Why I Didn’t Go to the 2018 Arnold

By Brian Carroll

I like the Arnold weekend and always have. This should come as no surprise being a meathead, right? With that said, I do not love the weekend. It has a lot of stressful memories, with very few of relaxation and peacefulness. Images of sucking down, blowing up and trying everything in my power to not to have a coronary during each of the six years I’ve been in contention for first place when the deadlift starts. My blood pressure and heart rate elevate as I think about each year’s final three pulls. 

As we well know, the expo is crazy and I don’t like crowds, but I don’t hate it. I love lifting at and enjoy going to the XPC, and have supported this meet since the first year I did it in 2012 (I’ve done it 6 times). I like Danny Dague and believe he runs good meets. But after last year, I had enough competing during the madness and I know that my wife Ria was tapped out even before I was. 

I’ve attended the Arnold Classic off and on since 2007 where I competed in the final WPO Finals (haha); and for the last seven years, I’ve attended every year. This weekend is an excellent opportunity to see many friends, competitors, and acquaintances that you only get to visit with about once a year. That part does suck bad until we dig a little deeper. 

As expressed, the weekend is and has always been super-duper stressful, primarily when you compete every-single-year. But, here’s the caveat: it’s immensely stressful on your significant other – maybe more stressful than it is on you. More than we will ever wholly realize, unless we could trade places for precisely the same amount of time under the same insurmountable pressure, conditions and position and what’s at stake could we ever have a real and accurate glimpse. And keep in mind having to put up with yourself! Yes, you know the way you act. God forbid you to have a lousy meet; there goes the neighborhood, for a few weeks! 

In my particular case: Having to fight an Ohio winter (out of our element since I live and train in Florida), finding places to eat without a 2 hour wait, traffic with bad roads; everywhere you go people are spilling out, fighting a line to get somewhere. You get the picture, I’m sure, and this is just the surface. This is probably not a stress-free relaxing vacation for most of us. 

Here’s some more background: Every few years I hit the proverbial ‘wall.’ Last year, after winning the XPC Arnold for the 3rd  time, I needed a break in a major way. I was not 100% for the 2017 XPC and was barely running on fumes. This was one of those giant walls, and precisely why I took 3 months off from all things training and lifting related entirely. I caught myself taking on too much, giving more than I could give and simply too afraid to say ‘no.’ I was fearful of letting people down, or disappointing them. But, it was too late. I was so burnt out from pushing, cutting, competing, training, writing/ finishing the second addition of 10/20/Life, starting Gift of Injury and striving for another 2700 total in my second weight class for the better part of all 2016 that something just had to give. Sometimes, I get pushed into the wall, other times I find the wall myself. “Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes.. well, the bar eats you.” [sic] 

When this happens, I have to stop, control-alt-delete for a bit and try to undo a lot of the messes I’ve made, to get back on the road. I always strive to get better in every way when this happens, and I certainly feel each time I find myself in this place, I come back more resilient. But, I’m certainly a work in progress. 

One of my ‘resets’ was a phone conversation with Dave Tate in 2012. (Take 10 minutes and watch this video above.) I hadn’t thought of this video in over five years, but recently I came across and watched it a few times. It made me laugh. How well did I do over the last six years? I’d give myself a C+. Some things I adhered to very well, but other things I failed and devolved. Over the last six years, I have gone through a lot (good and bad); I’ve changed in a few ways. Most of the ‘bad’ I’ve gone through is completely self-inflicted. But, I have to say a lot of this time has been beneficial as well as productive.    I have written four books, successfully rehabbed my back with the help of Dr McGill, documented the process via ‘Gift of Injury,’ started PowerRackStrength.com, and won the XPC Arnold 3 times. Some of the processes I have gone through I have thought (at the time) as being hell on earth, but when I look back, I realize that I learned so much. It was all worth it. 

Even before I watched this video again, I already knew I didn’t need to go to the Arnold and other than a few crazy ideas, I had zero intentions of going. I just didn’t need to go. Would it benefit my business, and would my PRS teammates appreciate me being there to help? I’m sure. But you know who would appreciate having me this weekend more? My wife. You know who I have to live with? My wife. You know who would have come if I pushed the issue? My wife. But, I’d rather make some deposits in my savings account of good grace, for when I’ll stand to benefit more. What some may not realize (but hopefully will in time) is your significant other, if she’s with you on your trips and cares about your performance (and has your back – some do not really care and this is another issue) is the one who goes out at 3 a.m. to get yet another scale at Wal-Mart because yours quit working during the final stage of your cut, has to watch you suffer while sucking yourself down 25lbs, runs to get you ice when you start overheating & dry-heaving; also is the FIRST to hear it from you when things go awry – while you are at your very worst. Only ‘they’ really see this part. Your significant other may not have as pleasant of memories as you have. Their perception might be entirely different so keep this in mind. 

So, in closing, a trip to the Arnold obviously wouldn’t be a vacation, so we decided to take our talents to North Carolina for a few days in the mountains in the early part of March. This mini-vaca was well planned out as a  deload  week for my training, and it went super-smooth and was just what we needed. 

Remember in lifting and life, it’s a matter of choosing battles and compromising – everything is a cost to benefit ratio. 

Consider going out of your way or being a little more open to not having things your way when they aren’t really necessary, and build some equity with your significant other. I have a feeling that this will come in handy sooner than later. Especially if you want their complete backing when it really counts.  

Pick up a copy of 10/20/Life and Gift of Injury and save with the bundle package.

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Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at PowerRackStrength.com
Brian Carroll is committed to helping people overcome back pain and optimizing lifts and movement. After years of suffering, he met back specialist Prof. McGill in 2013, which led to a life-changing transformation. In 2017, they co-authored the best-selling book "Gift of Injury." On October 3, 2020, Carroll made history in powerlifting by squatting 1306 lbs, becoming the first person to break this record. He retired with a secure legacy and a life free from back pain.
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