I am both in control and totally not, I found a place to balance between excitement and fear, a place that was kinda fun. Establishing a tentative friendship with uncertainty, controlling what we can and being curious about the rest, getting outside of our own heads … all of that ultimately seems to allow us to be more fully and happily engaged in the process. That strategy works pretty well for me for heavy lifts, and I’m betting it’s a good strategy outside of the weightroom too.