Many lifters are drawn to Olympic weightlifting for reasons that we may not truly know. Some of us grew up playing sports and training the power clean, while others were more fortunate to get formal training at younger ages. Being a weightlifter, or any form of strength, power, and fitness athlete is a choice, often one we make while sacrificing others. Life, like weightlifting, has a series of lessons that can be learned, in which all of us as weightlifters have or will experience.
Below are five life lessons that weightlifting has taught fellow weightlifters and me through training, competition, and the lifestyle changes that have been made throughout our pursuits.
Trusting Your Instincts
Nothing says trust like dropping under 250lbs of cold iron in the snatch. Through diligent practice, training, and time, we develop a deeper connection with our bodies in space. Referred to as proprioception, Olympic weightlifting, like field sports, requires a sense of awareness of our limbs and body while numerous variables are changing. As we develop those abilities, a deeper connection can be seen between the senses, neuromuscular system, and our movements, allowing us to move freely and confidently. Similarly, life requires us to be fluid, trust our instincts and abilities, and be adaptive in ever-changing environments.
Learning to Call It Quits
This is an important lesson that many people don’t want to face. Quitting, or rather understanding when your attempts become more harmful that productive, is an important lesson that weightlifting can teach us. Within a training session, we have a limited amount of repetitions that we can perform with maximal speed, precision, and strength. When missed reps increase and bar speed falls, some lifters will insist on training more and more, with a never give up mentality. While I agree that quitting is generally unacceptable, weightlifting teaches us when it is acceptable, even vital, to quit while ahead and save it for another day. Much like life, we must choose our battles, and understand that sometimes calling it quits allows us to come back stronger tomorrow.
Controlling Your Emotions
Unlike other fitness and strength sports, weightlifting requires a sense of focused, almost calm sense of zen while approaching a lift. Methodically setting up, regulating your breathing, and harnessing tension are all needed to successfully allow the body to stay fluid and aggressive. Weightlifting can help us to harness our anxiety and emotions and turn them into positive aggression and focus, one that is unleashed at the precise time it is needed. The ability to connect and regulate our emotions in trying times is a valuable life skill.
Giving Nothing Less Than Everything
While the amount of maximal repetitions (measured by our peak power output, bar acceleration, etc) may be limited, mentally we need to be committed to giving it our all. Neuromuscularly speaking, weightlifting requires the highest degrees of control, motor unit firing rates, and contractions. Motor units within active tissues receive signals from the brain and in return, create an “all or nothing” response, which promotes forceful and explosive contractions and movement. Weightlifters must commit to moving as explosive as possible, without hesitation. Life, also requires us to be confident at what we do if we truly want to succeed.
Humility. It’s a lesson the barbell can teach us every single day. Weightlifting teaches us to stay focused, not get overzealous, and respect every weight. I remember in my first weightlifting competition, I went 2/6, only hitting my openers, both of which were roughly my 90% at the time. I had a high level of confidence for that meet, however became overzealous and lacked the focus necessary to respect every weight, even the ones I have hit before. By staying humble, we learn a deeper sense of self respect, self awareness, and have a better connection between what we have accomplished, and what we can become.
Courage. Simply put, weightlifting takes courage. It is not easy getting under 85% squats for reps, or doing heavy singles of snatches. The daily grind, the long hours, and the risk of failure in competition causes some people to abandon their pursuits. Others, like many of us, step onto the platform with an unwavering tenacity and hunger for one more kilo. Life takes courage. Sometimes, life is unfair, and we must go forth and do things that are tougher than we ever imagined. Not only does the barbell train power and strength, it allows us to enhance our mind to become more courageous over time.
While the above lessons can be learned from many other sports and instances, I have found a deep connection between my pursuits under the barbell, on the platform, and life. Hopefully, many of you agree, and see the power of weightlifting.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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