Thursday, June 27, 2013

Five Times Stronger

Last Saturday I tested my five rep max total. I found my five rep maxes (5RM) on all three lifts in the same training session; which lasted about two hours. My goal was to beat my first powerlifting total. 

I did precisely that. 

Back in January of 2012 I participated in my first powerlifting meet. My best lifts that day were a 374 squat, a 264 bench, and a 473 deadlift, for a 1,113 lb. total. Here's the video compilation from last Saturday's training session. 

Now am I literally 5x stronger? Of course not. But those last attempts were my maxes then- especially my squat and deadlift. But what does this mean? What does this prove? 

Well, it means that I'm clearly doing something right with my training. It means I've had no significant setbacks. It means I've trained consistently. It means I've continued to make slow, tiresome, incremental progress. However, in the grand scheme of things 1.5 years isn't that long of a time period. Could I have made this 5RM total six months ago? Maybe. But then again, maybe not. 

What I'm getting at is this- don't lose sight of the fact that building strength is a race whose pace would bore a snail. And it's not always about how many more pounds you've added to the bar. Consider how many more reps you can do, how much faster each rep is, how much time a set takes to complete, how much more work you can do in a given amount of time. 

Sure, some of that stuff isn't exactly "strength" in the true definition of the word. (Endurance, capacity, blah blah blah.) But from my perspective, always chasing 1RMs is like running a race against injury. One day you'll get beat, and then you'll be out of the race altogether. 

Then you will have been stronger rather than being strong. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Manlethlete in Training: They will not keep me down

From time to time pieces from my favorite books or poems come to mind while training. One of the most infamous quotes ever written very recently came to mind when I was dealing with some swole-shaming (with a side of manlet hate to boot.)

I have found in my experience that swole-shamers and those who benefit from tall privilege will stoop to the lowest levels in order to talk down to me, just to feel bigger themselves. I’ve shouldered this burden in the past in many ways, and most recently it struck me in the heart in the form on a comment on this very blog. As usual, a bigot brought up my height on the internet- in the most inappropriate place.

That piece was about being resilient in the face of adversity. Doing anything in your power to overcome what lies before you. But what did I get in return? “LOL UR SHORT!” (Essentially.)

Anyways, this weekend I had to let off a little stress so I decided to go for a short run. Something far different than what I typically do. Not to make too big of a deal about it, I ran three miles, non-stop, for the first time in months- quite the athletic feat for my little feet! I find it fair to call myself a "runner" because yes, I can run. And I am an athlete. Yet, while on that run I heard a litany of disparaging comments.


“Isn’t he too bulky to be running?”

“That can’t be healthy for his joints.”

“Where is he running? The gym?!” (Followed up with a chorus of ottermode laughter.)

Those were just a few of the cherry picked comments I remember hearing while on my run. You see, while I suffer from being shorter than “normal” I do still benefit from a tremendous amount of athletic privilege. Whatever sport I find interesting, I’m usually pretty good at it. I’m not naturally gifted at running, and I don’t train this type of running often, so of course I wasn’t running very fast.  And thus, I was the target of swole hate, manlet shaming, and some blatant sexual harassment from the local homeless population. 
They mean the best, I’m sure.

The issue here is that the point of my run wasn’t to demonstrate my excellence at running, but to show myself, and all of you, that I benefit from this tremendous amount of athletic privilege of which I’m so delicately reminding you. These hater's self esteem is so low even I have to limbo under that bar! They have to make these wild assumptions about my health and abilities with the only intent to hurt my emotional wellbeing. Which brings me to the quote that came to mind during my run:

Their actions may be horrifying, but it is my resolve which in the end they will find equally just as nightmarish. 

Swole people and short people (commonly referred to as “manlets” which is literally the same thing as any other terrible derogatory term) face incredible humiliation in our society and those of us who choose to step up and fight back are immediately retaliated against by those who benefit from weak and tall privileges. The battle plan I have for my fellow swoldiers is to continue to rise up!

I believe that swole people, whether or not manlets, are truly underestimated and shortchanged. Together, with a small amount of activism we can lift our oppressors into the hangman’s noose and overcome this unfair adversity that they have so evidently created for us. They have attempted to crush us, yet we will them, in our deadlift-trained grips. Our victory will be a testament to our incredible strength.

In a culture where waking up as a swole manlet and not hating yourself is considered an act of rebellion, I am pleased to find myself in the company of Che Guevara. In a culture where refusing my body less protein than it needs to recover from my astonishing leg days is considered a crime, I am pleased to be compatriots with Al Capone. In a culture where loving my swole is an act of revolution, I am pleased to paddle George Swolington’s boat across the Delaware River.

"Look at this swole mother fucker that paddled my boat. You redcoats are fucked."

Say what they want, bend my words, but they will not break my will.