For three-and-a-half years I’ve been chalking up and checking in – to basement, garage, CrossFit, powerlifting, strong(wo)man, and Olympic lifting gyms around the country.
Regardless of the facility you train in or the sport in which you lift, your gainz can’t possibly be limited to the gym.
Here are four of my favourite life lessons learned from lifting:
1. Life Lesson: There’s beauty in your imperfection; be vulnerable.
Lifting Lesson: Your squat face is hot.
Nothing makes me happier when scrolling Facebook or Instagram than seeing Allison Lockhart, nose bloody from a squat, or Tracey Halladay letting out a battle cry while lifting some strange heavy object.
Don’t give me the fitness models in promotional videos, walking around a gym, skin glistening from baby oil, doing a few reps of booty work with perfect hair and makeup – this isn’t real. This isn’t human.
Give me the girl covered in chalk, whose hands are bleeding from tearing a callus on deadlift volume work or from PRing Fran.
Don’t give me the guy in the underwear ad whose muscles have been photoshopped to the point where his back might be comparable with mine.
Give me the man who’s packing some extra body fat because he’s more concerned with the weight on the barbell than the number of abs he can see in the mirror. Give me the man whose idea of perfection is ideal positioning in a sumo deadlift.
Our physical imperfections are evidence of our humanity. To be human is to be flawed. Although greater society might not recognize it as beauty, my deadlift face taught me that pushing the limits of my capacity has its own physical expression. Your character really can be visible on the outside.
This face taught me that we are the most beautiful, and the strongest when we are the most vulnerable. You can’t control what your face does when you’re doing a max lift. If you’re worried about your face, you’re probably going to fail the lift.
Showing your flaws, or what society might label as a flaw makes you relatable. I know many girls who look incredible out of the gym, but then you see them laying in a sweat angel and you realize they aren’t so different than you.
I’ve embraced showing the world all sides of me. I’ll show you my scream deadlift face and I’ll show you a pic of me in a dress. I’ll show you training videos when I’m gaining weight or when I’m cutting. I’ll show you the parts of my mind that are strong, and I’ll show you when I’m like, “Oh my God, there’s something wrong with me and I’m going to die alone.” The less I hide the parts of me I think aren’t beautiful, the more I can help people accept themselves for all they are. The less I hide my flaws – my humanity – the more I can help others be confident even if they feel they aren’t perfect, and the more I’m able to accept and love myself.
The girl who isn’t afraid to show her deadlift face is the girl for me.
2. Life Lesson: All things that are truly worth it take time and consistent effort.
Lifting Lesson: A single 20-or-less-second personal record is achieved through hours of following a solid program in the gym. Whether you want to a 3x body weight deadlift, six-pack abs, the relationship of your dreams, or to run your own bustling business it’s not going to happen overnight.
If you want that huge lift, you’re not going to get it by maxing out every day. Follow a program to a T day-in-and-day-out and test when your coach tells you to.
Whatever awesome thing you desire, you need to put in the work every damn day for months or even years before you’ll have it; there are no quick fixes.
3. Life Lesson: Failure is like a microwave for success.
Lifting Lesson: A failed lift is your greatest coach and best motivator.
Although I don’t condone failing lifts in the gym regularly – missing a lift at a meet or on a test day could be the best thing that happened to your training in the following weeks, and could lead you to a huge PR at your next meet.
Failing my bench right off of my chest has led to exercise selection that has helped me hit PRs.
Losing my squats in the hole forced me to do single leg work to train my imbalances so I can maintain tension.
It’s the same in life. Failing in relationships can reveal what to do differently to finally find that real love. A missed business deal can teach you to strengthen your sale-closing skills to land an even bigger client. Flunking a test can force you to look at your priorities and habits, transforming your grades and your world.
In life and in lifting we need to learn to welcome failure and invite struggle.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. ” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
But the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the barbell?
4. Life Lesson: You need to learn to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.
Lifting Lesson: You must delight in training just as much as you love meet day.
If your training is a constant grind, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re training only for mountaintop goals, you’re doing it wrong.
If you break a record today it might be broken tomorrow. If you become the best in your country, someone better is probably going to come along.
There are no guarantees. All you’re guaranteed is today. This training session.
Learn to laugh with your gym buddies. Shake off the misses. Fall in love with the lifestyle.
Relish in the PRs and the successful meets, but more importantly, delight in the daily work.
So mix up your creatine and protein powder and bask in the lifting life. Chalk up, buttercup. Put a smile on your face when you miss a lift. Party like it’s 1999 when you win a meet or break a record.
Welcome failure because it means your next success is right around the corner. Put in the work every day, because that’s what’ll get you the results you dream of.
And love your deadlift face, because where there’s a real, authentic human being seeking to be stronger, there is beauty.
Your deadlift face is the physical expression of your character, and your character is badass AF.
Second-guess yourself before you’re about to attempt a lift? Beat yourself up in your everyday life? Does your mental game need serious help? I’ve spent a lot of time working on my thoughts and my attitude, and on Monday I’m going to send you my PR cheat sheet – the guide I’ve designed to help you make those max attempts. Sign up for my newsletter to receive this cheat sheet, as well as other tips and tricks for levelling up in your life.