The sweet sensation of failure (or, ‘Why I lift’)

There’s a particular moment when it feels heavy. You walk up to the bar, shuffle under it, tense your back, lift up.

You step out and feel it on your back, just below your shoulders, and think one thing: “fuck that’s heavy”.

Then you scold yourself for thinking that, because the more you think about that, the harder it’s gonna be to get back up again.

So you breathe in, focus on the wall in front of you, channel your power, your courage, your anger – whatever you need in order to get down, pause, and then get back up.

That’s what I did tonight. Three reps, at 70kg. They were not pretty reps: my legs flailed about, my hips swayed and I struggled at every point. But I went down … and I got up.

Then I didn’t. On the fourth rep, I got down and stayed down. I tried with all my heart to finish that squat, but the gods of lifting said no. My coach and my cousin obligingly pulled the bar off me and I stood up.

And even though I had totally failed, I felt great.

I didn’t hit anywhere near my goal for the week, but my technique was the best it’s ever been. I got a depth in my squat that I’ve never had, and I could feel, when I dropped back to 60kg, that my body was doing everything it was meant to.

I obsess over squats because they are my nemesis. I am, and have always been, “shit” at squats. (Those quotation marks belong to my coach by the way – it’s not my false modesty.)

But I realised tonight that there is nothing more addictive or more exhilarating than nailing the things that you’re no good at.

I spent a lot of my life doing things I was naturally good at: books, words, school stuff, uni stuff, PR stuff. I would stumble into my niche and hang out in it. It’s an easy path to go down.

Lifting weights is different; I am just not built for it. I battle for every gram of muscle I gain. I have poor mobility. I’m super unco-ordinated. I hurt all the time.

Yet I love every hour I spend in the gym, fighting the good fight, denying my genetic blueprint.

It also takes me out of my overly-busy brain, and makes me stop and live in the moment. Whether it’s following the black line of a pool, falling into the pace of a long run, or bashing it out in the boxing ring, anyone who loves exercise knows that perfect moment of flow. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t know it.

So it’s nice to have a toned butt, it feels good to lift heavy stuff, and it’s cool to squat my own body weight.

But it’s actually the lessons you learn inside the gym that set you up for life outside it. Learning to love failure, when you’ve earned it.

I actually just made this and stuck it up with state titles scores. Whatever works huh?

I actually just made this and stuck it up with state titles scores. Whatever works huh?

  1. I get the struggle with the genetic blueprint, being half of it. I’m shit at total concentration in meditation, but when those moments of perfect clarity happen I understand that “addictive nailing of stuff you’re not good at”.

    • It’s great huh?

      And yes, I do blame you for some of my struggles with the iron. I know what you bench lol.

  1. December 22nd, 2015

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