What Kelly Clarkson Taught Me About Going For It

People tend to have strong feelings about Kelly Clarkson.

Some view her as another throwaway pop artist from the late 90s/early 2000s in the vein of Britney and Christina and P!nk. A reality singing contest winner with big pipes. Not a talented artist with longevity and something really meaningful to say.

Others freakin’ love Kelly. She’s a two time Grammy winner who has sold tens of millions of albums worldwide, is the host of her own talk show and a judge on a completely different reality singing show. She’s got 23 fan pages on Instagram alone and has been in our lives for, believe it or not, nearly 20 years now.

I find myself in the latter category. It may surprise you to hear but I’m a big Kelly fan.

But whether you love her, can’t stand her or don’t even really think about her much, there is one thing that is difficult to deny – she’s a great singer.

Her technical proficiency as well as her ability to emotionally deliver on love songs, ballads, revenge anthems and country ditties makes her abilities as a singer hard to dispute.

If you want to fight me on Kelly Clarkson, I’m ready at any time.

My favorite song of her’s (and probably most people’s favorite song of her’s) is the early hit “Since U Been Gone.” It’s not an easy song to sing but here she is delivering it with pitch perfect precision.

But this is not my favorite performance of the song. No, my favorite is from the 2005 MTV Video Music awards where a bare footed, bondage pants wearing Kelly prowls the stage and belts it out while getting drenched by a rain effect while standing in the middle of a small crowd of adoring fans.

She is fucking going for it here. Wet hair whipping around. Her seemingly-tired voice really struggling to hit the notes that she effortlessly makes in the performance I referenced earlier.

And this is exactly what I love about it. It’s energetic and full of emotion and more than a bit sloppy.

Now, I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I didn’t have the other frame of reference. If I didn’t have the knowledge that Clarkson is a great singer with incredible range who can hit notes at will and deliver with consistency. It’s the fact that she steps out of that persona to just let it rip on this one occasion that makes it so exciting and exceptional to me.

I’ve watched it dozens of times. I shit you not.

And this is similar to how I feel about training. The vast, vast, vast majority of your training should be technically perfect, in complete control and instill a lot of confidence in both your coaches and in yourself that you can execute a beautiful lift at any time.

Once you have shown this over months or years of consistent execution, it’s then that you get the green light to go shoeless-Kelly-Clarkson-on-a wet-stage.

Ideally this is reserved for competition or at least an attempt at a personal best in the gym. I’ll give you a really easy-to-follow example.

If you are training for a marathon, you are going to want all your tempo runs, speed work and longer distance efforts to be at a pace you can manage with good technique. This may not be your dream pace but you should be able to exhibit and reinforce real running proficiency every time out.

On race day, you should have a game plan and stick to that plan. This should include setting a pace that is reasonable based on what you accomplished in training.

Now, if you get to mile 24 and a great finish is a possibility, you have the green light to go for it. Technique may fall apart. You may run faster than you planned. You may even get a little dinged up. But in that moment, you can go from on-pitch Kelly to VMA’s Kelly.

Same strategy can be used in the gym. As I already mentioned, you should spend months or years really working within the parameters of good technique. In honesty, the goal early on should not be to try to identify the moments to break from the standards but quite the opposite. The goal should be to refine the technique. To make it more and more perfect and automatic. And once that is accomplished and engrained it is then that you get permission to let it rip on that 1RM deadlift or when you are trying to PR your 500 meter row.

Can there be fallout from this? Sure. There is a risk and the end result must be important enough for you to take it. But the time spent working within the confines of acceptable technique should help mitigate these risks. You’ll have such a grasp of the proper pattern that your deviation will be minimal.

As I often say to finish off my IG stories, here’s the big takeaway. Spend your time getting really really good at whatever you do. It will ultimately free you up to do what it is you want.

Even if that means singing a bit off key, drenched in rain water in the middle of an adoring crowd.