LoLo takes on Hercules Weightlifting!

Nov 17, 2018

Coach Thomas’s account:

Hello everyone! My name is Thomas Grieve and I’m a weightlifting coach at CrossFit LoLo. Recently, the LoLo weightlifting group competed at the 2018 Island Invitational in Nanaimo. I coached five athletes in this competition, with the help of coach Ben Martin.s

Before I begin, I’d like to say a few words for any CrossFit-ers or other fitness enthusiasts who may not be familiar with the sport of weightlifting. First, thank you for reading this article! You rock, and if this piques your interest, I’d love to see you at one of our weightlifting classes. Second, I’m going to be talking in kilos for the rest of this article since that’s what’s used in competition and I don’t want to do a million conversions. Thanks for your patience!s

Our day started off at 7am on Saturday with myself, Ben, Jessica, Conrad and Emily packed into Emily’s car for the drive up to Nanaimo. I can’t thank Emily enough for driving the majority of the way up as it was not ideal conditions and does not help with competition day nerves. It was a really fun road trip though, full of laughs with some great people.s

Conrad was the first up. He had to weigh in at 10am and compete at noon. Conrad had been lifting very well coming into the competition, becoming a much more smooth and fluid lifter. Conrad was also the only lifter to have competed before this meet. Snatch warmups went completely according to plan, and we opened at 67kg. He made his opener and second attempt at 70kg look like a broomstick, so I let him go for 74kg on his third, which was a bit of a struggle, but a solid snatch to end on. Similarly to his snatch warmups, we breezed through clean and jerk warmups and opened at 87kg. Clean and jerk is really where Conrad shines as he can use his strength and aggression more than on the snatch. Conrad, once again, made his first two attempts at 87 and 92kg look like nothing, so I let him go for 97kg on his third. He got the jerk overhead but pressed it out. That would count in CrossFit, but not in weightlifting. I’m very proud of Conrad, he did everything we told him to as well as he could, which is all you can ask of an athlete. After the competition, Conrad said he felt a bit nervous, but prepared. That’s exactly what we want athletes to feel like. There are going to be nerves, and there’s no point in trying not to be nervous, but if you trust your coaches and trust yourself you will be well set for success.s

The next session, beginning at 2pm, featured both Jessica and Emily. Luckily for us coaches, they are both very similarly strong lifters so they could take mostly the same attempts in warmup. The plan was for Emily to open her snatch at 39kg and Jess at 41kg. We had a bit of a hiccup with Emily missing a 30kg warmup attempt. I told her she was just rushing it a bit too much. That missed warmup definitely didn’t help with nerves, but Emily did very well to channel her nervous energy into her lifts. I could tell she wasn’t particularly happy with how each subsequent warmup felt, but to my eye they were very consistent, clean reps. Jess did great to support Emily through this as she nailed all her warmups. Emily went out to make her 39kg opener as planned, and it looked just the same as all of her warmups. I told her that she’d feel great once she got her first snatch on the board, and she was noticeably having a better time for the rest of her competition. Emily went on to nail 41 and 43kg to go 3/3 on snatches. Jess got better as the competition went along. She has a very strong pull, which means she usually has to deliberately sink her snatches into her bottom position. This can be nerve-racking in a competition setting. I know, I’ve been there myself. I thought she really benefited with having more weight on the bar as it pushed her closer to her bottom position more each time. Jess also went 3/3 on snatch, hitting 41, 43 and 45kg, improving as she went along.

Coaching the clean and jerk was especially easy for these two, as they both had the same planned opener. Emily was having a lot more fun at this point, and they really worked off each other well. Very smooth warmup sequence for both. Both Jess and Emily went on to hit 51, 54 and 57kg on the platform, with very smooth and consistent technique. There’s a bright future ahead of both of them in the sport!s

The final athlete on Saturday for us was Jose in the 4pm session. Now I was definitely feeling a bit worn out by this point in the day, and Jose was the perfect athlete for a somewhat tired coach. Jose was incredibly content to just sit down and get in his zone in between warmups and lift whatever we told him to when asked. I’ll be honest here, I’m way more high maintenance than Jose in a warmup room. I could tell Jose completely trusted me and Ben to set him up for success, and just let us do our job. I could learn something from Jose, that’s for sure. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit this, but I actually forget what Jose’s lifts were exactly in this competition since I didn’t record all of them as my phone was dying. I know he went 6/6, ending his snatches at 82kg and beginning his clean and jerks at 95kg. I’m pretty sure he snatched 75, 79 and 82kg and clean and jerked 95, 99 and 103kg. The point is, he hit every lift he was asked to very convincingly, and it was a great start to a promising weightlifting career!s

Finally, we had Josh in the Sunday morning 10am session. Josh was moved to this session about two weeks out. He was originally supposed to be in the same session as Jose. We also made a mistake, accidentally declaring our clean and jerk opener too high. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to move down from where your opener is, so we just had to roll with it for this competition. Snatch warmups were going great until one lifter who had declared his opener at 70kg moved it up to 77kg. At that point, Josh had just hit 70kg in the warmup area, with the plan being to hit 73kg and then take 76 as an opener. We had to skip the 73kg attempt and jump right in to the 76kg opener. Josh unfortunately missed his opener behind him, but I could tell it was there. Just a combination of nerves and less than ideal timing. So, he attempted 76kg again and made it. He then made a strong lift at 79kg to finish off snatches. Athletes moving their openers up at the last minute is a common occurrence in weightlifting, and it was a good learning experience for me to have it happen to one of my athletes. I’ll be more prepared in future competitions, that’s for sure. Clean and jerk warmups went smoothly, and and Josh went on to hit his opener and second attempt at 98 and 102kg. Josh has a textbook jerk, very aggressive and fast, and his first two attempts showed that off well. The plan was to open lighter though, I was hoping for a final attempt around 102kg. However, he was lifting very well, so I gave him a shot at 105kg on his third. Same as with Conrad, Josh got it overhead but pressed it out. I thought Josh did very well with the adverse circumstances he had to face, and I can’t wait to coach him again! We’ll hit all 6 lifts next time!s

Finally, a little bit about me! I’ve been competing in weightlifting for about two and a half years now. This was my seventh competition, and second time doing the Island Invitational. The goal for all other LoLo lifters was to hit all six lifts in this competition. My goal was to get a 284kg total, which would qualify me for nationals in the 96kg weight class. About ten weeks before competition I sprained my right wrist, likely a grade two sprain. For the first eight weeks of training after that injury for me was almost entirely squats and pulls. I was finally able to do my programmed weights two weeks out of the competition. Honestly, if any of my athletes had this injury I
would tell them not to compete, but I’m pretty tough and really dumb so I went for it anyway.s

This was the heaviest I’ve ever opened at a competition. I started snatches at 120kg and clean and jerks at 150kg. My best competition lifts coming into this were 120kg and 151kg. Again, likely wouldn’t ever make one of my athletes do this, but my coach, Mirek Korkowski, believed in my ability to make those weights, and I trust his judgement. The plan was to snatch 120, 124 and 126kg and clean and jerk 150, 155, and 158kg.s

Warmups felt surprisingly good to begin with for snatches. Snatches aggravated my wrist much more than cleans or jerks leading up to this. It wasn’t meant to be though, as the moment I got underneath a 90kg warmup I realized my wrist was definitely not miraculously better. I also knew that I needed to be as aggressive as possible locking the bar out to avoid shooting pains in said wrist. You can see how that can be hard mentally. You’re afraid of the pain of catching a heavy barbell, but also know you have to punch it as hard as you can to avoid more pain. I’m still dealing with this, and it’s one of the more challenging things I’ve faced in my weightlifting career.s

I did my best to lift all my other warmups as aggressively as possible, but there was definitely still some fear. I’d be lying to you if I said that I had 100% confidence that  I’d hit my opening snatch. But, I also knew that it would probably hurt no matter what, and you might as well make it if you’re going to go out there.s

I have one phrase that I live by in competition: “The platform is not a place for hesitation”. I was having negative thoughts before my opener, had some self-doubt. But I waited behind the platform until I got my head straight. I knew once I stepped on, there was no going back, no hesitation. I went through my usual setup that I’d use for any snatch be it 40kg or 125kg, and just lifted it. It wasn’t the easiest snatch of my life, but it wasn’t too bad. At that point I knew I could do this, and I hit 124kg on my second, even if I had to recover it forward. There was definitely some hesitation on my final attempt of 126kg though, which led to me not quite locking it out and missing behind. A 4kg competition PR is never a bad thing though!s

I don’t have much to say about clean and jerks. They felt just fine in the warmup area, and I cruised from an empty bar to my final warmup of 145kg. I then made 150 and 155 on the platform, and they technically the best lifts I’ve ever done in competition. It’s just too bad I had to go to 160kg on my final attempt instead of 158, as I really do believe 158 was there on the day. My chest caved on the dip of the jerk and I wasn’t able to recover, bailing the bar behind me. 155kg was another 4kg competition PR though! All in all a very solid meet for me, and I’m sure I’ll get that national total soon with some healthy training in.s

Thanks for reading this article! I do really appreciate that you stuck around to read the whole thing. I have to thank Raf Korkowski for running such a great competition, his father Mirek for coaching me through it, and of course Adam Davidson for trusting our athletes to me and Ben!s

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