Discovering life beyond the barbell / by Dana McMahan

Now we work

I read a great quote at the Muhammad Ali Center. So great that I didn’t think I’d need to write it down because surely I’d remember it. Well, just like I can’t remember a joke (I either remember it all but the punch line, or nothing but the punch line – not very helpful) I can’t remember the quote. I hope someone will recognize it and jump in. The gist of it was this: It’s the work you do after you want to quit, the extra mile, I suppose, that really counts, that really makes a difference. I really wish I could remember the words, but the meaning of it really stuck with me.

And it pushes me still. Especially when I hear the dreaded words from my trainer, “now we work.” I hear this only when I’ve reached the point that I don’t think I can do another rep, and I know it means I’m not done yet.

“Now we work,” he says as my muscles burn and quiver and I want nothing more than to drop the weight and just crumple into a heap on the floor. “This is when other people stop. But this is when you WORK!”

A few days ago I wanted to do something besides the hellish uphill and downhill weighted lunges I do for legs. So I got to take the stairs — two at a time coming up — with a 25lb dumbbell in each hand. Over and over. With my new machine squats in between, just to be sure I was frying my legs. With a lot of the workouts I do, I can keep pushing myself because I know nothing will happen if I stop, so I tell myself I’ll go until I fall. Stairs were a different matter. If I go until I can’t I likely will take a fall. But after a few rounds of this, when my legs were spaghetti, and I was breathing like a freight train, the magic words came. “Now we work.”

That’s my cue to muster up some reserves from somewhere, dig in, ignore the pain, and just. keep. going.  Because the happy side is that those words mean I’m *almost* done. It may be the worst part, but it’s the part that’s closest to lying down. And if I hear those words it’s a guarantee that when my breathing has slowed and I’m no longer seeing spots that I’m going to feel absolutely amazing – strong, unstoppable, flying high. And that’s why I work.

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3 responses

  1. I needed to hear this today. I’m at that point where I’m starting to plateau with my strength gains… and sometimes it can be very hard to keep “working” !

    June 8, 2012 at 4:58 pm

  2. J

    I have followed you since the beginning of your journey in powerlifting. I actually had your same coach, and I quit shortly before you started. We\’re about the same size, and I cheered for you so much. I didn\’t have the confidence under the weight yet, and lifted something too heavy and ended up dropping weight by leaning forward and it dropping in front of me instead of behind me – I could have been severely injured from that, as the weight rolled off my neck/head. My coach (your coach) should have known to not push me and encourage me to lift heavy when I wasn\’t even sure of the movement, and voiced my fear of the weight. I left more training sessions in tears than I did feeling proud of myself. I eventually went to another gym/trainer and love every minute of it. I applaud your courage to speak out, and relate to so much of what you have said here. I\’ve been meaning to ask how your relationship with past lifters is today, but I noticed a blog from your old lifting buddy… I guess I know the answer to that. Its a small town, and people talk…. you can go down to other gyms in town, and hear 50 more stories like yours and mine as a result of that same coach / gym. Best of luck to you in the future.

    July 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience Jen. I’ll be in touch!

      July 4, 2012 at 7:49 am

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