“THE constant battle between the inanimate object on the floor and you as a person is infinite – it will instil discipline or else it will destroy you.”

Welcome to the zen world of former national weightlifting champion Marius Hardiman, of East Challow.

Mr Hardiman, 42, who now spends his days climbing trees as a professional horticulturalist, runs a weightlifting gym, Oxford Powersports, in his spare time.

He began his sporting career playing county cricket and football, and only started lifting weights to build muscle at Morris Motors Weightlifting Club in East Oxford.

“I was skinny, small and frail looking,” he said. “The idea was to put some muscle on me.”

But there is a standard rule at most weightlifting clubs – we will train you to achieve whatever you want, and in exchange you enter competitions for our club.

And soon, the frail, skinny boy was entering national competitions.

In 1985 he came fifth in the British championships while he was still playing county cricket. The following year he won a middleweight title.

“That is why we need those sorts of facilities,” he says.

“They picked me up from a council estate with no prospects.

“You have got to keep testing yourself until you get so strong mentally that you eventually think you are invincible – as I do.

“I race motorbikes, snow board, do downhill mountain biking. I’ll do anything.”

And it is as “simple” as it looks: there are just two lifts which weightlifters practise, right up to Olympic level.

The first lift is called the snatch, where you lift the weights straight above your head in one motion.

The second is called the clean-and-jerk: one lift to your chest, and one more the rest of the way.

“It took me 23 years to learn to snatch,” says Mr Hardiman. “It is as skilful as it is rewarding. You’re not going to learn this in five months but that’s true of anything that is worth doing.

“There is a myth that weight-lifting stunts people’s growth but it has never happened – we have a lower injury rate than badminton. Weightlifting gives you real injury resistance because you build up all the little muscles.”

Despite having die-hard fans like Mr Hardiman, weightlifting was not Team GB’s strong suit last summer.

Our lifters failed to get a single medal at the London Games, which were dominated by China.

Despite that, Mr Hardiman’s club, Oxford Powersports, saw membership shoot up following the Games – from 20 to 30 full-time members.