I AM- The Everyday Lifter

Post Written by: John Emerson


My name is John...

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky.  Been here in this state my entire life.  Graduate of University of Kentucky.  I played baseball and football in High School and had several opportunities to play college baseball.  I lost interest in sports that I played my entire life around the time going to bars and parties were the cool thing to do.  But there is one thing that I never veered too far from.  The gym. 

While I may have had a few sabbaticals here and there I always found myself back in the gym before too long.  Always looking to get stronger and feel better.  Chasing the pump.   I was so sick of lat pull downs, bicep curls, and bench press (aka: Bodybuilding) that I desperately needed to find something new.  I kept seeing pictures on social media of friends doing this thing called “CrossFit”.  I was hungry for something new so I drank the juice. At the ripe age of 33 I walk in to the CrossFit gym the first day and got my ass handed to me in some crazy partner workout. 

Afterwards, I look over in the corner of the gym and there is the huge guy named Tyler (6’6”-250) doing this crazy thing with the barbell.  The barbell is going from the floor to over this guy's head in one swift, beautiful, and lightning fast motion and somehow ending up in a full squat!! All I could think of in my head was “what is this thing he’s doing, and how do I do that?!”. It was from that moment on that I knew my end game would be weightlifting.  I would continue to do Crossfit for a few more months and then finally make the jump to full time weightlifting.  I am, by no means, knocking Crossfit!  I think it is great, and it too, is for everyone.  I actually enjoy it still!

But, weightlifting has built a special place in my heart. 

It has given me so much joy and pain in the same breath.  But from that pain, which is basically soreness, a bloom of muscles and happiness has appeared. For some strange reason I continue to show up week after week asking the barbell, “Please can I have another?”.  

I cannot tell you how many times I have written this article in my head.  The title has always been the same, but the list of topics continues to grow as I progress and learn in this sport.  I want to tell the whole wide world about the sport of weightlifting, and now is my chance.  This sport is an absolutely wonderful sport with many benefits.  Though, it is a tough sport, it is for everyone!  Especially you!  This great sport literally attacks all the issues associated with aging.  Granted it is ideal to start in your teenage years but, many like myself, don’t have that luxury.  We just have to roll with what we’ve got.  Regardless of age or ability anyone can participate in this sport.  There is literally something for everyone.  All you need is the desire to be a better you, and the dedication to that goal.  Will you be an Olympic hopeful??  Yeah, probably not.  But, that should have zero bearing on your goal.  The goal is always to add another kilo and be the best version of you. 

 

Being A Master's Athlete

I will cover some topics that are more geared towards master's athletes.  These athletes are from the age of 35 and older.  I will reflect on my personal experience of gym training, and knowledge I have gained over the years of being in the gym.  We old farts have a different set of circumstances than a 17-year-old for example.  We have jobs, bills, and families to attend to.  When you're young you can devote almost an endless amount of time to training.  That definitely is not the case for us.  There is this thing called life, that always seems to get in the damn way!  On top of life, we have age working against us.  It is a proven scientific fact that mobility/flexibility, and strength decrease with age.  It is the job of us as weightlifters to tell father time to kick rocks.  

The First Months

The best part about being a new weightlifter is that the PR’s seem to rain down like a tropical storm.  Because, when you are new, you rely mostly on your current strength to basically muscle through the movements.  Timing, coordination, and muscle sequencing is a learned skill that takes an enormous amount of repetition.  This is probably the best period of learning weightlifting in my opinion.  You basically have no idea what you are doing then all of a sudden, BAM, you PR your back squat, or your clean and jerk.  They seem to start to come in big chunks too!  Not just 1 kilo, but 5 or 6 kilos at a time.  Don’t get too excited just yet because eventually the progress slows.  There are so many things affecting this.  Overall strength, and technique are the main roadblocks to PR’s.  Mental focus is another but I'll save that for later.  Strength and technique are directly proportional and interchangeable with each other.  As your strength improves your lifts will go up to a certain point.  Then it is at this point that technique must be mastered in order to mover a heavier barbell at your current strength levels.  Then it begins all over again.  Get stronger, improve technique, or vice versa.  It is a constant battle that you will fight.  That’s where the beauty is.  Always fighting to improve, and coming out better on the other side.

 

The Role of Your Coach

This is possibly the most important aspect of weightlifting.  They must understand that typically, your body will not respond the same as a 20-year-old.  You most likely cannot handle the same volume and/or intensity as someone much younger.  I will say that much of this falls on you as well.  You have to have an open lane of communication with your coach.  They have to know when your feeling really tired or sore, or something is off with your body.  This will allow them to adjust and adapt a strategy that works best for you.  With our crazy lives filled with jobs, kids, and bills, we have to be transparent with our coach so they always know where we stand physically and mentally.  If you are an introvert this must change in order for to be successful.  My coach, Logan Wheatley, started into this sport before I did, but I am his first masters athlete.  He is the one who got me to buy into weightlifting full time.  This has been a great learning experience for myself and him.  He demands that I keep him informed with how I feel, what I am eating, and how I am responding to his programs.  This puts us both in successful positions because we can adjust on the fly.  The common denominator with any good coach is passion, understanding, and communication.

 

Commitment Issues

Having enough time in the day may seem tough for most adults.  Though I see this as an excuse in many occasions.  If you want something bad enough you will find the time.  Yes, our lives can be jam packed with, basketball practices, PTA meetings, work, etc.  But one must step back and view this from a different lens.  This should be seen as an investment.  Anytime you make health and longevity a priority this is an investment.  You will thank your 70-year-old self later.  When many of your peers at that age may begin to breakdown physically, you will still be going strong due to your investment.  “Muscle Motto”-Use It or Lose It.  Muscles breakdown and atrophy the older you get.  So, keeping them strong and flexible is the key to healthy aging.  This should be seen as a life-long process regardless of what form of training you use.

 

Nutrition

This is probably the most underrated topic in being successful in any athletic endeavor.  It is critical to learn how to eat properly.  Food is fuel so if you put garbage in your body you better believe your performance will be the same.  Your coach should be able to help you with your nutritional needs.  If they can't then they should be able to point you in the direction of someone who can help.  Chances are high that there will be a nutrition expert at your gym.  There is always someone there to help you!  Take them up on it!!

In ending, find your "why", find a coach, put in the work and repetitions, learn how to eat properly.  This is for YOU!  Be the best and strongest you, and, as Dave Spitz would say, "fight the war on mediocrity!"  Most importantly.....Keep showing up!

-John

“How you feel is a lie.”- John Broz

"Strength is never a weakness."-Louis Simmons

"Are you interested or are you committed?"-Don Ricci