Open your eyes ( by Dana McMahan)

Before I started training at Derby City CrossFit I knew in a vague way that such a thing as weight lifting existed. I’d seen the big dudes in gyms, grunting and flexing in front of mirrors, contorting their faces as they slung weights around. My experience with them the last time I had a gym membership was contending with the heavy weights they left behind that I couldn’t move myself when it was my turn. I also roomed with a competitive power lifter in college, a massive guy that counted his lifts in the 700 and 800 pound range who ate my food out of the fridge and whose mere appearance served as an effective deterrent to dates I brought home that may have had more amorous ideas than I.

Until my own addiction to lifting weights began, I never realized how much went into it. Brute strength goes into it I suppose, but there’s an awful lot more. Part of Ben’s work with me is to instruct me how to use the right form. And that goes beyond when to pull my shoulder blades back and how far apart to set my feet. It seems I have a tendency to close my eyes when trying to lift a heavy weight. Why would anything be wrong with this? I’d have wondered before the first dozen times he yelled “open your eyes!” Benching recently I tried to summon all my strength, screwing my eyes shut in the process. And I couldn’t complete the lift.

“Open your eyes and stop scrunching your face,” Ben ordered, probably feeling like a weary kindergarten teacher reciting the alphabet for the millionth time. My auto response “why” elicited the answer that I have to see what I’m doing to focus. I wasn’t entirely sure I bought it (as if I’m the one that’s the expert here) but I did as instructed. I resisted the urge to make faces and close my eyes, and you know what? I made the lift that time! Who would have thought?

Trying my first remotely heavy dead lift, 5 reps at 120 pounds, this week, I was beginning to struggle 2 or 3 in. The booming instructions came again, “Keep your eyes open!” I kept them open and made the lift. Not great form in many other ways — I have a lot of work to do there — but with my eyes wide open.


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