Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Choosing The Battle

~July 2013

Almost everyday after work, I grab my wireless headphones and begin my trek to the gym.  Up the hill, I blast my best pump-up songs and explode through my lifting sessions with bass-pounding enthusiasm.  Then, I made the mistake of wearing them during a murderball throwing session in a moderate rain and ever since, the volume "up" button has stopped working.  To my horror, I realized that once I volumed "down" -- there was no going back up.  For weeks, my workouts dragged, especially when I needed Lil Wayne's Beast Mode the most.  But today, as I was contemplating how much weight to add to the bar, a miracle occurred.

My headphones sprang back to life, volume increasing a notch every second as the beat took hold of me.  It was a sign from above -- better put on the big plates.  I had no excuse anymore, I had to go hard.  With the bass reverberating through my soul, I stared into the mirror - readying myself for action.  I have a tried-and-true habit of imagining a rival competitor, just before the moment of truth.  Without fail, my instincts kick in and adrenaline surges - this is the person who wants a piece of me.  This is the person who wants to take me down and beat me to the punch.  As I open my eyes and snap back to reality, the emotional response has taken hold and is screaming KILLMODE.  Half the battle is done, as my body is now primed for athletic explosion.  The reps and sets merge into sweat and grunts, my best effort, all thanks to my wireless headphones. 

But as the years wear on -- this rival competitor morphs from opponent season to season -- from the most important game to the individual match-up.  I've literally been training against the mental image of my strongest competition since elementary school.  It comes naturally to me - especially when I'm weary of the task/lift before me and need some motivation.  Just the thought of losing to Brodie pushed my dead lift over 385. 

So today, as I stared into the mirror, I realized two extraordinary things.  For one, when comparing myself to the best in the game, I don't need to look far.  The 4 USA World's teams went undefeated in dominant fashion just last week -- so the competition is there to behold.  As I started thinking of the national team, seeking a rival, it became clear.  The players who motivate me the most -- are the ones on my very team.

I say nonchalantly that I played with my captains Matt Rebholz and Jimmy Foster at Wisconsin all the time.  But to be honest, we never played together because they played offense and I played defense.  The real answer was -- that I matched up against them every single practice for 4-5 years with the Hodags, but we rarely actually played "together."  It was a completely different way to think of "teammates."

Suddenly, I knew who I was imaging as my rival competitor.  It was Stubbs - someone I see in practice, at workouts, in the gym, all the time for the last four years.  I wasn't imagining Sockeye, Chain Lightning, Revolver or Doublewide - I was imaging Ironside's offense as my competition - because for the majority of the season -- those are the players I'm battling day-in-day-out.