It’s Okay To Cry
by Jim Steel | September 19, 2023
It’s okay to cry when you miss a lift or even have a shitty
workout. I’m telling you, it’s okay. There are only a few
occasions when it is okay to cry: When you lose a championship
football game, when your dog dies, any movie where the dog dies (not
the cat), or when you miss a lift or have a shitty training session.
The other day, Max, my
11-year-old, was deadlifting and he missed his maximum lift 3 times.
He had a few form issues, and we corrected it for his next session,
but it was pretty apocalyptic to him when he missed. I mean, the
freaking world was ending for him – the sky was caving in. So he
started to cry with frustration. I usually freak out when he cries
about anything because, damn son, you are 11 years old now, and
that’s old enough not to cry when you hit a pop-up. So he hasn’t
cried in a long time. But when he cried after the missed lifts, I was
like, “It’s fine, man, I get it. It’s okay to cry when you miss
I mean, he wasn’t
sobbing or anything, but he had some tears in his eyes and was mad
and disappointed. I told him that I totally understood his tears.
When something means everything to you, and you bust your ass to
accomplish something and you just can’t figure out what the problem
is, and you want to be a deadlift monster, and you think and talk
about the deadlift all the time, and you miss? Bring on the
waterworks, no problem. It’s a missed lift, man. It’s a big deal.
I can relate because it
has happened to me, a big crybaby. I can’t watch Dog’s
Purpose, and I can’t have a missed rep, a shitty training
session, or miss a max. When I was first trying to squat 800 pounds,
I tried it on a whim and missed the damn thing. (My stomach just
turned when I wrote that last sentence. But I’m holding it in.) I
was coaching football at Charleston Southern University, and it was
on a weekend, and I was making 17,000 dollars a year, and all I had
was that 800-pound goal and I freaking missed.
I was so heartbroken
that I welled up, first because of my stupidity in trying the 800 on
a whim instead of sticking with my program, and second because it was
800 and I missed it. I then went into the slums of Charleston and
went to every damn bar and drank for hours. It was like 11 am in the
morning and the only people were some hardcore old dudes, and I was
sitting in the bars all sweaty and caked in chalk. I was over 300
pounds at the time at 5’9″. I remember the stares from everybody,
wondering who the hell is this behemoth among us drinking as fast as
he can? I think I ended up mid-afternoon, the only patron at a strip
joint run by the Hell’s Angels, but the memory is fuzzy.
Another time when I was
squatting, I got to the gym and everything felt shitty. Freaking 135
felt like 500 and coming out of the bottom everything was moving so
damn slowly. I was going over in my head all the questions: Did I eat
enough, sleep enough? Everything was fine in my preparation. It was
just one of those damn days. I think that it was a medium heavy day
for me, and it felt horrible. I finished my last two sets of squats
and I had to goodmorning it up and scream and yell just to finish,
and man, I called myself a pussy out loud in order to finish that
And so I’m done with
the workout and I get to my truck and I’m thinking, what is wrong
with me? I’m never gonna be really strong with a day like that!
Kirk Karwoski can do 8 reps with your max, bitch! I was beating
myself up pretty bad and when I pulled up to the house I may have
teared up some, and my ex-wife came to meet me at the door. I had my
head down walking up to the house and when I looked up, she could see
my eyes were all red and she asked, “What’s wrong?” She thought
somebody had died or that there was some really bad news.
I said, “I had a bad
squat workout.” She looked at me like I had three heads. I know she
was thinking, “That’s it? He had a stupid bad squat workout and
he’s that upset?” But she couldn’t have said that. I would have
lost my shit. I woulda been like, “Yes! A bad squat workout, it
means a lot to me!” And I would have yelled it and she would
have been all scared because I yell really loud. So she said, “Oh,
I’m so sorry,” And probably rolled her eyes as soon as she turned
I know it sounds crazy
to those who aren’t totally immersed in something – something
that at the time feels like the most important thing in the world. If
I was outside looking in, maybe I should be able to see how it seems
crazy as hell to be so concerned about hitting strength numbers. But
I can’t ever see how crazy it is at all. Wanting to be strong is
crazy just because it’s not normal for most people.
What is it about the
quest for strength that calls to certain people? There are men out
there who could give a damn about being strong. I do understand that,
because I think you were born with this crazy gene that makes you
think, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to be strong?” Like it is a
totally foreign concept to those that have that special gene of not
wanting to be strong. I will admit that I sorta look down on those
that don’t have the gene. I know it’s a bad thing to do.
I have been in a
college class and a professor with a ponytail and the gray beard with
glasses all uppity towards athletes would say a smart remark to me or
my friends about lifting weights being useless, and I couldn’t talk
back to him because he could make me ineligible for football by
giving me a bad grade. So silently I would say to myself, “I could
kick your ass, and also, you will never, ever be as strong as me.”
I took comfort in that.
I still get pissed off
and frustrated when I think about missing a weight or having a bad
training session. I mean, I’m not going to cry about it, but if I
did, it would be okay.
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