By Jacob Sterny, Head Coach, Valhalla Barbell Club
Lately I’ve been feeling sort of nostalgic. It’s the end of the year and typically at this point I like to take stock of the year by reflecting on different parts of my life. Basically, I like to sit down and review my year so that I can plan my upcoming year. Sometimes, however, I’ll even go back a little bit further. Today I want to talk about the event that started it all, my first competition.
I began weightlifting, ”full time”, in the Spring of 2011. This was not my first exposure to the Snatch and Clean & Jerk, however. Just 1.5 years prior I was introduced to CrossFit through a Strength and Conditioning Coach that relocated to my High School. I fell in love with CrossFit. I wanted to perform the Mainsite WOD everyday. I would eat, sleep and breathe CrossFit. That was until I was taught the basic of a Snatch for the classic benchmark workout named, “Isabel”.
I continued on in CrossFit through my first year of college. I lost weight and hell I even had a six pack (those were the days). I stayed in CrossFit and didn’t see myself doing anything else. That was until my coach at the time said I should switch to weightlifting full time. He said something like, “It’s really hard to ride two horses with one ass”, and pushed me to make a decision. What did I love more? The constant variation of CrossFit or being strong and lifting heavy things. Obviously I chose the heavy things.
Not long after I registered with USA Weightlifting and signed up for my first competition. As soon as I got back from my first year of college I began training exclusively in the sport. I worked really hard for almost two months. The style of program I was on was lifted from a website somewhere. It focused mainly on the Snatch and Clean and Jerk and would find a heavy in these lifts almost daily (looking back this was not smart, but I didn’t know any better).
At the end of the summer I arrived at the 2011 Team Spartacus Open weighing in at a whopping 69kg (yes my head looked huge). Wearing my badass maroon wrestling style singlet (that didn’t fit), I didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea how the competition was structured. I didn’t know that we were to perform each lift in separate sessions. I didn’t even know how to weigh in. But, I went for it.
Warm up for me went pretty smoothly as I had a coach counting for me but I was pretty damn nervous to walk out on that platform. One of the things that I later fell in love with that scared me early on was being alone. Out on the platform it is just you…in spandex…attempting to not suck. All of this went away however when I placed my foot on the platform for the first time.
As soon as my foot hit plywood, everything else disappeared. The crowd, the judges, the Marshall’s table, all of it seemed to blur. Then it was just me and the barbell. This is the number one thing I tell everyone when they are starting to compete. You’ll be nervous as hell and for good reason, you care. But, the second you step out there and it’s just you, nothing else matters. That very moment was the second I fell in love with the sport and knew that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
All in all my first competition did not go as bad as I thought it would. I would finish with a whopping total of 179 kg, going 5 for 6 and hitting a 78 kg Snatch and 101 kg Clean and Jerk. Compare this to my last major competition where I went 6 for 6 hitting 106 kg and 129 kg in the lifts and it looks pretty insignificant. But, everyone needs to start somewhere.
Weightlifting has given me a lot. It has given me life long friendships, training partners, strength, confidence and most of all a purpose. In all this reflection I’ve found that something that can change your life all comes down to one thing, making a decision.
For your viewing pleasure I have included video of my first competition and a link to my last major contest. Check them out!