Why grit may not be the solution

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Let me preface that with "grit" is my favorite word!

On the outside it appeared everything was going great.

Training intensity was increasing, weights were going up and I was hitting personal bests. On the outside, it looked like I was in great shape and primed for my next competition, just two weeks away. Yet, I remember vividly, it was Wednesday, coach had programmed one of my favorite lifts and what should have been easy weight felt like a brick house. I was getting crushed more and more with every rep. I wanted nothing more than to throw in the towel and call it quits. But, I'm not a quitter, so I ground through and finished training. No, sooner did I leave the gym, the tears started flowing. I knew something needed to change or I would soon break and walk away from the sport forever.

I emailed my coach; "We need to talk..."

"I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, or at least almost dead. My snatch is not improving, and has actually made me more and more frustrated and less and less confident."

Nose to the grind, but going nowhere.

There are only two competition lifts in Olympic weightlifting. I struggle technically in the snatch, yet just days earlier I had hit 117kgs in the clean and jerk, which is 1kg under the senior American record. Physically I was in great shape and hitting solid numbers. I am all for grit and grinding, after all grit is my favorite word. I literally have it embroidered on my gym bag, I have a barbell club called gritbarbell, grit is at the essence of my soul. Yet, sometimes we can get our nose so stuck to the grindstone that we forget to look up and see where we are going. I had worked myself into the ground and I thought that the problem was weightlifting and the solution was to quit. Of all the things on my plate it was the one thing that is selfishly just for me. Training and travel are time-consuming and expensive. I felt like I was failing as a mother and wasting one of the precious 18 summers we have with our children. Oh, the mom guilt!.

You see it was July, the middle of summer, the kids were home with me 24/7, which means every training session, every errand, every time I went to work they were with me. Every time I looked at social media, friends and family were on vacations and adventures, yet I was doing everything possible to make senior international teams, which meant getting in hours and hours of training. I knew long term where I wanted to be, but in the short term I was trying to do all the things, I was busy being busy, yet not executing a plan (I had no plan).

In a moment of being beat and broken, I wasn't sure what my next steps where, what do I give up, where do I say no, where do I continue.....

At first I rushed to conclusions that quitting weightlifting would solve all my problems. Yet, I loved the sport and I still had really big goals I was working for and knew I could accomplish. I wasn't ready to give up. And mostly, I could hear my own words of advice as I spoke to my daughter when she wanted to quit gymnastics. "We do not quit, we can choose to take a different path, but we finish what we started. Finish the season, finish the competition. Don't walk away on a bad note." 

It's a hard pill to swallow your own words of advice.

After speaking with my coach we decided.... to take a break. Weightlifting and life, are not a race.... so I withdrew from my competition and agreed to take a hiatus from the barbell. He told me you must "miss the barbell," I needed to find my passion to train again. The original plan was to take several months off and come back and be ready for the new year. Yet, there were a few issues..... I had already signed up for World Masters and a senior international competition just 8 weeks away. I loaded my plate so full with amazing opportunities and was grinding to stay on top of it all. I wasn't enjoying the here and now, and was so anxious for the future and next, "better" opportunity.

I needed a break, and if I still wanted to do the next two competitions then I had to agree to the following:

  1. The competitions are 100% for fun.
  2. I would not cut weight for World Masters as this is taxing on a person mentally and physically.

A break before I broke

On the heels of me giving up and walking away.  I had the two best competitions of my career. WHY? HOW?!  I was out of shape, physically unprepared and fresh off a breakup with my barbell. I didn't crush any crazy numbers, in fact, my total at Worlds was the lowest it had been that entire year. But I had so much fun, my mind was in a much better place.

During my break, I allowed (aka forced) myself to reflect and evaluate. I tend to go go go, and when I arrive, I, rush into the next big thing. I overload my plate and try to do all the things as a mom and athlete.

Finding focus in the midst of chaos

I realized that one thing that brings me joy and satisfaction is checking things off a list. I feel fulfilled moving forward in my day towards a bigger goal. Yet, I currently was so focused on the "admin" of life that I was surviving not thriving. 

I want to be an elite athlete and a present mother, and doing both of those things simultaneously requires living with intense focus and intention. THIS... is where the Master Me planner was born. I needed a space to organize, prioritize and FOCUS on what needed to be done to move forward vs wasting the day away running around being busy.

I am learning to build the habit, of slowing down. Taking time to be intentional with my day, prioritize my goals, family and say no to things that don't move me forward. I am not there yet, I am a work in progress. 

Say no to busy and yes to less. Focus on priorities and live intentionally.

The greatest lesson I learned in a moment of despair is breaks are necessary and can propel you into a better/faster result. Burnout is real and can happen to anyone. Take time, look up, see where you are, course correct as necessary, and never be afraid to speak up for how you feel.

Tagged with: Master me

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1 Comment

  • Thanks for your story. I started weightlifting only four years ago. Just missed qualifying for nationals. A story very similar to yours except mine happened day of competition. Then I had a slight shoulder injury from overuse. Imagine that at 46…overuse. Ha. Took me a year to come back. Weights are still the same but somewhere in the meantime I had lost my passion for the grind. My word is grind. Anyway I appreciate the story more than you can imagine. Your strong and even an inspiration to an old man. Lol. Take care. Lift heavy, lift often, love life

    John Darrenkamp on

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