Lifting Changes Your Attitude

Throughout my life, I have been involved in many fitness-oriented ventures. I was a track and cross-country runner for seven years, played basketball and softball, participated in yoga, step aerobics, pilates, spinning, zumba, P90x, and intramural sports. With the exception of softball (sort of), all of these activities were similar in that you could improve your performance during the exercise or sport. For instance, I miss a shot in basketball. I’ll make the next one. Didn’t get a great time on that sprint in spinning? There will be two or three more I can push for.

It’s a totally different game when I go face to face with that barbell. I get that one chance. Of course, I can try again, but there isn’t that ease in the back of my mind that I’ll be able to make up for the miss. I’m not a strong person by any measure, but I am improving in my lifting. A about a week ago, I was thrilled to clean and jerk ( 105#. That was the first time I put over 100# above my head. Earlier this week, I was working my way up to the same weight in the clean and jerk. I easily did 95#, and moved on to 105. Miss. I immediately felt a personal vendetta against the barbell. I went for it again before I was ready and missed again. Absolute fury. Never have I ever felt anything like that in any other physical activity.

clean up

No, this is not me. I wish.

I reloaded the barbell at 100#, 5# lower than my personal best. By this time, the coach was noticing my “bitch face” and wondered what was up. I explained what was going on, and how I had just loaded the barbell. He told me he wanted to see it. I missed again. He told me to walk away, get a drink, and come back.

When I approached the barbell again, still with my angry game face on, I thought through the motion. Most of the power of a clean comes from the legs and hips. I gripped the bar and tried again. The clean of 100# was successful. I calmed myself, and attempted the jerk. And dropped the bar. I considered kicking it, but instead, just walked away. My coach told me to let it go, try going back down 5 more pounds and ending on a successful attempt. My 1 rep max that day was 95#.

It became quite clear to me that not every day is a good day, regardless of the type of physical activity. But never have I ever felt so defeated. My coach said something to cheer me up, because I was obviously angry. He said that without failure, there is no appreciation for success. I think he appreciated my anger though. It’s definitely going to fuel me next time I attempt and 1 rep max clean and jerk.


As I calmed down, I thought about all of the factors that go into a daily workout. Diet, sleep, stress levels, even weather. (Because of all the running I did when I was young, my knees get sore in the cold.) Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or didn’t get enough calories. Whatever the reason, it alerted me that I should be keeping track of these things. Diet in particular. I really do eat mostly paleo, but I don’t watch my food combinations very carefully.

Now to be honest, for a lot of us, we’re never going to be olympic lifters or go to the CrossFit Games, so performance doesn’t really matter all that much. What matters is that we do the best we can that day to get a good workout for our health. Not performance. But I have one of those competitive minds that has trouble letting it go. Is mine a mind that would rather let it go? Or one that would rather relentlessly keep track of diet, sleep, and stress levels at the expense of social life? Here’s the answer. I’ll do what I can. I’m not going to reorganize my entire life to make sure I PR once a week on a lift. But then I’ll go face to face with that barbell again, and who knows what will happen?

moment of focus


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