Re-Imagining JustLift

We’re barely two weeks into 2021, but I feel confident that the phrase “2020 was a challenge…” will still ring true as the understatement of the year 11.5 months from now. Normally I set my expectations higher than mere survival, but for us (and many others) that was the most important thing we did all year. 

Like many businesses, we did that thing you hear a lot about these days: we pivoted to the online space. Just like many others in the same situation as us, we did it out of reactionary pressure. We didn’t have time to do any extensive planning or re-skill. We were only certain of two things:

  1. It’s possible to train a lifter to some great feats purely at a distance. 
  2. We would almost certainly go bankrupt if we tried to ride this out without drastic re-thinking.

We did it. We survived!…. Now what? 

Amidst the scramble to adapt, Nancy and I have had a lot of time to really think about the essence of what JustLift was between 2012-2020. What made the club as good as it was at producing exceptional outcomes in all of our lifters, competitive or recreational? We realize now that or core difference, what made our community noteworthy was one principle: 

We teach. 

The hundreds of medal finishes, the team victories, the athletes who made it to the World Championships, and every other winning performance didn’t come from focusing on winning. For years we’ve told ourselves that winning is a side effect of good training. But, what is good training? The kind that recognizes “the process” as being as much about the individual’s journey as it is about the curriculum they’re given. Our members are students of the lifting game.

As focused as I am on the sporting side of the barbell world, I’ve still always held the belief that, competitor or not, strength is a virtuous pursuit for anyone at any time. I don’t think it was until now, however, that I truly grasped just how phenomenal the performances of our recreational members were. Back in July I was down in the depths. I was feeling sorry for myself and for the team. I announced our indefinite, on-site closure just as the re-opening of Ontario began. Around this same time, however, many of our non-competitors renewed my faith in the value of JustLift, not as a gym, but as an idea… perhaps even an ethic. 

I kept in touch with many of our members, especially as they begrudgingly joined big box gyms to continue doing our programming. What happened next was galvanizing. Virtually everyone, but especially many of the women, remarked at just how strong they were compared to… I dunno, a more casual gym-goer? It seems silly now, but it was this moment that I was reminded that 300+ and 200+ pound Squats (to depth!) were not the norm for your average man or woman. 

We’d operated at such a high level for so long that we forgot just how valuable our coaching approach was. The empowerment. The confidence. I was elated to learn just how amazing all of our lifters felt about themselves. That’s the moment that I knew that what we started nearly a decade ago mattered. That it’s worth the effort to re-invent ourselves. We helped lead people down a path of not just sport mastery, but personal mastery through strength. They didn’t get that way with just a program, however…

Writing successful training programs has always been one of our strengths, but it wasn’t just the programs that produced the exceptional training outcomes I’ve noted above. It was everything as a whole: the instruction, the coaching wisdom, the community, the environment, and more. Look back on your school life. Imagine going back in time and only doing the homework, occasionally looking up a Youtube video when you were stumped. Do you think you’d be the same person you are now? Of course not, because the intangibles of “becoming” matter.

Our aim with this new imagining of JustLift is to deliver as many of those same intangibles we did before while crafting some new ones along the way. We’re certain, however, that:

  1. It’s possible to develop a lifter of any level remotely with the right resources.
  2. Our experiences taking complete novices and turning them into champions can be translated virtually. 

Being strong is about adapting. The future may be uncertain, but we know of one, definite certainty: whatever happens next, good or bad, you ought to be strong. You ought to have practice beating back whatever barrier is denying you from realizing all the possibilities of your life. 

2021 is going to be as much about adapting as 2020 was. The difference this year? We’re no longer stuck in survival mode. Now’s the time to figure out how to thrive. 


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