Waking the Warrior Within
Uh-oh. Shit. I’ve been here before. I didn’t notice it at first, but this is a familiar feeling—the feeling of crumbling, of losing resolve and starting to backslide. The feeling of exhaustion and wanting comfort again. The feeling of, “I’m not sure I’ll make it to the finish line”.
I’ve never had difficulty prepping for a first show, even with a ridiculous and insurmountable task in front of me: dropping 80lbs in 26 weeks, on 3 hours sleep a night, with a young child at home, and working 90 hour weeks—sure, I can knock that shit out.
But for whatever reason, maintaining between shows has always proven the most difficult thing. Something about “losing the excitement”.
To me, change is exciting. Change is what bodybuilding is all about—pushing harder, doing more, cutting out more, and continually doing something over and above what you did the previous day. But holding steady at that pace, sucks. It just holds no interest for me. It’s boring. It’s like going through the motions and watching paint dry. In a nutshell, it’s fucking boring!
And thus my enthusiasm wanes, along with my resolve. I’m more tempted to cheat, more tempted to blow off the occasional cardio session, more tempted to coast. This must be how most people feel, most of the time. Me, I do well when there’s something impossible in front of me. I take it as a challenge, as an opportunity to “prove what I’m made of”. But coasting—that shit is for the birds.
Yet here I stand, 3 more weeks until the 2014 NPC NY Metropolitan, and then 2 weeks until the 2014 NPC Emerald Cup, the two biggest shows of my amateur career to date. And I feel the flame is gone. There is no more insanity, no more drive to push me over the edge. The Warrior Within has laid down to take a nap, and he is very tired. He does not want to get up for the sheer sake of watching paint dry.
I could tell I was in trouble when I found myself getting needlessly “fancy” with meals. All of a sudden, plain egg whites drank out of the container were no longer good enough. No, now I had to blend them with ice, and zero-calorie maple syrup, and a shitload of cinnamon, and make a “treat”. The mentality that chases “treats” is NOT the same mentality that wins shows through suffering. A minor treat, even if calorie-free, tends to open the flood gates: it reminds us what TASTE is, and how delicious food can be when you allow it into your system. And I wanted more.
And then I found myself picking…. ever so slightly…. Just pick, pick, picking away… at a piece of my daughter’s bacon. Or telling myself, “You’re flat, you need more carbs”. Or any other such line of bullshit rationalizing. Anything to put an end to this misery. Twenty three weeks of hard dieting, plus the 12 weeks of pre-dieting prior to that, to speak nothing of the hundreds of hours of cardio in between. The body was shot long ago. Now, it’s purely mental. And the mind is going fast.
But that’s when we look deeper, beneath the surface, beneath what we think is our deepest layer, our upper limit of suffering and misery, and see if there’s something more, some gear we haven’t shifted into just yet, some insanity to tap and hold onto like a bucking bronco, as we fight, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, and watch the clock…. 14 days out… now 13… and 12….
It’s at that point in time that one needs to rediscover that worship of work, of pain, of challenge. Good enough is never good enough—we need to find how to get to better enough. We need to awaken the Warrior Within, who has laid down to slumber and digest his cheat meal.
So we rely on tricks—numbers written on hands, slogans, playlists, motivational videos. Gum chewing increases, and we do what we can to distract ourselves. We go back to the gym and try to find the energy, the drive, the power that put us in this position initially. We search the depths of our spirit, to see what we are truly made of.
I only have a few more days, but I don’t want them to be an accident. I don’t want to coast on autopilot and, at best, replicate the same package of a few weeks’ prior. It’s important to remind myself, this is time to improve, to see what else I am capable of accomplishing.
It’s time to kick that sleeping Warrior Within in his fucking ass, and yell, “Wake up! We ain’t done yet!”
-David A. Johnston