Here is my life story. And I am choked up and my eyes are clouded with tears, because I have to admit what I have known all along.
When I train I listen to Vanilla Ice. I bounce around to Britney Spears and Michael Jackson. I stretch to Ton Loc. I love the pop of this music, even though I know it is not some incredible lyrical genius at work. It makes me smile. It matches my spunky personality. It puts a smile on my face when I am secretly worried if I will be able to get through my triples in the snatch. I like to think I come in to the gym every day, and whether I am motivated to train or not, I attack each rep as if it is my last. I strive to perfect my movement, I dream of lifting big weights. I tell myself everyday, ‘Please Aimee, want it just a bit more’. But the truth is, I haven’t known how to find that want. That deep down desire to be the most awesome I could be. Going to the Olympics would be awesome, but I have never really wanted it. I love it when I am training well and hitting big weights consistently. I love it when I am not hurting, and I can snatch 90 or more on a weekly basis. I love it when all my lifts feel the same from 40kg to 90kg, and the bar is singing to me. I love being committed to my barbell. So why wouldn’t I want it more? Because it is not my dream. Because I am conflicted. I have one foot on the platform, and one foot in LaLa Land; searching for a place to just be.
When I met Coach Burgener nearly 17 years ago, I finally felt at home. I felt like I belonged and I felt like someone finally cared if I succeeded in something. I was finally getting attention as an athlete. He and his family became my family, and I wanted to be a part of that. It felt incredible to be a part of something. I think all along I have felt that if I stopped lifting I would lose them. I liked being told ‘you’re a natural’, ‘you can be amazing’. Anyone who knows me knows that I was raised by wolves, and this love was something new. When I quit lifting for 5 years in 2000, I didn’t have my day-to-day contact with the Burgeners, and I missed them every single day. I started lifting again at the end of 2005, but I have always struggled with motivation. Was it because I went back to the gym so I could be a part of a family again and not because I wanted to succeed as a weightlifter? I wanted Coach B to be proud of me. But maybe I have been lifting for all the wrong reasons. I have been lifting because I have put an obligation on myself to do so. Because I am a decent lifter, because I am a ‘natural’, and I know I can be better, I have just kept convincing myself: like chugga-chugga come on Aimee, you can do this, you want to compete, you want to be the best, you want it you want it you want it you want it. When all along, I am also saying ‘no, I don’t’.
I do have goals in the sport. I want to snatch 95, then 100. I want to clean & jerk 120. I really want these things. However, I don’t have the want to compete [anymore] (more on that later). The competition is not important to me [anymore]. The stress, and anxiety, and pressure, and the misses, and all the stuff that comes along with competing, I do not love that. It makes me just as happy, makes me feel just as accomplished, to do these numbers in my gym than in competition. Being an elite athlete is something to love and something to hate.
Coming back to competing, I have had some amazing coaches help me. Coach Mike Burgener has been my long time sport and father figure. He taught me to love. Matt Foreman helped me come back from injury and a long break to build a solid foundation that put me on the right path to be amazing. Bob Morris, my current coach, has been through one hell of a roller coaster with me and has taught me some invaluable lessons. He really has helped me become a strong confident lifter, and I have jumped some amazing mental hurdles with his help. My last cycle before Nationals 2011, I had something like 63 various PRs. I went in to Nationals, literally, in the best shape of my life, ready to hit some huge lifts. BUT, it should be mentioned that I was training on an unpredictable hurt knee that would feel like it was ripping off during one clean, and be totally fine the next.
Let’s take a couple steps back so you can understand my competition history the past 2 years. This shit is really whack.
Nationals 2009 with Matt In great shape, really excited for my first competition back. But had been feeling really sick; I developed a gynormous cyst on my ovary that was literally discovered the Monday we were supposed to leave to Nationals. My doctor forbade me from traveling, and I was monitored every day waiting for the cyst to rupture and be rushed in to surgery.
American Open 2009 with Matt Coming off an emergency appendectomy roughly 6 weeks before (seriously!), I worked my ass of to get in shape and my mother in law passed away on Tuesday, we were scheduled to leave on Thursday for Americans.
Arnold 2010 with Matt Again in great shape, and my grandmother dies the week before. It was a devastating loss, and I was unable to focus. My world was shattered.
Nationals 2010 My ovarian cyst was back. See Nationals 2009. Also, my daughter got a lung infection the same week.
American Open 2010 with Bob No disasters. I finally have my ‘first meet back’ and it went ok.
Arnold 2011 Was in AMAZING shape. Had one of the best cycles I have ever had in my life. I was scheduled to leave on Thursday. That Monday I get very sick; discover I have an outrageous sinus infection and a double inner ear infection. The doctor doesn’t think I should fly because it will make the symptoms worse (the pressure). I get put on antibiotics and a steroid. Antibiotics in hand, I think to myself, nothing can stop this bitch! Wednesday, 2 days later, my mother dies. I still leave on Thursday and lift on Saturday while dealing with my mother’s remains via telephone and fax literally up until weigh-ins and also my ear infection was so terrible I was spinning like I had drunk 2 pints of Jack Daniels. Don’t forget the insane amount of emotions that ranged from a rage so deep I thought it was going to split me in two to unbelievable sadness. Keeping it all buried somewhere deep inside, I lifted pretty well, had a 3kg CJ competition PR and a 1kg competition total PR.
National’s 2011 Went in with a good ranking. Had been training on a hurt knee, but was still in great shape. As mentioned above, I had a crazy number of PRs leading in to this meet. Even though I did have to spend about 5 weeks recovering from the aforementioned sinus and ear infection, that, as the Doctor warned, intensified about 10 times over after flying to Columbus and back. All the training while-so-dizzy-I-could-be-drunk-on-tequila, I was actually able to get in great shape. I cleaned 112 about ten days before, easily, and bombed out with 103kg CJ. I hurt my knee pretty good and when I stood up from the clean I felt as if my kneecap was ripping off and I could not, even if there was a fire, fight through the pain to dip and drive for the jerk. I bombed out instead of securing a spot on the world team. I call this my National disaster.
So after this we spent 2 months avoiding the front squat and the clean. We turned down the alternate spot on the Worlds because although I had snatched 91 and jerked something like 115 in training, we had no idea if I could even clean. We focused instead on getting ready for Americans. My knee got worse, they told me I should get surgery but ‘we can try other things first’, we started cleaning again, it hurt like crazy and started causing my hip to hurt something fierce, I got some injections in my knee and hip the week before Americans, skipped going to Americans, lost my ranking so I can’t go to Olympic Trials, took nearly a month off of training, started training again, and now am pain free, doing pretty well, and here we are today.
So this may look like a woe-is-me sob story, but please understand it isn’t to gain sympathy of any kind or to complain or bitch and moan. What it IS, is a wake-up call. During all this stuff, all this drama, pain, heartache, mourning, sickness, blah blah, I thought ‘Gee… Something major happens literally the week of every major competition. I think my strength and will is really being tested as an athlete and these things are a test to see how hard I will work through all of these adversities. I mean if I can fracking do well in a competition the week my mother dies, I should be able to do anything, right?’
At first I thought I must have the F’ing worst luck in the history of the world. I mean shit! What are the chances?!?! Did you press pause on the latest episode of American Idol long enough to read that timeline? That is NOT normal.
All of this leaves me to wonder IF my lack of motivation and lack of desire to compete comes from the trials and tribulations going back to when I first attempted to start competing again. Maybe I don’t want to lift anymore because I am tired of training my ass off only to wait for shit to hit the fan the week of competition. I have done a lot of searching lately to try and understand if my lack of motivation comes from the bumps in the road the last two years, and the injuries, or because being a weightlifter is not as important to me as I tried to force myself to believe all these years. I think to myself, ‘you are one selfish bitch’. And I am. I am shitty. I come in to the gym and rarely give 100% and am in the position I am in. I wish I could really want it… like attack it and just have the want, because I do believe I could do great things. If I only cared. If I only wanted to.
What I am trying to figure out is where along the lines did I stop caring? Was it when my mother died and I didn’t feel like I need to fill the ‘fight or flight’ void in my life anymore? Or was it when I hurt my knee at Nationals after being in the best shape of my life? Or has that lack of caring always been there? Embedded somewhere within me, always self-sabotaging?
I kinda believe now that God, or my dad, or whoever is in the universe, is trying to tell me something important. Like a huge sign that I have continued to ignore, waving in my face ‘HELLO!!! You’re not supposed to lift anymore!’. This could be true, right? What ELSE needs to be dropped in my lap to really make me see?
I think sometimes all that should be is right in front of your face, but changes can’t be made if you continue to ignore them. I ask every day for the answers and all along the answers could be right in front of me, but I chose to ignore them because they weren’t the answers that I thought I was looking for. I was praying for strength, and to believe, and to be without fear, and to just be. I wanted to really dig in and wake up all those dreams. All along I thought this was all regarding my lifting. I thought all these fears to overcome, and strength I was looking for, was on the platform. If I just kept pushing, the want would fill me up, and I would have an incredible, unstoppable drive. When really, what if it has nothing to do with the platform and everything to do with having strength and being without fear in life? I need to just be. The poor damaged little girl in me who was looking on the platform for strength and power and to believe in everyday without fear, has been looking in all the wrong places all these years. The barbell does not complete me. It does not define Aimee as I have so desperately had faith it did. So frantically pushed for. It’s all within me, and I don’t need a barbell anymore to prove it.
I have always believed that if I weren’t a lifter, a good lifter, that women wouldn’t look up to me anymore. I want to be a role model. To show women around the world that it is sexy and beautiful to be strong. That being strong is not only for men, and women too can be amazing. I want to help women and girls find confidence and love themselves everyday. Why do I feel that people will only listen to me if I am a great athlete? Why am I afraid I will be nobody if I can’t be a good lifter? When did lifting start defining everything that I am in real life? I want to be amazing. I want to be an amazing mother and wife and friend and coach. Do I need to be an amazing lifter to be those things? Can’t I just be awesome without being the best weightlifter all day everyday forever? Can I still do great things without a barbell in my hand? Can’t I take everything I learned the past 15 years in lifting, all that I held myself back from, all that I unknowingly self-sabotaged in the gym and in competition, all that I was, all that I am, and use it to make myself, and others, believe in the beauty every day brings us? To help people love themselves for who they are and what it is they want to do to make them find his or her happy?
Maybe that IS my motivation…
I am terrified to say ‘I never want to compete again’, and I am terrified to say ‘I will compete again’. The truth is, I am scared to stay with something when such a big part of me constantly whispers ‘just be done’, while another part of me says ‘you’re not finished… quit holding yourself back’. All signs aside, for now I am going to train as hard as I am able to every time I put on my shoes. I will be as tough and fierce as I allow myself to be on any given day. I will lift the bar because I love it, and not because I feel obligated to do so. I will be happy for what the platform gives me, and I suppose I need to learn that whatever choice I make will not make me any less of a person or any less of an athlete. I can be amazing without being the best weightlifter. Right?
Today, I can’t find my motivation and I do hope it comes back. But the important thing I feel I have learned is that if it doesn’t come back there must be a real good reason. And if I never have it again, I will be okay.