This past weekend I had the privilege of participating in an amazing training camp presented by EaDo Elite. And while the expert presenters in every aspect (like Jonathan Horton, Bardia Sheminari, Tim Swords, and the list goes on) were incredible and I had no fewer than two light-bulb moments in each of their presentations, what struck me was just how amazing it was to train and learn with other freak-of-nature great athletes.
Athletes from different boxes, training programs, teams, origins, strengths and weaknesses were all sharing tips and tricks that had helped foster their successes. They were encouraging one another to make training choices that would build their competitors up and give them an edge. While super cool to have this kind of camaraderie at the camp, unfortunately the same desire to see those around you succeed is not as common as it should be for athletes at the top level and approaching the top level.
Think about any of your travels in which you made time for fitness, how many times have you walked into a gym and been sized up, only to have the temperature of the welcome be gauged by your presupposed level of fitness by the top athletes in that gym? Think about how that warmth has changed as you’ve gone from novice to pretty darn good. As a newer athlete who is not jacked and tan, we find that almost everyone in the gym is kind and welcoming, happy to share their knowledge and experience. When we walk in with abs on abs and a tricep with a tricep of its own, in many places that welcome dries up to be replaced with protectiveness on the part of the host athletes. Of course there are still plenty of gyms that are welcoming to all, and it is our responsibility as athletes to approach every situation with humility and a desire to learn, but the phenomenon remains real in many places, perhaps even in our own gym.
It’s a common scenario for the big fish in the small (or even large) pond to be threatened by the small fish that grew bigger. The fear being that the smaller fish may somehow become the big fish, displacing the big fish in the hierarchy. And while we see new athletes, or athletes who have discovered their missing piece overtake veterans in our sport and in others, in reality it is no cause for this type of paranoia or concern. In fact, the opposite is true.
The four-minute-mile was a myth until in 1954 Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3:59.4. Before that date, many deemed it impossible; it just couldn’t be done…until Roger did it. Today the 4 minute mile is a standard that top levels runners are expected to be able to hit and the record is 17 seconds faster than it was back then. Think about our own sport, just a few years ago 205 was a decent snatch in the men’s division, now I know of more than 10 women who can hit that any day of the week. The truth is that the impossible is only impossible until someone makes it possible. For athletes on the top of their sport their task is daunting, to remain in the game they have to chart uncharted territory. They have to keep making the impossible possible, which takes a whole heck of a lot more mental energy and self-belief than those on their heels who just have to look at what’s been done and therefore believe that it can be done.
So if the smaller fish can grow because they see the big fish’s size, then if the big fish helps the little fish grow they themselves can benefit from the same process. One of those up and comers can do something that perhaps wasn’t possible for the elite, but once someone does it, and can share how it was done, then we can all grow.
This weekend was so invigorating, uplifting, and a little exhausting, but such a welcoming environment where we were able to make connections with people who have proven our impossible. Big, strong women who have proven that you can still be “gymnasty” even though you aren’t super light. Small, lighter men who have proven you can still move weights with the giants despite their size. Strong people who have proven that muscled frames can move fast. Athletes who once were amateurs who have proven that old dogs can learn and master new tricks, despite their slow beginnings.
So let us each be the stepping stone for those on our heels, let us lift up those who want to catch us, because through one another’s successes we all grow. “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Isaac Netwon. Thank you to all the giants who have let me stand on their shoulders.