Where Have All The PRs Gone?
“Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves—to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.” - Unknown
Do you know what weightlifting is? It is the worst bitch you could ever encounter. It frustrates you, makes you cry on the inside, doesn’t take yes for an answer, and fucks all your shit up. Mentally and physically. Weightlifting continually tells you no. It pulls when you want to push and it pushes when you want to pull.
You wrap your fingers around that bar and the bar already wants to work against you. Weightlifting takes your insides and puts them right on the platform for all to see. You want to make that barbell your bitch, but really it is laughing at you; all the while you are victim to its demands. The barbell runs the show.
You just have to be strong enough to fight it. Can you be strong enough? Some days you can come out the winner, and sometimes you will sit back on the bench between sets with your head held down in shame.
Let me tell you something about weightlifting. New people come on the scene, especially now with CrossFit pulling so much interest in to the sport—these folks PR every week, their lifts continuously go up week after week, and they are the fucking bomb! Their confidence is through the roof! Do we have the next World Champ? The greatest thing to hit weightlifting… they are thinking to themselves, well shit fire and save matches! At the rate I am PRing in my snatch and clean & jerk, 3-5kgs a week, I will be beating all these bitches, all these top 10 girls or boys, and I will be amazing! I will be an Olympic medalist for sure… as they are calculating what their lifts will be in 6 months at this 3-5kg per week increase.
And then reality sets in. You can’t PR every week forever. New people to the sport have a level of strength and a level of technique. Once those two things match up, they hit a wall. New folks PR every week because they are new to the sport, and they are going to naturally progress to where their limit is, based on their athletic ability. When they reach their limit, they find PRs are not coming every week. Or every two weeks, or maybe not even in a whole month.
Weightlifters who have been lifting for years fight for every kilo. ‘Elite’ lifters may not PR in one of the lifts for a whole year! They may spend six months not even close to their PRs. They may go backwards. I may snatch 88 for an easy double one month, and not even be able to snatch 85 three months later.
I am not saying this to discourage anyone; I am just being realistic. Aside from the fact that our sport has extremely limited resources, absolutely no monitary support for the athletes, no public recognition thus no real sponsorship opportunities, and that 99% of our nation’s best athletes work a full time job, have families, and limited availability to be an elite lifter (I made that percentage up but it probably close to true), I believe a lot of people quit our sport because they think that regular PRing is going to continue forever, and when it stops, so does their motivation. They look around to their teammates and see them fighting for every kilo, meanwhile they are PRing every training session. They may think to themselves, I won’t be like that! Look at how much more I can lift everyday! Maybe they believe they will defy the odds, that they are different. That they won’t hit a wall in which a lift 15kg below your max feels like you are lifting a house.
‘Veteran’ Weightlifters step on that platform every day because they love this sport. Because they love the feel of a beautiful, perfect lift, whether it is 50kg or 110kg. Because they want to chase the barbell… they want to chase the kilos… they want to chase their favorite lifter, their idol.
In this country we don’t lift for the money and fame. There is no money or fame. People think we are bodybuilders and get on a stage and pose in a bikini with our fake tan and huge calves for goodness sakes! Right now we are certainly not training for Olympic spots, and I am sure many wonder, will anything change in the future? Our lifters go unnoticed as we train our asses off: hurting, crying, working two jobs to save for plane tickets to Nationals. We raise our families, and train while our children are in school. We spend money we don’t have on massage and chiropractic and recovery so we can go take a beating again the next day. We take the negative comments on goheavy from a bunch of internet meanies who say ‘gee wiz, Joe Blow snatched 150 at Americans, and now only did 140, WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM??? (mostly from people who also don’t understand why we can’t be PRing at every damn meet). We walk up to that bar day in and day out because we want to be close to our maxes again. We want to feel a 95kg snatch over our heads one more time in such amazing harmony. We literally fight for every kilo and every placing we can get.
Weightlifters don’t PR every day forever. Eventually it stops. Eventually you look around and wonder why am I doing this? Where did my PRs go? Why am I working so hard to only be moving backwards? Eventually you hurt. Eventually you get mentally drained and you get afraid. Eventually you fail.
Eventually the road turns around again, and the weights are singing to you as they fly over your head with ease. Eventually the good that turned bad turns good again. That is what we wait for. That is why we go to the gym every day. We wait for that ‘again’ to happen. And when it does the cycle may start all over again.
You have to be tougher than the bar. You have to be mentally strong enough to come in and take a beating on the worse of days. You have to believe that all the work you are putting in, even on the days where you are 4,037 kg away from your max, is going to pay off somehow someway.
You can’t do this for the instant gratification of a PR every week. You have to look down the road and understand that you may not PR for 8 more months, and you have to be OK with that and understand that you will have to love the road you’re traveling as much as the destination to which you come.
It will let you down. It WILL. But you still have to love it and when you don’t love it anymore, for all that it is and for all that it gives you and for all that you take from it, you have to walk away.
If you stay, you have to be in love. You have to commit to that barbell. You have to commit to your pain and your injuries. You have to commit to the negativity you will receive from your own mind. And you have to continue to train because you love it.
Not for any other person or any other reason, but that YOU want to be on that platform and YOU want that barbell to be in your hands and YOU want to find the better, whatever day in whatever month that may be.
If you don’t or can’t, then maybe you will never know what it is to be in love with weightlifting, to your core, unconditionally, every day through good and bad.