What I Learned About Weightlifting From Two Olympic Participants

The explosive lifting of a giant barbell overhead requires strength, technique, and a certain amount of fearlessness. I’ve been doing this sport – Olympic-style weightlifting – for about two years, and I feel like I find something new every day to learn about it. I recently had the opportunity to ask two members of the US Olympic Weightlifting Team, Jourdan Delacruz and CJ Cummings, about how they train, how they stay motivated, and what it feels like to step onto the platform under so much pressure.

Their answers shed light on me in part because of what they do differently from me and from each other, but also because of what remains the same. For example, they both told me that beginners need to be patient and remember that they are in this for a long time – my coach told me a million times.

This is a sport in which you do just two lifts: a snatch, which raises the bar from the ground to overhead in one quick motion, and a clean and jerk, which does it in two. The moves are tricky and you have to do them consistently so that they become second nature. Pulling too tight or keeping your balance a little too far towards the front or back of your foot can mean the difference between miss and luck, win and lose.

So, you spend hours training each week, and it all boils down to six separate minutes on one big day.

How do you keep yourself motivated to exercise every day?

My coach programs me three to five days of weightlifting a week. I usually fill the remaining time with other exercises and workouts for other sports, but that’s because otherwise I get bored and lifting weights is fun. I find being physically busy works wonders for my mental health. But it would probably be different for me if lifting weights were my job, so I asked these two Olympians how they keep motivated to train every day.

“You know, sometimes it’s going to be exhausting, but you always have to keep in mind your goal and why you’re doing it,” says CJ, who also mentioned that people often don’t realize how fun Olympic weightlifting can be. “I love doing what I do.”

Jourdan also links his daily workouts to his goals. “I have big goals and then very small goals,” she says; As recent examples of the latter, she lists how to get stronger in squats and focus on mental health in the chaos of 2020. (Both CJ and Jourdan were able to train despite the closures of gyms during the pandemic, but the postponement of the Olympics got everyone thinking. Loop.)

But what makes them both appear every day is that they do just that . “Since weightlifting has become a part of my life now, it has become a routine,” says Jourdan. “It’s kind of weird not to train on Monday or not train on Tuesday.”

How do you prepare to be the best on a particular day?

Another tricky skill is to peak in a big competition. You want to be physically strong, but you don’t want to exercise so much that you get tired. You also need to be sharp and focused, but not nervous.

“I tell myself, okay, it’s like going to the gym,” says CJ. He reminds himself that he has done these exercises thousands of times and tries to focus on familiarity with the exercises rather than pressure.

Jourdan very deliberately describes the process of narrowing her focus. “After about four or five weeks, I try to keep my routine very simple. I tune in to my diet, tune in to my mental capacity, and tune in to recovery – basically all aspects of the exercise itself. I try to make it very routine. ” On the day of the competition “Delivered. And then I focus on exactly what I’m doing on the platform. “

What do you think about when you step on the platform?

And now the day comes. We talked before the Olympics ( Jourdan already spoke this week ; CJ’s turn is still ahead). Here’s how two athletes describe how they approach the bar.

I work very hard to have a very simple mindset,” says Jourdan. She tries not to emphasize the importance of the competition, but simply to focus on “one or two clues” to think about during the exercise. “My favorite line, which I have followed for a couple of years, is to feel the floor with my whole foot,” she says. (“I don’t know if it makes sense?” She asks, but I assure her that it is – I use this signal too. If you are not a weightlifter, well, it helps you keep your balance, so you end up barbell is directly above you, not in front or behind.)

CJ admits to being nervous on an important day, especially before the first exercise in a competition. (We all do.) He gets distracted to calm his nerves. “I don’t think about the elevator at all,” he says until he’s on the platform. “I think about everything except the elevator. So I can think about what I will do after the competition, I can think about what I am eating tonight, or that I need to do something else later this week because I don’t want to think about competitions. lift, because if I think too much about it, it just gets confused in my head. “His favorite line is just” pull, jump and squat “- this phrase he heard over and over from his trainer.” But I I don’t think about it until the very last second before starting. “

Was it scary or intimidating when you first lifted something heavy?

Let’s talk for a second about the fact that people who compete in this sport pull a barbell from the ground to a ceiling, a barbell that can weigh more than double their weight. (My own push is only slightly greater than my body weight; CJ and Jourdan have more than double their weight.) It takes a certain amount of fearlessness to get close to a heavy bar that you’re basically going to throw up and then use its momentum. pull your body down until the thing is momentarily weightless. The whole concept is almost unbelievable. I was curious how these athletes feel about what they are doing.

“This is crazy,” says CJ, who started at 11. “I never found it scary. When I first walked into the gym, I saw these guys lifting huge weights, and I thought, “Wow.” Like, I want to do it. So I thought: how can I do this? And then we started training. “

Jourdain admits that he feels fear and does it anyway. “Oh, this is very scary,” she says. “I mean, even now I’m nervous about really big climbs. But when I first started out, I was very lucky to be surrounded by already pretty strong women in the gym, so I could see other women and girls lifting heavier weights than me and feel a little more confident in myself. “

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