Picture a scene out of a horror story. The protagonist is walking, lost in the desert sun's scorching heat. He walks with the soles of his shoes on fire as he continues through the blowing and stinging sand of the seemingly endless desert. 

At one point, he turns around to look at where he came from, and far off in the distance, he sees it: a figure shrouded and cloaked all in black, distorted by the waves of heat, leaping off the hot-to-the-touch desert sand. The figure is far off in the distance, and although it stands still and motionless, it is clear to the protagonist that the tall, powerful, and ominous figure is pursuing him. 

The day turns to night and then back into the morning. Our protagonist, weary, dehydrated, and growing steadily weaker, continues his ever more difficult trek through the desert in desperate hopes of an oasis. As the day slowly unfurls, our protagonist has a feeling. It is an unsettling feeling that causes him to pause, then stop. 

RECENT: Observation is a Master Teacher

He shuts his eyes and slowly turns around to address his feelings, all the while afraid of what he might see. He slowly and with trepidation, opens his eyes and looks behind him at his footsteps in the sand. Standing in a pair of his footprints in the distance, once again, is that figure. It stands, as it did yesterday, tall, powerful, ominous, and without doubt, in pursuit. But unlike yesterday, the figure today is much, much closer. 

As Each Day Passes…

The protagonist turns back to look at where he had been. Each day, the figure in black is there, relentlessly following, and it is undeniably closer each day. 

As the final day approaches, the protagonist reaches the summit of the largest of the desert’s dunes. As he looks over the precipice, he realizes that hundreds of miles of barren desert wasteland lie ahead. At that moment, he falls to his knees, dehydrated, emaciated, and now broken of both the spirit and will to continue. He can walk no further.

With his last remnants of energy, the protagonist looks behind him one last time. He looks up from his kneeling position in the blowing sand and squints to block out the blazing sun, only to see that ominous figure he now recognizes standing directly over him. The figure who he suspected all along is as he feared. The figure, Azrael, is the angel of death. 

The story ends with Azrael finishing his purpose with our protagonist, only to turn a different direction in his slow but relentless pursuit of his next soul.

A Story Told Many Times Before

In that story, as in so many others like it, Azrael exists as a metaphor, allegory, and representation for many things in life. Azrael can represent, for example, innocence lost, the loss of a dream, or an opportunity in life that was frivolously squandered. 

For strength athletes preparing for a meet, Azrael represents the ever-dwindling amount of time one has to train for their competition. Where Azrael represents the taking of souls in some stories, he also metaphorically represents the taking or passing of time. 

Time is unique as it can be both endless and very much finite, but that all depends on how you measure it. For you as the competitive powerlifter or strength athlete, time is not only finite but fleeting.

I share this story of Azrael following a conversation between two newer powerlifters at my gym. Their meet is some sixteen weeks out, or in their words, “four long months away.” I watched them “train” for the meet in a lackadaisical manner. I asked them about the meet and if they felt a level of urgency to perform.

They said, “Eric, the meet is like four months out. That’s a ton of time to train.” I sat, I listened, and I heard them out. I asked them, “Tell me about your training program.” They said they followed a standard powerlifting template and shared their sets, reps, RPE, etc. 

The ingredient lacking from the otherwise solid intermediate training template was often overlooked: urgency

A training program needs a sense of urgency to be an effective plan. 

There must be an understanding that each rep builds the set, and each set builds that day's training, and each day of (good) training compounds as the days and weeks go by. Eventually, months crescendo into one’s competition peak of strength and power. 

Time is Fleeting

But for those whose meet experience can still be counted merely in single digits, urgency is often misunderstood. It’s misunderstood because there is a significant difference between working out and training with an urgency for an upcoming meet. 

To the non-competitive world of nine to fivers, the reality of time is that there are twenty-four hours in the day, seven days in a week, and so on. But for those residing in the powerlifting world of meet training, that is not the correct method to measure the passing of time. 

Time is of the essence, and in meet prep, every single rep is critical. Show me someone who does not think every single rep when training for a meet is important, and I will show you someone who has never won a competition of significance. Chances are, that same person never attempted to become the strong(est) version of their potential self. 

I have been around the powerlifting block for three decades and in weight rooms for four decades. So, with decades of experience and perspective, I can tell you that the most common trait of successful lifters is their focus on every rep, set, and part of their training session. Staying engaged for the entire duration of the meet preparation is critical. Without locking things down and training with purpose and urgency, the strongest and most powerful version of yourself never comes to fruition. 

Eat, sleep, train hard, repeat is now: do a set, scroll on your phone, set up the tripod, film, edit, post, scroll more, text, repeat. This is commonplace, pervasive, and perhaps the absolute best recipe for stagnation. However, those who break that cycle and do a set, write it in their journal, take a sip from their water jug, spot their training partner, and then hit another set are destined for success. These lifters are cooking with a time-proven recipe for improvement because there is focus, purpose, urgency, and consistency. 

Urgency Breeds Success

Successful powerlifters with a lot of experience understand that meet time is transitory; a lifter needs to feel and live an urgency, or they will never put the correct amount of healthy pressure on themselves while training in the gym. 

Those who put that healthy amount of stress and urgency in their training do so because they understand that the metaphorical Azrael IS coming. The day Azrail arrives means the next day IS meet day. Most who train without urgency learn two things when meet day arrives. 

  1. They learn regret since they lacked urgency in their training and squandered away that fleeting time to prepare for the meet. 
  2. They learn that someone in their weight class trained with urgency, and victory was theirs for their taking at the end of the day. And they took it.   

Meet prep time is about being all in with one’s training, nutrition, sleep, and recovery while focusing on their journey, mission, vision, and goals.

Meet day IS Azrael, and the final training day IS coming for every lifter, much faster than they could ever imagine.

Are You Ready?

Use those heaviest squat, bench press, and deadlift sessions wisely for those new to the world of competition. Don’t forget your ancillary exercises, as they are the mortar for your powerlifting bricks and the rivets for your powerlifting steel girders. But all of these movements are finite because before you know it, it is meet day. Will you be ready? Regardless of your answer, know this, someone competing against you will be. 

While the majority who enter meets scroll and post while at their gym, a few soak up every precious moment and stay connected to their training. The end of the training cycle will come for both lifters, but at the end of the meet, one will rejoice reflecting on their hard work, and the other will regret and post excuses. 

Use your fleeting meet prep time wisely, as Azrael, the killer of training time, will be coming for you... Make sure that when he arrives, you have already taken advantage of every training day, set, and rep that comes your way. Above all else, stay connected and in the moment. 

This way, when he comes as a representation of the end of your training days for the meet, you will have already burned away every part of them through your relentless pursuit, and with the sense of urgency you applied to that finite period of time. 

Pursuing the strongest and most powerful version of yourself must include urgency. 

Wishing you the best in your training and meet prep.

Header image credit: Meana Albersworth

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Eric Maroscher is the owner of the Monster Garage Gym. Cofounded by Phil Daniels, NFL Defensive End, Monster Garage Gym is a premier powerlifting gym in the United States. Eric is the leader of the Maroscher Powerlifting Team, a two-time WPC World Powerlifting Champion, two-time APF National Powerlifting Champion, WPC North American Powerlifting Champion, and a multi-time APF Illinois State Champion.

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