By Coard Wilkes

Rocky Balboa, one of the greatest boxers to ever live. Granted he’s just a movie character, and some may argue he hasn’t really lived. (To those naysayers I ask, why is he in the Boxing Hall of Fame? Myth busted.) Regardless, the Rocky movies are some of the most inspirational and motivational films ever. The best ever being, in my personal opinion, Rocky IV. As a weightlifter, I believe there are several lessons you can take from this movie and learn from. Don’t worry; I plan to enlighten all my readers! SPOILER ALERT! Just in case you haven’t seen Rocky IV yet, I should warn you that there are spoilers ahead… and I also should ask you why haven’t you seen it!?

Rocky Puts In the Work

I think the most obvious lesson learned from this movie is what can be achieved through hard work. Throughout the movie the Russians touted Ivan Drago as the athlete of the future. They made this claim because of their state-of-the-art training facility, stating that, “It makes a man a better man… A great athlete a super athlete.” But as Rocky proved, hard work and dedication will forever and always trump fancy bells and whistles and the accessibility to amazing facilities and the best recovery methods.

Rocky Doesn’t Dope and He Don’t Care Who Does

This leads right into the next lesson. In the middle of the movie, after denying accusations, we learn that Drago is indeed taking steroids. Upper hand to the Russian, right? Nope! Rocky beats Drago in the end. Not because he was the stronger or better athlete, but because he was the more willing and determined athlete.

In weightlifting everyone is too quick to say that America will never achieve greatness again because of the other countries’ use of steroids. America is too strict and other countries are too lax. That is a great excuse if that’s what you’re looking for. Yes, other countries are doping, but not every country that beats us is using PEDs. So how about we put our heads down, keep our eyes forward on the prize, and work like crazy to achieve our goals? It is by no means easy, but it is possible. I don’t care what advantages other people have; don’t let them be excuses for you. Work harder and then work some more. If you’re determined enough, you can and will overcome.

Apollo Is a Patriot

Now we turn our focus to the lesson we learned from the late and great Apollo Creed. From the first Rocky movie and onward, it is apparent that Apollo has a love for his country, the US of A: from wearing his American flag shorts, to dressing up as George Washington and Uncle Sam for his walk-outs. But his patriotism was never more apparent in Rocky IV. When asked why he wants to fight again and get back in the ring, Apollo simply responds by saying, “Let’s just say it’s something I believe in.” It wasn’t till the Russians announced that they were entering professional boxing that Apollo felt the need to fight again. He considered himself a warrior saying, “We have to be in the middle of the action because we’re warriors. Without some challenge, without some war to fight… Then the warrior may as well be dead.” He felt a sense of duty to fight for his country, to “go to war” with Russia and prove America is better. Sadly, the warrior paid with his life in this fight, but he had a burning love for his country.

Too often these days, no one competes for their country. Sure, when someone makes an international team you’re lifting for the USA but representing the country is probably farthest from most minds. We used to be proud to represent and compete, and try our best for our country. We used to want to go and beat the other countries, not because we hated the other countries, but because we loved ours. Maybe it’s because we’ve gotten too soft or maybe it’s because this country isn’t what it used to be. I can’t say for certain. I’m not going to make this about politics, but there are still things that make this country amazing and worth representing. People live and fight and die for our freedoms; that alone is enough to go and try to represent your country to the best of your ability.

Rocky Trains in a Barn

I believe the most valuable lesson is what can be achieved from isolation. After Apollo’s death, Rocky accepts a fight with the Russian Drago and flies out to Russia to train. At his request he sets up in a barn in the middle of nowhere. It allowed him to train with no distractions and to focus fully on himself and the task ahead.

Training alone, or isolation training as I like to call it, can be a great tool and training method. Maybe not always, but there are times when we have to step away from everything – from friends and family, social media and news, or whatever else may cause us distractions – and focus on ourselves. However, this is also the scary part of isolation training. When you’re training alone, you are forced to face yourself and your inner demons. All your doubts and fears can creep in when you’re left alone to your own thoughts. Facing them head on and conquering them will undoubtedly make you a better athlete.

Isolation training is not for everyone, at least in the beginning. I have spent a good majority of my lifting career training alone in a garage. Admittedly, most of the time it has not been by choice, but now I’ve come to embrace isolation training. It is as close as I can get to the feeling of a competition. At that competition, on that platform, I’m alone. Just me and my thoughts: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Rocky Balboa: one of the greatest boxers to ever live. If you get the chance, watch Rocky IV. Whether it’s your first time or your 27th, like mine. Pay attention to every detail of the movie. There is a wealth of knowledge to be learned.