There have been two or three times when I’ve intentionally written articles with outlandish titles just to see how many internet morons will post half-cocked raging comments about them without actually reading the article. This is obviously one of them.
My buddy Mike Gray wrote an article
not too long ago about why everybody should compete in weightlifting. It was a great piece and a lot of people loved it, myself included. It got me thinking, and I decided to write something about this subject with some additional thoughts of my own because I want to give even more support to Mike’s ideas.
When I started competing at 15 years old (back in 1988), I kept a journal of all my competition results. Believe it or not, I’ve kept this journal going for 28 years. I checked it this morning to see how many meets I’ve competed in during my career. The current number is 113.
With six attempts per meet, that adds up to almost 700 times I’ve stood on a competition platform to lift a snatch or clean and jerk with maximum or near-maximum weight.
I guess what I want to do here is put out a list of thoughts about competing in weightlifting, to stay consistent with how Mike did his article. I agree with everything he wrote and there’s no way I could improve on any of his points, but his opinions really inspired me and I’d like to pile on a little more.
Competition changes the level of fear you have in your life:
If anybody were to ask me how my competitive weightlifting career has made me a different person, I guess this would have to be the biggest answer. I’m not really scared of anything anymore.
Now don’t take that in a stupid direction and think I’m claiming to be a fearless warrior god with a bullet-proof soul. There are still plenty of things that worry me and get me stressed, like the thought of waking up one morning and finding out I’m no longer one of the most physically desirable people in the western hemisphere.
But I can positively tell you that you’ll develop a lot more courage if you become a competitive lifter. It’s incredibly hard to keep your mind steady in a weightlifting meet, especially when you’re new. I always get a chuckle when I coach CrossFitters in their first weightlifting meet. Most of the time, they tell me beforehand that they’re usually pretty mentally tough in competition (because they’ve competed in CrossFit). Then they get in a weightlifting meet and realize they’re in a much different situation from doing wall balls and pullups with five other people for six minutes, where the spectator attention is spread out and there’s no instantaneous moment of absolute success or failure. Afterwards, they’ve universally told me how nerve-wracking it was.
Listen, I’ve talked to a few military veterans who have competed in weightlifting and told me afterwards that it was the closest feeling to combat they’ve ever experienced. These were guys who have actually been there, you know? Gun fights, artillery…the real thing. Now, PLEASE don’t think I’m saying a weightlifting meet has the same level of difficulty and consequence as the life-and-death battles our armed forces have to go through. I’m not saying that at all. If you think that’s what I’m saying, you have weak reading skills and you need to enroll in a remedial learning course at your local community college. Nobody shoots at you with an AK-47 when you’re on a weightlifting platform. I freaking know that. The point I’m making is that the stress and intensity of competitive lifting has been described to me in a pretty interesting way by men who have been in the most frightening human situation imaginable.
You’ll get great stories:
Let me give you a sub-list of things I’ve actually seen in weightlifting meets over the years:
- I once saw a lifter who showed up to a competition without a weightlifting singlet, and the meet director was requiring everybody to wear one. So the guy put on a white tank-top, grabbed the bottom of the tank-top in front and back, pulled it down beneath his scrotum, and safety-pinned it together to make a singlet.
- I saw a guy miss his last clean and jerk at a meet once, and he got so pissed off he yelled at everybody in the warm-up room, “F--- THIS! I’M WALKING HOME!!” And he stormed out of the building and did it (the meet was two hours away from where he lived, by car).
- I saw a guy miss a snatch behind him in a meet once, and he stood on the platform and screamed at the crowd, “WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH ME?!?!”
- I was at a meet once where one of the competitors was a former national champion, World Team member, etc. The meet announcers were really celebrating his appearance and talking him up to the crowd, how honored they were by his presence, what a great example he was to the younger lifters, etc. At one point in the meet, one of the other lifters got injured during a snatch attempt and he was lying on the platform while people treated him. The former national champion guy (the great example role model for the young lifters), who was waiting to take his own attempt, poked his head out of the warmup room and barked out, “GET HIS ASS OFF THE PLATFORM!!”
And I could go on and on, believe me.
Long story short, I agree with Mike that weightlifting competition is a great thing, and everybody should do it. If somebody doesn’t want to compete, that’s not going to be a deal breaker for me, and I won’t refuse to work with them if they just want to train in the gym. But there’s no doubt in my mind that competition is the highlight of a weightlifter’s experience.
In other words, get your ass on the platform.