Becoming A Firestarter: How To Burn Bright Without Burning Out

Article written by Shawn Bellon I have a confession:  I hate going to meets and training.  None of it is fun for me anymore.  I bet you are thinking that this is the worst motivational article ever written.  You may be right but hear me out as I share how I am getting the embers going and stoking a flame to be MY best.

Before we talk about the INSPIRING FEEL GOOD quotes of the “Dead Poet’s Society” (yes…they are coming!) let’s examine how I became a curmudgeon.  Distractions are always what get us off our paths, right?  My distractions came in the form of pressure and injuries.  Believe it or not I was going to be a 2100 total true raw powerlifter weighing under 275 pounds just a few short years ago.  Sponsorships with real money were coming my way, along with pressure.  Remember Drago in Rocky 4 yelling at the  Russian Premier stating, “Ya b’yus’ radi pobedy! Dlya sebya! Dlya sebya!”  Translation: I FIGHT FOR ME TO WIN!  FOR ME!  I didn’t enjoy training as much with the forced expectations to lift for someone else.  It was a distraction to what I really love: THE GYM.

So yes, the gym.  It’s my sanctuary, my church and my home.  I love the smell of chalk in the morning!  Ok not that you can hear me using a Robert Duvall voice ala Apocalypse Now, but I am really feeling it.  Unfortunately as my body started to give in my distractedness via depression grew exponentially.  A shoulder here, elbow there and then after getting ready to demolish an 800+ raw squat I damaged my knee and back.  I became a has-been in my mind.

Depressed doesn’t begin to describe how I felt with my perceived world falling apart.  I shut down totally, while making little effort to train.  I removed myself from the gym.  I stopped engaging in lifting conversations and groups.  WHAT WAS I GONNA DO? BICEPS?  SCREW THAT!  And yet as I type now I gotta say, that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.  I really suffered perception issues.  Maybe I broke my “perception” as well?  I failed to see all that I had as an athlete versus what I didn’t have.  And in my wallow of shame I missed the boat totally.  Distraction.  It’s a beast.

So here they are, my three points to go napalm in a hurry! (Queue Prodigy for dramatic music please.)

Have a plan:  Your plan is the guts of your success.

Your plan is the epicenter of it all!  Sure, a plan sounds simple enough but it is often take lightly and for granted.  Take a look around a lot of gyms.  Ask someone that is heading to go train what he or she is going to do.  You will likely get a vague answer or it is a program that they just started from the other program they just stopped THAT they just started.  THAT ISNT A PLAN unless you call planning to fail an actual plan.  So you need to map out a strategy.  If you want to be the best you have to plan for it.  It doesn’t just happen.  Preparedness trumps talent any day of the week.  Look at NFL players that are studs in college and flop in the league.  Then look at the 7th round draft pick that meticulously follows a plan and is suddenly a pro bowler!

For competitive lifters you might be looking at a meet or event to participate in.  Consider a mock meet and videoing it as well.  There are a lot of options but reach for something.  Do not be ambiguous with no timeline.  You need that healthy pressure to reach the finish with your best effort.  So write down the plan and goals with a dry erase marker and make your bathroom mirror a motivator with reminders.  Use a notepad to log your training, eating and thoughts while keeping it in your pocket at all times.  Purchase a calendar and start to work backwards setting up your goals.  Break it all up into smaller segments.  Create an email reminder for that portion of the training cycle you are in.  Add a Youtube video and/or quotes to remind you are why you are pushing yourself.  My clients that are training for meets in powerlifting are given detailed spreadsheets for their entire training cycle and I send them quotes to “fan” their flame.

Are you a tech nerd that loves a nice smartphone? Use tools like Google Drive, a good timing app, and video recorder to chronicle your training.  Part of having that plan is how well you can execute it so be prepared to pursue!  Review and reassess constantly as you go.  The fancy term now is auto regulation but for the longest time I have always just stated a lifter should self-assess his or her training constantly.

My plan is to help at an upcoming meet.  Sure a small plan but as I heal I am getting really excited to help push others to do their best.   I have never enjoyed training for meets but I do love seeing others lifting and competing so I just treat an event like a long day at the gym.  There is nothing wrong with using the energy of others to help be inspired.  Inspiration is the ignition!

Create Accountability: Surround yourself with people to help you “grow.”

A training partner can be a great start to helping to push you especially while lifting weights.  You not only are answering to that person via a schedule so you can’t sluff off, and your true work ethic is exposed!  Maybe you don’t need a training partner but still surround yourself with people that are encouraging, honest and supportive of your set goals.  There is no point sharing goals with people that don’t get it or are unwilling to support you.  With this in mind consider limiting your exposure to social media during this journey.  Avoid the distractions remember?  Being held accountable doesn’t take a village but it does take the right support network.  Remember the dude from “Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail” that didn’t choose wisely?  Don’t be that guy!

My accountability partners are individuals I trust implicitly.  I ask them to ask me how I am doing and to get on my butt if I am not following through.  They get the “keys to the city” to invade my space about achieving personal performance perfection.  They ask the tough questions when I least expect it and need it most!  Incidentally, this concept of accountability is a great premise to utilize, period.

Stay Inspired:  Use the right fuel for the flame.

The journey alone may be the inspiration, keep thinking of that goal you keep grinding towards.  If that is enough, you are one of the lucky ones, but utilize it, and use it to inspire others!  Maybe you are keeping someone else accountable.  Share with that person your journey too.  There is a great quote that says “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.”

Remember when I mentioned distractions?  Do not let that smartphone turn you into a selfie fool.  Use the phone as a tool for your goals and stay on the plan.  I have had clients that would get an upsetting text or message that would totally defeat their training session.  So remove the potential for distractions.  Turn off those features of the phone to stay focused!

Lastly, I would also like to suggest you practice kindness and humility during your journey.  You will be amazed at how strong you are mentally while focusing on much more positive things during this time.  I am not asking you to start a soup kitchen or hand out hugs but I do think keeping focused on your own actions will serve you well.  We have all seen the troll behavior of some or just the a-hole comments from people being petty about technique etc.  Let’s go “Field of Dreams:” If you lift it, negativity will come.  So just don’t be that person.  Focus on the positives.  Consider your tone.  Text is so inefficient so be careful how you type, so you can be representing yourself with class and integrity.  Positive energy is inspiration personified.

Personally, being a coach and working in social services gives me ample opportunities to give and encourage others.  Inspiration to me is a guy with MS that does his damnedest to walk a hallway with a Spinoflex machine (harness and walking rig).  What excuse do I have?

Well, I am done.  My hope is your wheels are turning for ideas and innovative concepts to reach your goals.  And my 3 point sermon isn’t a life-changer at all, but it is a spark.  You have the real work of applying these ideas to your own life.  The question is will you?

ShawnBellon’s Bio: Strength Coach & Freelance Writer Multiple record hold in the USPF and USPA. World champion & best lifter with the IPL.  Best pure raw lifts in competition: 755 squat, 470 bench press and 755 deadlift weighting under 260 lbs.  Held #1 ranking for masters raw 275 until retired.  Former columnist with Iron Man Magazine.  Published in multiple periodicals including Powerlifting USA, Iron Man, Box Life and Powerlifter Today.

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