Posts Tagged ‘olympic weightlifting’

Gaining Strength: One Year Later

January 4, 2015

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Exactly one year ago I signed up for my first ever Olympic weightlifting meet, having NEVER done anything beyond traditional lifts. I learned the basics in three weeks and at the meet, successfully completed both the snatch and the clean & jerk. I lifted the lightest weights at the meet, but I was hooked. I documented that whole process last year in a four part series, starting here: The Strength to be Strong.

Since then, I’ve continued training both Olympic lifts and in general strength and conditioning. I’ve now competed in two unsanctioned Oly meets, and one sanctioned one, where I proudly sported our team singlet. Let me tell you, I would have NEVER expected that to happen in my life– owning a singlet OR posting pictures of me wearing one online OR lifting weights in front of a crowd while wearing one.

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A new C&J PR set in competition: 48kg!

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If it isn’t obvious by now, I love weightlifting. I seriously appreciated it before this year, but it has now become such a mainstay in my life (4 days a week on average), which meant a lot during a fairly crazy year. A busy new work schedule (including one 33-days-of-work-in-a-row stint, and domestic and international work trips) would have normally deterred me from maintaining a regimen, but it honestly kept me sane. Focusing on physical work allowed me to take a mental break from everything else more times than I can count this year, and I am so, so thankful for that. Also? I swear that lifting weights in the hotel gym after flying to China erased my jet lag. That and I super impressed the Chinese businessmen by being the only female in there, and the only one throwing around any significant amount of weight.

Not only did I gain sanity and mental peace through weightlifting, but the community that I’ve joined at Industrial Strength Gym has made working out a social appointment I am more than happy to keep. The support, the camaraderie, the friendly competition, and just a giant room full of smiling faces make it one of my favorite places in the world right now. I see these people more than any of my other friends or any of our families, so liking them makes an hour in the gym a breeze.

Vickie (my "bartner") and I are currently racing to be the first to deadlift 300lbs.

Vickie (my “bartner”) and I are currently racing to be the first to deadlift 300lbs. Bitch, you’re going down!

As a result of this love and commitment, I am the strongest and most confident and comfortable with my body and myself than I have ever been. The large thighs I used to loathe are something I am proud to sport now. Nothing but slimming black yoga pants? Fuck that, give me a crazy ass pattern and let’s get wild. My ass is actually gaining a good curve, rather than just being a wide and flat white girl’s ass. And I have guns! With shadows of triceps! Some shirts don’t fit them anymore! What?! And I’m so okay with this!

No longer am I concerned with getting smaller. I just want to get stronger. As women we’ve had the messages of “take up less space,” “be smaller,” “shrink yourself,” and “don’t be an inconvenience” drilled into our brains from an early age. To shirk that and gladly acknowledge my strength and appear muscular is one of the most refreshing and liberating things I’ve experienced as an adult. Plus that feeling of denying someone’s help when they’re concerned your bag of groceries or that box you’re moving is too heavy, and showing them you’re more than capable of doing it yourself is, admittedly, amazing. I blew my grandparents’ minds when I moved a massive old TV for them on my own.

So, on the year anniversary of signing up for my first Olympic weightlifting meet, I signed up for my first powerlifting competition. Squat, deadlift, and overhead push press are the three lifts I’m competing in. Again, I know I’m not the strongest person out there. Not by a long shot. But having that goal to work toward is incredibly inspiring and I am more than stoked. Plus I’ve learned that it’s not about who lifts the most out of everyone, but just out of the people that had the guts to sign up that day. I could place last in my division, I could place first, I could place somewhere in the middle. I’m totally cool with any of those outcomes. To me, it’s all about the journey and seeing how far I come by the end of that day.

My husband and I are beginning our annual Whole30 on Monday the 5th (after some seriously fun food and drink indulgences over the holidays), and I plan on extending that until the powerlifting meet near the end of February. Not only that, I recently took a GEMS test to determine what foods work best with me on a lifelong genetic level (learn more about that here). Beyond the normal Whole30 guidelines I’ll be cutting out bacon, sausage, fermented foods, shellfish, dried fruit, and a few others. I’ve heard from people who’ve taken the test and eliminated their respectively appropriate foods that their health, well being, and even gym performance have improved significantly, so now it the perfect time to test that out. I signed up for a weight class that is right around where I usually hover, so this will be the first time I’ll have to monitor my weight, which should be interesting. The big takeaway from that though is not associating that number with an emotion, which I’ve gotten much better about during 2014. After all, it’s just a damn number.

I received a lot of great feedback from people regarding last year’s Strength series posts, as I’ve previously mentioned. I don’t plan on fully continuing that again this time around, but keep an eye out for updates on my training process and how the competition turns out. I’m so excited for it. 🙂

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The Strength to Be Proud

January 26, 2014

Yesterday I completed the aforementioned Olympic weightlifting competition and… whoa.

But.

Before I get into those fun details, I just want to say how incredibly awe-inspiring and humbling the feedback I’ve received from my Strength to Be Strong post has been. From calls to texts to social media comments to emails, I’ve heard back from so many wonderful people. It’s made me smile and reflect and feel so freaking grateful. What amazes me the most is how admitting your own insecurities opens a much more honest conversation with people, especially those with whom you’d normally only exchange banal pleasantries. It cuts to the quick of our experience as functioning humans in a social world much more so than discussing politics or the weather ever could.

In the wake of that post I’ve had so many more open, free-speaking, and in depth talks with people than I normally would ever have. From people I admire to people I don’t know very well, the all-encompassing lesson as been that EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN HANG-UPS. We’re all insecure about something. And I think the fact that I come off as a fairly confident person, especially in this world of social media where 90% of what you discuss publicly is fashioned to be positive, made the admissions I’ve held within for a lifetime that much more resonant.

What was particularly eye-opening were the emails and conversations exchanged with the people I look up to, the ones that I naturally assume “have it all.” Just as much as you, they have their own shit that they’re worried or embarrassed or ashamed about. In fact some of the things they’re insecure about will seem ridiculous in your eyes. But that’s the thing– we all compare ourselves to each other and what society expects from us, and we all find ourselves lacking. If we’re all lacking, then that means no one has everything, right? So striving to achieve perfection is a futile endeavor and we should all be celebrating our own little triumphs and moments of awesomeness, rather than overlooking them in search of the flaws. The notion of “having it all” is a stupidly perpetual myth.

So, on that note… the weightlifting meet.

I’ll say off the bat– it went great. I could easily do the stereotypical “chick” thing and diminish my accomplishments (which, as a journalism major, I always feel like I need to do for the sake of objectivity) by saying that I lifted the least amount of anyone competing, or that the only reason I placed was that there were no other women in my (“heavy” 75kg+) weight class.

No.

FUCK THAT.

I went in there with only a month of experience, lifted weights I have never lifted before, set personal records, and placed first in my weight division. AND I AM NOT MARGINALIZING THOSE ACCOMPLISHMENTS ONE GODDAMN BIT. I am wholeheartedly going to pat myself on the back for being ballsy and competing in something in which I have no expertise. I did it with a smile and maybe a weird dance or two on the platform while I was at it, no less. I had one goal that day: to successfully complete both a snatch and a clean & jerk, and I totally did that. Hands in the air, that’s all I’m here for, PEACE. Mic drop.

But I achieved more than that, and I choose to be proud.

And that’s the thing. YOU CAN CHOOSE TO BE PROUD.

You don’t need permission or a mythical future point in your life where everything will fall into place (because, hey there, real talk: it never will). In this world, in this one precious life, you have this incredible ability to choose your own adventure, to choose your own perspective, to choose your own happiness, and to choose to be proud of what you’ve accomplished. So go out there and do something for yourself, for no one else, and make yourself PROUD.

That’s what I did yesterday. And I plan to keep it up.
Plus I’m kinda hooked on this Olympic weightlifting thing.
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This is Part 3 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 2: Training, with GIFs
Part 4: A Work in Progress

Training, with GIFs

January 17, 2014

My head-first introduction into Olympic weightlifting only weeks before a meet has surprisingly been much more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I’m getting stronger with every session (I’m working out and training 3-5 times a week right now), but Oly requires a different set of skills than the ones you utilize when you’re simply lifting weights. There are so many intricate movements and positions to remember at every moment, whether you’re at rest or you’re hurling a bar over your head.

My first few training sessions were a breeze, and I left them feeling confident that I was progressing nicely. Then two nights ago I just could. not. do. it. And the only thing holding me back was my brain! In fact it felt exactly like my many summer days as a kid, standing on the high diving board, staring down at the water, and not being able to jump. I knew I could do it, I knew I’d be fine, everyone else can do it so easily, but something in my brain would block my legs from leaping. It was the same thing the other evening, and I was so frustrated with myself I felt near tears.

In contrast, I squeezed in a few practice lifts (of just the bar, mind you) last night and had no problem whatsoever. I just did it.

To use video game GIFs to express my point:

… Here’s me two nights ago:
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(It’s so sad how literal this nearly is.)

… And here’s me last night:

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In addition to that weird mental block, the reality that I committed myself to a COMPETITION in a very difficult and detail-oriented category of physical strength that I’m just now LEARNING definitely hangs over my head. It’s just a little bit insane, and I question it regularly. When I’m not staring at a bar in frustration, though, I know it’s just another challenge and you could qualify this level of ridiculousness as something akin to being brave, if you look at it in only the most flattering light. Does it matter how I fare on that day? Not really. Does it matter that I show up and try? Absolutely.

The meet is a week from tomorrow, and I’m about to fly out of state for work for four days. The timing is wonderfully shitty, especially since I’m eating super clean this month AND not drinking, and I’m heading to a three-day gourmet food show. Plus I won’t have any type of workout facility during those four days. Bodyweight hotel room workouts FTW!

I’m going to end this here, but please note that a post regarding the comments, hugs, kind words, and high fives that I’ve received in reaction to my Strength post is forthcoming. It’s been phenomenal, and fills me with warm fuzzies still. You are all glorious diamonds.

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This is Part 2 of this whole challenge. Need to catch up? Here you go, champ!
Part 1: The Strength to be Strong
Part 3: The Strength to be Proud
Part 4: A Work in Progress