We don't plan to fail, we program for success

My Journey to the Australian National Weightlifting Championships as a Senior Athlete

Shawcross, H
(Managing Director, Athletic Institute Wangara, Perth – WA)

Entry #1: 6 Weeks to Nationals
As I start this week’s training cycle, it dawns on me that; what I set out as an intention and a goal last year is actually happening! Let me give you a bit of a recap on my history as a lifter:
I started weightlifting under my Coaches Assoc/Prof. Greg & Erin Haff at Edith Cowan University, Joondalup on August 22nd 2014. Prior to this I was a figure competitor and had never really dabbled in Olympic weightlifting, only admired it and those who were gifted by the “Gods of Strength and Mobility” to be able to do such sport. My first few days passed by, turning into weeks and eventually into months. I realised I could actually do this, despite many technical flaws and areas needing work in terms of strength… I COULD DO THIS! I had the mobility, I picked the lifts up naturally and more than anything, I had the mindset to work hard at this sport no matter how long it would take me.



Between the start of my Olympic weightlifting journey and the WA State Champs in 2015, I had made some great improvements, but unfortunately I missed out on getting to the Nationals by 1kg of the qualifying total. It was so close to my reach, but I actually knew I wasn’t ready, it wasn’t my time just yet. Herein lays the understanding that the sport of weightlifting requires; patience, persistence and repetition, lots of each in fact! One year in and although progressing, this was what I would call the “honeymoon” phase for any new lifter. As I began moving through my second year of lifting, the grind became real. My coaches say that “this is the time which separates a lifter who weightlifts from a weightlifter, this is the time which shows the spirit of the individual who is prepared for the long haul, who is prepared to chase the grind and who is prepared to achieve real success!”. The difference between a “lifter who weightlifts” and an actual “weightlifter” (in my opinion) is lifting for enjoyment and a personal challenge, not concerned about competition and/or recognisable athletic success as opposed to those who weightlift for athletic performance and who have the desire, the need, the hunger for competitive competition and for competitive success. This is what sets us apart!
I had crossed that bridge, the “honeymoon phase” was over and now I begin, now I feel, now I experience the grind. The fire and desire in my belly is always there thus, my attitude remains the same… so I prevail, and I continue to work hard on fixing my lifts, getting my mind and body strong, making the sacrifices that need to be made, make the most out of every competition to edge me closer and closer to what I need to get my place at the 2016 Nationals!
So, that leads us to the present and where we are now, – 6 weeks out from the Australian Weightlifting National Championships.

I am in the first week of my new training cycle, which is actually a lighter week coming out of a hard testing week prior to this. My body was just starting to feel good again after that massive week of hard lifting and exhaustive RM’s so, I was getting pretty excited and seeing as on Sunday it was also the first State Team Training Camp, I was over the moon! But, like all good things, they generally don’t last long, and hence I came down with this horrid sinus infection that just would not go away! But as an athlete sometimes there are times where you just have to stick it out, get your sessions in, do what you can to look after yourself and just ride the grind until things are feeling good again (mind you when it comes to being a competitive weightlifter, days of actually feeling good are few and far between!).

So here we go, Sunday arrives and it’s the morning of the first State Team Training Camp being held at the home of the Western Force and The Grizzly’s Weightlifting Team (I always enjoy lifting at this facility!) and I am just keen to lift! There are 4 of my own team mates amongst a strong squad of 17 lifters representing WA. Now as everyone begins to arrive at 9:30am all the lifters from various clubs start going through their own ‘ritual’ based warm up protocols; foam rolling, dynamic stretching and all the other weird and wonderful weightlifting specific stretches and drills that we do. There is a smell of menthol odorising the room from what can only be described as that locker room smell of “deep heat in the air”. Lifters go through their personal rituals of changing into their lifting shoes, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, taping up of their fingers and hands and the slap of shoes on the plywood platforms start to sound out as warm-ups with the bar commence.


After my own warm up protocol I check over my program for today as pre-programmed by my coach and it consists of Snatch triples, Clean and Jerk doubles, Back Squat triples and Clean Pulls for sets of 5 at 75% 1RM/P1RM. It was a requirement that all lifters have to perform their competition lifts (snatch and the clean and jerk) at 75% today and it was a good starting session for the selected state coaches to see how all the athletes lifted. This was also a great way for all the athletes to interact with each other, get used to each other, collaborate with each other (by sharing platforms) and integrate into becoming the state team. It was a good solid session but not too hard on the body, I shared a platform with one of the 69kg lifters in the squad taking turns rolling our bars onto and off the platform and going through the motions as we try to tweak and perfect each and every rep. It was a really good opportunity for us to focus on technique and moving with more speed since the loads weren’t too heavy and dare I say… “kind of light”.

The vibe was good, everyone trained well and the state coaches seemed happy with everyone’s performances. As I packed up my gear and left the facility a wave of excitement passed over me, I would be heading to a national level competition for the first time in my life as a performance athlete at the ripe age of 29. Don’t get me wrong I’ve been to nationals and even world level competitions before, but that was for figure competitions; a sport in its own identity and completely different from the performance sporting realm. It’s funny how as I reflect I find myself at the opposite end of the spectrum.

When I competed in figure I was always the youngest in the line-up in a sport judged on muscle mass, symmetry and conditioning. Now the tables have turned, I am one of the older athletes in the line-up and I am competing in a weightlifting event where muscle mass, symmetry and conditioning is somewhat irrelevant and the amalgamation of strength, power, speed and technique is paramount and ultimately determines your success with a siren and light, for your favour (white) or, for your disappointment (red).

So what’s so great about weightlifting is that refs don’t care about how you look, they care if you make the lift successfully or not and that is essentially all they judge you on. So this is where the long, hard, gruelling and sometimes agonising training sessions with the numerous repetitions, the over the top tweaking of the smallest elements of your lifts which, sometimes… most of the time… ultimately leads to your success!

But, it doesn’t always go as planned, there are many days which are frustrating where you miss your lift, catch incorrectly, receive wrong, don’t hit your expected RM target and just whole days where training just doesn’t go right, endless weeks where you are tired and sore, weekends which most people see as a time to relax, I see as a chance to get more training in. But, as I mentioned above (this is what sets us apart). So I continue, so I grind, so I persevere, I remain determined and I do not shy from those long haul, hard, gruelling training sessions. Why? Because I am a weightlifter and I am here to succeed!

So believe me when I tell you this, it’s all worth it! It’s all worth it for that split second where the planets align, you make the lift, the lift you had never deemed possible until that very moment. I can’t explain that feeling, that emotion, that joy – it’s priceless and you can’t experience it by doing anything else.

“Dream big… the only commitment you have is to not lose faith in yourself”.

Until next time,
H. Shawcross



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