On paper and from a normal person’s perspective, I shouldn’t be able to do what I am doing right now. In front of me is nearly 400 pounds of steel. That’s more than twice what I weigh right now. My hands grip the barbell and I do one of the most basic human functions; I pick it up off the floor.
It’s a movement called a deadlift, because you’re picking up a dead weight. The primal nature of it, the simplicity of it all, is exhilarating. Despite the violence of the movement, for just a few seconds, I am at peace. The strain of moving so much mass makes me forget, because for those precious few moments the lift becomes everything.
At the start of the year, I had one overriding goal: to be the strongest possible version of myself. I wanted to be crazy, balls to the wall, strong. So I did exactly that. I trained almost exclusively for strength. It involved long, grueling nights where I physically and mentally obliterate myself.
The process of gaining strength is based on a simple premise: progressive overload. You add a little bit of weight each time you do a lift. Then you top that by adding a little bit more more. Eventually, all those little bits add up to something significant. Nothing special. It’s a long, arduous process and like most of things it takes time to get to where you want to be.
Two things happen when you undergo this. First, your body sends signals to your brain that you are lifting something heavy. By constantly adding to the weight, the brain tells the body to react. It’s telling the body to grow and be stronger. The other part is this: by lifting you’re actually destroying the very muscles you want to grow. The act of lifting tremendous amounts of weight tears apart the very fibers of your being. Then, the body repairs the damage, replacing the dying muscle cells with new, stronger ones. It’s an endless cycle of destruction and renewal. That’s how you get strong.
I’ve come to realize that this is how everything really is. When you want something, you train yourself and your mind tells you to be better. Then you destroy whatever is weak inside you and replace it with something strong.
Now I’m physically stronger than I will ever be and I’m still getting stronger everyday. I just wish I had realized sooner that I also needed strength somewhere else. The strength to control my emotions. Now I’m starting to train that part of me too. I’m telling myself that I have to be better than this. I’m destroying the weak parts of my mind and, hopefully, I come out stronger than ever before.