“Beating the competition is relatively easy. But beating yourself is a never ending commitment.”—Nike, There Is No Finish Line ad copy
Since the moment I saw this image, from Nike’s “There Is No Finish Line” ad campaign, I was inspired.
Everything about it was — is — me. When I first laid eyes on it, in college, I was weightlifting with equipment that looked a lot like that, in a room that looked a lot like that, and wearing outfits that looked a lot like what the model is wearing. I fully admit to wearing those tall socks too (which I only figured out many years later were highly unflattering on me!)
Most importantly, I was working out like that. No trainer pushed me, no workout partner supported me, there were no social media posts to garner attention for or clients to impress or even friends in the gym — just me, challenging myself for something only I could feel and would benefit from. Looking at this poster, it speaks to my soul.
Weight lifting is for a lifetime. It is ongoing fierce dedication to the cold metal of barbells, dumbbells and plates, of showing up when you want to and don’t want to in equal measure, of seeking out ever heavier weights and mixing up movements to challenge your muscles and your mind. It’s absolute focus and feel and love/hate. Even if you take a break, you know you’ll go back to it someday. And if you lift weights, you know that there is never ever a finish line.
Back then, young and fired up, I looked at that poster and equated it to weights. But now, after all these years of experiences and emotions and so much living, and this year especially, I look at that poster and equate it to life.
Lifting heavy is hard. Life is hard. The results of lifting are great. Life has the capacity to be so great. Injuries can happen in the weight room, usually if you do too much too soon or lose your focus. Injuries in life, as I’ve learned through terrible experience, can happen walking down the stairs or stepping in the wrong place wearing the wrong shoes or for any other random reason totally out of your control. Lifting is a never-ending learning process, punctuated by incredible achievements, but also more failures than not. Life is a never-ending learning process, with the most bitter of disappointments forcing change whether we want it or not, yet we’re often better off for it. We show up at the gym when it’s the last thing we feel like doing. We show up at various times in life even though it’s the last thing we feel like doing. Hard work in the gym makes us feel good about ourselves. Hard work in life, well, we hope it’s for the good.
The thing is, you can step out of the weight room, or stop lifting if you choose. You can choose to pursue a different form of exercise if you like. You can step away entirely from exercise and never touch a weight again. But we can’t step out of life. Challenges come and go, joy comes and goes, and we are driven relentlessly forward by our own desire to survive, love, live, accomplish, enjoy. Is there really a finish line when the goals posts are always changing?
Perhaps life is a series of finish lines or perhaps there is only the final and inescapable line between life and death. The question is, how do we want to show up? How are we choosing to commit to beating ourselves to the finish line?
Because until then, there is no finish line.
— By Pritam Potts
Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16+ years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.mrsathlete.net and www.advancedathlete.com.
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