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Training with Pain, It's Such a Happy Thing
Matt Foreman  |  Olympic Weightlifting  |  May 7 2012

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Training with Pain, It's Such a Happy Thing, Matt Foreman,
A neat little motivational motto has been gaining popularity in recent years. It’s the one that says, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” You’ve seen it, right? It’s all over t-shirts, gym posters, etc.

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

Let’s analyze this. None of us want weakness in our bodies, right? That’s affirmative, captain. So, when weakness leaves our bodies, it’s a good thing. Apparently, it’s a moment of purification when we feel pain, because it means we’re being cleansed of any residual loser juice from our pre-weightlifting days.

That’s how we’re supposed to look at it, brothers and sisters. When you’re in pain, you should actually feel happy about it. Rejoice! Your body is driving out the evil spirits of feebleness and sloth.

Remember that the next time you catch your first clean of the day and your wrists feel like they’re going to explode. It’s not a bad thing, people! That pain is like a special gift from Jesus! You know those times when you’re finishing your heavy squats and your quadriceps tendon literally feels like it’s ripping in half? You think that’s bad? WRONG! You should get down on your knees and say a prayer of thanksgiving for that feeling (try to limit the F-bombs while you’re doing it). And my personal favorite…the “my lower back feels like somebody’s sticking a frickin ice pick in it” sensation. You don’t like that? Grow up, jackass! That’s weakness leaving your body, and it’s a blessing! It just happens to feel like weakness is leaving your body by driving a dump truck through your anus.

Sarcasm…just one of the many pleasurable services I offer.

In all seriousness, this is something we all have to deal with. If you’re a weightlifter, you will live with some pain. But the interesting thing about our sport is that you’ll hurt even if you’re doing everything correctly. Most of the time, people tend to think pain is a sign that something is wrong. That idea might be true in some areas, like your diet for example. If you eat things that make you cramp up and vomit, then they’re probably bad. But in weightlifting, pain is just part of the game, even if you’re training properly and using sharp technique. If you’re the type of person who isn’t willing to deal with some discomfort on a daily basis, this sport might not be the right one for you. You just can’t do what we do if you’re soft, plain and simple.

Have you ever noticed how weightlifters are much less sympathetic to the pain of others, simply because we live with it every day? When civilians say things like “I’ve got a bad headache” or “My neck really hurts,” most of us just shrug it off and say, “Really? That sucks.” It’s not that we’re heartless schmucks. We just don’t care about their agony because the way we train forces us to not care about our own. That’s the trick, Rick. You basically have to stop caring about pain. You know it’s going to be there, so you just get used to it.

Everything has levels, obviously. A certain amount of pain is guaranteed if you’re a lifter, but don’t get carried away and think I’m saying that you have to live in crippling agony. If you’ve delved far enough into weightlifting that you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably put in sufficient time and work to prove that you’re pretty tough. I don’t have to tell you to suck it up, because you’re already doing that. However, nobody is saying that you should keep trying to fight through pain if it gets to a point where you can’t live a normal life. I once knew a lifter who would have to crawl to the bathroom on all fours if she had to get up and pee in the middle of the night because her back pain was so extreme. That’s when you might want to see a physician and get looked at. We’re all tough mammajammas and we don’t want to give in, but you need to be smart and seek professional help if you start to turn into the human centipede. There’s a difference between being tough and being stupid.

Always look on the bright side of your life. The next time you go to the gym, you’re going to get to feel weakness leaving your body. Aren’t you excited? Screw you, weakness! I guess we have to keep looking at it this way until somebody comes up with a catchy new pain motto that we can start putting on shirts and posters. Please feel free to share one if anything comes to mind. Until then, just grit your teeth and, as Lloyd Christmas said when he was stuck in a toilet stall with another man, “find a happy place.”

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Matt Foreman is the football and track & field coach at Mountain View High School in Phoenix, AZ. A competitive weightliter for twenty years, Foreman is a four-time National Championship bronze medalist, two-time American Open silver medalist, three-time American Open bronze medalist, two-time National Collegiate Champion, 2004 US Olympic Trials competitor, 2000 World University Championship Team USA competitor, and Arizona and Washington state record-holder. He was also First Team All-Region high school football player, lettered in high school wrestling and track, a high school national powerlifting champion, and a Scottish Highland Games competitor. Foreman has coached multiple regional, state, and national champions in track & field, powerlifting, and weightlifting, and was an assistant coach on 5A Arizona state runner-up football and track teams.
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8 Comments
Lee 1 | 2012-05-08
I love the sarcasm Matt! Great read and so very true. Thanks for the laugh and the smile while having my coffee this morning...
Will 2 | 2012-05-11
I think there's already a shirt out that I feel is positioned nicely to take the crown from that pansy-ass Marine motivational poster from the late nineties. Dunno how you guys feel about linking to others' shops, but BeastModal Domains' HTFU shirt says the same thing, but altogether more poignantly. Plus, it's got an F-Bomb in it. Just saying.
Cort 3 | 2012-05-11
I read the part: "Have you ever noticed how weightlifters are much less sympathetic to the pain of others, simply because we live with it every day? When civilians say things like “I’ve got a bad headache” or “My neck really hurts,” most of us just shrug it off and say, “Really? That sucks.” It’s not that we’re heartless schmucks. We just don’t care about their agony because the way we train forces us to not care about our own. That’s the trick, Rick. You basically have to stop caring about pain. You know it’s going to be there, so you just get used to it, " to my student athletes and they all laughed. I got 3, "that sounds just like you, coach."
Top 4 | 2012-08-06
Sitting here in Afghanistan and we stubled upon your site. I love it...we can only access it after 2200, but it's worth the weight (haha). I have a small group of Marines here that started out as Crossfitters, and we are slowly crossing over to be weightlifters. You articles are helping out a lot.
Matt Foreman 5 | 2012-08-13
Hey Top, My father was a Marine, so your kind words mean a lot to me. As I'm sure others have told you, thanks for the service you provide for our country. We're behind you guys, let me know if there's anything I can do.
Tonia 6 | 2013-10-30
There is some truth to "pain is just weakness leaving the body" when it is realised in a specific and individual context. But it's probably not appropriate to generalise to most physical pursuits. Doesn't it mostly come down to knowing your own body and what you are trying to achieve?
Nate 7 | 2013-12-27
Human centipede......horrible mental image.
Chris 8 | 2013-12-27
So I PR'd my snatch and c&j. My thumb popped Hasn't felt the same in a week and hurts like a mother F bomb. It's hindering my progress. Hook grip is hell. Should I quit lifting and take up yoga?
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