To Everybody Who's Training For Something: Obstacles & Opportunities
Matt Foreman

About a year ago, there was a sad news story here in Arizona. One of the top high school football coaches in the state died from cancer. He was in his forties and the disease took him quickly. I think there were only six or seven months between the time he was diagnosed and when he passed away. You want to know how he discovered the cancer? He had some pain in his elbow. He thought he banged it up while he was playing with his kids on vacation, but the pain didn’t go away so he decided to go see a doctor and get it looked at. Turns out he had a tumor that had started in his abdomen and progressed throughout so much of his body that he was feeling pain in his elbow. He had no health problems or warning signs prior to that, and he was dead just a short time later.

Sometimes I can’t get that story out of my head. I try not to think about it, but it comes to mind and I hate it.

Unless you follow prep sports in Arizona, you probably didn’t know about it. But the story you definitely know about is the Connecticut elementary school shooting from last year. I don’t need to give you any details because we’ve already heard everything. Some sick maniac walked into a school and shot a bunch of little kids, along with some adults that were trying to stop him and protect the victims.

Nobody really saw it coming, just like the football coach never saw the cancer coming. And the stories both ended with good people dead.

We hear about things like this sometimes, you know? You can probably think of other situations where some kind of awful tragedy struck somebody down. The person didn’t deserve it and it came out of the clear blue sky.

We’re all sitting ducks, when you stop and think about it. Any one of us could be taken out any minute, no matter how hard we try to take care of ourselves, prepare for the future, and live responsibly. It’s depressing to consider how easily we can lose everything we have, but we all know it’s true and there’s not a damn thing any of us can do about it.

Why are we talking about it on this site?

I guess it’s because we’re all alive, which means we still have a chance to do some of the things we want to do in our weightlifting lives. All of us have goals, huge accomplishments we dream of reaching. But when we think about these goals, sometimes we get pretty wrapped up in thinking about all the obstacles that are in the way. Know what I mean? We fixate on the things that can stop us instead of figuring out how we’re going to get past them.

Think about some of the goals you have. They’re exciting, aren’t they? These are the things that would make your whole life better. But they’re not easy, and they’re not just going to happen automatically. They’re longshots, and you’re not totally certain that you’re going to be able to hit them because there are some barriers standing in your path.

The obstacles are daunting, and I think some people make the decision not to pursue the goal because they just don’t think they’re going to be able to reach it. It seems impossible, so they just give up. Or maybe instead of giving up, they never get started. They sit still and make excuses…giving themselves little arguments to avoid diving in. They say, “I’ll do it next year” or “I’m not ready to go for it yet.”

Maybe this topic belongs on a weightlifting site because it reminds us that we're not going to get an unlimited number of shots at the things we want. Our dreams aren't going to sit there forever and wait for us to grab them. Right now, we've got hundreds of competitors preparing for the CrossFit Regionals and Games. The best weightlifters in this country are about two months away from the Senior Nationals, World University Championships, and Pan Ams. And we've even got a bunch of people like me running around...aging veterans who are way past our primes and we're fighting to keep Father Time from pounding nails into our coffins. We need to think about the things in this article simply because we have to remember that life is passing by every single day, and we can't let it slip through our fingers. Our big chances are coming up quickly. If you’re an athlete or a coach, I think this gives us a good reminder of something we all tend to lose sight of sometimes. I’m talking about the idea that you never really know when your time is going to end.

And I’m not just talking about your eventual death. I’m also talking about a time in your future when you’re still alive, but your window of opportunity has passed and you no longer have a realistic shot at your goals. To me, this is even scarier than death, because it’s a time when we’re sitting in a rocking chair and all we can do is think about things we wish we would have done. It’s just you, your gray hair, and a mental list of wasted opportunities that you can’t stop regretting. You spent your youth planning to take a big risk, and then one day you wake up and realize that it just never happened…and now it never will. I think that would hurt the most.

I’m pretty sure your weightlifting will be one of the main things on your mind if you make it to that rocking chair someday. Our lifting and coaching is so important to us, and we’re always going to think about it even if we live a hundred years. Do we want to look back with a constant knowledge that we had a chance at something great, but we wound up empty handed because of fear or hesitation?

I don’t want that, and I know you don’t either.

So let’s get on with our lives, like we really mean it.

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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. He is the author of the books Olympic Weightlifting for Masters: Training at 30, 40, 50 & Beyond and Bones of Iron: Collected Articles on the Life of the Strength Athlete.

Read more by Matt Foreman


Alan 2013-05-27
Matt, thank you for the eye-opening article. You always know what to say and how to say it.
Paul 2013-05-28
This is such a good article. Opportunities to shoot for a goal are rare. Take them
Tyler 2013-05-28
Chills reading this. Be not a timid soul, who knows neither victory nor defeat.
Curtis 2013-05-28
This article reminds me of the importance of focus, and clearing the mind of all arbitrary thoughts, because those thoughts will blemish a clean perspective of a goal. Thanks for a good read!
Eric 2013-05-31
Great article!
Michael 2013-06-01
Agustin 2013-06-03
Great article, struck a chord.
James 2013-06-11
Mike D 2014-03-01
Great article man.
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