It’s been 8 weeks since The Cage and I can still play it back in my mind. Most people know that I was hospitalized after my event with Steve Johnson. I was diagnosed with Rhabdomyolysis, the breakdown of damaged skeletal muscle into the body. This, in effect, causes the release of myoglobin into the blood stream. My case was severe enough to shut down my kidneys. I also suffered acute liver damage due to a misdiagnosis at the ER in Ohio. Subsequently, I spent 5 days in a hospital bed hooked up to IVs in excruciating pain. To this day, I can still feel pain in my lower back muscles and experience numbness in the area. Looking back though, I don’t think I would change a thing.
Now that I have that out the way, let me tell you how I prepared my body and mind for the events of that weekend. I am not the best deadlifter in the world, far from it, but it is one of my favorite lifts. I attack every training session with the intent of becoming the best. Just before a lift, I envision ripping the weight off the floor as fast as possible. I replay this thought over and over, and it’s been ongoing for years now. Mental reps.
Encompassing my rage, and being able to use it as a tool to harness my power, is something I have always practiced.
I don’t get angry—that only distracts me from my focus. Learn the difference between the two and you will gain strength that will seem limitless. In The Cage, I wanted to be challenged by something that I could potentially lose, and that meant going up against one of the best. I’ve done a single rep every 30 seconds for a set number of reps before in training. Those sessions were always mentally taxing and I thrived on it. After much thought, I decided I wanted to bring that kind of training into The Cage, since I knew it had never been done before.
For weeks before every session, for every set, I repeatedly told myself that I would not lose. Every night, I thought about how it would go. Maybe we’d do 30 reps, 30-40 minutes tops. Little did I know that the event would go on for an hour and a half with over double the reps I anticipated. There was a brief moment when we went back and forth, rep for rep very quickly, and I wasn’t prepared for it conditioning wise, but I knew I was going to fight through it all. After we hit 30+ reps, the only thought I could muster was “pull one more.” I kept pulling one after the other, not wanting to fail in front of everyone. Being the underdog, I felt like I owed a win to too many people—to my family back home and especially my son.
At the end of the day, I think if I would have thought of potentially doing 65 reps, it may have defeated me. I convinced myself that it was only one rep. Just one rep every time I got on the platform. With that mindset, I tried to stay as consistent as possible; pick it up and put it down, do not lose, and just breathe. Once we were in the 50s, I noticed my body starting to slow down a bit, but none of that mattered to me. The one thing I desired more than anything that day was holding together my pride and showing what I was made of. When rep 60 came, I wanted it to be over. I was getting hungry and tired, but then I noticed Steve’s reps starting to change. I convinced my mind that he wouldn’t make it and reminded myself I only had to pull one more than him to keep the pace. I needed to keep moving no matter what. After I hit my 63rd rep, it was his turn...and the bar didn’t budge. At that moment, I didn’t want it to be over. I told myself at that point that I would have pulled that bar for the next three days if that’s what it took. I screamed in Steve’s face to pick up the bar. After it didn’t move again, I decided to do a couple more reps to finish it off strong. I felt accomplished, powerful, and unstoppable.
I was in a place in my mind that’s become comfortable for me. A place of pain and suffering, one that makes anything my body goes through seem like a walk in the park. After it was over and I got a minute to collect myself, my body decided it was going to pay me back for what I made it do. The adrenaline was gone and I hit the floor. It’s been a long road back, but it’s made me stronger. My recovery has gotten better and I am back to lifting some weights again. This experience has given me more insight into my ability to push myself even further than I could have ever imagined.
I am prepared to take on anything, and confident enough that I will see it through to the end, no matter what the outcome may be.
As Rob Hall gets ready for his 4th appearance in the Animal Cage, we can't help but reminisce about the craziness of his early years, especially when he did a 600lb deadlift for 67 reps. Read his latest article to see what got him into the idea of The Cage and what it's like being inside.
Powerlifting, and sports in general, are long journeys where growth is inevitable. We're not talking physical growth, but rather mental and spiritual growth that occurs as an athlete discovers wisdom through experience. You will do foolish things out of ignorance. It's part of the process. But learning and adjusting your approach is what makes a lifter go from good to great. In his latest article, Rob Hall reflects on his years of powerlifting and shares some words of wisdom to his past self. Check it out.