Choices

3am, wide awake as I begin writing this.  Not sure if out of obsession or frustration, probably both.  Regardless, I can’t sleep, and I can’t stop thinking about choices athletes have to make.  Maybe I obsess too much.  Maybe I spend too much time trying to find ways to motivate my athletes.  Maybe it’s because I know if my athletes don’t start making the right choices, right now, they will never realize their full potential.

As a sedentary person, with no aspirations of athletic achievement, you literally have to do nothing.  As an athletic person, with goals/dreams/aspirations of achieving athletic greatness, there is so much you have to do, and so many choices/sacrifices you have to make.  For the purposes of this blog, I am going to keep it very simple, and break it down into 3 major components.  There is a lot more to it than what I am going to say right now, but this should be easy to understand.  Eat, sleep, train.

Whatever your chosen sport, chances are you have to be stronger, faster, and more explosive than your opponents in order to succeed.  Sure there are sports that have exceptions to this, but generally speaking, this is true.  To become stronger, faster, and more explosive, you must subject your body to a particular stress (training) in order to bring about the desired change.  Not only must you subject your body to stress, but you must also feed it the proper nutrients, and allow it sufficient time to recover.  These 3 go hand in hand.

If you don’t eat the right foods, you will not have enough of the proper fuel to train effectively.  If you do not sleep enough, your body will not recover properly to allow you to train effectively.  If you cannot train effectively, your athletic performance will suffer.

Did you have to wake up today at 6am to go to school/work?  Then you should have been asleep no later than 9pm last night.  Why?  Sleep is when your body heals/rebuilds/repairs itself from all the damage you do to it while subjecting it to stress (training) in order to bring about the desired change.  You need 8-10 hours of sleep, every night.  If you do not sleep enough, your body does not fully restore itself, and your progress will be delayed.  Just like bad weather does not allow the crews to work on building this stupid bridge by the gym, and delays the entire process.  So, didn’t sleep enough last night?  You will probably have a crap training session today, and I am going to be frustrated with you.  Getting the right amount of sleep, is a choice you have to make.  Maybe you should have stayed home instead of going out.

How much did you eat, and what did you eat yesterday, the day before?  You should be eating a meal every 3 waking hours.  Why?  Your body needs the proper fuel to allow you to subject it to the proper stress (training) in order to bring about the desired change, and to aid in the recovery process your body goes through while sleeping.  If you do not eat enough of the right foods, you cannot train effectively enough, and recover quickly enough in order to do it all again tomorrow.  Haven’t been eating right?  You will probably have a crap training session today, and I am going to be frustrated with you.

The training is only a part of achieving your overall desired athletic performance.  You can’t just come to the gym and say, “Hey, I’m here”, and become great.  It is so much more than just what you do in the gym.  If you are not eating and sleeping properly, you will have crap training sessions.  If you have crap training sessions, you will not become as strong, as fast, or as explosive as you need to be.  Maybe you aren’t quite as strong as your opponent on the platform, and you lose by 1kg.  Maybe you aren’t quite fast enough getting around the bases, and get thrown out at home.  Maybe you aren’t quite explosive enough and the linebacker drills you as you come through the hole, stopping you short of the goal line.  Maybe you aren’t quite quick enough, and get dunked on in front of your home crowd.  Maybe you don’t make the varsity squad, maybe you don’t get into the school you want to, maybe you get overlooked for that team you are trying to make, maybe the recruiters and coaches don’t notice you.  Maybe you never perform on an athletic field again after high school, and nobody ever remembers your name.

What you choose to do today, can have an enormous impact on what you are doing 10 years from now.  Coaches can only make suggestions.  We can only give you the proper tools with which to perform the task at hand.  You, as the athlete, have to choose to use them.  Are there exceptions to these rules?  Sure.  Think you are that 1% who is just genetically superior to everyone else, and can just do whatever they want and still be great?  Think again.

Roots

In Memoriam – Jerry C Arline, Sr

The man pictured is the #1 reason you are standing here today reading this.  My coach.  I owe everything to Coach.  Who I am today, what I’ve done with my life, my wife, my children, my career, this gym.  Everything.  Coach took a 14 year old punk kid, and gave me an outlet into the world of fitness and weightlifting.  The things he taught me, molded me and shaped me into the person I am today.  Coach was a big guy, full of life, with a passion for the greatest sport I know.  He was the most generous person I have ever known, and his influence on me saved my life, literally.  My life would have taken a very different path had it not been for me not wanting to disappoint Coach.  His influence on my life guided me to a point to help form a company early in the 2000s that now employs and provides for numerous people and families.  While I have moved on from there, I know many people’s livelihoods are still made possible by what he did for me.  He is a shining example of how touching the life of 1 person can lead to changing the lives of countless others.

Coach was taken away from us far too soon, before I could really thank him for what he did for me, and before he could see what his influence has been able to do for others.  Not a day goes by that I don’t walk into this gym and think of him.  My ultimate goal, with what little knowledge I have, is to have the same influence on someone else that he had on me.  Thank you, Coach, for everything.  I will cherish forever the time you invested in my life.  It was not a waste.  I will remember forever our training sessions, our long drives to competitions, and the countless hours of watching old weightlifting videos.  I miss you.

Dan Rose

4F Sports Performance and the Harrisburg Weightlifting Club

The Reason

I get asked often why Yashi and I do what we do.  Obviously, it’s not for the money, so here goes.  When I was 14, I got my first taste of Weightlifting from my coach, who opened his home gym to me.  I was a sophomore in high school, and was being home-schooled that year.  I had been an athlete my whole life leading up to that point, so my parents had found my coach, Jerry Arline, Sr. as a way for me to remain active.  My father was the pastor of our small town Southern Baptist church, where Coach was a member.  I consider myself extremely blessed to have been introduced to my coach, and learn how to lift at such a young age.  This was back in the early 90s, when weightlifting was an even more obscure sport than it is now, and there was literally nowhere in driving distance of our small South Florida town of Pahokee, FL where anyone could train these lifts.  Were it not for these circumstances, and the generosity and passion for the sport that Coach shared, you would not be reading this today.

At that time, the Olympic lifts were just part of normal, everyday physical training.  Much of the training you see now that has been so heavily popularized, such as the high intensity, and interval type training you see, were part of what we did on a daily basis.  I learned so much from Coach Arline, that I still apply to what we do here today.  We worked on Weightlifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, martial arts, speed training, agility work, plyometrics, endurance, track and field, etc.  My whole purpose for all these types of training was to get bigger, stronger, and faster for football and basketball, since I would be returning to high school the following year.  As a 5’5”, 115lb kid, I needed all the help I could get.

As I mentioned, the Olympic lifts were really nothing special at that time.  Just part of our normal training, and I did not even know that it was a sport.  It wasn’t until after my senior year in high school, that I discovered the greatest sport in the world.  For me, personally, there is no greater individual sport than weightlifting.  I believe it is the truest test of strength, speed, power, and athleticism.  I was a decent lifter, and have had a decent career.  Now I get to share my passion for weightlifting and athletic performance with those that want to have the same.  All I want for these athletes is success.  I want them all to be better than I could have ever hoped to be. 

Every day, I get to spend the entire day with people of all ages, shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and desires.  All of them with the same general focus, to get stronger, faster, and more powerful.  Some of them just for themselves, and some of them with the dream of attaining the highest levels of sport.  Regardless, they all share the same passions I have, and Yashi and I get to help them on their journey.  One person in my life made such a difference that it literally shaped my entire life and made such a positive impact on who I am.  I now have the opportunity to, hopefully, do the same for someone else.

Like I said, it’s not for the money, haha.  Anyone that has spent time around weightlifting knows there is no money to be had.  I do have a wife and 3 boys to feed, so I do have to charge dues to pay the bills.  The biggest return I get out of this is watching other people develop the same passions I have, develop unmatched self-confidence, laugh/cry/bleed with training partners, forge relationships that will last a lifetime, and hopefully be that one person to someone someday.  I love this sport, I love my athletes, and you are all family to me.  This is why we do what we do, and we have the greatest job on the planet.

Dan Rose - Harrisburg Weightlifting Club

Who Do You Want To Be? - Part 2

Part 2

What I am about to say is for competitive athletes only.  People who want to win more than anything else.  Those who exercise and workout to simply stay in shape, and better themselves from a physical standpoint, please don’t be offended by any of this.  This is not directed at you. In fact, you should stop reading right now.  This is not for you.  I have great admiration for those of you who diet and exercise for nothing more than personal betterment.  Don’t stop.  The sacrifices you are making are so worth the reward of being healthy and fit. 

This is for those that are actively competing in something, especially weightlifters, because at the end of the day, I am an extremely competitive weightlifting coach.  As I’ve said before, I love to win, and absolutely hate to lose.  I’ve been to the podium at multiple National events, and was absolutely furious because I wasn’t the guy on top.  I’ve been at the top of the podium on the world stage, and was absolutely furious because my lifting sucked.  I didn’t hit numbers I wanted, and as a result, the competition was close.  In my mind, I should have absolutely destroyed my competition.  Obsessive?  Maybe, but I’m ok with that.

Athletes, listen up.  If you are offended by what I am about to say, then you probably are not a true competitor, and should not be reading this anyway.  If you are truly serious about being a competitor, and training to win at something, then this is for you.

I want to talk about personal records.  Long, long ago at a time when I was a decent weightlifter, I really didn’t have any idea about personal records, what they were, or what they meant.  My personal best numbers really didn’t matter.  All they told me was how much further I had to go, and how much harder I had to train to be the best.  They told me how much better all the good guys were than me.  “I snatched more today than I ever have before!  Great, I still have a long way to go to be the best.”  That’s all PRs told me, so they were nothing for me to be happy about.

Now don’t get me wrong, personal records are a fantastic way to gauge your progress in sport.  They tell you if your programming is working.  They tell you if you are working hard enough to make gains.  They tell you if you are better at this time and place than you were previously.  They tell you if your blood, sweat, and tears are paying off.  They tell you if you are progressing better or worse than your training partners.  Log them.  Track them.  You should be applauded for being better today than you were yesterday.  Celebrate them with your training partners, briefly, and then move on.

Look at those personal records, and then compare them to your competition.  Not just your competition at your particular gym.  It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond.  Look at those numbers, and then see if they are the best in the gym.  No? Then work harder so you can be the best in your gym.  Yes?  Fantastic!  Celebrate briefly, and lose the ego.

Are your numbers the best in your state?  No?  Then work harder so you can be the best in your state.  Yes?  Fantastic!  Celebrate briefly, and lose the ego.

Are your numbers the best in your region?  No?  Then work harder to become the best in your region.  Yes?  Fantastic!  Celebrate briefly, and lose the ego.

Are your numbers the best in the country?  No?  Then work harder so you can be the best in the country.  Yes?  Fantastic!  Celebrate briefly, and lose the ego.

Are your numbers the best in the world?  No?  Then work harder so you can be the best in the world.  Yes?  Fantastic!  You are the best in the world.  Celebrate briefly, and then work harder to beat your own numbers, and separate yourself so far from the pack that nobody can ever catch up, because I guarantee you that someone right now is working harder than you, so they can be better than you.

If you are a true athlete and competitor, this MUST be your outlook.  No matter how good you think you are, you can always be better, and there will always be someone else who is willing to work harder to be better than you.  Never get complacent.  Never get comfortable.  Never look at someone else who is better than you, and say “their numbers are unattainable, I can never do that”.  That’s a bunch of BS.  Quit making excuses.  That person did it.  Why not you?  Records are indeed made to be broken.  Whether you are the one setting them, or the one striving to reach them, one day they will be broken.

I’m prepared to catch a lot of flak for writing this.  We live in a modern day culture where everyone gets a trophy for participating.  So I know there will be some folks extremely offended by this, but I warned you not to read it, because it wasn’t for you.  Schools these days are afraid of giving out Fs for those who are failing.  Our youth don’t really know how to fail, because there is no such thing.  Show up, and you’ll be rewarded.  Just try a little, and you will succeed.  Those of us that live in the real world know that’s a bunch of crap.

Everyone gets a pat on the back just because they show a little effort.  That’s all fine and dandy for general recreation.  If you show up and only put forth a little effort in a competition, your competition is going to smash you in the face, run right over you, and never look back.

If you want to be better than everyone else, you have to be willing to do more than everyone else.  You say you want to be the best?  Prove it.

Who Do You Want To Be? - Part 1

This is part 1 of a 2 part article.  Nothing written here is purposely written to be offensive, though some may take offense to it.  Caveat, I am an extremely competitive weightlifting coach.  I love to win, and absolutely hate to lose, probably even more than I love to win.  All-time favorite quote?  From Remember the Titans, “I’m a winner. I’m going to win.”  I don’t mean to be offensive in any way, but speaking as a former competitive athlete, who deals with many competitive athletes on a daily basis, I have some things to say.  If you find part 1 offensive, DO NOT READ part 2.

Within each of us there lives an athlete. What type of athlete you are, or will be, is completely up to you.  It isn’t something your coach can control. You decide if you are a casual athlete, a casual competitor, a competitor, or a champion.

Most people fall into the casual athlete. They are focused on basic fitness and improvement of themselves. They are less concerned with winning as they are with having done their best. If a PR was set in the process then that is the icing on the cake. It isn’t to say they can’t be competitive but it may not mean as much to them. I have great admiration for this group because basic fitness and disciplined nutrition takes a lot of work.  You should be applauded for getting of the couch, and trying to better yourself.

Then there is the casual competitor. They compete with a goal in mind. They like the competition but are still focused on their own performance and PR’s. They will train hard but, may not have the single minded focus of the competitor or champion.  Usually people will be in it for the fun but not take the competition aspect so serious. They compete with the goal of doing better than the last time.

Then there is the competitor. They are in competition with not only themselves but others around them. They will push themselves harder than the casual competitor in an effort to get the prize. They will celebrate any victory or PR then set their sights on the next goal. They know what they want. They will put in the blood, sweat and tears. They compete with the goal of winning their weight class or session.  

The champion. The person who gives it everything. They don’t make excuses. They are doing whatever it takes to get the W. They push through the pain. They never quit. They fight through every training session. They don’t have to be motivated to train. They know what their numbers are and the numbers of the competition. They aren’t satisfied beating just themselves. Personal records mean nothing to them, because they have world records on their mind.

But let me share a secret with you.  Almost anyone can be a champion, if you want it bad enough. But to do that you must fight. You must persevere.  Every time you step in the gym and put your hands on the bar, you fight. Champions aren’t born and potential will only carry you so far. A champion is not made on game day. A champion is made the hours, days, weeks and months leading up to game day. It is about who put the work in. Who got their mind right and did the work? Who gave every training session everything they had? Champions are made fighting out of the hole after a heavy clean. Champions are made fighting to hold a snatch overhead and just sitting at the bottom. A champion looks at their strengths as well as their weaknesses. They aren’t ever happy being a big fish in a small pond. They know there is always someone out there working just as hard if not harder. The champion doesn’t ever say they will never be able to do something or beat someone. They tell themselves it is only a matter of time. The champion is never intimidated by the competition and their records. Records are made to be broken. They look at the competition and their numbers and say “Challenge accepted.”

I deal with every level of athlete at my gym every day.  I don’t have a favorite type.  Regardless of where each person is personally, everyone here wants to be better.  Whether being better simply means getting off the couch and taking the first step of coming to the gym, or whether being better means better than everyone else in the world.  If you want to be better, then I want to help you achieve that.

Not everyone can just be a casual athlete, and not everyone can be a champion.  There is nothing wrong with either end of this spectrum.  Some casual athletes may look at champions as being overly obsessed, and some champions may look at casual athletes as having no drive.  Everyone is at their own personal level, so there is no right or wrong.  Whatever level you are, just be all that you can and stay true to yourself.  When you walk in the gym, know who you are, and train accordingly.

If you are a casual athlete, be smart.  Be safe.  Don’t overdo it.  Give 100%, but don’t risk injury.  You ultimately have your best health and well-being in mind.  Have fun, and enjoy training and being around like minded fitness enthusiasts.

If you want to be a champion, you better be willing to risk it all.  You’re going to have to push your body past limits you never though you could. You will have to deal with extreme amounts of pain. There will be an extreme, inherent risk of injury, because all that is on your mind is winning, and you will do whatever it takes.  Be smart outside the gym.  Don’t do other things that carry a risk of injury.  You should be of a single focus. If it’s not going to give you a better chance at winning, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Part 2 will follow shortly, and will only be directed at true competitive athletes, and will be very offensive to those who are not.  You’ve been warned.

The Grind

Olympic Weightlifting is hard.  It is a brutally hard sport.  I think it’s safe to say we have more bad training days than good.  There are so many factors involved in this sport and these lifts that it is just too easy for things to go wrong.  In order to make lifts, everything has to go right.  Your strength has to be up, your timing has to be right, your pull has to be right, your catch has to be right, your speed has to be there, your mobility has to be there, your core has to be there.  If any one of these elements is not firing right, chances are you are going to miss lifts.

You can be feeling very strong, but your timing is off.  You will miss lifts.  Your timing can be right, but you are sluggish and slow.  You will miss lifts.  Your strength can be up, your speed can be on, your timing can be right, but your core gets loose at the bottom.  You will miss lifts.

Bottom line, in this sport, you are going to miss lifts.  ESPECIALLY as a beginner. If you are not missing lifts, then you are not training hard enough.  This is the beauty of this sport.  It’s the challenge.  It’s the idea that you have to train your body to fire on all cylinders each time you step up to the bar.  It doesn’t happen easily.  It doesn’t happen quickly.  It takes months upon months, and thousands of repetitions to teach your body to be consistent.  To be in the right place, at the right time, every time you pick up the bar.

Then, AFTER being consistent and dedicated to your training, a magical thing happens.  Those lifts that you were missing over and over again, are now lifts that you are warming up with.  Lifts that you are doing complexes with.  Lifts that you are doing on your light days.  Then you start to notice that you are no longer missing as many lifts on a regular basis.  Far too many people give up way too early and never get to experience this.  They experience the beginner’s high, when PRs come more frequently.  Then the first plateaus come, and they experience only the frustration, without sticking it out to see the fruits of their labor.  You have to stick with it.  Trust your programming.  Put in your dues, and you will see the payout.

 

Dan Rose

USAW National Coach, Harrisburg Weightlifting Club