January 28, 2013

I’ve got a special guest write-up today from one of my new lifters who competed in her first meet last weekend. She wrote this and graciously allowed me to share her experience for those out there who are new to the sport.  But first, a few words of advice:

1) There is no “right” time.  Face the facts, you will not get out there and wreck shop the very first time you compete.  I don’t care if you can clean 150, you will never be a weightlifter until you play the sport of weightlifting.  One does not simply learn to hit a golf ball really far and call himself a golfer.  You must first learn the rules and strategy and then play an actual game.

2) Set yourself up for success.  No one cares if you placed first in a local contest.  So taking an 11 kilo increase to “beat” some other guy in your weight class is just plain asinine.  You go to these things to make lifts.  Unless you’re trying to break a record (an actual record, not a PR) or if you’re on the national stage it’s usually not a good idea to pull a Kevin Cornell and take a do-or-die attempt at 195 to get a medal.  And let’s face it, odds are you aren’t Kevin Cornell.  Make. Lifts.  This means opening up a dialogue with your coach and choosing attempts that you know you can make.

If there’s anyone out there looking to compete in his or her first contest but has questions/reservations, shoot me a comment or an e-mail and I’ll do my best to answer.

And now, the write-up.  Enjoy.

Last weekend I participated in my first Olympic weightlifting competition at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco. There are tons of sites available that can better explain the details of Olympic lifting and how a competition is run than I can, but for the sake of this story, I’ll try to provide some basic information. The Olympic lifts are the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. In competition you get 3 attempts (at each lift) to make your heaviest lift. Add up the weights of your heaviest Snatch and your heaviest Clean and Jerk and that is your total. The person with the highest total, based on the lightest body weight, wins.

If your head is spinning already, I feel your pain, but bear with me.

I’m not new to lifting and I thought I was pretty strong, until I met Ben. Ben Claridad is my lifting coach. He teaches Olympic lifting at my gym on Saturdays. He also coaches a team in Midtown, but more on that later.

Ben is big, strong and intimidating yet patient and professional. He is very knowledgeable and lifts crazy heavy weights at speeds I never thought possible. He is also a blogger, artist and without sounding like I’m all sweet on him, a generally remarkable person. He is someone I trust and trust is very important to me. 

After a few months of Saturday training, Ben invited me to lift at his gym in Midtown and I decided to give it a try. I was so excited!

How can I best describe my experience? With a random Patrick Swayze movie reference of course!

Ya know that scene from Dirty Dancing, when Baby carries the watermelon into the staff area at Kellerman Resort and observes “dirty dancing” for the first time? It was like that. I was completely stunned. This was not the pretty, sanitized lifting I’d been doing. This was hard core, bad ass lifting of incredibly heavy weights! It was loud music, graffiti, kilos, pit bulls and big guys in spandex, but it was also supportive and fun. It was freaking scary and amazing at the same time, as was the Olympic lifting meet last weekend.

I’d prepared as much as I could prior to the meet, but my stomach was still in knots. On the ride to San Francisco, my head was a mess. Why am I doing this? I’m too old for this. What if people laugh at me? Will I be sued by spectators who go blind veiwing me in this god awful singlet? 

As nervous as I was, I couldn’t wait to get there. I knew once I was at the meet, I wouldn’t have to think anymore. Thinking was Ben’s job and he had a plan for me. All I had to do was follow the plan and that is what I did. 

Weigh-in. Warm up. My turn. Lift the bar. Hold the weight until Ben tells me to drop it. Go sit down. Repeat 3 times for each lift. Done.

Wait. What? That was it? 

I apologize if you were expecting some dramatic Rocky-esque ending to this story, where Ben tells me to dig deep, I find the strength of 10 Grinches, lift more than I ever have before to win the meet! 

But that is not how it happened and I’m so grateful. A less experienced coach could have set me up for failure. Ben could have started me at much heavier weights hoping I would make my lifts in an unfamiliar place in front of dozens of strangers. Instead, he selected weights he knew I could lift and set me up to succeed. He gave me a perfect meet. 

I’m still trying to figure out how Olympic lifting will fit into my life going forward, but for now I am just happy. I had an awesome first meet experience, which is all I could ask for and just what I needed.

2 Responses to “First!”

  1. Kevin St. John said

    Wonderful summary of a first contest experience. Yo must be doing things right, Ben. She felt positive afterward which is what we want all our experiences to be but particularly first ones. Keep on training, both them and you.

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