The prompt for this week was “Don’t Fear the Barbell.” Easy! However, I’ve found myself now five iterations deep into what is finally before you. I didn’t even know where to start. You see – I started to realize the barbell is something I have never feared. For me, it actually represents being fearless. It quickly became my outlet for stress, anxiety, and fear itself when my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2014. I’m not sure why… but every time I pick up a barbell it feels like coming home after a long day at work, kicking your heels up, and saying “ahhhh.”
So, my thoughts started shifting towards generally acknowledging fear, easier said than done. Overcoming fear resonates with many of us inside and outside of the gym. I have found, however, that what I learned through barbell training is unparalleled to many other lessons life teaches me. Confidence. Patience. Grace. Acceptance… just to name a few.
Our first step in overcoming fear is to identify the starting point. We are hard-wired for survival and many of our responses to fear stimuli is just that… the desire for survival. What is your fear? Naming it is powerful. Take a second and think about it. “Strength training will make me bulky.” “Barbell training is dangerous!” “I’m just really scared of getting hurt.”
While some fear may be innate, we can control our response. In a reading from a sports psychology class, Timothy Gallwey writes, “Anxiety is fear about what may happen in the future, and it occurs only when the mind is imagining what the future may bring. But when your attention is on the here and now, the actions which need to be done in the present have their best chance of being successfully accomplished, and as a result, the future will become the best possible present.” In other words, focus on what is in front of you, not the fear.
Maybe that’s why I have come to love the barbell so much. It is a time and space for me to block out all of the other “noise” in my life and find my focus. So, I would ask each of you to join me:
Find your focus. Mind your focus.
Focus not on the forthcoming sets or the next move on the board that brings dread. Rather, begin the practice of staying entirely present on the task at hand. Establish a “set-up checklist” before you approach the bar and go through those steps each and every time. Focus on the routine, followed by the reps, and then a small victory dance of completion!
Barbell training strengthened my capacity for resilience in an incredibly challenging period. I dare say barbell training can be a fun and exciting way to add variation to your routine and feel like a general badass both emotionally and physically. Training isn’t just for the physical adaptations that occur – it is simultaneously making us better. Better partners, better employees, better friends… and better for overcoming fear each and every time it knocks on the door.