When Training is More Than Just Training by Joel Slate

As I’m sitting here writing this, life is feeling pretty heavy. First of all, we were recently blessed with the birth of our fifth child, John Michael, who, like his mother, is incredibly healthy and well after the birth. We rejoice about this incredible event!

On the flip side, my parents, who are getting up there in years, flew down to visit and help with the new baby. They arrived from Oregon a week or so before the baby came. On the second night that they were here, my mother tripped and fell and managed to both dislocate and break her shoulder. A couple of days later, my father became ill and I took him to the ER at 3 am for difficulty breathing and severe back pain. He’s still in the hospital. He was admitted, then transferred to a rehab facility, and is back in the hospital. Right now, his vitals are stable, but he is having a lot of issues with infection and the impact on his internal organs. He just wants so badly to get well enough to come home and see the grandkids. I pray that he’ll be able to, but I don’t know if that will happen. A few weeks before all of this, our oldest son broke his arm at gymnastics practice.

Given all of these factors, it would be easy to pull back and crawl into a hole and just ask “why me?” After all, these are all things that are supposed to happen to someone else, aren’t they? NO..!!

In a way, I’m glad they happened to us. Don’t get me wrong, I really wish my dad wasn’t sick and nobody had broken any bones. That would have been much easier. The thing is, though, we weren’t put on this life for everything to be easy. I want to use this situation to glorify God and give encouragement to others who are facing challenges in their lives.


Why I train

How does training fit into this? Training is a huge part of what keeps me grounded and focused in life. Don’t misunderstand me, nothing is more important than my relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and my wife and family. Beyond those two things, most things are pretty minor, but the biggest one for me right now is my training, and for a bunch of reasons.

First, staying on track with my program keeps me focused. Right now, I’m working towards an upcoming meet in mid-January. By staying on track and grinding on, I’m looking at the long road, not getting lost in the issues of the day, and not letting them overwhelm me. I’m staying focused on my long-term goals, and to achieve those goals, I’ve got to keep training. For at least a couple of hours, I can clear my head.

Second, training hard keeps me physically healthy, ensures that I take time to eat properly, get sufficient sleep, and get quality recovery. This is so important to fight the physical and emotional toll that a stressful situation can take. It’s so easy, during tough times, to take the easy route and eat from drive-thrus, live on coffee and soda pop, and be so stressed that you can’t fall asleep. Instead, eating as much high-quality food as possible (though I’ll admit we’ve hit Popeye’s a few times) and staying properly hydrated fights the effects of stress. Getting up at 4:15 am and training hard ensures that you are so tired that it’s no trouble falling asleep by 9:30-10: 00 pm. Fish oil and ZMA help improve the quality of the sleep that I am able to get.

Third, training through all of this has really shown me the value of being flexible with your training. Coach Jacky Bigger writes awesome programs for me. She recognizes the issues that I currently need to work on and balances those with making progress towards my long-term goals. However, some days, life situations get in the way and prevent me from following the programming exactly as written. I might only be able to do a portion of the scheduled movements or have to split it up into multiple sessions, or I might only be able to do powers instead of the full movements. Perhaps, I just flat out miss doing squats for a week. What I’ve found is that none of that matters in the big picture. If I miss my clean deadlifts one day because I don’t have time, or I don’t go as heavy on my front squats because I just don’t have the energy today, neither will derail the progress that we’re making towards the end goals. What I don’t do is make a habit of missing things. I try to avoid it if possible, but if I do miss something, I just move on and I don’t spend any time worrying about it.

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Fourth, and most importantly, training is keeping me motivated to inspire others. I’m seeing progress in my strength, speed, and technique. Sometimes the progress is small, maybe 1 or 2 kg on a lift, or one more second holding a position, but it is still progress. I hope other people, whether its friends and associates in the community, or individuals who follow me on Facebook or Instagram see me working hard, staying focused, and making progress, despite current events, and tell themselves that they can do it too. Maybe even someone will ask how I do it, and I can share my faith with them.

The 23rd Psalm tells us that the Lord prepares us a table in front of our enemies, even while we’re walking through the darkest valleys. He’s done that for me too. Even when life seems rough and things are overwhelming, he hasn’t forgotten me or my family. He’s provided us opportunities to thrive in the midst, and one of the most important has been my training. I hope you can see that He’s doing this for you too.

Reach out to me on Facebook or Instagram if you want to visit about this or anything else.

Joel Slate

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