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And sometimes it rains…

Man – this summer – I tell ya’. It really was a summer of ups and downs. From a powerlifting perspective ~ great. The Grand Nationals was an awesome meet and I did myself proud with a 12 for 12 day. The World Cup was equally fun and exciting. I had to adjust to the warm up room, the climate, the altitude, my attitude and the 1,200 miles on the harley before the meet. My personal life took a beating – boo freakin’ hoo – I know. But, the trash business remains strong and all in all things are good.

I do want to bring the attention back to the 2012 World Cup. I personally made several adjustments the day of the meet and came out alright. I did notice though that several lifters struggled throughout the day and seemed a little, well, off. I thought I would take this opportunity in the column to talk about meet day preparation.

My faithful readers – both of you – know that I don’t blog or write in the training log (other than trying to convince Gary Clock he’s old – haven’t succeeded yet). The reason I don’t is I have nothing to share. My lifting and training uniquely fit my lifestyle and life choices and is guaranteed to suck for anyone and everyone else. I can weigh in on form and technique but there are bonafide experts on that subject right here in (sic: running) NASA. However, the one area I can lend some expertise in focuses around meet day preparation.

Let me first frame the discussion. When I say ‘meet day prep’ – I mean just that. I’m not talking about the training up to the meet; the weight cutting and weight gain the night before; or the travel to get there. I’m referring to the alarm-clock’s blaring right up ‘til the bar gets on the floor for your last deadlift. The actual meet day itself. I won’t dive into strategy or spend any time on percentages of attempts compared to openers. I’m just going to go over physical and mental ‘stuff’ that may just lend a hand to folks starting out and stubborn veterans as well.

Let’s start at the beginning of the day – setting the wake-up call. First, ask yourself ‘when do I train’?. Most of us train in the evening after work. Some train mid-afternoon on the weekends, and a few sadistic souls training at 5:30 a.m. before the work day. There in lays the key to when to wake-up. I’m not suggesting that all of us 7:00 p.m. trainers wake-up at two in the morning just for prepping for the squat. I’m recommending allowing enough time to acclimate your body before lifting. The best way to describe this is by observation: I have many times observed lifters wake at 7 – breakfast with the gang – sit through the rules meeting – and belly-ache through warm-ups. “AARRRGGG! It’s too early”. “I’m so tight!” “I can’t get warm!”

I’d like to offer an alternative: set the alarm for 6. Go to the hotel gym. Get in a good, light 15 minutes of cardio. Work up a nice sweat. Then do your normal light stretching. Maybe even swing the hotel’s 10 lb. dumbbells around. Just get the blood and joints working well. Then, shower – breakfast with the gang – sit through the rules meeting – and start your warm-up routine.

Let’s talk breakfast. Eat what you are used to. If you’re lactose intolerant – pass on the milk…… please. I may be judging. If you usually eat high carbs and a lot of fruit for breakfast – that’s what you should eat. If eggs and bacon are your usual, then eggs and bacon it is. And if you are just a protein shake guy or gal, then you should limit your breakfast to protein shakes. This is not the time to try the croissant or crepes you see Job dining on – just stay as normal as possible.

Once you do start warm-up realize that even in the best of situations, you are not going to follow your back-home gym routine. It simply doesn’t happen that way. And, as much as you plan your warm-ups – something goes awry. Count on it. The rule-of-thumb to follow in this room is ‘Semper Gumby’ (always flexible). You may have to move between racks, you may have to jump a set, you might have a longer wait than necessary and above all you need to communicate with your fellow lifters. Let them know you need a set at 315. Ask if you can jump in next at the weight on the bar. And, above all – don’t hog the bar. I hate bar-hoggers. Very difficult to tolerate. So I have to wait until you have your suit, wraps and your ‘handlers’ are in place until I can squat? Some guys prep 15 minutes while the bars loaded. 15 minutes is an eternity in the warm-up area. Just jump in and say “dude, me and your handlers can re-load – I’m squatting”. But, it doesn’t lead to that much drama and this isn’t the APF – there’s very little handlers in the warm-up area and just about every lifter will accommodate others if you just speak up.
You can easily follow this routine while warming up for the other lifts as well.

It also helps if a friend or lighter weight-class lifter keeps everyone informed on the pace of the flight before yours. Nothing is worse than warming up too early. Which, by the way, is the case with most of the lifters.

Also, make your own adjustments if you have ‘off-normal’ warm-up habits. Let me ground this with my own quirky stuff. It takes me a while to get the feel of the lift. I warm up with 135 lbs. on every lift. I’ll do that weight for four reps – rest – four reps – rest and on and on until I hit the groove and have the ‘pop’. I may do ten sets at 135. Then, I’m just three-to-four singles away from lifting. So, during deadlifts I’ll usually grab a bench area and go to town with my 135. It would be disruptive to the flow and down right rude to expect the bar to be broken down every time I’m in rotation simply to accommodate my ‘rainman’ issues.

Last point on this: the warm-up room belongs to the lifters. There’s no one ‘in charge’ and no warm-up ‘manager’. It’s ours. And as such – things can get off-pace fairly quickly. You miss a turn; someone strips the bar; someone dumps the bar; there’s an injury; and someone is hogging the bar. No need to get wadded up. Anticipate that everything won’t go smooth and you’ll look at the warm-up experience somewhat differently.

And that brings me to mindset. If I could yell one word over the mike at every meet it would be – chill. This is powerlifting. We do this for fun. Have fun. Things aren’t going to go your way all the time. That’s how it goes. You may not like the warm-up room, you may not agree with the flights, and you just might not get along with every single person in the room. But this is NASA. 92.6% of the lifters will lend you a hand when asked (I derived this percentage from my own personal survey). And complaining just isn’t going to make it better. Sure you trained hard and yes you should be able to bring your best efforts to bear. But once again – we do this for fun. Have fun and realize it’s great to be around people that have the same goal – getting stronger.

The whole experience reminds me a lot of the exchange in Bull Durham: you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains.

With my apologize Ron Shelton (director) – You grab the weight, you lift the weight, you rack the weight. Sometimes you hit your groove, sometimes the bar is just too heavy, and sometimes the announcer makes your laugh during your lift.

I love this sport. I love this organization. Let’s have some fun.