The numbers don’t flippin’ matter

On the day that I got what might be the PR of my lifetime – a 30kg increase on my previous deadlift – I decided that the numbers don’t matter. Great timing, LJ!

The Trainer has been trying to communicate a message to me pretty much since we’ve been working together. He’s been trying to get me to focus less on the numbers, the outputs and definitely much less on attempting to be perfect the whole time. I’ve nodded and ummed and looked like I was agreeing but it wasn’t really going in. I’m there now.

So, back to the start, I got a 65kg deadlift today. Pretty small number compared to some, and I was secretly hoping for around 80kg. I’m 15kg short of my target. There was a brief moment at the session where I was disappointed “that I had failed”. It’s a habit because I’ve had a lifetime of seeing the world and myself in terms of pass/fail.

If you have only one shot at lifting 80kg in your whole lifetime, and you lift 65kg, then you’ve failed. Categorically, did not achieve the target. Fail.

But if you’re an active triathlete with a love of lifting and a solid relationship with a fantastic PT then its not your only chance. There are loads more 1RM attempts in my future. All I did today was put a line in the sand. Today, with the fuelling I’d done and the sleep I’d had and the exact combination of my strength, fitness, technique, psychological state at that precise moment, I was able to lift 65kg. So, rather than spending energy on fretting and berating myself about a failure, I record the number and I move on. I train, for strength and fitness and technique and I eat well and sleep well and everything else I possibly can to help my body do what I want it to. Then I try my 1RM again. Maybe it’ll be more next time. Maybe not. If not, did I train enough? Had I fuelled properly? We learn and we tweak and we train and we try again. I’ll get my 80kg, just not today. If there ever comes a day when it’s my last opportunity to pull a heavy deadlift and I don’t make 80kg then I’ve failed but until then, I’m still very much in the game.

Two things have facilitated this altered attitude. Firstly, being in the moment. I was thinking about my forthcoming triathlon attempts and realising that the celebration won’t come when I’ve finished and someone tells me my times. The celebration will come during the swim, and the bike, and the run, when I realise that I am doing it, I am a triathlete. I want to swim, bike, run that course with the biggest smile on my face because I’m doing something that I have been working towards for 12 months. Maybe I won’t manage the full 750m in front crawl and maybe I’ll have to use a bit of my really strong backstroke. Maybe I won’t be able to run the whole 5k, and maybe I’ll walk for a bit of it. Perfection doesn’t matter, keeping going does. And when I learn the times, that’s cool and will help know how to train for the next one, but the numbers are a side fact. The numbers are not the achievement. The achievement, and the fun and the joy, are in the doing. Same with lifting today. The fun was in seeing my painted fingernails wrapped around a bar, a strong female doing something traditionally not associated with women. The fun was in getting inside my head and focussing on my setup and feeling the pull in my legs as I straightened. The fun was in rolling the bar down my shins after the lift. The fun was in The Trainers’ face as I successfully lifted heavier and heavier. Wouldn’t matter if I had gone from 10kg to 30kg, or 30kg to 65kg, or 60kg to 65kg or 120kg to 150kg – the numbers are just a side fact. The process of doing is what should be celebrated.

And lastly, I’ve experienced a bit of a mindset shift recently. I started training last year with the mindset of “I’m here until I start my degree” and so my time in the gym was always temporary. I was doing something to fill some time, and the time would soon end. No point really committing to giving it your best, it would be over soon anyway. And really, in my head, I was just an overweight girl going to the gym to see if I could develop any positive habits. I didn’t really deserve to be there. And then the 3 month period came and went, and I signed up for this Blenheim triathlon. But, in my head, I was still just an overweight girl training for a triathlon and maybe I wouldn’t even achieve the triathlon anyway. Again, no point really risking failure if there would come a day when this would all end. But then, and I don’t know how or when this happened really, I became willing to give every session in the gym absolutely everything I had. I became willing to risk failure in attempting whatever task was set. I committed. And why? Because this new active me isn’t going anywhere. She is me now. I’m not trying her on for three months, or until I’ve done a triathlon. This is me. I have lost the sense of embarrassment that I had about saying “I’m a triathlete and I love to lift”. I used to be fearful that if I said that people would laugh and say “What, at your size?! Ha!”. Well, now I’m not scared of that because I’m doing it. Last night I found myself in a swimming pool full of Ironmen triathletes, and I was training with them, as one of them, not as a part time member there to lose a bit of weight. Today I was in a gym lifting heavy weights. What is there to be embarrassed about? So, this is what I do. It’s who I am. If anyone has a problem with it then they can take their problem elsewhere because I am a triathlete who loves to lift and I’m proud of myself, that I’ve worked so hard to get here, that I’ve fought for my identity, and I’ve won.

I don’t need the numbers to define me or to determine whether I’m sad or happy that day because I’m training and I’m learning and I’m growing and getting stronger in so many dimensions that you couldn’t measure it anyway.

The numbers don’t flippin’ matter.

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