Heart Stronger Than My Head

By Jonathan Byrd

Most of your life lessons will be learned in the hard times of life. The world won’t always be sunshine and roses, and honestly life can be pretty damn brutal. Powerlifting isn’t much different. It’s easy when you are healthy, your numbers are moving, and all things just seem to be flowing. The truth is, you will find out what type of person/lifter you are when things turn to shit. Where do you go when the newbie gains stop, or after your first major injury? Those things are a given, just like death and taxes.

How you handle injuries, training, prehab, and rehab are all parts of making you a successful lifter. It is not simply about doing those things, it’s about the quality of those things with a real plan. Are you skipping your rehab work? Do you neglect all parts of training due to injury? What are you doing to prevent future injuries? If you can’t answer those questions with a realistic plan, odds are you are on the wrong track.

Unfortunately, even the best plans fall apart, and injuries will happen if you stick around in this sport long enough. Hell, if you do this long enough, you will eventually have an injury that will require some extensive rehab. This is where the true test of your abilities and mental toughness will come into play. Anyone can perform when all things are right, but can you get it done when everything is wrong?

While I’m against pushing things in training when injured, I do feel on meet day you find a way to finish. I feel as though you should finish to the best of your abilities, and do so with pride. Your injury may require you to have much lower numbers, but always finish the meet if possible.

Going into my last meet I knew my squat was going to be behind, but I believed I could put together a decent squat to have a solid total. I have been battling some injuries as of late and it required some time away from heavy squats while placing focus on being healthy. After a successful weight cut, warm ups felt solid. The down time and rehab work had allowed my leg to be in less pain.

After a successful last warm up of 870 lbs, I was prepared to take the platform. I set my opener low so that I was safe, 940 something that I knew I could hit on a bad day. The set up was good, and weight moved great. I felt 1003 would be a safe number and could keep me competitive.

On the way up with the 1003 I got forward and my injured leg caved. Things took a turn for the worse as the side spotters were in bad position and I lost the bar near lockout. As I fought to stay under the bar I felt my hamstring tear.  The bar gave me a new haircut, some great bruises.

With some help from my teammates I was able to drag my busted body off the platform. As I sat in the back and gathered my thoughts, I decided I wasn’t going to let the meet end right there. I spent some time icing my leg, and found the motivation to finish. Now a smart man would just take a token bench and deadlift, but I felt if I could manage the pain I could hit at least one bench.

Bench warm ups felt great, not as fast as I would hope, and of course zero leg drive. I left my opener at 740, that way I could set myself up for the number I actually wanted. Set up was ok, leg drive didn’t happen, but it was a smooth and easy rep.

I knew I didn’t have enough for 3 attempts so I took a shot at 804 on the second. Same as before, decent set up, zero leg drive, but I just didn’t have enough to finish the rep. This was where the leg drive came in to play, and I missed at the top. I sadly attempted 804 again on the 3rd but there was no leg drive, and the set up was like being stabbed in the leg.

At this point the pain was pretty high, and I was prepared to take my token deadlift. It would have been simple to shut it down after the injury, but honestly that just isn’t me. I like to believe that if I hit that 804 I would have attempted to deadlift, but realistically I am not sure. Part of me was unsure if I could even get to the bar to take the token deadlift. I was able to get down and pull it with about the same about of pain as walking around.

So at the end of the day the question is, where do you go from here? Well, you get your ass up and practice what you preach. I plan on do my best to get healthy, and am going to reach out to others who know more in this area to help me get there. I have lost count the number of meets I have done over the 19 years I have been competing. I have successfully squatted 1,000 lbs, or more 10 times over 3 different weight classes and 4 different federations. I have totaled 2500 lbs at 275 lbs, and have lifted against some of the best in the world head to head. So what else is there to prove? Honestly, not a thing, but that fire is still there. The drive to compete still burns, and that in itself makes it hard to walk away.

What will the outcome of the multiple injuries? I’m not sure, but this much I know, this isn’t over!

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Jonathan Byrd

Jonathan Byrd is a competitive powerlifter, with over 16 years of training experience. Byrd has been ranked nationally for the past 6 years under multiple categories. His total has ranked as high as second nationally in the 275 class. He currently has a best total of 2500lbs. Best individual lifts include a 1040lb squat, a 750lb bench press, and 735lb deadlift. His 1040lb squat ranks him 26th all-time squats at the 308 class. Jonathan currently trains out of Team Samson Gym in Jacksonville, FL. Before powerlifting Jonathan was a college athlete at Methodist University as both an all-conference football player and track athlete. Following graduation he played four years of arena football in various leagues.
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