It is often misunderstood in the sport of powerlifting, along with other strength sports, that share its likeness, that energy is created through extreme bouts of emotion, often from fits of rage and fury. However, in my vigorous yet short five-year career of competing, I have come to realize it is not so black and white, but more so the forgetting and recollecting of pieces of one’s self. It is the ultimate escape act, to binge on forgotten feelings and hidden agendas of the psyche that come to surface to fulfill a certain goal; in this case, to move an extreme weight without mercy or hesitation. That no matter how much one suppresses past habits or addictions, those parts of that character once played, have a purpose once again. Quite simply put, it is the ability to be whom you so desperately aim to escape, even if for a brief fleeting moment, that attracts and pulls you. It fills a void you so consciously shun but unconsciously need. The ultimate allure of powerlifting.
Constant in conception
These slow spheres of reminders
Gravitating forward / toward
It is not all of me
But what I have learned to show.
This, too, is true
Calling / Drawing me in.
Has it not always been —
Dark and vast – subtle like
Sharp angles of so many stars
A misconstrued black magic.
In a great paradox, these will be the some of the most real words I say, yet because of the nature of what I express, depending on who is speaking them, some of the most falsified and fake. A common theme the fitness industry has created, but not so much as it has created us.
There are parts of me, those iron ores manufactured into knurled steel, have seemed to simultaneously make me remember and forget. How ironic it is, the shaping of raw materials from something so archaic and earthly made from mantle is yet again smelted, blown and burned to make anew.
For many of us, this becomes religion. Something we too worship without heed, closing our eyes to failings in theory and pitfalls in words deemed sacred. We have pushed forth few, developed our own texts, placed pedestals under individuals to forge our own gods. How uniquely strange this ritual must be to a nonbeliever, how questionable our motives must be. Nonetheless, I know you feel it too; the pursed-lipped whispers of wondering what if, that pull of an insurmountable force.
It was never about forgetting who you used to be, but remembering why you changed, how you mandated a variation or modification of self in order to survive. It has altered unintentionally for me, bringing out the worst, however, in such a revelation of hidden character, one that is necessary. An instant unraveling of kindness and community, I so heart-fully pour myself into and seek to bring close, momentarily ignored, to achieve an absolute violence. This has always been what truly envelops my existence. I often wonder if I am truly a good person or a simple construct of subtle lines and shapes organized in tight rows that hide who I am.
It is hard to define and pinpoint which version of me walks out from under the shaded canopy of a metallic cage; the power rack merely serving as a mirror between two consciousnesses sharing one body, reflected back upon the affixed eyes of others. The ultimate allure of powerlifting, the fabrication of self.
However fruitless, I do believe that the fabrication of identity is a necessary evil for the sport. That many will claim that ultimately, you only do this sport for the goal of YOU and that any other unselfish gestures are simply void and there to cover up. You cannot do this sport for others, their needs, their goals, their aspirations; and you serve as a point of inspiration. I cannot possibly achieve higher rankings, more prestigious invites, more popularity, without doing this for myself alone. I would contest these statements, but do I?
Change and movement is always a variable that does not cease to exist, that with those changes, you unintentionally begin to create a persona, an identity for that time under the bar, on the platform, beneath a bench. That this sport brings to the surface smuggled secrets and deep-rooted primal intentions, and you may only dictate that persona, not the multiple people that emerge. A lack of direction, only because of the multitude of directions. I have, at my core, been split in two, an even divide of kindness and cruelty.
In my sobriety, I have submerged a time capsule of anger, grief, and animalistic urges, only to have it govern my movements later in life. While I do not partake in consumption, the parts of me revealed in those blackouts, those relinquishing of bodily and brain functions to a liquid god have never left, but more so exchanged for which vessel transports them to the surface of my being. The most terrifying truth realized, that this sport appeals to addicts and drunkards, EVEN once recovered, because of the nature of its undoing. That it is a surrendering of control to briefly forget reality, the trade of one compulsion for another craving. How truly sick it makes me feel to even type these words.
I have often tried to categorize and map out this existence. Why I need these things. That deep down, all of us need them in some vice or another. But have you ever felt it? The churning of two stomachs, a transformation, the splitting of fiber and skin to emerge forth fur and ferocity. I used to think it an act, the sheer construction of the character I have created, the bear beneath it all. Yet, in my meager age, I am simply unsure, and my truths are no longer true. I wish desperately to call it a performance, an unleashing of excitement and anxiety upon a tangible and moveable object. An unshaken force against another.
Above all, I want so frantically to imagine myself as the kind, giving, charitable person I have perhaps become and that this animal is only entertainment, not the horrific realization of the possible reverse. That I may just be the very act perceived, and that all this community is nothing more than a tidal wave of influence used to blind you from one of us. I simply cannot say which of us the act is; I simply cannot determine which of us is me.
How many of us has this sport created? How many reconfigurations of one body and mind has it made? Pieces jammed and slammed into the floor, only to be picked up and placed, disoriented, back into a bin.
Travis Rogers works as a high school educator teaching 10th grade English language arts and strength and fitness, as well as running a strength and powerlifting club after school year-round. He frequently takes his students to state and regional competitions in the USPA and RPS powerlifting federations and competes regularly himself, while also speaking at seminars and announcing and judging for USPA East. He recently totaled 1,829 in sleeves at 198 at the 2019 USPA Ohio Nationals tying the Top Ten Total of all time.