Getting Back Under the Bar

One of the first things I was warned of when I became a coach and gym owner was to keep training. No matter what. In the early days of JustLift, this wasn’t a problem. We were a small, young gym, and everyone who’s been with us long enough knows we started, like many before us, as a gang of lifters who loved lifting enough to put our money where our mouths were. We didn’t have many clients and this left us ample time to train.

Here’s a bit of JL history: Ian, Nico, Nancy and myself started as training partners. When I first started coaching I used to joke that I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing. In reality, this was just a spin on the fact that I had yet to truly identify as a coach; I felt more like an experienced lifter giving advice to newbies. As our community grew, as the competitive stakes rose, so did my responsibilities. If we were to succeed I no longer had the luxury of identifying as a lifter.

When we actually started to grow as a club, receiving people who wanted to learn the Snatch and Clean and Jerk, I knew I had to change. When my friend, and fellow coach, Ian, began seriously vying for the top spot in the country, I knew I had to change. Nico and Nancy started to transform from kids I used to train with into my proteges. That was enough. I decided I must change. This was more than a new responsibility. This became my duty. We were no longer a crew of lifters slamming bars together. We became even more than just a team. Our club became a community. Our team became my family. 

I never stopped lifting, but after our move from the old location to our current home something changed. I stopped training hard. I became absorbed by my coaching and business duties. I lifted because I was supposed to. At this point, all I knew was that I never wanted some smartass athlete asking me: “Hey Coach, do you even lift?” That attitude isn’t what got me Back Squatting 242kg. I didn’t Jerk 166kg because I was afraid I’d look like a phony. I never stopped lifting, but I definitely stopped training.

For the last year, I’ve been an exerciser. Don’t get me wrong, movement for the sake of moving is important. We don’t do that, though. We have concrete goals. We train.

Sure, I’d written training templates for myself, even actual training cycles with numbers in mind that I’d like to do. But, I never followed these programs in full because I always put my athletes and the business before myself. I’d run a training block as planned for a few weeks, and then something would happen. Then I’d modify something to accommodate. Of course, then, something else would happen, and before I knew it I was doing half-assed workouts with little direction beyond “I think I’ll Snatch today.” Then I’d get serious again, and try and jump back into my old training programs only to get smoked and discouraged. This became my “training cycle.” Jumping from program to program, being dedicated for a few weeks, then not. I refused to believe that I had allowed myself to regress even though I very obviously had. The only thing I actually trained for was failure.

That said, in spite of my outcomes on the platform, I don’t regret my actions for a second. To my mind, I (temporarily) sacrificed something I loved for something that people with goals more important than mine also loved. It’s no coincidence that our community has exploded in the last year. Beyond myself, our team, staff and athletes alike, has worked incredibly hard to get us where we are today. It’s only been recently, however, that I realize I haven’t been setting the example as Head Coach that I need to.

An athlete (at least by my definition) is a competitor at heart, and a good competitor will always find a way. They encounter numerous barriers to progress on their paths, sometimes having to make hard decisions. Sometimes they have to retreat and reassess. The one thing they don’t do is quit when they know they’re capable of more still.

I’m telling you this because I feel that I have to, more than anyone, practice what we preach. To embody all that JustLift is and aspires to be. I want to show you what is possible when you dedicate yourself to a goal. When you refuse to accept failure. To show you that those weights that scare you today can, in fact, be mere warm-ups tomorrow.

For the next year, I will be documenting my training on our blog. Once a week I will post an update reflecting on some of my training, but more importantly, reflecting on what goes on inside my head in my quest to not only get back to where I was, but crush my previous records!

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