Sunday, June 8, 2014

"Mastering the F*ed Snatch" or "F* Until You Can't Anymore"

There is one, 4 letter F word that nearly all successful people understand, and all those struggling with success, well, don't.

No, not THAT F WORD. (Got your attention though, didn't I?) By the end of this blog (heck, by the end of the next 3 paragraphs), you'll know what that word is.
Saturday - Snatch/Clean and Jerk.
If you follow me on Facebook, you'll probably see me throwing a couple big PR (or 'personal record' to all of you non-lifting folks) parties this week. This week I've PR'd in the Front Squat (155lbs), the Turkish Get Up (50lbs), the Clean and Split Jerk (135lbs), and (most notably) the Snatch (90lbs).  I've also gotten much better at pull ups and my overhead squat is improving. Obviously, the word I'm referring to isn't 'success'. (I'd like to think I can lleps spell better than that.)

While I have no shortage of reasons to celebrate my hard-won successes, there is one very important factor I should point out that deserves more than two lines on a Facebook status.


In fact, I'm kind of an expert of the failed Snatch by now.
I remember the first time I bailed out of a failed lift. I was at the YMCA working on (no surprise) the Snatch with Trainer Guy. I knew the lift wasn't going to work without risking serious injury to my shoulder(s), and I bailed out, dropping the weight on the floor behind me, and heading forward. This is NOT encouraged at most YMCAs, but it certainly beats getting injured.  I was annoyed with failing, but Trainer Guy's face lit up.  His piece of yoda-like wisdom?

"It's good to know you can do that. I'm impressed."

If I hadn't known better, I would have thought he was being a smart ass, but it rang true with sincerity.
I'm great at recognizing that it's not in that 'sweet spot' and I've bailed without injury 99.9% of the time. The .1% just results in an unintended bruise and more damage to my confidence than to my body.

Oh, but that agonizing .1%! One of that .1% happened recently. While it didn't leave more than a bruise and a sore seat for a while, my psyche was scarred. Instinctively, the body WANTS to protect itself, right? Weight lifting is something to be scared of, right? After all, big things could fall and hurt you!But the truth is, if we opted to avoid everything that could hurt us, shouldn't we avoid things like gravity (good luck with that one), food (choking hazard), water (drowning hazard), fire (burn hazard), and just about anything else that makes life worth living (passion, love, faith, trust, family, friends, etc).  Instead, we power on through many more of our 'fears' than we realize. Just because we 'could' hurt ourselves (or 'fail'), doesn't mean we'll ALWAYS end up that way... but I digress...

Determined to figure out a way past this invisible 'bruise', I went back to the gym the next day to lift.
I proved to myself that it wasn't really an injury. It was just a bruise. That day, I set a new personal record for my Front Squat and my Turkish Get Up.

The next day, I saw Trainer Guy. He'd bore witnessed my .1% the weekend before and it spooked him a little at the time. Since I was still sore, I suspect we took it a little bit easier that day, but we did some Clean and Jerks - which are two of my favorite lifts. They went pretty well.

The next day, we started working on the Snatch again.

That's when the bruise on my psyche became painfully obvious. Suddenly, I couldn't get anywhere near the same amount of weight that I'd had the accident with. Every single time I got close, I'd fail... consecutively.

Now, let me be clear. This was not due to lack of strength, ability, or coordination. It was completely in my head.

Isn't it crazy how the NEGATIVE sticks with us more than the positives?!

Over the weekend, I tried it again at a different gym, with different coaching. (See photo of white board above.)

Guess what? I still failed... I got up to the weight I'd had the accident with, and then I'd fail again and again and again...even if I added just 1 pound to it.

It felt like I'd hit the wall. I began to wonder if I'd ever get past 85lbs... which would be a problem since one of my goals right now is to see if I've got what it takes to see Trainer Guy to the next level of his Olympic Weight Lifting Certification - which involves evolving into a Championship Level athlete. It happens to also feed my goal of 'earning my street cred' by competing more - so it's a win-win in that respect.  While I still have a long way to go before I get there, the steady progress has been encouraging. To be 'stuck' now?! This early on?! That would go a long way to derailing those goals.

Giving up isn't my style.

Instead, one of my lifting buddies reminded me that I'd promised to take her along to Coach C's lifting class the next morning. I had planned on it being my rest day, but I felt her growth was important and figured I could go 'light' if I needed to that day. Coach C would understand. So with about 5 hours of sleep under my belt, I showed up at the box, my Bella bar in hand, ready (albeit with a tiny bit of angst and reluctance) to rock n' roll.

Just my luck - Coach C had decided that it was Snatch day.  
Some distant part in the back of my mind muttered something decidedly unpleasant about it, but an equally, perhaps overwhelming part was actually interested and relieved to work on my weakness even more. I was willing to give myself the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I'd learn some trick to overcome my limit. Even if I didn't, I'd get to absorb some good coaching and I'd get some work in. Getting stronger is never a bad thing in my book and I really do love learning and exchanging ideas with other coaches, especially ones as on target as Trainer Guy and Coach C.

So we went to work...

And, guess what?  

I FAILED! I failed several times....UNTIL FINALLY, I DIDN'T! 85 pounds went over my head...and it looked easy!Ecstatic yet living in disbelief, I wanted to do more. I needed to do more.

I needed to go over that stupid freaking magical mother-failing 85 pounds to prove to myself, without a doubt, that I was truly PAST the fear.

So we rounded it up to 90lbs...

And then this happened....

Yeah... that's right... I failed. In fact, if you really slow down that 2nd lift, you'll see a grimace cross my face as something tweaked out in my left arm (yeah, the one with the bandaged hand already...). Frustrated and annoyed, Coach C encouraged me to take a breather and let my lifting buddy have a go at her sets before I gave it just one more try.
 So that's exactly what happened. She worked her set, and I revealed in her success (and my failures) for about 2 minutes and then went back to approach the platform for what-would-be my last attempt for the day.

Coach C shot me some encouragement. His yoda-like-wisdom?
"This is the part where you come up here and smoke this weight."
I replied with a jovial, "Of course," though I'm not entirely sure I got the same 'script' for the moment that he apparently had already read. I wasn't exactly convinced. I remember running through the moment in my mind and thinking, "This is really only 5 pounds more. It's practically the same weight I JUST lifted! What's the big deal? Don't overthink it. The body knows what to do. Trust the work, if you can't trust yourself, and just do what you've been trained to do, Coach J."Apparently even a coach needs some of her own yoda-like wisdom sometimes... because this is how that went down.

Moral of the story?
Failure isn't something to fear, but something to embrace. Like many things that have helped me grow along the way, I don't have to love it. I just have to trust the process.
That doesn't mean it's a good idea to train until you reach failure everyday.  There is a smart way to push through your limits, and a dumb way. I didn't just step out of bed and do this - it took time. The fact that it ONLY took about a week to power through this wall feels extra-ordinary, but I take training and coaching very seriously.
But I can say this much -  

The high fives at the end wouldn't be as sweet if I didn't have the low F's at the start.

No doubt I'll fail many more times before I succeed.

As long as I am alive, I will be learning. As long as I'm learning, I'll be discovering new, astounding, and magical ways to fail.

Along the way, I will find other walls.

I'm as certain of that as I am of this:

Inch by Inch
Step by Step
And Kilo by Kilo
No matter how long it takes
I will scale that Mother-F*er.

*Special thanks to Narrows Crossfit for the Friday work and Crossfit Seven Cities for the Saturday morning awesomeness. *

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