I’ve debated whether or not I should write a blog for close to a year now. I’ve never been much of a writer, but I finally decided to write a blog for one major reason. I want to share my story, my athlete’s stories and the story of Baystate Barbell with as many people as possible. I truly believe we have something special at Baystate Barbell. I see how hard the athletes train, how much they care, and how much work they put in. I understand that we are still a small club, but I never thought Baystate would be anything more than just me and a few friends lifting in a basement in Fall River. Since this is Baystate Barbell’s first blog I thought it would only be fitting to start at the beginning…
My weightlifting journey began when I was on the U.S. grappling team. I joined a small, independently owned gym in my hometown back in 2008. I was an impressionable, young kid looking to get stronger for Jiu Jitsu. Little did I know, this “training hall”, as the owner called it, as well as the people who trained there would have an enormous impact on my life. That gym has been owned and operated by one man since its inception in the 1980’s. The owner is a former nationally ranked weightlifter in the United States, having clean and jerked 182kg/400lb. The man is a walking weightlifting encyclopedia. Inside that gym there have been olympians, olympic-hopefuls, world class powerlifters, and countless Division 1 athletes. Needless to say, there has been an abundance of phenomenal athletes who have trained there over the years, and I was more than a little intimidated when I first started.
Luckily, I was fortunate enough to have the owner take an interest in me and my training after just a couple of months. Prior to joining this gym, I had no clue how to train or what terms like “periodization”, “autoregulation” and “supercompensation” meant. My daily workouts consisted of coming in and do whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it. One day, I decided to perform power cleans, or at least what I thought were power cleans. I had no formal coaching previously and really just tried to imitate what I had seen people do in the past. Nearing the end of my workout, the owner came over to me. He gave me a few simple “cues” and went on his way. After I finished my workout that day, I asked the owner if it would be possible for him to coach me and he agreed. The next day I was learning how to snatch (first from the high hang, then hang from the knee and finally from the floor). Next it was onto the clean, the jerk, and so on. I decided to stop grappling all together in order to focus all of my time and attention on weightlifting. As someone once told me, “An athlete can only be a slave to one master.”
There was nothing fancy about that gym and the equipment wasn’t new, but it had everything you needed to get strong. The foundation of my training philosophy was developed by spending countless hours on the platform along with talking and training with other strength athletes. It’s not only the equipment present inside of a gym that matters, but also the people and the different personalities. There was a wide range of people from various walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds who trained at that gym. At any given time, there would be someone cleaning 300lbs, benching 400lbs, squatting 500lbs, and/or deadlifting 600lbs. Everyone who trained at that gym had the same goal regardless of where they came from, how much money they made, or what they did for a living. They all were there for one thing and one thing only - TO GET STRONGER.
Excuses, mental midgets, and missed training sessions were not tolerated. Not only would you have to answer to the owner, but to the other lifters as well. Everyone held each other accountable. Nobody cared if you were tired or were having a bad day. All that mattered was putting weight on the bar, making the lift, and getting stronger. Day after day I not only felt myself getting stronger physically, but mentally too. Certain verbal cues like, “Don’t feel it! Lift it!” and “Last one, best one!” will stick with me forever. I began approaching the barbell with more confidence and I refused to let the barbell defeat me. It was me or the barbell. I believe that the only competition a weightlifter has is the barbell, and not other weightlifters. One particular rule I will never forget is, “If you put the weight on the bar, you need to make the lift no matter what”.