High noon in Columbus, Ohio

“It always seems impossible until it is done.” –Nelson Mandela

I’m recovering today.

I’ll explain why in a sec.

First, let me take you all the way back to 1954.

That’s when Roger Bannister became the first human to run a sub 4-minute mile.  Up until that point all the experts had called this feat “physiologically impossible”.  But Bannister was a physician.  He knew that there couldn’t be some arbitrary barrier inscribed in our genes.  So he ignored the critics, and concocted a clever program to float across a mile faster than anyone, ever.

And he did.

Within a year, many runners were going sub-four.

Now, it’s standard at the varsity level.

In 2013, a young upstart in the strength world named Eddie Hall predicted he’d be the first man in history to deadlift (lift a barbell from the floor to standing with it at arm’s length) 500 kilograms (over 1,100 pounds).  And the rest of us went, “Pffft!  Yeah right.”

You see the record at the time was just over 1,000 pounds.

Again, ignoring the critics (or indeed FUELED by them, as he claims) Eddie spread ink all over the record books.  He notched up his own world best by nearly 100 pounds in two and half years and became the first lifter in history to put daylight between 1,100 pounds and the floor, successfully setting the all-time mark.  Note that adding 100 pounds to your deadlift in 2.5 years would be great progress for a novice or an intermediate lifter.  When you already own the world record…it’s completely bonkers.

Could the 1,100 pound barrier be broken again?

This past Friday and Saturday, at The Arnold Classic in Columbus, the world’s top pro strongmen were competing.  And Rogue – a sponsor – put up 50K for anyone with the balls to make the magical limit go the way of spandex.

Former 4-Time World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw and current World’s Strongest Man, the six-foot-nine Icelander Hafthor Bjornsson (plays The Mountain on Game of Thrones) had posted training lifts on YouTube of 1,025 and 1,041 respectively.  Insert multiple “surprised face” emojis here.  For a strength enthusiast, this is the World Cup Final and we’re going to penalty kicks.

Indeed, my fanboy hysteria nearly required a defibrillator.

(Or a change of gotchies.)

Though it turned out not to be the strengthgasm we were hoping for.

After a routine-looking 1,045-pound lift, Thor – as Bjornsson is known in strongman circles – took 1,105 for a brief ride but couldn’t get it above his knees.   Nobody else was even close.  There may come a day when 1,100-pound deadlifts are more common, but it’s not today.

Anyway, here’s what I observe about all this and that I want you to think about:

For most of us, the things we’re trying to do with our lives are nowhere near this magnitude.

No mystical or genetic barrier exists for our goals.  In 99.9% of cases someone has already demonstrated the inherent possibility of what we want to do.  In fact, many people have – sometimes hundreds, thousands, even millions.  So many men and women have businesses they love, a partner who enriches their life, figure out a way to change their financial circumstances, or come back from illness and shed lots of weight.

It’ll do us good to remember that.

We’re all made of the same “stuff”.

Trust your stuff.

Everything you want is not only possible…

It is DONE.

Keep that in mind in those moments when you doubt yourself.   Remind yourself how truly possible and doable your big goals or your PR’s really are – if you’re being objective about it.

Sometimes, all it takes is giving yourself permission to say “I got this”.

Happy PR-Smashing,

Conor Kelly

P.S.  Ever wonder what an “easy” 1,045-pound lift looks like?

Watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1VIZ17ug1k

When it’s better NOT to think

Less than a week before the 2004 Ontario’s Strongest Man competition, a vicious attack of gout hit me.

My big toe swelled to painful proportions.  Tomato red and extremely sensitive, it throbbed, and the pain intensified with the lightest touch.

I could barely walk.

Yet in 5 days I was scheduled to suit up in the province’s premiere test of strength.

I was particularly doubtful about the Truck Pull.

In the Truck Pull, you’re harnessed to a transport tractor-trailer – typically 40,000 pounds or more – and tow this bad boy using only your bodyweight and whatever arm power you can muster by pulling on a rope secured near the finish line.

Proper technique is to lean your body into the harness and get low, where you can leverage your weight and use your legs.  But you’re essentially on your toes the entire time.  With the gout doing its worst to slow me down, I had little hope I’d even be able to do it.

But since there wasn’t any chance of my withdrawing, I wrapped my toes in athletic tape, hobbled out onto the tarmac, and signaled the volunteers to harness me up.  When the ref’s whistle blew, I blocked everything out and just went for it.  I ended up somewhere in the top 12 in a field of 24, and my foot wasn’t even a factor.

In 2005, I tore a rotator cuff muscle five weeks out from OSM.

This time I stared down an opponent called the Viking Press.  It’s an ATV mounted on a cubic steel frame with a pivot on one end, and handles at the other.  The idea is to grab the handles, which are at shoulder height, and press the estimated 275 pounds overhead to arms length, as many times as possible.

In warm up, I couldn’t budge the weight.

But when my name was finally called, I somehow managed 6 reps.

Again, I just didn’t give it a second thought.

I have no explanation other than NOT thinking about pain allowed my mind to pick up the slack where my body stalled.  And I’ve experienced this phenomenon many more times throughout my lifting career…a PR deadlift with a sore back, a top 3 finish in log press with a torn pec, a record number of high rep squats while suffering from a virus that hijacked my lungs, the list goes on…

We all know that people are capable of seemingly impossible feats under conditions of extreme stress.

And it’s a power that’s innate within each of us.

Why we don’t invoke it more often?

Let it serve us?

We face challenges every day that are either going to get the better of us, or push us closer to our goals.  We live happier, more fulfilled lives based on all the little (or large) victories we accrue.  All it takes to summon mind power to your aid is a decision to get out of your own way.  You can focus on what’s stopping you, and the reasons you might not be successful – or throw away your excuses and move ahead forcefully.

It’s do… or die.

(Which, in a sense, is true.  You either get the improvement you want, or you don’t.  And you have to live with either result.  The stakes ARE high.  You’re just not always looking at it that way.)

Thinking is useful.  But not when ACTION is called for.  In these moments, too much thinking creates paralysis.  It destroys initiative.  When the time comes, put thinking aside.

Dive in.

It won’t always work out.

But more often than not, you’ll discover the strength was in you all along.

Happy Diving,

Conor Kelly

P.S. Know what else you shouldn’t think about?  Requesting your complimentary personal training consultation.  Do it now by calling (416) 826-4844.  Find out how my 16-week program gets you strong, lean, and healthy.