Control IT Before It Takes Control of You

We tend to see a common theme in many young athletes these days: training in the gym becomes a source of self-confidence and reassurance.  We train hard three to four days per week and take pride and satisfaction in our gym accomplishments.  It feels great to be strong and capable in many areas of training.  I for one, take great pride in the fact that I can deadlift a respectable amount of weight for my size and frame.  As young men, we are constantly comparing ourselves to that other guy who passes by you in the gym or on the street.  We rest easy in the fact that we believe are stronger, look better, and are more capable than the next guy.

When we decide to be competitive athletes, we must make certain sacrifices.  We commit to set ego aside and become what we do.  This means we specialize, yes, SPECIALIZE in what we do.  If a young athlete weighing in at roughly 190# sets out to become an elite cyclist, he must understand that certain sacrifices must be made to become elite.  First, the hours must be put paid in terms of training and specialization, but even more importantly, he must be willing to drop about 30# of bodyweight (depending on the athlete’s somatotype).  This includes: cutting fat, “unyoking” his upper body by cutting muscle mass, and building strong, capable, powerful legs.  Because we are conditioned by Hollister, American Eagle, and Muscle & Fitness that we must look a certain way to fit into society and impress females, our mind and ego has an extraordinarily hard time with this notion.  Putting in the training and recovery hours is pretty easy because it is mostly physical.  The challenge then becomes getting right in the head and cutting away that which is not needed or necessary.  Most do not have the mental fortitude to accomplish such as task, and they will only go so far in their sport.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the community of power lifters, football players, and strongmen.  In order to be a “powerful” athlete, different sacrifices must be made.  A large, powerful frame is necessary to be highly competitive in this field.  These athletes must eat an ungodly amount of food, lift heavy weight constantly, be mindful of recovery practices, and forget about self image.  This includes gaining a lot of weight in order to improve leverages, being labeled as “fat” by some people, and dealing with a high level of wear and tear on the body.  Again, we will have the group of so called “power lifters” who train like bodybuilders, shovel down supplements, and try to “look good” while being highly competitive.  These sort of stiffs will never be the best and never make it to the top of their sport, and they will be injured for most of their career due to improper training and recovery practices.

Andy Bolton who is considered to be the strongest man on the planet, has over twenty 900#+ deadlifts to his name.  Do you think he cares what he looks like?  Commit 100% to your sport or find something else.

Matt Kroczaleski who is a cancer survivor and the embodiment of toughness and commitment, is a champion power lifter.  Do you think he cares what he looks like before a MAJOR competition?

When it comes time to perform, athletes must have the mental toughness to let other fitness and physical characteristics slide.  This means how much you can squat, deadlift, bench press, or power clean will have little importance for an endurance athlete.  For a discus thrower, then yes, they would be important because these are necessary supporting components of throwing.  This does not mean they take precedence over the actual sport of throwing, but they form a supporting cast to help aid in performance.  Do not neglect RELEVANT gym totals during the season, instead make your focus the field of competition.  Everything else takes on a supporting role to your overall goal.  This means cutting down your time in the gym and increasing your time spent practicing the technical aspect of your sport.  Spend less time in the gym and more time in practice.

The decision is completely yours.  Either commit to a goal, or don’t.  Don’t be guilty of performing “garbage” work in the gym during your sports season in order to maintain your outward appearance.  Life is too short to throw away years of your athletic prime on worrying about how you might appear to the outside world.