I changed a significant portion of this from my first draft. If you want, you can take a look at my initial draft: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=239325
Anyway, here is my second attempt:
Sometimes, people just want to relax. They sit down, turn the television on, grab a beer and watch the game. Maybe they grab a book filled with all the typical clichés, stuffed with sex and violence, but a book that they know they can just enjoy for the ride. I enjoy the feeling of metal in my hand. I want to say the metal of a wrench, as befitting my engineering background, but it is the rough knurling of a barbell that calms my mind.
I realize that this may sound strange, considering both the lack of popularity of weight lifting and the perception of the gym as a place of work rather than enjoyment. I realize this because, at one point, I similarly felt the same way. When I first started, lifting weights wasn’t a hobby more than it was a chore. I mean, how else could it be viewed?
First time going to the gym, I’m enthusiastic. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I already can’t wait to see the results of my half-baked workout regimen. Stepping on the treadmill with a light, easy pace doesn’t seem all that difficult. I amp the speed up a little and in maybe a minute I get a sense that I’m missing something. Ah yes, I seem to have misplaced the air in my lungs with some kind of inferno. I think, surely I’ve ran at least a couple miles by now, right? Nope. I haven’t even run a virtual lap around the track and I already look like I walked to the gym through a hurricane.
Okay, enough of this, it’s time to hit the weights and hit the fat where it hurts. I did some light reading of what I should do prior to actually joining the gym, with some articles whose website names I have already forgotten, that said the back squat is the king of all exercises. Just walking up to the rack seems intimidating. The person next to I doesn’t look all that muscular, and doesn’t even look like he lifts if it weren’t for the three plates on each end of his barbell. After the cardiovascular fiasco I just had, I tone down my expectations a little. He does three plates, albeit for eight reps. I can definitely squeeze a couple in with just two, right? Warming up with one plate on each side and I realize that I have absolutely no flexibility.
Despite this, I think it wise to attempt the lift anyway. While I have the mobility of a square wheel, I have the stubbornness of the Titanic. Similarly, it was definitely one of the worse decisions that I’ve made. What compounded it was adding an extra set of plates on each end. With this extra weight on my back, surely it will push me into a full depth squat. What could possibly go wrong? Taking the bar off the rack, I definitely notice the extra ninety pounds. I start the slow descent and notice that, surprise, the extra weight doesn’t actually help with my poor mobility. Not only that, but my body is not accustomed to taking this weight. It has to compensate with muscles that are years underused, and a strange prayer whereby I bow down and give my prayers to basic physics. There is a semblance of ascent that reaches a stopping point of what seemed like a mountain. At that stopping point, I feel more than hear the sounds of two cracked knuckles reverberating inside my body originating from my lower back. It was only as I collapse under the weight, with an unforgiving pain that won’t be going away for months, that I realize how truly little I moved to hurt myself so much.
Thus began my weight lifting journey. I decided that this was only a minor, if not being able to bend over or walk straight for six months is minor, setback on my fitness goal of being a future powerlifter. Despite the painful outcome of this initial approach, there was something fundamentally fulfilling about lifting weights. The work that is put in doesn’t give any quick rewards, but when the reward does come, it comes on a visceral level. In the strength sports, there is no denying the progress that is made. You cannot simply get lucky on a consistent basis and lift a number that was heretofore unreachable. Every pound added is a pound added through a compound of increasingly better technique, knowledge, and, obviously, strength.
To say that there weren’t any setbacks would be a lie and fantasy. I have been out for an extended period of time due to a back injury twice, a hip injury once along with numerous aches and pains that has slowed me down. My shoulders have always been bad since high school football, where proper form was sacrificed simply to move weights. This is not to say that I am tough, but that lifting weights has been, and constantly is, a learning experience. Patience, proper rehabilitation, the importance of pre-habilitation, the necessity of research and understanding; I can go on, but there simply has not been any single hobby or activity that I have done that has taught me, in both quantity and quality, the number of lessons and values as I have learned when approaching this sport.
Perhaps I am simply overthinking a hobby that I am passionate about, but it seems, at least to me, that strength sports gives you a very unique view of the world. Pushing physical weights that, no matter how much you want or try, simply will not be moved gives you an insight into what is and is not possible. Many things in the world cannot be done simply because the laws of nature prevent it from happening, but the ebb and flow of the mind are only limited by however much we want it to be limited. Trying to pull a barbell that simply has too much weight will only end up in you injuring yourself. Changing your perspective, admitting your errors, having the courage to try new things are all as easy, or as difficult, as what you believe it to be.
Since my initial, disastrous work out, I have competed in two powerlifting meets. I didn’t place in the first one, barely succeeding in completing six out of the nine attempts for the three movements (squat, bench, and deadlift). I placed second in the second meet that I competed in. Reflecting back upon this physically arduous, but mentally rewarding, journey, I’m not sure that there is any single conclusion that can be drawn. I just know that I am extremely glad that I mustered enough courage to take the first step. I have no intention of stopping anytime soon and hope to be even more competitive in the future.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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