Sometimes You Fail

After three long months of programming, yesterday was the day I was due to test my new maxes on both squat and bench press. I’m pretty diligent when it comes to homework, so I followed my programming religiously, despite wanting to test myself or push myself harder on those rest weeks or when a fun crossfit workout came along.

Squat is my favorite movement, so I was pretty excited to get started yesterday. (There may have even been a little dance in front of the bar.) I warmed up at 20kg, then 60kg. After a few reps at 80kg, I started gearing up since we were moving into the big numbers. At least, the big numbers for me. My current max that I’ve ever squatted is 120kg back in October 2017, but I haven’t been able to hit it since. After all of the training, I wanted to see that number go up so badly, even if it was to just by 1kg.

As I kept increasing the weight, everything felt smooth. 100kg. 110kg. And then 115kg.

115kg did not want to be smooth. No, it did not.

I’ve been feeling more insecure with my squats than usual since a few weeks ago when I tried to bail on the way up, but the bar got caught on my ponytail. It was pretty scary and I definitely do not recommend. Luckily, however, I walked away unscathed and went on pretty normally with training that day. Though I’ve since joined the pineapple bun hair club.


Yesterday, I learned, the problem is not just with my ponytail. On any previous fail, I’ve always practiced with a spotter. However, since I was feeling so confident, I really didn’t think I would miss this lift. As I paused on the way back up, I thought, “Jump in front!”

In reality, I realize that I look down too much when squatting, so my body weight was already too far forward for me to be able to jump out effectively. Instead, the bar was too far over my body, meaning that when I tried to push it back, it didn’t go far enough, rolled down my spine, and momentarily got caught on my belt. All of which meant that I essentially fel back into a squat position — but with no control over the where, when, and how of the movement — with 115kg, a.k.a. 250lbs, on top of me.

I got scared. I knew I didn’t break anything, nor did I think there was a sprain. But the pain was radiating. Both physically and mentally.

I felt so “not strong” and embarrassed as everyone ran over to help me. This was the second time in a month I’d missed a lift in front of these people. I wanted to scream, “No, it’s a fluke! I swear I’m stronger than this!” Then the spiral of negative thoughts came floating in:

You’re not good at this.

You can’t get stronger.

You’re weak.

And, of course, my internal body shame-er decided to poke her head in: You’ve gained all this weight and you didn’t even get any stronger. You look terrible and you’re performing terribly. 

Ah, so helpful.

Throughout the day, my thoughts keep going back and forth between the unhelpful and the hopeful. Strength isn’t linear. Being “good” isn’t linear. Failing means you’re trying. When you get to the point where you fail, it means you’re at a point where you’re leveling up. You’ll get there. You need the rest to come back stronger. Etc. Etc.

Then I watched a video by Kristin Pope yesterday where, after two years, she beat her clean and jerk personal record by 1kg. ONE KILO after two years. I got teary-eyed right along with her because that mental barrier is the hardest barrier to overcome.

You can play it safe and never get hurt, but also never know what you’re capable of. Or you can play it cautiously, but push your limits. Maybe you’ll be safe 95% of the time, but there will eventually be something that doesn’t go according to plan. That’s called life. All you can do it face it, take care of it, and, after a pause, move on.

But first, I’ve got a physical therapist appointment to set up today. Sigh.


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