Answering the Bell by Travis Elliott

Below is probably the best article that I have ever posted from one of my Mash Mafia Weightlifters. Get ready to get the “chills”!

Answering the Bell

by Travis Elliott


You are in the corner feeling the weight of every breath. Your chest rises and falls like a giant balloon inflating and deflating. Inside you are frantically pulling in the necessary oxygen to feed your body. Although you sit on a stool your legs are shaking, throbbing, and unbelievably heavy. “I have to stand on these things?” you ask yourself. You are fighting every instinct your body has for survival, telling you to run, to preserve yourself and avoid harm. The adrenal dump has begun. Your body is fatiguing. Your training seems like a hysteria of fading memories. Then the call comes; “Five seconds out gentleman, empty the corners.” 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…and the next round begins.

I began weightlifting three months ago. I am in every aspect a beginner, novice, rookie, and a boot all in one. Prior to joining the Mash Mafia I had a simple background of the “jumping jack power cleans” from high school football training camps and a short run as a Crossfitter. I knew the lifts, had attempted them, but had never trained as a weightlifter; that all changed ninety six days ago. Before embarking on the journey of a weightlifter I have a mixed career of athletics. I have always been involved in something from an early age and for this I am thankful. From peewee football and basketball, to junior high wrestling, high school football, track and field, all the way through college as an amateur fighter. Each sport has given me one tool to add to the next, but I learned the most from fighting. Endless training hours to perfect the skill, strength training to execute the achieved abilities, and a relentless assessment and evaluation of weaknesses are only a few things of the many that fighters and weightlifters know alike. Both sports require discipline, dedication, grit, and heart; the last two in abundance.

Answering the bell is what fighters call it. On the surface it really is as simple as standing up and stepping forward. Those two steps can be the hardest of your life. Under the surface there are a hundred thousand Persian warriors storming against your solemn three hundred Spartans. Three days past I competed in my very first weightlifting competition. Three days ago I found myself in a situation that I have not been in for a long time. I had to answer the bell.

People get into weightlifting for various reasons: health & fitness, general interest, or Olympic hopefuls, but if you talk to anyone who has been in the sport for long, they will all say the same thing. You must compete. There are so many amazing things that happen in the weightlifting community that I will not even hope to touch on them in this short writing, but the greatest thing that happens at a competition is the very moment your name is called for your first attempt; your opening snatch, you must answer the bell.

It can all happen so fast, before you know it the time has come. Your singlet fits awkwardly, your shoes had to be retied three times, and they still do not feel right. Your hands are shaking, “damn”, you think, “was c4 a good idea”, but none of that truly matters in this moment. Everything you have prepared for goes flying right out the window, because now the moment is yours. No one is noticing anything else, except you. Your breathing becomes shallower, your hands shake more and more, even the sun is against you as it come roaring through the clouds to burn into your sight line. This is the end all of experiences, and the truth is, for this second, for this breath, it is beautiful. Welcome to Zen, no past or future, only the present, only this moment exists. Chalk your hands, steady your heart, breathe deeply, plant your feet, and live the moment. It’s time to answer the bell.


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