Why I Train: Lifting & carrying, neighbours & vets
A few years ago I was introduced to power lifting. It’s fair that to say for the decades before that I’d always had the very limited, uneducated and misinformed view that going to a gym and picking up and putting down heavy pieces of metal was for meatheads and nightclub bouncers. I really didn’t see or know of a place for it in my movement journey or life. Being able to pick up and lift very heavy objects had never really came into play as an issue or goal. If there were very heavy things that needed I would ask other people to lift them. I was capable of lifting moderately heavy things. I always lost a few lbs in weight when moving house due to lifting and carrying lots of boxes, that was all of my lifting and carrying experience really.
I had been training parkour since 2005 and for the first 6 years the closest any of the people around me got to lifting was increasing their own bodyweight by wearing a weight vest. Fast forward 9 years and things have definitely changed as it’s become an accepted addition to a lot of people’s training. I had also never met anyone who had expressed a real joy for lifting until I met Clifton Harski while attending a MovNat retreat in Thailand. Clif is a great mover and beyond that he is a wealth of knowledge in many movement arenas. Clif is also a nimble and light mover and that was also a new assumption for me as his build was a lot heavier and more what I considered a ‘gym guy’ to look like so never thought of him as a dynamic mover. I was wrong, he’s both. I asked him what kinds of movement he really enjoyed, expecting climbing, jumping or running, instead with a massive smile on his face that showed this really was his passion he told me he enjoyed many movements and “I really love lifting heavy shit” .
It didn’t have to be in a gym; rocks, logs and people all qualified as items for him to lift. Fast forward a few years and I was living in Texas and had the opportunity to start power lifting. The first few months exhausted me like nothing else had done for a good while. That unique learning period of new movement patterns was exhausting as body parts are awoken and reconnected leaving me wanting to sleep a lot. The idea that people could get up and go and lift before work and be productive throughout their day blew my mind. There had to be ridiculous amounts of caffeine or other substances involved surely? If I was lifting I was napping. As time moved on I enjoyed more lifting and while logs and rocks were always welcome I enjoyed exploring and learning the potential of a barbell, dumbbells and then kettlebells.
More recently in Southern California I have both the best of indoor and outdoor opportunities. I train outside on the grass and sand and do log carries and stone and rock throws balances and catching with my friends at Barefoot Movers.
Down the road is the coolest climbing gym Vital, that offers not only opportunities to climb 24/7 but also has all you need from a free weights area. And now in quarantine and shelter at home protocols, the investment of a few kettlebells but even more so, a large water bottle, have made all the difference! A few months ago I had a full and fun day of training opportunities. I’d played with some kettlebells outside in the morning on the grass, enjoying the warm air and feeling the succulents grass underfoot and between my toes. Late afternoon I decided to climb a little. Climbing, like my initiation into lifting left me extremely tired as my mind and body processed all kinds of new experiences. Add in the emotionally draining effects of fear at height and yes I’m ready to sleep again!
My training was done for the day but life wasn’t.
As I parked the car and walked my tired body to my door, arms and body fried, I felt very content with everything I’d done. It had been an active day. And just then I was called over and asked to help my neighbour and a dog they were looking after. Amelia is a 65 lb sweet golden retriever who was sadly diagnosed with cancer. She had been operated on and her owner was away at the time. Fred, another neighbour had been left in charge. After the surgery Amelia had been lifted into his large truck and settled into the back seat. On arriving home she had no intention of leaving her new safe spot. Not only did she need to be coaxed out, she then needed to be carried up to the apartment where she was staying.
Leaning into a tall truck and lifting a sore and bandaged dog out is not like any lift you’ll ever do in a gym.
There are no perfect holds, only moving parts and fur. However, with some shifting here and there, Amelia ended up in my arms and regardless of how they felt there was no way that I was going to drop her! Along the parking area, up a flight of stairs and along a walkway we made it to the door and then in we went. My elbows and biceps were screaming at me and it didn’t matter. To put her down would only have complicated and prolonged her distress and mine. Out of all of the lifting and carrying I did that day, kettlebells, my own body weight and an injured dog, only one mattered. Amelia was safe. I am very happy that my training enabled me to help her. Practical real world applications of training rarely happen at the perfect time in the best way. Knowing this and being able to perform on empty is a worthwhile way to train and have the mindset for. Having a mindset to be prepared for the unprepared will always give you the answer to why you train. Be strong to be useful. Always. Opportunities are around us everyday.
This isn’t Amelia but if I had to lift and carry my dog I’d like to think I could him out of a truck to safety.