The Iron Game

People lie. We lie to ourselves sometimes, too. Well intentioned or malevolent, we are fallible. We have good days and we have bad days, but the perpetual ebb and flow of life can lead us astray, to believe or assume something that may or may not be true depending on how we are feeling. On any given day, something that otherwise wouldn’t have made you bat an eyelash offers a seemingly insurmountable task, and you wonder how it is that moving forward is even possible.

Such is life and the human experience.

If you spend enough time watching enough athletes battle with the iron, (that is, month after month, year after year, and in some cases, decade after decade), you can identify the ups and downs of their internal wars raging within. While we are all constantly in a state of flux, the iron provides us with objective reality. The amount of force needed to lift the same weight never changes, but our ability to rally our internal forces does. An unexpected hardship, a planned life-changing event, or simply the nature of being are all reasons we must always be striving to lift more.

The iron reminds us that you will never completely arrive – in the gym or in life. You will never be truly satisfied as long as there is more to be lifted, and there will always be more to lift than you have resources to allot. There will always be more things that need doing and more progress that needs making than we can ever have the time or energy to do, but we attempt to do it anyway. Day after day, month after month, and year after year we slowly chip away at incremental progress toward an ultimately unattainable goal. The more you lift, the more you have the ability to lift, and that’s what we’re after: the capability of lifting more.

We’re after the things the iron teaches us along the way. We’re after the incremental growth that makes what is difficult today, less difficult tomorrow. That we will spend much of our time fighting the battles of balancing work, family, friends, relationships, fitness and self, all while trying to find our most useful place in the world – our strongest self is the oldest battle known to man. We will spend nearly as much of our time failing and regrouping, trying to catch up to old personal bests, or redirecting our internal fire back in an outward direction. Less frequently, but most rewardingly, we will experience moments of flow, where all the right things come together at exactly the right time and place which re-stokes our desire to keep trying for more. Those are the days we seek, knowing full well that it’s back to work tomorrow.

The iron teaches us that difficulties are certain, but progress is optional. We are always moving toward lifting more, or lifting less. There is no middle ground. You can only lose the Iron Game if you stop playing, because the iron will always provide more than we can tend to. We can never stop because it is better to condition ourselves to the challenges of shouldering more instead shouldering less, or worse: to not try at all.

Let this serve as a friendly reminder that you will never fully arrive, and that should you somehow determine that you have, there is always a barbell loaded with iron that will let you know there is still work to be done.

Written by Hunter Wood