The three white strips running up his legs and down his arms made my stomach hurt, as I leaned over in my resting bench while training at the Eleiko Sport Center in Chicago during the 37th AN Cert. A home sick feeling dripped down my throat as I wiped the sweat from my face while my eyes stayed locked and focused on the human size poster on the window beside me of Klokov snatching. A wheel of memories spun in my head while smells, sounds, and faces truly woke and stood before me. My roots lay deep underneath this gym, a weightlifter's gym, a world I understood all too well. It's been too long since I had visited home, a place where I was born, raised, and loved. Adidas jump suits pace the gym walls like forgotten dinosaurs that train in the dark. Fanny packs that the old coaches wear proudly, always prepared with smelling salt, tape, or an old story for motivation for their beloved athletes. A great sport, a beautiful sport. A quiet family that stays hidden beneath the cracks of the iron games. I am home, I thought to myself as the board short CrossFiters sat uncomfortably in this odd world they have never witnessed before. Their eyes traveled from one end of the gym to the next, occasionally looking over at one another with high eye brows, as if saying, "Where the fuck are we?". A warm feeling came over me, as I settled deeper into the old resting bench behind the platform I was lifting on. The resting bench was cracked but sturdy, as rows of them as far as the eye could see stood proudly behind each platform as if having each other's back. Chalk buckets formed like UFOs scattered throughout the gym like trees in a forest, and silver shiny bars that spun like Ferraris laid peacefully on each platform as if resting in a garage before a big race. It felt good to be back home. It felt good to finally welcome CrossFiters into my world, a weightlifter's world.
Pictures in my head took me back the first time I walked into the weightlifting gym, as I sat between reps. My first coach telling me to grab the bar struck me hard, as I sat waiting to hopefully hit some sort of good weight for the audience before me. I almost stood up and grabbed the bar, but then was reminded that it was only a memory of my coach yelling at me, not present time. I remembered reaching down as if I was 9 years old opening my first Christmas present. As I picked that empty bar up off the ground, remarkable changes happened to me in a split second. Three white stripes ran down the side of my body, like small rivers of blood splashed violently against the walls of my veins. My baggy basketball shorts turned into black tights with ACE bandages wrapped around me knees. My thumb nails grew 3 inches to better the hook grip, as my shirt disappeared into thin air leaving my pounding heart open and naked for all to see. That day I became a weightlifter. That day I was born into the weightlifting family.
No pull up bars in this bitch, I said to one of the CrossFiters who looked lost in this weightlifting gym. He laughed as his eyes still scanned the gym walls looking for a glimpse of his tribe's battle weapons he knew so well. Right off the bat I noticed his search for something that would make him feel more at ease, so I then responded by saying, "No swinging ring things hanging from the ceiling either, just bar and platform my friend". He responded by saying, "Well....I guess that's all you need, right?". My face went dark and blank, as my head tilted to the floor as my toes played with some left over chalk that must have broken off from when I was covering my chest and shoulders before clean and jerks. I responded to the board short CrossFiter, "Well you need a lot more than just that. You need a shrink, councilor, therapist, and at times a fucken straight-jacket in this world my friend". He threw his head back and laughed out loud for all to hear, but he soon went silent as he noticed I was not laughing with him. His face went dark like mine, and that's when I knew he wanted to get the hell out of this tribe called weightlifting, and back to his world ASAP. I cracked a small smile to show I was just messing around with him, and then laughed it off after a few seconds went by.....I mean, come on, I am not an awkward person and I would never put anybody in that weird of a conversation. But little did he know, my small smile and chuckle to ease the tension could have won a Grammy, for I truly meant what I said, and because of this truth, at times I have wondered about crossing over the other side of the greener and grassier world called CrossFit, or as it seems to me from the outside looking in.
5 fingered shoes and board shorts have surrounded me for the past few years. It's almost as if I have forgotten where I came from, and where these roots connected to my feet end. My roots have been tangled in a Paleo world of high reps and running bodies. Tribal tattoos cover these odd athletes as they double in numbers everyday, surrounding the weightlifting world as we spin in circles trying to look for a resting bench and a chalk bucket to take shelter upon. The growth of the sport is beautiful, but the peaceful rhythm of a weightlifting gym will never die. The small chatter amongst coaches shrugging their shoulders as if saying "good.......but needs a lot of work," gave me goose bumps as I sat staring out from the corner of the Eleiko gym in a gaze of remembrance and reflections. I have been traveling deep into the world and lifestyle of CrossFit for so long now teaching the weightlifter's methods and mind set, that it's almost like I have become lost from the world I grew up in. I have found myself eating, laughing, and fighting with this new tribe as my old tribe peacefully paces in a empty gym at 8pm at night, slapping their legs before squatting, and rubbing icy hot on every part of their broken bodies. I am a weightlifter, not a CrossFiter. I do not belong in their world. I must understand that I am a visitor amongst these citizens, and once my duty is filled, I must travel back to the three stripes and fanny pack village I was raised in. I must rest my head at night in the camp of one rep and resting benches. A village where coaches coach with only their eyes, while sitting in a lonely chair as if they were on an empty island making smoke signals for their athletes to see. A world where the coach's feedback mostly comes from a small shrug of the shoulders or a thumbs up for more weight. Yes the sport of weightlifting is growing and always will, but the sound of rain outside as coughs and moans echo the quiet gym will never change. Adidas sweat suits and fanny packs will never die.
I am and always will be a weightlifter. Thank you Eleiko for having us out, and for hosting a great AN Seminar. Thank you for inspiring me to write this blog that really hit home for me.
Plus: Max out Friday's Video Below! This beast of a man tried to walk in the Champ's gym and win. Can you believe this guy! Ha!
Fanny Pack 2016