An Instant Under the Bar

CrossFit determination exercise fitness olympic weightlifting perserverance strength weightlifting

The training session started fairly uneventfully. I worked my way up to 160 lbs. I only failed that weight once and then got it up easily the second time, so 165 lbs seemed doable. I loaded the bar and stepped up, confident I'd be able to pull it off.

The first lift failed. Not especially surprising. I was not discouraged. The second lift I also failed, in the same way. I decided to get a little playfully angry/determined. The third lift failed. My anger became less playful and more sincere. I started racking up failures left and right, some very dramatic and potentially injurious.

Things Get Serious

Pretty soon, my emotions were all over the place. I went from determined anger to frustration with myself, to despondency that I'd never succeed, fiery anger at the bar, self-defeatism, self-pity, anger at life in general which led me to attack the wall behind me, calm  thoughtlessness, and spent a good deal of time talking myself up. I told myself each lift would be the one to succeed.

I kept losing the bar though. No matter what I did, it would slowly tip forward after I caught it. I could sit there and feel it slowly slipping out of my control, but there was nothing I could do about it. I could slip forward onto my knees, and actually did stand with it once out of a really messy lunge, but no matter what I did, I was off balance. I had the strength to get it up, but not to hold on to it.

Finally, I asked myself if I'd be okay not getting 165 lbs today. I was trying to accept that I might not be able to do it, secretly hoping that acceptance of failure would allow me to succeed. Then I failed spectacularly. I actually did catch the bar, but as I tried to stand with it, my shoulder rotated backwards, forcing me to drop it behind me and quickly dive to the floor before the bar landed on my back. I ended up underneath it, very discouraged.

The next time I set up, I remember trying to encourage myself with words of certainty, but they just didn't have the ring of truth. I had to admit that I had no idea what was going to happen this time. I stood up, jumped, and in an instant found myself in a perfect overhead squat with 165 lbs held securely and stably over my head. I stood up with no trouble at all.

The last attempt had been the easiest and cleanest one yet.

I was emotionally exhausted, and over the course of the day, my physical exhaustion slowly built up to leave me wasted.

Looking Back

A snatch occurs over only a few seconds, and the majority of the work takes place over a few milliseconds. In that instant, while the bar is rising, so much can happen, and the key is to find a quiet space to let your body do what it needs to do. I've had entire narratives play out when I'm trying to get under the bar, ranging from "oh yeah I got this," to "what are those two people over there doing?" Only when my mind is silent do I consistently catch the bar.

Part of the reason I think I had so much trouble with the extra 5 lbs was because a part of me believed that I would never be able to snatch my bodyweight. Hopefully, now that I've done it, the sky's the limit, but breaking that barrier certainly took a lot of effort.

I don't think I've ever put so much of myself into any single athletic attempt. I would say that the lesson to take from this is the need to accept your limitations before you can break them, but if I had done that, I wouldn't have tried that last time. Sometimes, you have to accept failure, but keep trying as long as you are able anyway. I accepted that my body might fail me or wear out eventually, but as long as I had the ability, I'd keep stepping up and giving it my all. My determination would outlast my body or the challenge, whichever succumbed first. In the end, it was a battle of will, not a matter of physical ability.