Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Heavy weights can be a great teacher.

What can we learn from moving heavy weights?

It is something that I’d not been able to understand or really appreciate until recently. A few years ago I would have considered, much like every other guy, this idea as complete nonsense. Lifting weights was simple, dumb even. Pick things up and put them down.

More recently, as I began to see things a bit more clearly, I still would have considered it nonsense because I thought that I knew what lifting heavy weights meant. And I certainly hadn’t learned anything from the weights.

The reality: weightlifting is a complex, engaging, and dynamic effort.

If there is a single life lesson that I continue to re-learn (and somehow forget it each time) — it’s that I don’t know everything. Not even close. Even when I have learned something — if I pause just for a moment— I realize I know only the smallest tidbit of that thing.

Moving heavy weight overhead is a very visceral, challenging experience. It strikes a chord deep inside us. Quite often — that chord is fear.

As you make progress and get stronger you may find that you’re pushing up against this fear or self-doubt quite often. Heavier weights will quickly show you that confidence, built under minimal loads, or well within your comfort zone, is ill-founded and shallow confidence.

The consistent and efficient form you think you’re building may be deeply flawed as you attempt weights near your max (or beyond). Too often we get comfortable in a zone that isn’t challenging us and we find excuses to hang out there — longer than we really should. Heavy weights can be a great teacher. They call our bullshit.

If we step up and start attacking our limits and the weights start to become challenging — the cracks will start to show. Appreciate it. Own it. Take the opportunity to examine the exposed flaws as they arise. You may begin to notice that fear is at the root of many.

Thankfully, heavy weights aren’t just a condescending teacher. Heavy weights show us — in terms as clear as day — that it’s necessary to persevere (in the face of fear), show determination (despite self-doubt), and act with grit (when our mind is telling us to walk away) if we want to grow.

You’ll begin to see that this fear, these technical errors, these weaknesses — do not define you. They cannot overshadow all your potential. Fear is merely a roadblock, a bend in the river only slowing you down — not stopping you.

You will overcome them. You will reach the next PR. With consistent effort — You will move that weight.

Heavy weights teach us this every week — it’s a lesson that you’ll take from the gym into your career — because it applies there as well. 5 years ago — I would not have even considered writing that. Now I’m a beneficiary of those lessons and am ready to attack the next roadblock.

This gets me pumped!

P.S. If you replace “heavy weight” with “increased responsibility” I can see a lesson that directly applies to career and life.

Dad, husband, thinker, writer, exerciser. “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — Dumbledore

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