Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

1001 reasons I love powerlifting

I awoke from a bad dream this morning where I was in a gym and everyone was lifting weights but I couldn’t. I was so sad, then for a moment had a burst of happiness that  it was just a dream, followed by the punch in the gut feeling that reminded me it isn’t just a dream. Tomorrow the sports doctor sees the results of my MRI and tells me if my scenario is bad or very bad. I’m either out of lifting for a while, or potentially for good. He gave me 50/50 odds on which it is, and said to pray it’s just the bad one. I wish it were still just a dream.

Being under strict orders to do nothing this weekend, I’ve had a lot of time to think, to alternately be furious, grieve, cry and rage at how unfair it is, all of these emotions interlaced with  pain so fearsome I can’t picture it ever subsiding . I don’t want to focus on the worst outcome, but no matter what, even in the best case scenario, I can’t keep going at the pace I was. So I thought it might be helpful to ask myself what exactly I love about powerlifting that has made it so important that I feel like I’ve lost my center without it. How can something that started as an amusing lark become so much a part of how I identify myself? Maybe if I can discover that I will have an easier path to finding something else that I can be passionate about.

So, maybe not 1001, but a few of the reasons I love lifting heavy weights so very much.

Lifting taught me I was braver than I ever suspected. It showed me I could make things happen — hard, seemingly impossible things. It made me more determined in every aspect of my life to step up to challenges. Looking forward to it nearly every day came with the same sort of thrill I have anticipating exotic travel, but on a daily basis (and without the steep airfare!). No day, no matter how bad, couldn’t be made better with ripping a weight off the floor. It gave me a community of new friends, people who are genuinely happy for my successes and understand my disappointments. It helped me see my own power and made me feel like there’s nothing I couldn’t accomplish if I would just work hard enough. It taught me, to a degree, patience. More at least than I’d ever had before. It made me feel better — in my mid30s — about how I look than ever in my life.  It made me walk with my back straight and shoulders back. It made me feel special to be able to do things so few others do. It gave me an outlet for my fiercely competitive nature. It built a calorie-torching metabolism, letting me eat far more than a woman my size should be able to. It made me care even more than before about what I put in my body. It was freaking fun! There’s too little that’s just plain fun as an adult, and the giddy delight I felt at bench pressing 100 pounds for two sets of five, of squatting 165 pounds for 8 reps, at deadlifting 201 pounds for two reps is unequaled in anything else I do.  It made me proud of myself, sure of myself.  It gave me passion, and it’s passion that makes life worth living.

I have other passions of course — I live for travel, I love food, writing is as crucial to my self as breathing. I would be devastated to never leave the country again, to lose my sense of taste or to no longer be able to write. But I’ve learned that’s not enough. I want to be fighting to improve all the time. I want to prove to myself that I physically I can do anything I want. I want to keep that identity that has become ingrained in the past year that I am strong and unstoppable. I want to get back under the bar. The thought of never gripping that cold, solid bar again lights up a pain in my heart that’s just as bad as the raw nerve that fires and makes me cry when I move my back.

And if I can’t, I will have to rely on my experience having made me strong enough to bear the loss.  And I’ll have to find what else can make me feel this way.

180, done!

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2 responses

  1. Erika

    So sorry to hear about your setback, girl! You’re in my thoughts and I’m REALLY hoping everything works out okay for you!! Stay strong!

    January 23, 2012 at 12:49 am

  2. Pingback: I’m in love « What's Beyond Heavy?

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