Some of you understand I have walked away from powerlifting in 2020 and am no longer competing. I no longer want to push the limits nor wrestle with the minutia. In my case, the writing was on the wall, and with my last squat of 1306 being the first squat over 1300 pounds, regardless of body weight, or class, there wasn't a better time to walk away. For me, it was just time.

When I first started lifting serious and pushing past the gym-rat/bodybuilder approach in 1999, I had goals to become as large and powerful as possible but never set out for a particular number. Instead, I was big into strength training and felt the shift in my senior year playing baseball. Baseball had ended for me, and it was time to fill the void. So, I set many short-term goals, accomplished them, then it was on to the next thing—without even thinking of walking away. I thought I would compete forever; this was my new baseball-like focus.

I didn't know it, but I was on a mission to do the best I could, and then when it was over, though I couldn't envision the end, I would just be done. I had no clue what this would look like or how it would end.

Writing this isn't very comfortable, but I never saw myself living past 40. Well, here I am at 41. And yet, there is so much more life to live; this is called "myopic focus." 

Do you have myopic focus? 

It was 100% my drug of choice: powerlifting and everything that came with it.

Sometimes you know. I knew when I wanted to quit my job in February 2010 and go out on my own, starting my own business. I knew shortly after starting my business and seeing how supportive she was with the process that I wanted to marry my wife, Ria, of 12 years. Some paths are apparent; others are not. Sometimes you go with it and figure it out along the way; other times, you know. No matter what, you must step out in faith. Such is life.

#102 Brian Carroll Talks Going All In, Hating to Train, and The Secret of Deadlifting?

Here's a question I would like to pose: What will be the last straw for you as your competitive life ends? 

It doesn't matter what sport or level—eventually, it ends. But if you're serious about your goals and want ultimate performance, you will push the limits, exceed them, and at some point, you won't want to do it anymore. Some of us are forced out financially, physically, or by our spouses. None of these are the case for me. In some ways, this is harder because it's my choice.

My objective is to give you my reasons for walking away. Even when things go right with the perfect training cycle, there are components to review, study, and fix. When you flop, it can feel like the lowest point on earth. Your highs are never relatively as high as your lows are low. Add in the supplements, and things can be even wilder and more difficult for everyone involved.

Hanging it up before the body forces one to retire or walk away applies to many sports. I've had this conversation with many athletes in the NFL, NBA, UFC, and lifters of all levels and abilities in powerlifting, strongman, highland games, etc. The sport may be different, but the minutia is exhausting in all of it. Even making it to game-day, fight-night, or competition/meet-day can be more of a battle than most realize. It's the hardest part for some. Add in making weight, showing up healthy with a complete training camp/cycle, and all those people you need in your corner for a successful showing can make for an overwhelming life, and that's before you compete.

The truth is the 'minutia' that encompasses (in my case) top-level equipped powerlifting; preparation details, for that matter, are exhausting, ever-evolving, and never-ending. The higher the stakes, pushing toward ultimate human limits, the more the seemingly small-moving pieces will determine how well you do; the more the details there are to go awry.

If you listened to my last Table Talk podcast that I did with Dave Tate Arnold weekend 2022, there are three significant reasons why I chose to walk away.

3 Reasons I Chose to Walk Away

1. I don't want to rob any more mental and physical health. 

I want to live a long life juxtaposed to "tomorrow doesn't matter," which I silently stood by for many years. I can see how utterly ridiculous this thinking is, and I'm frankly embarrassed. I'm fortunate that I'm not dealing with more injury, pain, and heath issues and setbacks. 

One that might surprise people is that my IGF-1 levels are that of an 80 years old man (~45-normal range is about 70-220). Luckily, this is something I can address, likely due to head pressure from years of equipped squats and benches; this only bolsters my point about health. I've also developed, at times, severe anxiety due to supplementation and stress from the 'minutia.' The more I learned about powerlifting, the more I KNEW could go wrong. And the more I knew, the more I realized I didn't know much. I'm fortunate that I don't have daily pain: My back is fine; it never bothers me or is a concern. 

I run down a slip and slide every year at our 4th of July party, now for eight years straight with no issues with my back or other. But I'd be a fool to think I can maintain this for many more years under the bar and expect to sustain day-to-day pain-free resilience.

2. Time away from business focus. 

So many people in powerlifting or the world, in general, need my help with back pain. It's become the lion's share of my entire business. My business (and work overall in the past) and everything else takes a backseat to my lifts. 

It's been this way for 20 years and will not change unless I MAKE the CHANGE. I'm not even getting into the economy and the unsteady state of our world. But you must focus on your future and financial security at some point. So again, now is the time for this. 

Further competing in powerlifting will not set me any better financially; it only takes away from every part of my life, and I no longer want this to be the case. It blows me away that I believe all of this I'm writing because years ago, this would have been a lie if I wrote this; I didn't care about my future. Financial or other. I was merely living in the now. I remember reading about Dave Tate having to choose around 2004-2005 to hang up powerlifting and focus solely on the elitefts business side. I'm here now.

3. Time away and distraction from my family.

I no longer need to be obsessed and focused on training as my number one priority. If I'm not competing, training isn't such a hard focus. The problem is, I competed often. From December 2007 to December 2008, I competed in EIGHT full meets. I have a family now, and I see how much those three- to five-hour squat and bench sessions rob you and yours of time to do everyday things. 

I have two baby girls, now two years old, who I want to spend as much time with as possible. I will never be able to get this time back with them, and I know I'd regret it far more than some powerlifting meet at a town carnival with hundreds of dollars in prize money which I'd have to spend thousands to win. The myopic focus makes me check out mentally, and I won't be a proper, present dad or husband. The key to this is I truly know it in my heart; I'm not regurgitating something someone outside my circle is telling me. I know this is the way.

When you try to accomplish all the things, sometimes you fail at everything and get crushed. I can deal with managing my health and even taking the time to train, but all of the ever-so-slight details that have to be considered and attended to have me utterly disinterested in pushing anymore. The details force me into a panic attack just thinking about them.

Here are some tips for those in the middle of their lifting career or those starting: 

  • Control what you can and prepare for anything.
  • Work on becoming financially stable before the obsession with competition takes over. 
  • Take your time, and don't be in a rush. Regrettably, I was always in a hurry and missed many details.
  • SLOW DOWN and enjoy it. I never thought about five years down the line. It was ONLY the next meet: the following significant number, the next up-and-coming freak of nature more hungry than me. 
  • Go all in, and know when to get out.
  • Enjoy the process, don't make the same mistakes I did.

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A competitive powerlifter since 1999, Brian Carroll is one of the most accomplished lifters in the history of the sport. Having lifted at the elite world-class level since 2005, Brian has well over a decade of world-class lifting experience. He has totaled more than ten times his body weight in three different classes, and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two different classes. In his career, he’s totaled 2500 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes. Most recently (10.3.20), Brian set the highest squat of all-time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 pounds at a bodyweight of 303 pounds.

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