I asked one of my Vintage Strong lifters, Robert, to write up a recap after his first powerlifting meet last week. I’ve been incredibly proud of his work in and out of the gym, and thought his story would be a great one to share with you all, and knew that he’s a great writer and it would make a good read. What he sent me impressed me even more than I imagined. This is a heart-felt and honest story, folks. Check it out, and post your PRs in the comments as you would any other Friday – but go ahead and mention how many days out from your next meet you are while you’re at it. – Cloud
When I first started trying to write this I had a difficult time deciding what was worth sharing. Should I talk about how I learned pretty quickly that a competition bench is much wider than the bench I use for training at my gym, and as a result I felt rock solid steady on that thing? Or how on my third bench attempt my face split into a huge grin as soon as I got the press command because I felt how easy 248 was, and then got teased by the judges because, “there ain’t no smiling during the lift?” How about the incredible embodiment of strength in all the participants through their support, compassion, and empathy? Or how I went nine for nine (and got a perfect 27 for 27 from the judges), set four PRs (three coming on my final attempts for each lift), and I shattered my goal of a 1000lb total by hitting 1063? All of these were eye opening, and very important for me, but I was still curious as to what I could possibly have to say that is worth hearing. Then it hit me: this has been my biggest hurdle both in and out of the gym. I rarely understand why anyone would think I am worth whatever he or she is asking of me, because I constantly think I am not good enough. Maybe, just maybe, Cloud is still coaching me out of the gym, and knows I need to work on this… so I decided to write about how I hit 1063 by NOT listening to that asshole little voice in the back of my head that tells me, “you are not good enough,” and instead listened to my coach and my handler (here is a great article by Cloud that hammers this same stuff out very clearly).
Cloud started coaching me back in March. I had been running the Greyskull LP for about a month or so, and had been really enjoying it. However, I had been program hopping for the last three and a half years, and as a result, I had basically the same PRs in March that I had four years prior. GSLP might be a good program, but I finally realized that I needed to reach out and ask for some help.
Cloud slid into the role of coach effortlessly, and he knew really quickly how to explain to me the plans we were implementing, and how to get my head out of my ass. We continued to run a modified LP right up to four weeks out from the meet, when we transitioned to a Texas Method taper approach. I could go into all the detail for you, but suffice to say, that for the first time since my D1 swim coach in college, I trusted someone to tell me what to do, when to do it, and that it would be the right move. I trusted that Cloud knew more than I did, and as a result the whole “not good enough” attitude started to fade.
Come meet day it was impossible for Cloud to be there in person to keep an eye on me. He was out in Austin for his Push/Pull, and I was in Atlanta. Cloud and I did take some time to map out exactly how to approach the attempts, and he made a fantastic plan for me to give to my handler when things got rolling. Enter my buddy Alex.
I asked Alex to handle me because Alex coaches another guy at our gym, Dave, and Dave set some solid PRs a few weeks back. He told me he never knew what was on the bar because Alex put in the weights so he wouldn’t think. I immediately wanted Alex to do the same. As someone who overthinks, I knew I could ruin the meet by overthinking my second and third attempts.
Alex is a few years my junior, but he is a huge inspiration to me. He also competes in the 198lb weight class, and is a trainer at the gym where I train: Core Body Decatur. Besides his great lifting knowledge, Alex is just an all around great person, and despite my insistence on paying him, agreed to come handle me free of charge. I sent him Cloud’s spreadsheet two days out, and all I heard from him between then and meet day was, “looks good, but let’s see how your openers look.” I was a bit disheartened by this, because I of course interpreted Alex’s response as, “You are not good enough to hit those weights.” Boy, was I wrong. Alex did not tell me, but he thought I was shortchanging myself.
When Alex arrived on Saturday morning he completely overhauled what I had planned. He cut my expected warm-up reps by almost two-thirds, and I was admittedly a bit nervous going into the first squat. Next thing I knew, 319 felt like kiddy weight and was quickly followed by a very easy 342 (which was the worst case scenario third attempt Cloud and I had come up with). I was starting to buy in. Third attempt goes up with a bit of a fight, but nothing bad. I went to the table and asked how much it was. They just laughed at me and said 358. 358!? A thirteen-pound PR that easily? That was what Cloud and I thought might be a best-case scenario. Needless to say, I was listening to my handler from there on out.
The bench went similarly. Smaller warm up, super easy opener and second attempt. Third attempt felt so light I grinned like a fool, and then came to find out I had just pushed 248, an eight-pound PR, easily. Moreover, Alex actually had to go beyond the plan Cloud and I had mapped out, because we guessed 242 at best.
Deadlift time: my bread and butter. The one lift I knew I had in the bag. I also knew that I had performed so well on the squat and bench, that all I had to do was hit my 395 opener to break 1000. That felt awesome. No pressure now, just fun time. Same thing: super short warm up, incredibly easy opener. Second attempt, Alex gives me advice for the first time: “Keep your hips high and your shoulders over the bar. This ought to go up pretty easy, but you tend to hitch when you get those shoulders back too early.” Fair enough, except it was not pretty easy. It was SUPER easy. It was also 430, a fifteen pound PR, and what Cloud and I mapped out as my most likely third attempt. I am geared up now, thinking “third attempt, what might happen?” Again, Alex steps close to me, “I have no doubt you have the strength to make this pull, but you have got to keep your shoulders ahead of the bar, otherwise you will hitch.” I step up, start to pull, and it gets going and then it hits me, this is a tough pull. However, I kept my shoulders back, and actually remembered Cloud’s advice instead of Alex’s: “when it gets heavy, just ride it out. Do not let go. Just keep it moving. It will be there.” It was. A 457 deadlift, a forty-two- pound PR, and it sure as hell was good enough.