These days Weightlifting is fortunate to be well promoted via the Internet. There is an endless stream of videos and photos of people, of all levels, enjoying a moment of achievement and preserving the memory digitally. Coaches post videos on social media to display the prowess of their athletes, business owners post to encourage potential new members and athletes create reciprocal posts to encourage and support each other. There is also a constant supply of articles to read which attempt to explain the ins and outs of technique, uncover the hidden secrets of strength development and provide opinion about the daily organisation of training. Occasionally, authors of articles comment on other aspects of the sport such as the recruitment of participants, the structure of competitions and the standards of performance at national and international level. All of this digital material is helpful in conveying the complexities of the sport, increasing understanding within the community and providing impetus for further growth of the sport worldwide.
But what is hard to convey with digital media is the inner journey that some participants take to achieve high levels of performance and which, in some circumstances, can lead to surprising and profound change within the individual. I am not talking here about the efforts people make to achieve milestones such as lifting one’s own bodyweight in the snatch. The degree of effort required for such a performance level is within easy reach of almost all people who enter into Weightlifting in their teens or 20’s. No, the journey of which I speak is much longer and requires the individual to face and overcome multiple challenges in pursuit of significant personal goals.
At the start of any athletic journey, the individual cannot know their potential or have any idea of how far they will travel. Their involvement is one of moment to moment experience, and so it should be. There is little point in sport participants, or their parents, making plans at the outset for achieving stardom. But there may come a moment when the individual realises that they not only enjoy the sport but that they have been captured by it. It’s no longer a case of just ‘doing Weightlifting’ but more especially that you begin to view yourself as a Weightlifter, and others also do as well. The question then arises in the mind of the participant “how far can I go?” The question is, of course, unanswerable until one can confidently say that the journey has ended. But a real consideration of this question is perhaps the start point at which changes begin to occur.
The self-identification of the individual as an athlete is an important step. It alters their approach to the training process, their mindset with respect to what is achievable and their perspective about the value of the effort involved. From that moment on, training sessions are seldom missed, healthy lifestyle changes are adopted, and an appetite for knowledge of the sport increases. But for the athlete, the journey ahead is far and there will be many more important moments in which fortunes turn this way and that.
The inner journey is one of discovery of self, and sport is one of many possible vehicles that can take you there. But in saying that, there are few opportunities in life for individuals to explore the limits of their own capability and to forge their identity as distinct and separate from others, and yet to be accepted by society in doing so. When opportunities for self-discovery occur, we don’t always realise. The opportunity arises and then in a fleeting moment it is gone, and only years later do we realise. All of us should be aware that the opportunity to participate in sport is much more than keeping bodyweight under control, or determining winners and losers in some athletic contest.
For the would-be Weightlifter, a discovery awaits that it is the power of the mind that determines the peak of success. The journey has the potential to change the mind profoundly provided the individual is guided well by one who knows the way. The individual learns to self-impose increasingly high levels of discipline, place confidence and trust in those who provide support and to realise the value and opportunity that hard work presents. These discoveries extend for all of life, well beyond the physical peak of the individual.