With 24/7 news channels, emails, text messages and social media posts, the onslaught of every kind of information available comes at us faster than in any other time in the history of mankind. Add to that the expectations of your employers or instructors, society, your friends, your family and yourself and you have the typical “noise” that surrounds us in our daily lives. We often refer to this as “real life," meaning the life we live in order to have and live the life we want. As much as we would love it to be reality, powerlifting, our true love, doesn't pay the bills. To the contrary, our love for powerlifting has a financial reality, as it takes money for gym fees, lifting gear, supplements, e-books, equipment, chalk, ammonia, meet entry fees and meet travel expenses. Truth be told, our 9 to 5 real life pays for our expenses (house, cars, utilities, food) as well as our love of powerlifting.

Screenshot 2016-01-21 10.40.40In powerlifting, the reward is hardly ever a financial reward. The reward is in the accomplishment of the given goal. Photo courtesy of Monster Garage Gym.

So in order to perform in our real life, depending on our real life occupation, we must be cognizant of the noise that exists as emails, text messages, expectations, societal news and world news—all the aspects that help us produce and navigate successfully in our real life.

Because of the pace of the real world, we can become numb to the noise somewhat, and we can find ourselves going through the motions. You hear it around the water cooler, break room and coffee pot: “I'm so tired. I don’t even remember driving to work.” People get up before the sun, bang their coffee(s) in the car, get to work and check their emails. It all becomes routine. It becomes rote. It becomes automatic.

Screenshot 2016-01-21 10.40.26Morning coffee. Photo courtesy of Monster Garage Gym.

In the world of 24/7 news channels, emails, text messages and social media posts and the constant onslaught of every kind of information available, we need to make sure that our time, our precious time in the gym, our precious time under the bar, our precious time striving toward our powerlifting goals and aspirations, doesn't also become routine, rote and automatic. We need to make sure that it doesn't become just sets and reps. That time in the gym, your temple, your fortress of solitude, is your time, and you need to protect it from invaders who want to cheapen your experience there.

The invaders are ever present. If you're at a commercial gym, you need to protect yourself from the big screens mounted all around you, hung on display for the cattle who gaze at this liquid-crystal, microscopic pixel demigod that exists to take their attention away from the body, the physical task at hand, and keep them locked in the Matrix. You need to protect yourself from invaders like the ironically named “smart” device that you carry around and look at in between sets. You need to protect yourself from the seemingly never ending, mindless posts from those who preach the faults of others while their own lives are in ironic total disarray as they try to take your attention away from the ever so important mind-muscle connection.

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Our time in the gym should never be diminished or turned into merely sets and reps to pass the time in between time on the smart phone. That wasted time on the device, filled with cat videos and Willy Wonka memes, proves to be so unworthy of our precious time outside of the “real world.”

The pace of the distractions of the real world conditions us to continue that pattern of letting in the noise in our world, the gym world, the powerlifting world. One gets so conditioned to check the emails and keep up on the latest happenings of the outside world that he can forget the here and now.

To achieve meaningful success in the sport, one’s time training in the weight room requires mindfulness (the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something) or, said another way, "being in the moment.” The most successful powerlifters have this in common. They know how to be in the moment when it comes to their training. They are keenly aware of what got them here, what they're doing in the here and now and where they're striving to go. All these things are crucial for successful training and, ultimately, a successful competition based on the prowess of the training cycle.

Screenshot 2016-01-21 10.41.24Mindfulness. Photo courtesy of Bent Nail Photography and Monster Garage Gym.

This isn't some new concept. It isn't the latest training method developed by Dr. So and So to sell his latest training manual and super innovative programming methods. No. Mindfulness, being in the moment, isn't anything new, nor is it ‘old school” unless you consider the sixth century BC “old school.” All of this is based in Buddhist meditation, specifically Shamatha and Vipashyana practices. Simply put, Shamatha is a practice that calms the mind and helps develop concentration. (You see this with the best lifters, that moment of calm when their eyes are closed and they see the successful lift in their mind's eye. Then their eyes open, and you can see it in their face, that look of absolute confidence and ravenousness as they approach the bar.)

Vipashyana builds on the Shamatha and helps build an awareness of the transient or impermanence of our experience (you see this in great lifters when they become aware of the gravity of the situation). I recently watched Monster Garage Gym’s Crystal Tate set the all-time squat, deadlift and total record for her weight class. In other words, in the history of all 198-pound raw women, no other woman in the history of the sport at that weight class has squatted more than she did on that day (a 573-pound raw squat and a 573-pound raw deadlift). I watched her from a distance as she sat alone, truly taking in the moment. She was keenly aware of the impermanence of the situation because records are made to be broken and our sport is a body violent sport to say the least.

Screenshot 2016-01-21 10.41.49Being in the moment. Monster Garage Gym’s Crystal Tate, all-time 198-pound raw squat and deadlift record holder. Photo courtesy of Monster Garage Gym.

Clearly not every training session in the gym will be full of those moments like Crystal’s, but being in the moment for that set and those reps is a critical key for the successful powerlifter. Having said that, being mindful takes work and effort. Just like working on your squat technique over and over and over again, these mental states also require a tremendous amount of practice. Practice them. Practice them daily and continuously until they are as second nature as tightening your weight belt or putting chalk on your hands.

Real life will try to penetrate, permeate and infiltrate your training, but by asserting your will via mindfulness and by practicing and learning to be in the moment, your training time will be your time training.

Ever onward and carpe diem!