I have often wondered if all serious lifters are compulsive. Powerlifting, as are most forms of the Iron Game is a repetitive, clearly defined activity that fits comfortably into the mindset and activity level of those who enjoy or respond best to prediction and order. Admitting a certain degree of compulsiveness that allows for enhanced organization, punctuality, the accomplishment seen in completing a written or mentally visualized list, and responding best to predictability is vastly different than being called to wash one’s hands forty times per day. Having some of these noted traits and having worked in what used to be called a “mental institution” has given me some insight to both ends of the compulsive behavior spectrum. When my wife, former members of our commercial gym whom I still visit with frequently, and I discuss some of the trainees we encountered at Iron Island and in other establishments, it is quickly evident that perhaps gym attendance covers all ends of the compulsive spectrum.
Many are put off by labels or being blocked into a description of their behavior or personality traits. However, recognizing one’s own strong and weak points allows for maximizing one’s ability and let’s admit that so-called New Year’s Resolutions are about making a statement or commitment to maximizing some aspect(s) of one’s ability. Of course New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are not true holidays (other than in the Catholic Church as a day of obligation for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God), they are “made up,” arbitrary points on a continuum of time, a way to mark a calendar and of course in the case of celebration, a reasonable excuse to run a bit amok for a few hours. As one of my long-deceased, alcoholic uncles used to say, “New Year’s Eve? It’s Amateur Hour, these idiots get drunk, stupid, cause trouble, and have accidents giving us real drinkers a bad name!” New Year’s is however, a marking point, a line of demarcation that can be useful to powerlifters, especially those whose compulsive traits might be a bit more prominent than others.
Simply put, “Start Here” is a good way for some trainees to view the New Year holiday. If one’s training routine needs to be altered, overhauled, or tweaked, “start here.” If one was going to try a new approach or program, “start here.” If one always wanted to experiment with or incorporate a specific piece of equipment into the program, “start here.” The way our culture is shaped, a New Year’s Resolution to be more consistent, more focused, more organized, more analytic, and just “be a better lifter” is positive and gives a definitive launching point for a period of progress.
As a college student and athlete I used to enjoy coming home for Christmas vacation/break despite the immediate process of heading to the iron shop at 4:30 AM five or six mornings each week. I would get an extra five dollars per day if I went in early to shovel coal into the furnace so that there was apparent heat in the offices and changing area when everyone else began work at 6:30 AM. I would lift, carry, grind, and paint for most of the day and be admonished by my father who reminded me when I asked why I wasn’t doing more “technical work” that my skills were such that “we can’t let you weld anything that people’s lives depend on!” In brief, I was the shop mule and then would return home to lift weights in the garage and/or brave the brutal wind and winter temperatures to run along the beach front. I would, despite a physical demand that was greater than that expended following the end of the season’s football practices and games, thrive and always make great improvement in strength levels and physical appearance. Approximately half way through the “Christmas vacation” came New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a new calendar year. I usually worked as a line cook with an uncle who was a chef or did valet parking but if work wasn’t available I would lift in the garage. I can vividly recall another university student who lived in the dormitory whose family home was not far from ours. He was not a collegiate athlete but was an avid skier and tennis player, and on a social strata far above mine. On New Year’s Eve following my initial college semester, he showed up in my driveway unannounced with one of his male friends and three young women in his car. As my parents were out for the night working and my brother was himself partying elsewhere, they wondered if they could settle in for a few hours of drinking, television, and whatever else might follow. I welcomed them but explained that “I have to lift, I’m squatting heavy tonight.” The “third young woman” eventually came into the garage to watch me train and talk although my focus was on squats. After perhaps ignoring my lack of social skills but otherwise finding me harmless, she requested “company” to celebrate New Year’s Eve, indoors of course and not in the unheated garage. My retort was predictable, noting that I had a workout to complete and the response of my guests, other than my college dorm mate who knew well my reputation at school, was predictable. “This guy is nuts” might have been the assessment but like so many others, I had made my own New Year’s resolutions and “not missing one workout for this entire next year” was on that list. Thus like “everyone else” I utilized the arbitrary demarcation point of “The New Year” to enhance my lifting. For all of our TITAN readers, it isn’t a bad idea!