Before I discovered my mania for lifting I would never have thought there was so much to learn. And I don’t just mean form and techinque, though I still work on that every day.
There’s the mental approach too. When I’m afraid I won’t get a lift I try to psych myself up and convince myself I can do it. I was going for 2 sets of 5 at 100 lbs on bench tonight (after 3 sets working up to it.) This would be a big PR – I’ve never done anywhere near that with 100, and my max is 105. When Ben lifted off the bar and I pressed it the first time I thought “oh, that’s not so bad! I can do this!” Rep 3 was a different story. Rep 4 I had to really grind through. Rep 5 was ugly – I drove with my shoulders, and heard in no uncertain terms from Ben to never do that again. It’s weird the things your body does without thinking when you’re just. trying. to. get. the. weight. to. move.
What had I done wrong? Unconsciously I had relaxed when I thought that soothing thought: it’s not too bad. What should you be thinking when you start the lift, even if you think it’s going to be easy?
Stay tight, it ain’t over! Ben says.
So on my second set, I steeled myself for what would be a battle. And by the fifth I didn’t think there was any way to get that 100 pounds up. “”Lock your elbows!” Ben was shouting and I tried so hard to lock them out but it was agonizingly slow. I thought he was helping me a little, but man, not much because it was still SO hard, but he obviously wasn’t going to take the bar (I had a lot of time to think because it took FORever) so I just kept straining to lock my elbows out and finally the weight moved back to its starting point. And to my surprise, Ben hadn’t helped! I had done it! That’s the kind of feeling that spurs me on for days and weeks more, that feeling of conquering something bigger than I thought I could. And I learned my lesson. No matter what, stay tight because it ain’t over.
And it wasn’t. I still had 5×5 squats at 165 pounds – over 80% of my max – to do (I still look back at my 5×5 at 160 a couple months ago as the hardest workout of my life). I remembered my new mantra (though I didn’t need to talk myself down, I knew from set 1, rep 1 there would be nothing easy about it). And I did it. I finished every last one.
A very good day at the gym indeed. .