What It Means to Inspire. My Proudest Moment
I don't particularly care for competition, so with one good leg, why do I continue to train as a powerlifter when most friends quit?
Anytime an old friend, colleague or acquaintance catches up with me they like to ask "Do you still go to the gym?"
I used to correct them and say "I train. I don't 'go to the gym." Though it may sound unnecessary, it's like if I asked a lawyer "Did you practice sitting on your ass all day today?" Just like how a lawyer practices a craft as a professional, I train to be a top strength athlete.
Regardless, it's staggering to see the number of friends who've just stopped training since university. Some have thankfully found other sports but many have just cut out physical training all together. Apparently, this thing called "Life" gets in the way. I must not have one.
But it's also understandable that most friends assume I don't train as competitively either.
Injuries Mean Working Harder. Not Quitting.
I only have 30% of my meniscus on my left knee post surgery. For those unfamiliar, the meniscus is the jelly in your knee that absorbs impact (among other functions). The way my orthopedic surgeon put it, it's like the tires of a car. So the left wheel of my car only has a rubber tire on 30% of the wheel. The rest is just metal on gravel. Needless to say, I experience pain from running, jumping and long walks.
The funny thing is, I train harder now than I did as a university student. I haven't stopped learning about ways to improve my performance so why wouldn't I implement them into my life?
If a blind man got his sight back, he wouldn't still walk with his eyes closed.
So I train more than I did before. I have better nutrition, better sleep, better mobility and even have a coach. Though most of my peers concluded an injury meant quitting, an injury for me meant having to invest more since I now had a handicap compared to the dual-good-knees folks.
But this had me examine this addiction to training a little further. For a long time, a large part was tied to my identity as a powerlifter. At wasn't uncommon to feel as if I was enslaved by the need to maintain an identity. The injury put me through a 3-year period where this identity was actually pulled away from me and it was material in rehabbing me out of it.
Then, is it winning? Though I love training, I don't actually enjoy competing either. Then what was it?
This brings me to one of my proudest moments to date. It was an interview question that actually brought this story out a few years back.
It's not when I had set a new world record nor was it in any of the medal moments in competitions.
It was at a school bar at the University of Waterloo during my senior year. It was one of those non-training days I allowed myself a beer or two. Out of nowhere, a guy I had never seen or met before came up to me and thanked me. I imagine he had a drink or two before coming to speak with me for liquid courage. I mean, it's not every day people walk up to strangers to thank them. He told me he had seen me at the school gym for years and always saw me train day-in and day-out. He said it was inspiring to see someone so small be so strong. He said how seeing me show up and train consistently got him to really focus on his own training.
For context, if you've never seen me before, I'm not an impressive physical specimen. I do have quads that are bigger than my head and my upper body is thicker than an average person but for someone who has trained a decade and routinely lifts 400+lbs (180+kgs) I don't look anything out of the ordinary in a gym. Matter of fact, when I'm standing next to these massive 6 foot something bodybuilders I look like some short guy who just started training at the gym a few months ago.
This was not the first time I had people tell me I inspired them. I'm not trying to brag, just being honest. I've been fortunate to have so many wonderful friends tell me my lifting inspires them. To that, I am forever thankful. But this person was not a friend. It was a stranger who had seen me train for years. This person didn't exist in my life but I existed in his and just by me doing what I loved doing every day, he changed his behaviour (for the better I want to believe).
I do have a personal desire to be extremely strong. I want to achieve a peak performance state in both mind and body and I strongly believe you can't have one without the other. A harmonious system if you will.
But this moment taught me what it means to inspire someone. I could directly help change the life of someone by working with them, talking with them, and being their friend but this happened passively without my intent or knowledge.
Inspiring Isn't Up To You.
It was then that I realized you don't get to choose who you inspire. You don't even get to choose if you inspire someone or not. It's up to them. The only thing within your control are your actions. You can't tell someone what they should be inspired by. All you can do is to consistently show up. Continue to act.
The guy at the bar didn't know about my no-sauce-chicken-breast-every-day-no-fast-food-plain-boring diet I had. He didn't know that I didn't drink any kind of sugar. He didn't know that colleagues on my work-terms would call me a 'bitch' and 'loser' because I wouldn't drink alcohol at company events because I had to train the next morning. He just knew I showed up at the gym and that I was lifting heavier and heavier weights. Though it takes hours of other activities around my life to allow me to be at a peak physical state, the manifestation of that at the gym is what inspired him.
Inspiration is a result of your actions.
This continues to be a key reason why I still train. Not only is it fun, but I still train with the hope that maybe one more person can be inspired to improve their life by seeing this short, average looking guy out-lift everyone in the gym.