The Price of a PR

January 1, 2016…that was the last time I hit a personal record, or a “PR” on any major lift. I had driven down to Colorado to meet my brother and a friend for a New Year’s Day max out session. We all PR’d – the energy was great, good music – the weights just flew up.

Setting up for a PR is a mental battle - one that can only be won through violent aggression and a positive mindset.

Setting up for a PR is a mental battle - one that can only be won through violent aggression and a positive mindset.

Until last night, that day seemed like a lifetime ago. Last night, lifting by myself in the back corner of the gym – and for the first time since that New Year’s session – I hit a PR. I get pretty amped up for one-rep max attempts and I’m usually the guy where everyone in a 3-mile radius knows I PR’d. Last night was different – and it’s because the journey to this PR was so different than any before it.

When I think back to that New Year’s Day – and I think about what was going on in my life, where I was mentally and physically – the differences between then and last night is a full 180 degrees.

Greeley, CO - January 1, 2016. My last PR before last night.

This PR means more to me than any lift I have ever hit (and it will remain that way until I hit another Snatch PR, because, well, Snatch PR’s trump any PR) It represents so much struggle in my training and my life. When I caught the barbell in the rock bottom and started to stand it up – it felt like all the weight I had been carrying around on my shoulders, the stress, the training fatigue, the mental barriers -  was lifted off – and as I passed through that sticking point about halfway up – where you know if you can just somehow manage to get one more inch then it is going up – I smiled. No screaming, no bar slam, no Jon North-esque antics. I just smiled. I was by myself – my headphones blaring the exact song I wanted – just me and the barbell – an inanimate object that doesn’t care what you are dealing with, that doesn’t care about your problems. It goes up or it doesn’t. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.

Longmont, CO - June, 2015. One of three snatch PR's in 2015

Longmont, CO - June, 2015. One of three snatch PR's in 2015

Someone once told me, “remember how you feel right now, when the good things happen, so the next time you get frustrated in the gym, you can lean on that.” She was right – and sometimes it is easy to forget the good days when the bad ones seem to outnumber them by a large margin.  It won’t matter if one day I am cleaning weight 75lbs heavier than I did last night – this one will always mean something a little more.

This one puts the “personal” in personal record.  It’s been a long, tough year of training for me. I’ve dealt with a few injuries that ended up taxing me mentally more than physically. I got to a point in my training where it wasn’t fun anymore. The gym became a temple of frustration – a place where I was so sure I would fail, that mentally that’s all I was prepared to do.

It was in making a conscious decision to do something to fix this, that the turnaround took place. It was the support of coaches and people close to me that helped me change my mindset. I took a step back – and started working towards smaller goals. I set myself up to succeed, instead of preparing myself to fail.

The gym should be fun. When it becomes anything but - it's time to re-evaluate your training.

The gym should be fun. When it becomes anything but - it's time to re-evaluate your training.

Training became fun again. I would set achievable goals for THAT day in the gym. I marked PR’s for the year instead of lifetime PR’s. My lifts started to return and I finally had that hunger – like an injured animal returned to the wild whose taste for blood has returned.

Deep down I knew it was only a matter of time – only a matter of putting in the work, hitting my pause squats, doing those percentage days nobody likes to do – before I would feel that euphoria coursing through my body as I stood up a weight I had never stood up before. Even that knowledge could not prepare me for the feeling I had last night. So much relief just washed over me – so much joy – if you have never experienced a long struggle for a PR, then there is simply no way to explain it.

So I am going to take that advice that a friend gave me – there’s no way I can’t – because I am going to remember that feeling for the rest of my life. Every bad day in the gym, every frustrating session that makes you want to give up – those are all deposits being made. Just keep putting in the work – because like everything in your life – anything worth having or feeling, comes at a price. Pay the price and reap the reward.