By: Barbell Logic Team

TLDR; We tend to obsess over a “thing” because interest drives motivation and motivation drives progress. Your level of interest in a subject directly influences your perseverance and the amount of effort you are willing to put into it, to learn and to struggle.

Lifestyle of Strength: It’s “Our Thing”

niki sims deadlift

Photo: Nick Delgadillo

Recently, Starting Strength Coaches from around the world gathered for the Annual Starting Strength Coaches Association Conference. The conference kicked off with a lifting meet at the Wichita Falls Athletic Club, the home of Starting Strength and barbell training Mecca. The meet streamed live online, with people from all over the world tuning in to watch twenty Starting Strength Coaches practice what they preach, showing off their experience and their grit in front of judges, announcers, and spectators made up of the best coaches in the world. For the SSCA, lifting together is almost an annual rite and is certainly a celebration of our community.

This thing we all love called lifting, while an individually motivated activity on a day-to-day basis, really should be celebrated together. When you adopt an interest or pursuit as part of your lifestyle, it becomes more than a hobby or even a habit; it becomes your “thing” and an immediate connection to other people of like interest and shared experience. Maybe you love the outdoors and that’s your “thing,” or maybe you are a tech-nerd and computers and programming are your “thing,” or maybe books and movies are your “thing,” or family. Each aspect that defines who you are in your own mind represents an intangible connection to other people, a connection that instantly recognizes these shared obsessions, something those “in the know” mutually understand. You are a part of the community based on shared knowledge or experience. This is great when lifting is your “thing” because training is hard, and as a solitary pursuit, maintaining the motivation to train can be difficult.

The Intrinsic Motivation to Train

brent carter press

Photo: Nick Delgadillo

Strength training is an intrinsically motivated activity: We do it because we like it, we like the results, or we just know we need it, lifting for the personal benefits and letting that value drive our efforts. This is in contrast to extrinsic, or rewards-based, motivation, of which lifting has few opportunities. Some few people compete for trophies or records, but most lifters lift and compete for the benefits of the training itself. This is good, because intrinsic motivation, when developed and fostered, is most closely linked to long-term success in just about every possible arena, including sports. The athlete who plays and trains to make herself or her team better, who isn’t just playing to win the trophy, is more likely to have long-term success. Jordan Peterson has described this as “winning championships” versus “winning games” or, more broadly, “winning at life.”

Internal or intrinsic motivation can be both long-lasting and extremely fruitful. When you value the benefit of being under the bar enough, you will engage in the hardship of getting stronger. You will choose to refine yourself through physical exercise. And, indeed, barbell training is highly attractive to intrinsically motivated people. After all, when it comes time to train, it’s just you and the bar. So, how do you fuel an internally held motivation to do this really hard thing you’ve taken on yourself?

This is when things like the Coaches’ Meet become an important part of lifting culture. Rites, resources, and knowledge are the communal repositories where you can externalize your inwardly-held values. Whether this is a simple smile or fist pump after a good lift, showing off cool schwag, or subscribing to videos, articles, and podcasts about lifting, you power your solitary motivation by participating in the knowledge and practice of the micro-culture. As an example, if you’ve been following Barbell Logic for a while now, you may have picked up on several phrases, taglines, or concepts in this article that are hallmarks of our team or the expression of certain creeds that we tend to follow when it comes to training. (#voluntaryhardship). This also explains the draw of lifting-specific apparel companies, Instagram accounts, and YouTube channels. When you identify with a culture, you want to feel connected to it, and sources of knowledge or practice help you do that.

We tend to obsess over a “thing” because interest drives motivation and motivation drives progress.Your level of interest in a subject directly influences your perseverance and the amount of effort you are willing to put into it, to learn and to struggle. In a broader sense, your interests influence your identity and sense of meaning; what you do is part of who you are–at least for those things that bring you value.

Why do I need a lifting “community?”

But intrinsic motivation is tricky. Without constant positive feedback, perceived failures will harm your interest. If you are lifting alone in your garage or if you are at a commercial gym–yourself an island of simple, hard, and effective training in a sea of fads and spandex–then maintaining your motivation when things aren’t going well is hard. You risk succumbing to the pressure to just do what everyone else does, find something easier, or worse, give up.

karl schudt ssc meet

Photo: Nick Delgadillo

But then you meet another lifter, maybe online, maybe your coach, but someone who is motivated for similar reasons. And you find out that you never run out of things to talk about. With everything we do, we know that others have struggled through the same hardships and craziness, the same questions, and who, for some reason, decided to keep fighting for the same basic triumph: to be a little bit better tomorrow than today. There are no special rewards for this, no trophy, and certainly very little acknowledgement in your wider social circles. It’s just for you. It’s your thing.

Take some time to go online and watch some of the SSCA coaches’ meet. One of the interesting things about a lifting meet is that for every lift, the lifter determines amount of weight on the bar. You pick what you are going to try to lift. This leaves a lot of room for fear or doubt to creep in and influence your attempts and your performance. But, if you watch, you will see not one lifter leave the platform without having also left a little bit of themselves behind, as if the platform were some reservoir of collective experience, each coach contributing through their mettle.

There was fear, and anxiety, emotions, some failures, and some amazing lifts, each a celebration of this thing that we love, sometimes hate, but always value.

You don’t have to compete or participate in group meets to be a part of this thing. You just have to decide that this is valuable to you. Really, you don’t even have to like it. But somewhere along the way, you thought about the idea that strength was important to you and that’s enough to connect you to these amazing coaches and exponentially more amazing lifters.

Learn, Train, Grow, Repeat

At Barbell Logic, our goal is to help give you the tools, information, and motivation to help with your training. Sometimes that’s more nuts and bolts: how to squat, press, and deadlift; what to do when you’re stuck; cues and tips for lifting. Sometimes it’s motivational: showing members of your community who are also struggling and winning. Sometimes it’s psychological, figuring out why barbell training can bring up so many emotions and seems to connect to so many different parts of our lives.

sscac 2018 coaches

Photo: Nick Delgadillo

No one can do the work for you, that’s on you. But this thing that you’ve decided is important to you, it’s our thing too. So, thank you for your hard work, your choices, your sweat, because every victory you have and every struggle are now a part of who we are. Welcome to our thing, and welcome to Barbell Logic.

Leave a comment down below – tell us about your strength journey so far. And follow the links to the Barbell Logic YouTube channel and Podcast for more of this thing called strength.

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