Written by Renee-Rose Garcia
Without a doubt, in my short time powerlifting, I've allowed this sport to become such staple in my life. It's been such a rewarding journey coming from a background completely sedentary lifestyle, to become an active member of the gym and something that I've never imagined referencing myself as: an athlete! I've continuously been on a "powerlifting high" that I never thought I'd be able to come down from... a "high" that would continue to grow on really good days, but have enough of a presence to also motivate me through the bad days.
My “high” grew with every powerlifting meet I attended to watch other lifters and especially my teammates just kill it, with every PR and every 400lb+ squat I've been able to successfully complete (cue inspiration from the great Ray Williams every time he squats over 1000lbs!) and any time I've felt that I've been able overcome a certain mental obstacle (cue Thomas the Engine's "I think I can" chant to my "I KNOW I CAN AND I WILL!").
I became addicted to the feeling of becoming healthier, getting stronger and enjoying my personal growth, that I had chosen to make sacrifices in my life.
Like any well focused and committed athlete, I’ve spend hours at the gym to train, accompanied with meal prepping and trying to manage my time as best as I could. Rather than spending late Saturday evenings out with friends and Sundays with my family, I've spent it making sure I was well rested to drive and train (6 hours round trip) to Long Island on Sunday mornings. I chased the “high” of my personal growth in the gym, but as a family/friend-centric person, internally a piece of me would chip off because I was missing out on the bonding that was occurring.
Mentally, I locked in by reading articles to expand my knowledge on powerlifting to watching and hyper analyzing my training videos to see what I could tweak, always thinking about:
"How can I be better?" … "What can I do to be better?"
I’ve allowed my whole life and mindset to revolve around this sport and while the good days were pretty damn amazing, chasing that “high” lead me to some really bad days, and bad weeks which have turned into bad months. My powerlifting “high” hit a brick wall and it became an absolute low.
While I anticipate a slump after a 12-week prep period, it had never lasted me more than 2 weeks where I lose that motivation to train and become inconsistent and uncommitted. Two weeks flew by, but I followed a weird, under committed LOW last couple of months. It felt like these low days were coming at me without an expiration date no matter how hard I wanted to get back and start training at 100%.
As life would have it, being in a funk opened up a lot of other joys and opportunities for me OUTSIDE of powerlifting. My far and my far and infrequent trips to the gym were accompanied by minor hip and calf injuries and sicknesses. I went from one of extreme of missing out on all the fun my family and friends were having to being present at every gathering, party, night out or vacation that I could get myself involved in.
It felt good to be back in the scene and have the social life I’ve craved for the past two years, but to be honest, at some point in having it all back, staying out late and enjoying every ounce of my time… a part of me was almost OKAY with not being that bad ass powerlifter. I was ALMOST OKAY with not being an “athlete” anymore.
But then lights switched back on, and somehow I woke up…
I woke up missing the “high” that powerlifting always gave me, but realized that I didn’t want to go through another “bender” like phase where my life focus didn’t include both aspects of training and my social life. I realized that what happened to me was a wakeup call and I needed to do things differently if I wanted to prolong my desire to be active in this sport and have some peace of mind for myself as well.
I was reminded me a short story I came across years ago about the five balls:
“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls...are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”
For this story’s sake, we’ll keep health & work separate and “work” would be powerlifting. Over the last few years, I’ve treated powerlifting as the glass ball and my family, healthy, friends and integrity as the bouncy rubber balls. I put all my effort into making sure that I didn’t drop the glass powerlifting ball, that I burnt myself out. Encountering this story again opened my eyes. Lo and behold, the obvious solution was to find and implement a sense of B A L A N C E in my life.
Slowly, I’ve begun to incorporate this balance into my life while still making the necessary sacrifices to reach my goals. Rather than allowing training to take a hit, I’ve begun to all my main lifts into two long training sessions rather than spreading them out through the week. I’ve begun finding ways to better manage my time which allows me to spend Saturdays at the gym with my family (best of both worlds!) and evenings with friends to catch up, rest and just take some time to relax for myself.
This newfound understanding of requiring balance in my life has given me a new piece of mind. I know it’ll continually be a work in progress in my life, but for now, and as with anything in life, I just need to try to enjoy the ride and be more mindful of my thoughts and actions in order to ensure a healthy me overall.