Sometimes it is ok to quit. No, really.
In 2013 I was a weightlifter — meaning I participated in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Like most recreational lifters I was not very good; but I showed up and practiced the sport 3–4 times a week. Then, in 2014 I became a weightlifter who did karate, who then also took up powerlifting. I was under-recovered and overtrained, but I was not going to quit. Until my body forced me to. Eventually, I was a bed-ridden mess. But I learned from my mistakes in a fairly epic way. I learned that it is okay to switch sports, and it is okay to quit a training modality if it is no longer serving you.
How do you know if a sport or training modality is no longer serving you? Ask yourself the following:
Is training in this sport/modality bringing you closer to your goals?
Why are you training in this modality/modality?
If what you’re getting out of it lines up with why you are doing it, then great. If not, it may be time to reconsider. That may sound easy, but I often get asked in different ways, at different times, if it is “ok” to take time off or to even walk away. And I always respond by nicely asking, “Why are you here in the first place?” Truth be told, sometimes we don’t know. Sometimes our goals change with the ebb and flow of life when we are not paying attention. Sometimes we lose touch with our motivation. We show up in body but not in spirit. We keep coming out of habit — which, in itself, is a good habit — but maybe it is time to re-evaluate.
I train in a barbell club, which means I train with people who for the most part, have performance goals. They have numbers they want to hit. Competitions that want to win or qualify for. So if you, like me, train in a sport-specific environment, it generally means that:
(a) you are expected to put in a lot of work — which is awesome
(b) people assume you have performance goals as well, which is fine — but risky.
I say “risky” because you may not have performance goals and it is easy to get sidetracked by other people’s goals or for your coach to assume you have performance goals. Next thing you know, you may find yourself spending a ton of energy working towards someone else’s goals, and well, that is silly and a poor use of your time and energy.
Sometimes I have performance goals. When I do, it is important that I keep training even when I feel unmotivated. But sometimes I don’t have performance goals. I took stock of my goals recently — and although I still want a bigger deadlift, I have no other specific performance goals. I have no meets on the horizon. I have no number or technique goal for my bench or squat.
My current goals are to feel strong and joyful. And then to have a bigger deadlift.
I have been powerlifting exclusively for about two years. Two years ago, all I wanted to do was to push and pull as much as possible, not move as fast as possible. I wanted to feel really strong after almost two years of feeling weak and powerless following my trauma and ensuing back injury.
Powerlifting made me really strong again. I became as strong as I was when I was 34. Then, I became even stronger. Today I am 40 and I am the strongest have ever been. When I tap into how strong my trunk is, I feel like a damn superhero. I feel like I can support myself no matter the challenge. I may not succeed but I will be OK. I love how strong I feel.
But I started to feel something else. Stuck. Not grounded but actually stuck to the ground. I don’t jump anymore. So I began skipping and shuffling and hopping and my mood lightened. I also began to miss the feeling of using my power explosively to put a heavy thing over my head — in those moments I feel joy and gratitude for my back and my trunk, and my legs, and my sense of humor — because it is really hard.
I realized I was due for another change in sport. I wanted to explode, not grind. I wanted to extend my ankles. I wanted to test the connection between my upper and lower body. And so I am making a return to weightlifting.
Now, if my goals were to work toward being elite or even qualify for nationals in something I would have to quit quitting. If I were working on my “ sticktoitiveness,” I would have to quit shifting back and forth. If I was working toward a bench number I should not simply walk away. But my goals are to feel strong and joyful. Weightlifting gives me that right now. And, I can continue to train my deadlift.
So, for now look for me on the platform, with a smile, feeling into my strength as I work with the bar overhead.