By Jacob Sterny, Head Coach, Valhalla Barbell Club

Many of you don’t know about Flatirons Weightlifting Club.  Some of you may know more about the club it actually became (Butcher Barbell) because they are in fact my team that I train with and compete alongside at National Meets.  But, most of you are unaware of how it all started for me and for a club that would expand to hold a roster of over 30 competitive athletes in a little under 6 months, only to have it fall apart just a year later.  This is the beginning of a small three part series covering the rise and fall of Flatirons Weightlifting Club.


Young, Dumb and Broke


I had never been on a plane before.  Not once in my childhood had my blue collar parents shifted priority away from taking care of my baby brother and myself to pay for a trip across country.  My first trip to Colorado would be full of many firsts for a young, small town man fresh out of college.  As I sat in my seat located near the back half off the plane I had no clue what was to come for me in the state of Colorado.  So, why was I here?  Why was I in this seat?  The answer…externship.


The Externship


My 4 year degree was almost complete.  I had walked with most of my friends in the winter of 2013 and was all but done with an accumulation of 4 years of hard work.  I had one last hoop to jump through and that is what my program called an externship.  Over the course of my second to last semester all students in my Health Promotion and Wellness program were tasked with applying to and accepting externships in various cities across the country.

The Goal?  Practical experience in the field of either community, corporate or private training atmospheres in the field of health.  I applied to one.  Got accepted by one and figured this is where I was supposed to be.  So I booked a flight that would take me to Denver International Airport for the first time in May of 2014.  I was headed to Boulder.


The First Call


I came in on a late afternoon flight.  When I landed one of the previous students that had taken the track I was about to take with the City of Boulder picked me up and dropped me at my sublet in the South of Boulder.  This was a Friday and I was set to start my externship on Monday.  Now, if you’re unfamiliar with who I am you’ll know that I am a very big routine person.  I rely on the continuity of certain things to help relieve my stress throughout the day and one of my top priorities is my training.

So, rather than take time to set up my temporary space where I would be staying for a few months I started searching for local gyms.  This was important because this time I was going to do it right.  I was going to find a gym that actually respected weightlifting and took it serious as a sport.  I called around a few places in town such as CrossFit Sanitas, CrossFit Roots and I believe that I even came across Cutthroat (may or may not have my memory is a little fuzzy on that one).  Each of these was met with a machine or someone telling me that they didn’t have open gym time for weightlifters.  So, I took one last shot with a place called Flatirons Performance Center.

“Hey! I just moved here and I’m looking for a place to train.  I was wondering if you had any open gym times or if you guys specialize in weightlifting.”  On the other end of this call a man named Brian R. had picked up.  “Sure! Why, don’t you come down and check it out. We have a USAW National Coach named Randy so I’ll let him know you’re coming.”  Brian R. was the owner and the only real human I had talked to that day over the phone so I figured, much like in accepting my externship, that was where I was supposed to be.


First Impressions of Flatirons


The first time I walked into Flatirons Performance Center I was astounded with the sheer size and layout of the space.  Located in a small industrial/technological zone of Boulder, Flatirons had something that I had never seen or been a part of before.  They had a space strictly designated for weightlifting.  4 overbuilt (due to noise issues with the neighbors) platforms were surrounded by a plethora of high end weightlifting barbells, full plate sets and squat stands.  A CrossFit space that was slightly larger on the shared cinderblock wall behind each lifting space impressed me even more so, because the sheer size of it showed just how big the weightlifting side was.  To this day, it is hands down one of my favorite training spaces that I have ever been in across the country.

I mean they had nearly everything and coming from a small town that didn’t have the slightest clue as to what weightlifting or even what a good gym really was, I was in heaven.  Then came the meeting with Salty Coach.


Meeting Salty Coach


He stood a little taller than me at about 5’7″ or 8″ (and I say stood with “” as he had some hip issues causing him to lean slightly making him appear shorter).  We exchanged a few words on how I got into weightlifting and about whether or not I was still doing CrossFit (this is important for later).  That day I maxed out on both lifts and I believe I set a PR on my Clean and Jerk at 111kg (wooooooo).  Randy was good.  Like really good.  He had a really good eye for movement and what I was doing wrong.  On another note my first “coach” didn’t really coach me so to receive input from someone of his level was exciting.

Overall I had a good first session with the Salty Coach and I didn’t mind his passive aggressive and sarcastic humor at the time because it meshed so well with mine. So…I was sold.  I would begin training with Randy a few days per week on the team program and lead into my first competition in the state of Colorado called the Rocky Mountain State Games of 2014.  What I didn’t know was to come were the very up and down two years to follow within the confines of Flatirons Performance Center.  Everything was good with the Salty Coach until Coach Mongo showed up.


Check out Part Two coming next week in a long podcast format.

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