I’m a middle-aged man who, in his lifetime, has had some modest athletic gifts that have allowed him to compete in Karate, Boxing, Kick-boxing, Baseball, Cross-country, Track and Field (high jump), various semi-marathons and, most recently, Powerlifting. Try as I might, I can’t do “fitness”, it bores me to tears. The idea of working out for working out’s sake makes me want to eat a bullet. Honestly, the concept of hitting muscles 8 different ways with machines and submaximal weights whilst tracking calories to a T makes me want to sit on the couch with Netflix and a big plate of chocolate chips cookies. I need to be viscerally interested in what I do, and nothing focuses one quite as effectively as fear.
If I am honest with myself, most of my athletic success has been in those sports that have certain component of risk and/or fear. To whit, I was probably best at baseball, vtournament Karate sparring, kick-boxing and most recently powerlifting. Without going into too much detail, all of those sports require you to master your fear. I am not what you’d call a macho person. The idea of bungee-jumping makes me light-headed. I once agreed to go sky-diving and then spent the worst afternoon of my life as I waited for my scheduled “drop plane” to take off. The flight was cancelled due to weather and I literally the happiest person on the planet Earth that day ( Roughly 1998, in suburban Frankfurt). I was very drawn to combat sports but personally I do not like to fight. I have been in some street fights from pure necessity. I know that football hooligans find a real high from pure aggression but I find that aberrant.
Powerlifting is probably the least “risky” sport of those I’ve just cited. Really heavy weight in squat or bench press does not elicit the same fear and/or nervousness as walking into a ring with a real badass or facing down a fastball pitcher with control issues. Nevertheless, it is scary. I find that I’m only really motivated when I put some “serious” weight on the bar and think, “holy %$#@, how am I going to move this”. This afternoon I was at the powerlifting club to train “safety bar” squats, as I still cannot lowbar squat without pain. Safety-bar squats are the “ego” killer, you will suffer at weights you think are ridiculously low. I did my programmed sets, and then my assistance work, but honestly it left me a bit depressed. I needed a bit more. Safety squats suck because there doesn’t seem to be a technically clean way of doing them. You can’t work the leverages as you can with a good technical low-bar squat so you are forced to lift much lighter weights. At the same time, your core works extremely hard which is really the hidden pearl of this exercise. In any event, I did heavy singles, purely for motivation. Full transparency, my heavy single in a safety squat bar is a good 50kg less than in a low-bar squats. You get the weight down to the hole, but then how you get it up is less obvious. Brace like a mofo and push, basically.
While I was squatting my son was skateboarding in the parking lot of the powerlifting club. My son, as I’ve described on previous posts, is obsessed with skateboarding. He is a chip off the old block. He’s not a hell for leather let’s ollie 15 stairs sort of skateboarder. He’s extremely technical, and he works many, many hours on “finesse’ moves. In short, he’s not reckless but he takes risks for sport he loves, and he consequently gets hurt quite a lot. For those of you aren’t familiar with skateboarding, it’s not possible to progress in the sport and not hurt yourself and/or face your fear on a daily basis. My son is actually quite good for his age at skateboarding and partly it’s because he’s able to able to master a risk/benefit analysis. He is driven to keep trying, to land a trick cleanly…and sometimes that means you hurt yourself. Also, you need to have the drive to try the same technique thousands of times until you master it. There is nothing so hard as making a skateboarding trick look easy. He is such a careful little dude but at the same time he’ll try seemingly crazy tricks because he knows he’s analyzed it and should be able.
So at the same time I can’t just do 5×10@80kg safety bar squats. It’s awesome and it works the lower body but it’s not sustainable. It’s boring, I won’t do it because I’m not hchallenged. Let me push the envelope and I’ll be happy.