As you might have seen on Facebook, Brigitte, Austin, and I competed in the SPS Championship OLY tournament this past weekend at SPS Gym in Oakland. All our lifts could literally fit into 5 minutes of video, so it's hard to get a sense of what it's really like to compete in an olympic weightlifting meet. So we're going to walk you through our day and hopefully you’ll try it yourself!
The day begins on the scale, usually 2 hours before a session starts. Brigitte weighed in at 9 (the women's session started at 11:30). Austin and I weighed in at 11. Depending on how close you are to going above your weight class, you're hungry and a bit dehydrated. I knew I was safe so I wasn’t hangry at all. I needed to be below 68.9kg and I was 66.3kg fully dressed.
How a Session Works
Once a session starts, weight is loaded on the bar and it never goes down. That's why it's important to pick an opener you can make because you can't drop plates. When the weight gets to what you want to lift it's your turn. Fortunately, we don't do this ourselves. At our meets we have Jenny and Shaheen “counting cards” for us. (We literally have cards see picture from a previous meet). This means they are monitoring the weight on the bar and our competitors and telling us roughly how long we have to lift. It's really awesome when both Jenny and Shaheen are there because one coach counts cards while the other is watching our warm up progressions.
Warm-Up Area/Training Hall
All the action takes place behind the curtain in the warm up area. At some meets it's a dank corner of the gym. Because SPS is a world class facility, there are 12 legit training platforms with Eleiko bars and plates for warm up.
Warm ups are carefully coordinated. No CrossFit volume allowed. You actually should give your warm up progression to Jenny and Shaheen the day before. During the women's session, Shaheen and I went through Brigitte’s clean warm up. (I changed plates for her to save energy. Bring some true bros to be your loaders). My other job was making sure she SAT DOWN. Most of the meet is just sitting between pulls to conserve energy.
Austin and I actually warmed up faster than normal. Because this was an invitational championship and every lifter had to qualify by making podium at another meet. There were some legit well known big dogs at the meet. We knew way ahead of time that we’d be lifting first and early. To open my C&J at 86, I hit 50, 60, 70, 75, 80 and then waited for the session to start. That's it!
The Men’s Session
Once it's go time you get to the pre lift area behind the clock. Everybody does different things to focus. I like to sit and look at the ground. (I personally think watching failed lifts is contagious). I hit my opening snatch and sat back down. Normally there's a lot of gamesmanship where you change your weights to one up someone else. One time I decided to go from 65 to 71 instead of to 70 and I had to wait 25 minutes between my second and third lifts. At SPS, this wasn't a problem. Austin and I were following ourselves and each other. After each lift, we’d sit back down and Shaheen helped us figure out what our second and third attempts were.
The thing that's hardest to get used to is the competition platform. It is weird to walk out to a room full of people doing nothing but watching you lift. SPS is even worse in terms of pressure because it's setup with the same platform as world championships and has an auditorium style stage. The first time I lifted at SPS last November, I bombed my opener because I was freaked out by the crowd. Nowadays I look past the crowd completely so I can't see the people. (Although I can hear Chris Comma yelling “all day!”). You get 1 minute to go and lift, 2 minutes (excluding load time) if you’re following yourself. You lift, wait for the judges, then go back. It goes by so fast it's like a blink.
Highlight of The Day
We all set at least one or multiple PRs and that's all you can really ask for, to keep getting better.
The best thing ever was on Austin’s third he said “**** it lets just go for broke”. They put 86kg on the bar and he pulled the best snatch we’ve ever seen him do. You can see the reaction on our faces in the back.
Afterward, he told us he just focused on his wife before the lift.
Including warm ups you only really do 15 to 20 pulls all day and a lot of sitting down. But the result is usually being exhausted and wrecked. Your adrenaline is up all day and you're going max effort. It usually takes a couple of days to recover, but boy is it worth it. I hope this glimpse into an OLY meet makes some of you want to try it. Maybe you’ll forget about CrossFit altogether.