Olympic Lifting & Beyond: High Performance and “The Hard Deck”

still from Top Gun Maverick

The title here is an unabashed Top Gun Maverick reference. The hard deck is the zone below 10,000-5,000 feet at which a pilot is flying close if not fatally close to the ground.

I’m using the hard deck here for some humorous hyperbole, comparing this with pushing oneself in athletic performance past previous limits or known limits, which can definitely be a tricky dance, pushing the max yet not getting injured. You can navigate the hard deck or danger zone and become better.

This is my perspective as an adult athlete who enjoys analysis. I don’t ever remember a time in life at which recovery wasn’t a factor, a physiological reality. It seems People like to gloss over youth, but there are concerns there too in addition to recovery, particularly psychosocial factors and how they affect performance.

Then the advantage of sticking with something is that you mature, and you learn how to deal with both physical and psychological hard deck moments, that can wipe you out and make you feel like you won’t be able to carry on. If you’ve been through enough training cycles though, or the equivalent, you know that eventually you emerge and stronger, more resilient too — even from injury, although severity greatly affects that. Mindset and beliefs are key here.

There have been a couple of moments this cycle, I’ve had to “pull up!!” and “fall back!!” to be sure, so that I don’t get injured. There’s no shame associated with that — that’s working with the body as an ally and tuning in.

Body wants to move and develop, but it will let you know when you’re in the hard deck, and you have to listen. It’ll tell you “stop showing off — that’s not the assignment.” The body is intelligent and the nerves of intelligence run throughout. You could say being careful is more of a concern for older athletes, but really it’s everyone at some level, particularly If concerned with longevity. Also — When the CNS needs a break, it needs a break. And that can be influenced by other life circumstances and stimuli, not just physical training.

It should also be said I think, that if you’re done with something at any age you can just be done. Or, take a break. One can move on and do or try other things without being necessarily a “quitter.” You can return to something again later, Especially as is the case after healing from injury. During Injury even other facets of training can be explored, or other activities within reason.

The “do or die” / “fight or flight” narrative the media plays up is not for all occasions. And these days can be somewhat spiritually void and unrealistic, because that boxes people in, when the reality is: we have a lot of options.

Anyway — This competition training cycle I’m on, I have found to be a bit of strategy game, yet one that I can enjoy, given I tune out the myopic noise of society on the topic of age and sport. Although it’s modernizing, Pop society would have had me give up all athletics by late twenties basically. This is not physiological reality, though. People lose energy by following the sedentary culture. That’s it.

Thankfully there are more people pioneering longevity in athletics and some high profile athletes at that. Also Tom Cruise himself like the character Maverick is a great example of continued vibrancy and physical health, pushing the envelope on endurance and achievement.

I have chosen not to heed the old school ageist narrative that is increasingly a fallacy, And I’m thankful to have role models for doing so too. I can’t say “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m Olympic weightlifting at 39!” when I am actually not surprised. Prevailing culture has been ridiculously youth and degeneration focused, which is unfortunate, racing each other in language and in deed to the grave somehow — this is not in my opinion based on the actual biology of now. I have obviously taken a mental/philosophical departure.

It’s an invigorating one. Personally, I plan on regeneration so I pace myself and respect my body, not carving myself up as popularized by Western medicine and cosmetics, but getting back to and advancing regenerative, holistic [non-invasive] energy and elemental medicines. There’s a lot more to learn there.

Some would say not having kids at the moment is an advantage for me as I continue to make progress. Sure it is. But I am not opposed to doing that, and there are plenty of examples of people who have kids that continue to physically achieve at a high level. One could also argue that not having kids is a disadvantage, so that whole thing is bunk.

Emerson — “Self Reliance”

An Athletic lifestyle isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. Again — especially when culture encourages otherwise. I grew into that as an adult actually, after clearing myself of limiting cultural and familial programming that would limit my accomplishments and ambitions. And even further as an adult I’ve cleared and ignored some societal programming that would have me limit my intelligence, how many things I can do, or be interested in. We are what we decide are. That’s been said before and continues to be true — see above. Programs after all get upgrades! All this amounts to ongoing growth.

High physical performance as an adult has meant self reliance as Emerson said, deliberate recovery, smart programming, positive self talk, and fun nutrient dense food. I say fun because I approach that part as luxury, of enjoying cooking and eating, yet also being mindful of delivering what the body needs and even enhancing with safe supplements. For me continuing to learn about biology, chemistry and plant remedies has been very interesting and illuminating, and is helping a lot.

I also allow myself relaxation and generous sleep as needed. I ignore any sort of short-sighted always-on-the-grind narratives from mass media, that I should be suffering or feel guilty about enjoying life, or most illogically compare myself to so and so. That’s a personal preference of course. The latter I have never done because it is the most useless, by the way, because we are who we are, unique individuals in unique situations. Look at the grand design — there’s a reason for that.

As I ready myself for competition – it’s been an enjoyable challenge – I’m reaching numbers that would qualify me for more advanced competitions. Inevitably the higher one rises in physical disciple the more aware and fine-tuned one has to be. You’d better believe I’m taking advantage of different recovery therapies, including hopefully sonic soon.

Have I been injured before in the past? Yes I have, but not any time recently. Both times were related to flavors of ignorance and physical stress build-up and cost some time, stopping and starting. Yet did I learn — absolutely. I can laugh about it now, but Injury is never the goal. The more you learn, the smarter you can navigate and as I said before check your ego and fall back when you need to. Important note, to be clear: There’s no *need to get injured in order to learn or be smart about training. I am pointing this out because I read something recently about how glorifying destruction is not useful, Unless of course you want to leave it all on the field so to speak and never return.

There are moments though that can catch one off guard of course. I had a moment in this cycle when I was feeling strong, but still got tweaked because I pushed my maximum. I had no choice but to back off or get injured.

There’s a cultural current I suppose that would say something like “why would you even do all that?” Well, I don’t understand that attitude personally. This is just another form of achievement. Also, I feel like I haven’t even been alive that long! And I stay informed with new health and human thought frontiers, even writing some into existence at times. There are more and more possibilities opening up to humanity. I feel great, and especially when I focus on that.

Lastly, living longer and stronger is a bit of a biological and evolutionary hard deck. So we’ll see.


Published by sarah ikerd

@sarah.ikerd / owner

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