You’re at the blackjack table. You’ve got 16. Do you stay? Or do you say hit me? I like to tap the table and say hit me. I played blackjack with fake money at a party this weekend and got to feel like a high roller, betting upwards of $100 a hand — not bad, after starting with only $100 in play chips. It’s because I’m not afraid to take a gamble. You can never be sure what you’re going to be dealt, but in my mind, it’s usually worth a shot. With weights, though, it’s a lot dicier.
I was squatting heavy today for what felt like the first time in a long time. Ok, it was two weeks, but that felt like forever. As usual, I didn’t know what was on the bar. Between mixing pounds and kilos and my lack of arithmetic skills, I don’t have a clue what I’m lifting. I know the feeling when I unrack it of something I can manage comfortably and something I’ll have to fight for, but I don’t know numbers. Especially with box squats. We were doing 15 inch, which is just above parallel, so on the one hand it’s easier because I’m not going low, but on the other hand I’m losing momentum when I pause on the box.
I got up to a heavy weight with sets of five, making a sound I had never heard myself make on the fifth rep of what Ben said was the last set. It was somewhere between a grunt and a snort through my nose, and I could feel my face turning crimson with the effort. I racked it, thankful that was the last set.
“Do you want to add more weight?” Ben said. I chewed my lip. Finally, “I’ll always add more weight,” I said.
“I need to know if you’re sure,” he said. “Adding a pound or two isn’t going to make me warm and fuzzy. I’m going to add six pounds to that. Are you sure you can do it? We’re not doing it if you’re not sure.”
I chewed my lip some more. I thought about how the weight had just felt. Hard. really hard. But not ‘fight with everything I have to rise with the weight’ hard. But could I do more? I didn’t even know what was on the bar. I had 18. What card was the dealer about to lay down? I couldn’t gamble here, I had to be sure.
“I can do it,” I finally said, trying to sound more confident than I felt. I would give it everything I had and would just do it, that was all there was to it.
I ate a banana and drank some water, walked out of the garage to stand in the sun. Ben set up his phone to video so now I knew it must be heavy. I put on one of my lifting songs, Kanye West ‘Monster.’ And I faced the bar. I squeezed it hard, tightened my body and swung under it, digging my feet in to get set up. And unracking it banged it not once but twice on the rack. The thought flashed that I was using too much energy just keeping from dumping the weight, but I got set. I’ve got this.
Big breath and down, then drive up. And it wasn’t as hard as the last set! Again. Stupid knees came in but I came up quickly. Third time, again with the damn knees but as soon as Ben yelled knees I got them out. Down for four, get the knees out and up, and last one. I can do this. Big breath, down, push the f-ing knees out and drive up. No problem. Heavy enough that I was shaking as I racked it, but no problem. “Please tell me that was a heavy weight,” I said.
“179,” Ben replied, and echoing my thought, “and it looked easier than the last set.”
Still trembly, I had to smile. I’d thought about staying on that hand. I’d thought about playing it safe, going out with a successful set. I didn’t truly know I could do the next weight when I agreed to it. But I’m so glad I said hit me.