Breakthroughs

Do you ever have that moment where something that kicked your butt the last time you encountered it gets shattered all to hell and back the next time you run into it?

Well, that happened to me earlier today, and it’s awesome.

Let me back up a bit. A little over a month ago, I hit a deadlift attempt for five reps but could only do four. I just didn’t have a fifth rep in me. I know, I tried.

It was right before I what Starting Strength calls a reset. Basically, you take some weight off the bar and work back up. In theory, this will let you shatter through the previous wall. It makes sense, at least for a novice lifter.

I hit the deadlift wall, then an overhead press wall, so it was time for a reset.

Today, I had to attempt the same weight I failed on a month ago. Guess what?

I kicked it in the balls.

In other words, not only did I lift it, but it wasn’t even all that hard. Part of that might have been form efficiency or neuromuscular pathway recruitment or that I really am that much stronger than I was. Who knows?

Most importantly is that I don’t care.

What I had was a breakthrough, a moment in time when a difficult task is suddenly easy. I’ve had them before, especially when lifting, but this one was special for some reason. Probably because I actually enjoy deadlifting, despite sucking at it.

Seriously, when it was all said and done, I was tired, but I really think I could have done another 10 to 20 lbs today. It was awesome.

Now, I didn’t add weight to the bar for another set, and there was a reason for that. I have to do it all over again next week and I want to leave something in the tank for that. Plus, I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish.

Anyway, not going higher was a conscious decision, and I’m fine with it.

But it got me to thinking about tough spots and difficulties. We all have them, not just in the gym but in life. While we’re dealing with them, it’s kind of depressing and they feel like giant stones around the neck of our life, but then we break through.

At that point, it’s like the world has transformed. Like we’ve just found new love or something.

I think that’s why I really like training so much. It gives me opportunities to break through barriers so much, especially as a relatively novice lifter. I’m intentionally putting myself in a position of doing something that’s hard, knowing it will create plateaus that have to be shattered just so I can shatter plateaus.

Yes, it sounds stupid when you look at it from the outside. It makes me sound a little like one of those super-positive guys who only talk about how amazing everything is.

Well, it’s not. Life sucks. The world sucks. People suck. Politics sucks. Working sucks. Everything sucks.

But breakthroughs make everything stop sucking, at least for a little bit. It makes you feel strong, powerful, omnipotent. Again, at least for a little bit.

The thing is, so much of our life isn’t in our control. So many breakthroughs are things we have only partial control over.

If you’re single and hating it, you can’t just decide to get a girlfriend or boyfriend. You can work toward it, but other people get a say in the matter.

If you’re unemployed or just want a new job, you can’t just decide to get a new job. You can start applying for jobs, but your potential new employers get a vote.

Now, the feeling of those breakthroughs is real. In fact, they’re probably a bit more intense simply because you had to wow someone else to make them happen.

But with the weights or with any physical endeavor, it’s all on you. You failed when you attempted to bench 225? Then keep working until you can kick 225 in the nuts. You’re ultimately the one in control, so it’s completely possible to do it.

And that feels amazing.

That’s the thing about hardship, especially self-imposed hardships like weight training. The difficulty is what makes things worth it. The easy things are nothing. We’re not amazed at the average person making it out of bed or cooking dinner, but we’re proud of the person having issues who is able to force themselves out of bed despite it. We’re not impressed with a guy standing up…unless there’s a reason it’s hard for him to stand.

The easy means nothing. It’s the difficult that matters.

And when something is really, really difficult, then you take a step back, work up and shatter it? That’s something to be really proud of.

If you’re in a gym and you see someone take on a weight that you know they had trouble with before, be proud of them. More than that, tell them you’re proud of them. I’m 99 percent sure they won’t think it creepy.

Well, 95 percent.

Anyway, it’ll make most folks feel pretty good to know that someone watched, noted, and noticed them breaking through.

So, ask yourself, what are you working to break through on?

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