Written by: Kevin Cann
The culture of modern powerlifting has been bothering me quite a bit lately. It has become this sport where creating social media content trumps the more important pieces of the process. If powerlifting was like this when I started, I would not have participated in it.
Sports has been a lifeline for me for my entire life. The two years that I went without it I was arrested multiple times for violent crimes. 20 years of repressed emotions from physical and emotional abuse had nowhere to go anymore. Instead of focusing that energy on competition, it was focused on anyone that looked at me the wrong way.
I don’t lift for likes or followers. I lift because that energy needs to come out, but it needs to come out in a socially acceptable way. It doesn’t help that these lifters decide to tell every new gym member my criminal history as well as throwing it out into the comments of popular threads. I lift so that I don’t beat the shit out of them.
Lifting for me is not about my ego. Does my ego come into play? Of course it does, I am only human, but there are much deeper reasons for me to participate in sports. You don’t just move on from a lifetime of violence. It is wrapped in my DNA at this point. You learn to live with it by accepting it as a part of you and feeding it in an appropriate manner. This definitely leads to me being a workaholic, but it is better than being in jail.
In hindsight, exploring this as an educated adult has been instrumental in laying the foundation of my coaching philosophy. I am an expert at using sports as a positive means to navigate life. I have been doing it for 35 years. I can say with confidence that without sports I would not be here today. I struggle financially and mentally, but I am here keeping my head above water, and it certainly beats jail. Statistically speaking, I am an outlier for those of us that suffered chronic abuse and neglect as kids.
I want people to get the same out of sports that I have gotten. We all have issues to deal with. In fact, there is most likely a collective “sickness” that we all deal with at the same time. A baseline level of problems caused by current societal experiences. We all witness this every day.
People need an outlet, and 45 minutes per week of talk therapy is not enough. Would you only train your body for 45 minutes per week to get stronger? Art therapy has increased in popularity, why not using sports as an adult to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and to unlock a more holistic approach to athletics. This will increase your athletic potential as well.
If we want a person-centered approach, like all the internet talks about, how can you do that without working on the person? A program is written by a coach. Even if it is individualized for the athlete, it is still a coach-centered program, it is just marketed as for the individual.
Our unconscious mind shapes our human behavior. The displays of skill and strength is a human behavior. The unconscious mind is important for performance. Therefore, sports psychology has grown over the years and more athletes will say the mental training is more important than the physical. I believe both are equally important.
When we explore the unconscious, we unlock hidden fears as well as motivations and desires that influence performance. This awareness helps athletes to break down barriers that hold themselves back in both life and sport. This is why mindfulness makes up the center of the foundation of my coaching philosophy. Everything builds from this awareness.
Through self-reflection and visualization exercises athletes can explore their emotions, beliefs, and goals to increase their well-being as well as develop a deeper understanding of the training journey. Connecting training to what is important to them as a human creates wholeness and a more sustainable approach to a very ego driven and objective sport that most people quit the second they stop hitting PRs.
Jung calls the process of integrating the unconscious with the conscious “individuation.” This process leads to greater fulfillment in life and greater psychological well-being. He also encourages integration of the mind and body. What better way to accomplish that then getting them on the same page with a heavy barbell on your back? This also enhances present moment awareness. Anxiety is a mind disorder where the person is in the past or in the future. All of us can use a little more practice to be present. This is lost when we scroll on our phones between sets or post our videos as we go. Live on earth, not in the internet.
I want the lifters of PPS to use powerlifting to explore who they are as a person. This doesn’t mean that results don’t matter. You can’t explore hidden emotions unless you are fully committed to the process of training. That means training fucking hard and pushing yourself to the limits. These go hand in hand with each other.
This to me is coaching. Unfortunately, the internet has turned coaching into some person rating RPEs for you, which they shouldn’t do, but they do it even when they have never met you. It is truly mind blowing to me that this a thing. If you want to get more out of your training, and this resonates, PPS is for you.