How Olympic Weightlifting Changed My Career and Life

When I started business school I came across Crossfit and tried to do the workouts on my own. I failed miserably not knowing what half of the movements were and doing the other movements with such bad form I almost hurt myself. I decided to join a Crossfit “Box” and found out it was too expensive for grad school students in debt. So I told myself after I paid off my school loans I’d treat myself with a Crossfit membership.

In 2013, about 2 years after finishing my MBA, I paid off my last student loan and joined Foundation Crossfit in Seattle. It was a great experience but the part I loved the most was the Olympic Lifting (the snatch and clean and jerk). After doing Crossfit for 2 years I changed my focus to the Olympic lifts. I wanted to share my journey of lifting because like most things in life it was not a clear or straight path. I wanted to write this post to share how Olympic lifting has taught me life lessons that have transformed my personal life and helped with my career.

Novice Effect

First the Novice Effect. I’m a proud person and don’t like to fail. When starting anything new you are going to fail and that was hard for me to accept. My natural response is to run to the things I’m better at. I’m fairly cheap and motivated by money. So paying for unlimited training sessions at the start kept me coming back for at least the first month to make sure I got my money’s worth. The awesome part of the Novice Effect is you see results quickly because you really stink :). My first snatch I couldn’t complete with an empty bar (20kgs) within the first month I was able to get up to 50kgs. Improvements like this are very motivating but taper off after a couple months and now I’m excited about a couple kilogram improvement a year.

The Novice Effect has crossed over into my personal and work life. For example being a new parent has many Novice Effects. You fail at first but learn quickly. I’m now more comfortable jumping into new things that I don’t feel comfortable with because I know I will only get better.

Muscle Memory

At 5am my alarm goes off. I go make coffee and pack my bag to go to the gym. Before starting a lifting program I would not wake up this early unless I had to make a flight or had an important meeting to prep for. Repeating the same thing over and over has created Muscle Memory. By doing the same things at the same time everyday, I limit the willpower used to get up early and complete a lifting program.

At work, I have created similar processes by blocking off weekly and daily tasks in my calendar to build routine. This limits willpower needed to complete tasks that are needed but I don’t always find enjoyable. In my personal life, my wife and I have setup a weekly marriage meeting (How and Why To Hold a Weekly Marriage Meeting) which is not always something we want to do or have time for but creating the muscle memory helps do it when your life is too “busy” for these critically important routines.

Outside Feedback

At the gym I am paying for the use of the weights and space but also Outside Feedback from a coach. My natural reaction to feedback was to shut down but for some reason when you pay someone to give it to you, it’s ok. Getting feedback multiple times a week at the gym has helped me adapted at receiving feedback. This adaptation has allowed me to listen to my employees, peers, spouse and others feedback. I’ve changed my mindset from being wrong to being coached. If you’re being coached you are expected to change and it limits the pain of failing.

The beauty of a coach is they can see what you are doing wrong. As the athlete you can only feel what is going on and feelings are hard to gauge and correct. Your coach sees a different perspective and gives you quick queues that can help you improve right away. A coach is able to help provide you corrections early to limit forming bad habits that will plague you. I now seek feedback at home and work and see more value in other inputs.

Next Step

Next step for me is to sign up for a Master Olympic Lifting competition. The next step for you may be paying for a coach, setting up some new routine or rituals to build muscle memory or becoming more understanding of your own failures.

Huge thanks to Foundations Barbell Club and Kneesout for your help along my journey.