Iron Lessons : The Fear

We as a species pride ourselves with the knowledge we have gained since our existence, and it is precisely what we do not know, we fear the most.

Be it rehabilitating from a previous injury, or trying something new for the first time, the feeling of anxiety and trepidation is hard-coded in our behaviour. One of the most rewarding lessons the Iron will teach you is to accept this fear and use at fuel to better your best.

If you’re still confused about what I am talking about, imagine. Imagine yourself under a bar with the new heavy weight you have never lifted before, you have little idea if you can succeed, your neck tightens up almost as if you’re gonna suffocate, stomach starts feeling queasy, feet trembling from the load, and sweat pouring down from your strained face. Not a fun place to be in, at this point you fear the outcome, you do not know whether you have the ability to make it and what will happen if you don’t; you fear what others will think of you, if you don’t, and lastly you do not know if this outcome can affect the rest of your life.

It’s perfectly normal to be fearful, but don’t let it limit your performance. Athletes recovering from injury know very well what I am talking about. The injury itself is so painful at times that we cannot dream of putting ourselves through such an ordeal again (not that you should), it creates this mental barrier that we must overcome to get back into the groove. Don’t take my word for it, a recent study proves such a correlation. This is also true for non-athletes as well.

You must win the battle in your mind first and the rest will follow. Powerlifters take opener attempts at weight at which they know they can handle. Most of the elite powerlifter will take a shot at a weight only when they know, they can handle it.

Each time you make an attempt to break you Personal Record, you must be aware, if you have gotten stronger. If your current record felt like a breeze, your body is telling you it can handle more load, if it was a grind, it’s probably best not to up the weight. Satisfying your ego will not do you much good in the long run.

A missed attempt can scars you mentally more so than physically. Mark Bell, elite Powerlifter, fell with 1085 lbs on his back. You don’t have to be Mark Bell to know, that could have killed you or even crippled you. In his blog, Mark mentions how that failed attempt changed him, although that did hurt his ego. He is more resolved than ever. Mark later said :

I fear a speeding bullet more than 1100 lbs

Each time I get under the bar with a new heavy weight, a part of me to go back home spend a peaceful evening with my family, but part of me wants to have a go at it and better my best. Renowned trainer Charles Stanley too described this in his athlete journal.

Use Fear as Fuel

Accepting your fear, your stress, is a big part of achieving your potential.

When you find the strength to act in the face of uncertainty, you till the soil of genius.
- Johnathan Fields

In Johnathan’s article for zen habits, he provides resourceful ways to use fear. His book is excellent and well worth a read.


Recently I had dropped a weight that was 85% of my 1RM (rep-max), which I know I could handle, but the new setting (had shifted) was something I had not considered. With a little heavier weight and a bit of tough luck I could have been in a wheelchair. I fear getting under the bar again, the prospect of being a cripple at 21 does not sound very appealing. However, I will do so with more caution because a large part of me wants to find out how far I can go.

Be Strong but not foolish

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