Sometimes Heroes Fall

This is a post that has been bouncing around in my head for a few days. I usually write white hot, preferring to let the message figure itself out along the way. This time, however, even I couldn’t figure out what I meant to say. Now I feel that while I could jump straight to the point, it would be incomplete without describing the evolution of the idea.

Originally I wanted to discuss how situational fitness – and perhaps life in general – can be. I meant to open with a comparison of what a 100kg / 225lbs squat looks like when done by a 6’2″ powerlifter-type versus when done by a lean 5’8″ calisthenics disciple. Either way, it’s an objectively impressive weight that doesn’t change regardless of how large the man hefting it may be. Both men deserve and receive some kind of acknowledgement and praise. However, while the former is certainly impressive, the latter seems to defy physics, earning a greater or otherwise different level of recognition.

Even then, though, we don’t know enough of the story to really make the call on whose lift was more impressive. The big guy could be on the last of ten sets, while the smaller man might just be testing his 1-rep max. The big guy could be in a deload (read: light recovery) week, while the smaller man could be focusing on pure strength.

If we go beyond programming, there are even more reasons that the larger man might “only” be able to lift the same weight as the smaller. He could be returning from an injury, still re-learning how to move heavy weights. He might have had too little sleep and feels doubtful of his strength under the bar. He might simply be having a bad day and doesn’t feel up to the pressure.

On the one hand, this may seem like I’m trying to excuse this person’s apparent lack of ability in comparison to another, which – based on certain entries in this blog – would seem out of character. On the other, however, I am well aware that one cannot go 100% all the time.

To put it another way: maybe this guy could, if pressed, squat a much heavier load than 100kg. That doesn’t mean he always will or would.

The fact that you have done it, doesn’t mean that you can or could do it over and over again.

A major part of fitness is figuring out how hard you can go for how long. Say you can run a kilometer in less than five minutes – could you do that for half an hour? You can deadlift 140kg – can you do it ten times?

And even if you could do both those things, could you repeat them the next day? And the day after that?

Hopefully by now you can see where I’m going with this.

There are limits to strength and power. No one can be at their best – or even close to it – around the clock for an indefinite period of time without risking serious collapse. If we fail to heed the warnings – to check our speed, our effort – we stand to lose more than we can imagine.

This happens to the best of us as often as to the rest – perhaps more often, given their predispositions to give their all. To borrow a line from Supergirl,

Sometimes heroes fall.

It’s scary to admit that: to say that someone greater than we are can fail is to concede that we are just as likely to break down. We ignore that truth because doing so allows us to similarly ignore our own weaknesses. By pretending we have no limits – just like our heroes – we can pretend that our vulnerabilities don’t exist, or aren’t dangerous enough to threaten us.

Part of understanding that we are different is accepting that we have different limits. We have different goals, and different ways by which to reach them. Some of us can go farther, faster, longer, harder – even if by doing so, we risk more and more. It doesn’t mean anyone is better or worse, just different.

This is knowing yourself at the most painful but most honest level. This is the hardest, yet most useful form of comparison. Knowing you cannot do what others can do means accepting that you will not succeed the same way or to the same degree. On the other hand, you can go hard and fast in a way that others may not even be able to comprehend. Your strengths and weaknesses are different. Your limits are different. Your success will be different.

In training, we adjust different variables to address weaknesses. We change loads, duration, rest, leverage, and complexity to improve. We do this because we understand enough anatomy, physics, and similar topics to do so.

What do we need to learn to do the same for life?

 


 

Workout – Strength, Strength/Power Endurance

30x each Jumping Jacks, Front Jacks, Twist Jacks, Seal Jacks

Circuit

3 rounds

5x Pull-up

10x Pike Push-up

15x Close Squat

Pistol Work

5x Pistol Squat

5x Pistol Squat @ 15lbs

3x Pistol Squat @ 20/35lbs

5x 4m Pistol to SLRDL to Lunge @ 2x25lbs

Circuit

21/15/9

Double KB Clean @ 2x16kg

KB Front Squat @ 2x16kg

Push Press @ 2x30lbs

Final Work

10-1x Feet-to-Hands

5min Foam Rolling

5min Stretching

Notes

  • I used to be able to hit the walking combo with a pair of 16kg bells. One step per leg, true, but still hit it, while this one had me struggling to make 4 steps with a pair of 25lbs. My single-leg ability has deteriorated. 
  • I was surprised to find that my forearms were what caused me difficulty with the cleans. I’ve read about forearm strength endurance being a limiting factor with long kettlebell work, but this is the first time I’ve experienced it. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’m actually a bit out of practice – it’s been a while since the last time I went for more than 10 reps with a kettlebell. 
  • The Feet-to-Hands / Toes-to-bar ladder remains one of my favorite ab workouts, and a good indicator of where I am strength endurance-wise. If I’m sore the next day, I’m behind on my core training.
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