“Loaders tighten that weight up, we will see Elliott following himself. He has another attempt…”
These words will burn themselves into your subconscious. The verbalization that you have for the moment, failed. The voice of the announcer echoing in the dark matter of your brain. How did we get here? Under these lights, watched by these spectators, standing in front of this barbell. Questions that constantly resurface, particularly when I was asked to write a short answer to then a general question: What can you tell us about your weightlifting experience?
I cannot speak to the reasons why you lift, but I believe many of the reasons will be similar to the athlete on the platform next to you. Different backgrounds and beliefs, various states and climates, obvious strengthens and maybe not so obvious weaknesses, and yet still a common passion: the barbell. Our tool, our enemy in the field, and our friend in the forge of progress: the barbell.
The author in training
Speaking of progress, I find myself at my anniversary of starting weightlifting. One year ago I began on a journey that has taken me to a couple different states, multiple local meets, a few achievements, and a new perspective. Oh what a journey; so what can you tell us about your weightlifting experience?
One hundred and twenty seconds, two minutes, no time at all, infinity. In the competition environment this is all the time allowed for a weightlifter to rest, readjust their focus, and take another attempt at a missed opportunity. What a profound experience! There are few times in life when you take an honest attempt at testing your abilities, come up short, and yet then be given reprise. Time to gird up your loins and get back in the fight.
So what makes a weightlifter, and then what deems them a beginner? Personally, I believe you can snatch and clean & jerk in your gym all day, but you can never brand the title of weightlifter until you compete. Accepting the challenge and stepping on the platform for the first time is a moment of ascension for the gym goer. A transformation from someone who possesses the skills and abilities to complete the necessary exercises; to an athlete who willingly puts themselves in the lion’s mouth.
Answering the call to compete is the first milestone in the weightlifter’s journey. The athlete will then transition to the role of the beginner, but what constitutes a beginner? One thing I’ve seen in a lot of athletes at this point is insecurity. The jester of the court, the thief in the shadow stealing from the athlete the very attribute necessary to excel, confidence.
The first year of weightlifting had some magical quality. The super compensation from the new workload has your body growing and adapting at a marvelous rate. You experience the phenomenon known as “beginner gains” where every time you touch the barbell for a PR attempt you are successful. Champions and record holders become first name subjects in your conversations. Often times even a weight class is added to the lifters Instagram handle, but always in kilos, always, no exceptions. It’s a glorious, wonderful time. I remember my first months with my coach and team; I was certain I was going to qualify for the American Open my first year lifting. I missed that qualifying total by less than 10 kilos; it took another nine months to earn that total.
That insecurity is always present. To a finite degree, it is the reason we started in the first place; to overcome the fear of unknown. In a modern world where there exists a limited opportunity for young people to transcend a rite of passage we collectively come to find weightlifting to fill that void. The athletes on the platforms near you do not expect anything to come easily. If they do, you will soon find that platform vacant. It is the trials and tribulations which we actively seek to grow, both within and elsewhere.
So what can I say about my first year weightlifting? That it is worth every second. Every long training session is worth it. Every time you miss is worth it. The injuries, the setbacks, having to explain that “no in fact I do not bench press”, is worth it. The insecurity will always be there, but that is its purpose. To shine light on the fact that without this sport, this endeavor, and this barbell you could be less than your true potential. So use it, use the fear and the pain. Chalk your hands and attack your insecurities with viciousness because you are just the beginner and it is all up from here.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.