Getting Stronger

I recently wrote about my latest physical training update. I am making progress and progress is happiness. One example of this is doing the bench press. When I was in high school, the most I ever could do was the bar, two 45 lbs. on each side of the bar, and then two 15 lbs. on each side. The bar is 45 lbs., and so therefore, my highest weight in high school was 165 lbs. And I could maybe bang out one rep of this before having to call for help. In fact, I distinctly remember doing the bench press in my home basement as a youngster and not being able to get the weight back up and yelling for help. Luckily, I had a brother that was able to help me.

At the gym yesterday, I was doing the bench press and banged out ten reps of two 45 lbs. on each side. No problem. Then I added 10 lbs. on each side. 8 reps pretty easy. Then I added another 10 lbs. on each side. 6 reps pretty easy. Then I took away all the 10 lbs. and added two 25 lbs. on each side (185 lbs. now). 4 reps with some work, but all were unassisted. This made me think about the most weight I’d ever been able to lift, which is two 45 lbs. and two 35 lbs. on each side of the bar (205 lbs.). I did this with my trainer about a month ago and barely managed to squeeze out one unassisted rep.

So I’m by the bench and I take off the extra weight (except the two 45 lbs. on each side of the bar), and I find two 35 lbs. to put on each side. I then ask one of the nearby guys to spot me and he agrees to do so willingly. I wonder how I will do…

I tell him on the count of 3 to help me lift it and that this is my rep maximum. One… Two… Three… He lifts and I lift. I force the bar down to my chest with determination and give a war grunt as I heave it back up. It is strenuous, but I’m able to do it without any help. I then do the same thing again, and as I go to lift it up, I let out an even louder war grunt and slight yell. I’m able to do the second rep without help. I tell him this next one will require help as I can feel the strain now. I do the final rep with a bit of assistance and set the bar on its rack. Done!

I tell him thanks and walk away from the bench, grinning from ear to ear. It felt so good! It’s a good feeling to do something that is the absolute best you’ve ever done. I shot free throws at the gym yesterday as well, making 95 out of 100. I was pretty pissed off that I missed 5. But the point is, with this, is reaching your next strongest version of yourself. For me, that is 205 lbs. on the bench press. And my younger self could only barely do 165 lbs. back in high school when I was half my age!

This applies to other things and seems to be a common theme since I’ve been out on my own. Each time you put yourself through strain and effort, you are building up the next stronger version of yourself. This applies to the muscle in our bodies as well as who we are emotionally and mentally as people. It’s the experiences I’ve had over the last 6 1/2 months now that have shaped me to become who I am and to be able to handle things that would have crushed me last year – and to handle them this year with relative ease.

I think getting stronger takes courage and guts. You have to put yourself out there and feel pain. It’s worth it though, for the person it makes out of you as you make each attempt is the gift you receive.

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