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Motivation
Aimee Anaya Everett  |  Olympic Weightlifting  |  January 24 2012

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Motivation, Aimee Anaya Everett,
What do you do when the thing you thought you loved is actually making you miserable? You find the reason. You have a good way of lying to yourself… I think that is where the old saying came from: your heart wants one thing but your mind wants another.

Here is my life story. And I am choked up and my eyes are clouded with tears, because I have to admit what I have known all along. 

When I train I listen to Vanilla Ice. I bounce around to Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. I stretch to Ton Loc. I love the pop of this music, even though I know it is not some incredible lyrical genius at work. It makes me smile. It matches my spunky personality. It puts a smile on my face when I am secretly worried if I will be able to get through my triples in the snatch. I like to think I come in to the gym every day, and whether I am motivated to train or not, I attack each rep as if it is my last. I strive to perfect my movement, I dream of lifting big weights. I tell myself everyday, ‘Please Aimee, want it just a bit more’. But the truth is, I haven’t known how to find that want. That deep down desire to be the most awesome I could be. Going to the Olympics would be awesome, but I have never really wanted it. I love it when I am training well and hitting big weights consistently. I love it when I am not hurting, and I can snatch 90 or more on a weekly basis. I love it when all my lifts feel the same from 40kg to 90kg, and the bar is singing to me. I love being committed to my barbell. So why wouldn’t I want it more? Because it is not my dream. Because I am conflicted. I have one foot on the platform, and one foot in LaLa Land; searching for a place to just be.

When I met Coach Burgener nearly 17 years ago, I finally felt at home. I felt like I belonged and I felt like someone finally cared if I succeeded in something. I was finally getting attention as an athlete. He and his family became my family, and I wanted to be a part of that. It felt incredible to be a part of something. I think all along I have felt that if I stopped lifting I would lose them. I liked being told ‘you’re a natural’, ‘you can be amazing’. Anyone who knows me knows that I was raised by wolves, and this love was something new. When I quit lifting for 5 years in 2000, I didn’t have my day-to-day contact with the Burgeners, and I missed them every single day. I started lifting again at the end of 2005, but I have always struggled with motivation. Was it because I went back to the gym so I could be a part of a family again and not because I wanted to succeed as a weightlifter? I wanted Coach B to be proud of me. But maybe I have been lifting for all the wrong reasons. I have been lifting because I have put an obligation on myself to do so. Because I am a decent lifter, because I am a ‘natural’, and I know I can be better, I have just kept convincing myself: like chugga-chugga come on Aimee, you can do this, you want to compete, you want to be the best, you want it you want it you want it you want it. When all along, I am also saying ‘no, I don’t’.

I do have goals in the sport. I want to snatch 95, then 100. I want to clean & jerk 120. I really want these things. However, I don’t have the want to compete [anymore] (more on that later). The competition is not important to me [anymore]. The stress, and anxiety, and pressure, and the misses, and all the stuff that comes along with competing, I do not love that. It makes me just as happy, makes me feel just as accomplished, to do these numbers in my gym than in competition. Being an elite athlete is something to love and something to hate. 

Coming back to competing, I have had some amazing coaches help me. Coach Mike Burgener has been my long time sport and father figure. He taught me to love. Matt Foreman helped me come back from injury and a long break to build a solid foundation that put me on the right path to be amazing. Bob Morris, my current coach, has been through one hell of a roller coaster with me and has taught me some invaluable lessons. He really has helped me become a strong confident lifter, and I have jumped some amazing mental hurdles with his help. My last cycle before Nationals 2011, I had something like 63 various PRs. I went in to Nationals, literally, in the best shape of my life, ready to hit some huge lifts. BUT, it should be mentioned that I was training on an unpredictable hurt knee that would feel like it was ripping off during one clean, and be totally fine the next. 

REWIND

Let’s take a couple steps back so you can understand my competition history the past 2 years. This shit is really whack. 

Nationals 2009 with Matt In great shape, really excited for my first competition back. But had been feeling really sick; I developed a gynormous cyst on my ovary that was literally discovered the Monday we were supposed to leave to Nationals. My doctor forbade me from traveling, and I was monitored every day waiting for the cyst to rupture and be rushed in to surgery.

American Open 2009 with Matt Coming off an emergency appendectomy roughly 6 weeks before (seriously!), I worked my ass of to get in shape and my mother in law passed away on Tuesday, we were scheduled to leave on Thursday for Americans.

Arnold 2010 with Matt Again in great shape, and my grandmother dies the week before. It was a devastating loss, and I was unable to focus. My world was shattered. 

Nationals 2010 My ovarian cyst was back. See Nationals 2009. Also, my daughter got a lung infection the same week.

American Open 2010 with Bob No disasters. I finally have my ‘first meet back’ and it went ok.

Arnold 2011 Was in AMAZING shape. Had one of the best cycles I have ever had in my life. I was scheduled to leave on Thursday. That Monday I get very sick; discover I have an outrageous sinus infection and a double inner ear infection. The doctor doesn’t think I should fly because it will make the symptoms worse (the pressure). I get put on antibiotics and a steroid. Antibiotics in hand, I think to myself, nothing can stop this bitch! Wednesday, 2 days later, my mother dies. I still leave on Thursday and lift on Saturday while dealing with my mother’s remains via telephone and fax literally up until weigh-ins and also my ear infection was so terrible I was spinning like I had drunk 2 pints of Jack Daniels. Don’t forget the insane amount of emotions that ranged from a rage so deep I thought it was going to split me in two to unbelievable sadness. Keeping it all buried somewhere deep inside, I lifted pretty well, had a 3kg CJ competition PR and a 1kg competition total PR.

National’s 2011 Went in with a good ranking. Had been training on a hurt knee, but was still in great shape. As mentioned above, I had a crazy number of PRs leading in to this meet. Even though I did have to spend about 5 weeks recovering from the aforementioned sinus and ear infection, that, as the Doctor warned, intensified about 10 times over after flying to Columbus and back. All the training while-so-dizzy-I-could-be-drunk-on-tequila, I was actually able to get in great shape. I cleaned 112 about ten days before, easily, and bombed out with 103kg CJ. I hurt my knee pretty good and when I stood up from the clean I felt as if my kneecap was ripping off and I could not, even if there was a fire, fight through the pain to dip and drive for the jerk. I bombed out instead of securing a spot on the world team. I call this my National disaster.

So after this we spent 2 months avoiding the front squat and the clean. We turned down the alternate spot on the Worlds because although I had snatched 91 and jerked something like 115 in training, we had no idea if I could even clean. We focused instead on getting ready for Americans. My knee got worse, they told me I should get surgery but ‘we can try other things first’, we started cleaning again, it hurt like crazy and started causing my hip to hurt something fierce, I got some injections in my knee and hip the week before Americans, skipped going to Americans, lost my ranking so I can’t go to Olympic Trials, took nearly a month off of training, started training again, and now am pain free, doing pretty well, and here we are today.

So this may look like a woe-is-me sob story, but please understand it isn’t to gain sympathy of any kind or to complain or bitch and moan. What it IS, is a wake-up call. During all this stuff, all this drama, pain, heartache, mourning, sickness, blah blah, I thought ‘Gee… Something major happens literally the week of every major competition. I think my strength and will is really being tested as an athlete and these things are a test to see how hard I will work through all of these adversities. I mean if I can fracking do well in a competition the week my mother dies, I should be able to do anything, right?’

Wrong.

At first I thought I must have the F’ing worst luck in the history of the world. I mean shit! What are the chances?!?! Did you press pause on the latest episode of American Idol long enough to read that timeline? That is NOT normal.

All of this leaves me to wonder IF my lack of motivation and lack of desire to compete comes from the trials and tribulations going back to when I first attempted to start competing again. Maybe I don’t want to lift anymore because I am tired of training my ass off only to wait for shit to hit the fan the week of competition. I have done a lot of searching lately to try and understand if my lack of motivation comes from the bumps in the road the last two years, and the injuries, or because being a weightlifter is not as important to me as I tried to force myself to believe all these years. I think to myself, ‘you are one selfish bitch’. And I am. I am shitty. I come in to the gym and rarely give 100% and am in the position I am in. I wish I could really want it… like attack it and just have the want, because I do believe I could do great things. If I only cared. If I only wanted to. 

Where did the ‘I really want it’, go?

What I am trying to figure out is where along the lines did I stop caring? Was it when my mother died and I didn’t feel like I need to fill the ‘fight or flight’ void in my life anymore? Or was it when I hurt my knee at Nationals after being in the best shape of my life? Or has that lack of caring always been there? Embedded somewhere within me, always self-sabotaging?

I kinda believe now that God, or my dad, or whoever is in the universe, is trying to tell me something important. Like a huge sign that I have continued to ignore, waving in my face ‘HELLO!!! You’re not supposed to lift anymore!’. This could be true, right? What ELSE needs to be dropped in my lap to really make me see?

I think sometimes all that should be is right in front of your face, but changes can’t be made if you continue to ignore them. I ask every day for the answers and all along the answers could be right in front of me, but I chose to ignore them because they weren’t the answers that I thought I was looking for. I was praying for strength, and to believe, and to be without fear, and to just be. I wanted to really dig in and wake up all those dreams. All along I thought this was all regarding my lifting. I thought all these fears to overcome, and strength I was looking for, was on the platform. If I just kept pushing, the want would fill me up, and I would have an incredible, unstoppable drive. When really, what if it has nothing to do with the platform and everything to do with having strength and being without fear in life? I need to just be. The poor damaged little girl in me who was looking on the platform for strength and power and to believe in everyday without fear, has been looking in all the wrong places all these years. The barbell does not complete me. It does not define Aimee as I have so desperately had faith it did. So frantically pushed for. It’s all within me, and I don’t need a barbell anymore to prove it.

I have always believed that if I weren’t a lifter, a good lifter, that women wouldn’t look up to me anymore. I want to be a role model. To show women around the world that it is sexy and beautiful to be strong. That being strong is not only for men, and women too can be amazing. I want to help women and girls find confidence and love themselves everyday. Why do I feel that people will only listen to me if I am a great athlete? Why am I afraid I will be nobody if I can’t be a good lifter? When did lifting start defining everything that I am in real life? I want to be amazing. I want to be an amazing mother and wife and friend and coach. Do I need to be an amazing lifter to be those things? Can’t I just be awesome without being the best weightlifter all day everyday forever? Can I still do great things without a barbell in my hand? Can’t I take everything I learned the past 15 years in lifting, all that I held myself back from, all that I unknowingly self-sabotaged in the gym and in competition, all that I was, all that I am, and use it to make myself, and others, believe in the beauty every day brings us? To help people love themselves for who they are and what it is they want to do to make them find his or her happy? 

Maybe that IS my motivation…

I am terrified to say ‘I never want to compete again’, and I am terrified to say ‘I will compete again’. The truth is, I am scared to stay with something when such a big part of me constantly whispers ‘just be done’, while another part of me says ‘you’re not finished… quit holding yourself back’. All signs aside, for now I am going to train as hard as I am able to every time I put on my shoes. I will be as tough and fierce as I allow myself to be on any given day. I will lift the bar because I love it, and not because I feel obligated to do so. I will be happy for what the platform gives me, and I suppose I need to learn that whatever choice I make will not make me any less of a person or any less of an athlete. I can be amazing without being the best weightlifter. Right?

Today, I can’t find my motivation and I do hope it comes back. But the important thing I feel I have learned is that if it doesn’t come back there must be a real good reason. And if I never have it again, I will be okay.

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Aimee Anaya Everett is a national champion weightlifter and co-owner of Catalyst Athletics.
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33 Comments
Troy 1 | 2012-01-24
Thank you Aimee. On behalf of all the coaches, competitors, business owners, moms and dads, trying to keep it together everyday - thank you for this.
Laurie Smith 2 | 2012-01-24
By far the best blog I've ever read. Such an emotional roller coaster. Thank you for sharing!! We look at you guys as gods (and goddesses) and sometimes forget...you are human.
Lawyerhands 3 | 2012-01-24
Aimee, this blog is awesome. I'm a psychologist, and I spend my days helping people get in touch with who they really are, not who they think they should be. It sounds like you're making powerful steps towards listening to yourself, and really understanding who you are and what you feel/want. The more honest you are with yourself, the more you will be able to live a life that feels awesome to you.
Jocelyn 4 | 2012-01-24
I don't think the universe is telling you not to compete. I think the universe is testing you. It always tests the best. Dig deep Aimee.
Julian 5 | 2012-01-24
Thanks for sharing, great read. You already are amazing and inspirational, as proved in this post.
coach b 6 | 2012-01-24
whatever you decide----YOU ARE A KEEPER!!
Karen Katzenbach 7 | 2012-01-24
Being genuine is the strongest thing we can do. Thank you for living this truth.
Loraine 8 | 2012-01-24
Incredible story, Aimee. Thank you so much for sharing - you are an inspiration to many. I am printing this off right now to give to my 13 YO daughter, who has spent most of her youth training and competing to be a gymnast. After many, many injuries she was forced to give it up. She asked me “If I’m not a gymnast, who am I?” While I’ve tried to give her all the right answers, I know she needs to find it for herself. She’s an amazing athlete, and someday she will find something else that she loves to do that loves her back. Your story is a step in that direction!
wendy 9 | 2012-01-24
whatever you choose to do, i believe in you. you might just need a little vacation too, or downsizing. you guys have been growing like crazy and you are being pulled in a lot of directions. just because you decide to retire today doesn't mean you can't change your mind again next week! :)
Link Wilfley 10 | 2012-01-24
I'm going through a similar situation, Aimee, and I think you have let great big, controlling concepts get the better of you, just as they have me. We live in a world we think we control, but we don't, and we don't need to. We simply need to do the best we can with what we have without letting our egos convince ourselves it was us all along that made everything else happen. Keep your focus on the things you can control, and when "heavy" situations put a damper on you, or distract you, put them in perspective. It isn't you...it simply is, and there's nothing right or wrong about that. Should you? Or, shouldn't you? Perhaps if you focus on making yourself better, be it in weightlifting or in personal reassurance, "purpose", or a drive, will present itself in the form in which you seek when the time is fitting. Those that question themselves and search to better themselves constantly are the strongest of breeds, be it a curse or not. Thank you for the post. You're a legend, and you don't even know it.
Pip Hunt 11 | 2012-01-24
Aimee - This is an absolutely incredible story that I can 100% relate too. I'm a professional skier and have been competing for 11 years. This year I'm not competing and I'm torn about how I feel. But I think I needed to break. Thank you for sharing your story!
Kevin St. John 12 | 2012-01-24
Wow, Aimee! I just spilled my guts in a great letter about how I chose to retire from lifting and when I tried to add the comment it got lost and I'm starting over. It boils down to "When it's right you'll know it." You and Greg have a great spot there and other people are living their dream because of you both. I wish Catalyst had been around when I was young. I would have moved out there from the cold northeast and had a ball in the sunshine. Good luck now and for a lifetime.
Bob 13 | 2012-01-24
Aimee- There is now measure for how amazing you are, not even in Kilos. We hold you to no standards other than smiles per minute, throwing down a slick running man, and sharing your life with the planet.
WLFan 14 | 2012-01-24
@Jocelyn: The universe tests everyone not just the best. However, only a few may actually realize they are being tested. @Aimee: As much as I appreciate your sharing, I guess I still don’t quite get the message or I find it a bit contradictory. I see the rationale behind being honest with yourself. I agree with that. But when you are gifted the way you are with strength and athletic prowess, I see nothing wrong in trying your hardest and inspire others by being a great competitor – especially when you are able to compete at the top. It is amazingly impressive to be able to see so much strength in a woman at a competition. Sometimes inspiring others requires lots of sacrifices, but there is inherently great value in doing that well.
Lauren Smith 15 | 2012-01-24
You are an inspiration with everything you have already accomplished - in and out of competition. I don't think you have to commit either way. It doesn't have to be permanent. You can change your mind as many times as you want. You can take each season and year as it comes. Train because you love it. And people like me will look up to you. :)
Jocelyn 16 | 2012-01-25
@WLFan: Agreed. The universe does test everyone. You know that quote from Spiderman, "with great power comes great responsibility." Well, this might seem like a silly stretch but it's similar when you're a great athlete. For some, being given a gift might seem like a burden at times. It might not always be what you wish you were doing or wish you were good at. You might sometimes feel like people want more from you than you have to give or that if you fail you are letting them down, and it can be physically and mentally draining. But we're all dealt different cards and have to decide how to play them. When you’re handed the gift of extraordinary athletic prowess it almost becomes your duty to honor it. People need heroes. They need someone who can inspire them to towards their own greatness- Someone who will show them that overcoming adversity is possible, that being different can be good, that reaching your dreams will have sacrifice and that the road is not easy (some will try to stop you with their harsh words and opinions, and at times your mind and body may break) but it can be done with heart and persistence.. Some people get the REAL short end of the stick. I can't imagine if I was born with some disease or handicap that didn’t allow me to walk, or talk, or see, or hear. But even then, there are those who turn their misfortunes into the same type of heroism. To me that puts the “burden” of being a great athlete into prospective-to think about those who don’t get to choose whether or not they will train today or compete because life didn’t hand them the option. I have had the honor of training with and being coached by Aimee over the past few years. I have so much gratitude for her in that she brought me into this amazing sport and for so many other reasons. She’s someone to learn from, someone to look up to, and someone to chase. All of us who really know her and truly care about her will continue to love and be inspired by her no matter the decision. Yet selfishly I must admit I will be very sad the day she retires and I hope she continues on for as long as her body will let her.
Jen 17 | 2012-01-25
Thanks for sharing, being open and honest. I think that alone makes you amazing!
Tamara 18 | 2012-01-25
Thank you for being an inspiration. I had to laugh at your choice in music. It sounds like mine, except for when I start missing cleans and have to put on angry music, haha. I played competitive soccer from the time I was 5, and when I finally walked away, I didn't miss it one bit. I have never loved a sport as much as weightlifting, and while I have competition goals, in the end, that is a very small part of it. I had to be at the gym today at 6:00 am to coach, which makes me very, very grumpy. One of my lifters noted, "The minute you started coaching you went from grumpy to happy. It was a psychological miracle." So, I have to remember that even on days when my lifting isn't going well, I still find joy in coaching others. Thanks for sharing.
Cori 19 | 2012-01-25
Thank you for sharing! I have been lifting for a long time as well and I feel the exact same way. I too thought I was being selfish and a bit crazy for feeling the lack of motivation for big competitions. I think that learning to "just be" is one of the hardest things in life, yet most rewarding. Thanks again for your post!
KJ 20 | 2012-01-25
Just wanted to thank you for this amazingly honest post. Many things you say here are so similar to the way I've felt about science research vs. teaching (my chosen career) over the past 6 years. Stay strong. Find the joy in what you do.
Spenco 21 | 2012-01-25
"Where all the love you've been dreaming of, will be there at the end of the road."
NikkiT 22 | 2012-01-25
Some people train to compete and win, other people compete as a reason to train, but will never love the actual day of competition. After being in two competitive sports, I know that I'm the latter. You may be too. IMO, it doesn't necessarily mean you're not meant to compete, it just means you should choose your competitions judiciously and not over-extend yourself. Or maybe for you, it means competitions are not your thing, and that's OK too! In the end, maybe lifting is your daily therapy, your way of building a community or a way of setting an example for your daughter. There's a lot of facets to being an athlete (elite or otherwise) that don't involve competition day.
Scott 23 | 2012-01-26
You were my first coach, and you were a great coach, and competitor, but I'd say a break isn't a bad thing. This may not be on point, but I think it's relevant. In my career, I acquired a huge debt getting into it and hated my first few years because I felt I had to do it to pay off the debt. At one point I hit a wall and took a year off to try and find out what would really make me happy. After a while I took on contract work in the same field, which I thought I wasn't fit for, to make money. After stepping away, I found what I really wanted to do was my original job - because I was good at it, and liked the challenge, my colleagues, the prestige, and a host of other reasons. I'd say take a break, and maybe compete - or coach - at local competitions that don't really matter, but see if you miss it. Cheers.
Aaron 24 | 2012-01-26
This is by far the most powerful blog i've read to date. It hit me in so many ways personally, that i felt and understood everything you said in here. I struggle with the same inner battles (within my own sport) day in and day out. Reading your words that were so many of what i run through my own head every single day made me feel like i wasnt alone in these same thoughts. That in itself helps me immensley
Aimee 25 | 2012-01-26
Thank you all for making me smile through every single one of your words. Your support is simply amaze.
Jacqueline Janet 26 | 2012-01-26
...... the desire to please and be loved. I understand myself...having NO parents. FYI you're a great parent.
Eduardo Chavez 27 | 2012-01-28
Aimee, Thanks for your words. Its words like yours on this page that make me realize that even though our experiences differ a lot, we all have huge earthquakes in our lives sometimes. I think how we deal with them separates the tough from the rest. Like grabbing the bull by its horns your questioning "why". Something we should all do sometimes. Thanks again.
Fire 28 | 2012-02-08
Everything you have said, I can relate to, in martial arts. After practicing for almost 10 years, almost getting a black belt, I moved away from my "family" and suddenly, I can't get back into the groove. Practicing on my own and with a different school resulted in herniated disc, hip bursitis, and major near suicidal depression. I just CAN"T do it anymore. And yet, it was my life, my passion, my dream, the reason I woke up and went to sleep....I had a business planned around it, I got my degree in school around...and now, I just AM....without it...Thank you for your words. Keep on doing what you love. Blessed be.
Gabby Haugh 29 | 2012-02-18
Hi Aimee. I don't know if you remember me, but four years ago I interviewed you via email for my class project. We got to create a magazine on a subject of our choice and I chose weightlifting. You were my cover article. I was 11 at the time and just into the whole lifting thing. I was barely learning the Burgener warm up with PVC pipe. You were the first encounter I had had with a strong female athlete. And it inspired me to keep lifting. I am 15 now and am fully dedicated to lifting. I have my 2nd meet ever next month and I hit three PRs in the gym today. I snatched 100 lbs, I cleaned & jerked 120 lbs, and I back squatted 205 lbs. Thank you for your inspiration and motivation. Without you I don't know if I would've kept lifting.
Aimee 30 | 2012-03-18
Gaby! Of course I remember you!! Congratulations on your PR's and I am so proud of you for all your hard work! Keep up the lifting and know that you can email me anytime for help! Hugs!
Tina Kinsley 31 | 2012-03-19
Hey Aimee-- I can't tell you how many chords this post struck with me. I'm struggling with many similar feelings; I appreciate so much that you wrote this when you did. Tina
Samantha Zimmerman 32 | 2013-12-13
Love it girl! You will always be an inspiration! The accomplishments you made last forever and continuing to use weightlifting to help people find themselves will last even longer!
Lauren Smith 33 | 2013-12-13
Wow, its been almost 2 years since I first read (and commented) on this. So funny it means as much to me now as the first time around. Looks like these struggles are relatively eternal. This was such a great reminder to me - that whatever I choose today will not necessarily be what I choose tomorrow, or forever. I needed this...again.
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