Going to maximum is a skill, and the only get good at it is through practice. You have to challenge and break your PR’s again and again and again. This is a mental challenge as well as a physical one, and requires both mental and physical toughness.
Snatching 101kg for a new PR is physically similar to snatching 100kg to tie your PR. But mentally it is a whole different ball game. Breaking into uncharted territory and lifting something you have never lifted before requires a little more commitment. It requires you to fight and win a battle within your own mind. Anyone who has ever had problems committing to a snatch knows exactly what I am talking about. But with practice, you can get better and better at winning this mental battle.
This is one of the reasons why I advocate keeping track of your PR’s from the hip, and from the knee as well as from the floor. I also keep track of doubles from these positions and other combinations such as 1 snatch from the hip + 1 from the knee or one from the knee + 1 from the floor.
Keeping track of a variety of PR’s and constantly challenging them insures that you are training at maximal intensity, getting enough variety so you don’t get stale, AND constantly practicing the mental skill of breaking into uncharted territory. As you get physically stronger, you will also be getting mentally stronger!
Any lifter who competes long enough is eventually in the situation of having to make a new PR to win a competition, qualify for a national meet, or to beat a rival. Who do you think is more likely to make the lift when it matters? Someone who challenges PR’s in training on a consistent basis, or someone who doesn’t?
Justin Brimhall is one of those lifters that made coaching fun. The first time I saw Justin and his brother Zack was at a high school football game. I watched him walk down the aisle and sit down, and I can’t really tell you what made me think this, but I immediately thought “those guys would make good weightlifters”. I was sitting with one of my lifters so I sent him over and told him to ask them if they were possibly interested in weightlifting, and if so to ask them to come over and talk to me. They were, and they did, and I invited them to come to MSU and check it out. The both showed up, and yes, they both seemed to have natural talent for the sport. Maybe because their mother was Turkish, and actually lived pretty close to the Turkish training center when she was growing up? Zack was a pretty good lifter and a great guy, but Justin took to weightlifting like a fish to water.
The first time I saw him, he had a ton of curly hair. He was also skinny as a rail. The combination of the skinny body and this huge mop of hair made me comment at his first practice that he was so skinny we could turn him over and use his head for a mop. The nickname stuck. I gave it when he was 14 years old, and even after graduating from college and becoming an officer in the Marine corps I still call him Moppy and so do most of those who lifted with him.
Moppy is one of those guys who had so many interesting quirks to his personality I could write a book just about him. I also to this day can’t so much as think about Moppy without a big smile spreading across my face. He had this one unique ability that he called the “Turkish hop”. It demonstrates a unique combination of athletic ability, balance, and explosive leg strength that I have never seen demonstrated by another human. To do the Turkish hop, first do a pistol, or single leg squat. Then stand from the squat so fast that you are able to JUMP about 5 feet, landing on the other leg then without any hesitation performing another pistol with that leg that ends with another jump. Moppy could do this for 40 yards or more with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever. Just leaping from a pistol with one leg to a pistol with the other. But the real kicker is that he could do this while holding a 25kg plate at arms length overhead. I have never met another human who could come anywhere near being able to reproduce this feat.
Moppy did some amazing things in training, like jerking 170kg for a double as a 16 year old weighing 75kg. He had trouble in competition though. He was one of those lifters who would get so nervous that he would often throw up at some point between the weigh in and the warm up. In part because of this he was never able to do the lifts he was physically capable of when it counted. But in spite of this, I think I speak for everyone who ever came into contact with Justin Brimhall when I say that I am lucky to have known him. He is one of those unique people who just made life more interesting.
I am again closing in on a sub 7 minute 2k. One thing that I have noticed about rowing is that the effectiveness of a workout is directly related to how miserable you are during. Any effective workout is going to be absolutely miserable.
I have tried to lower my 2k time by doing long slow rows, like 10k or longer, and I have tried short intervals even as short as 200 meter sprints. I found that doing things to decrease the misery factor also decreased the effectiveness of the training. Really long rows are probably good for something, but they don’t seem to directly affect my 2k time. To effect that, I have to concentrate on distances closer to 2k, and row at a pace that is also closer to 2k pace. Which also puts the misery level closer to what I feel during a fast 2k. A 2500 meter or a 3K row done just slightly over 2k pace might even be worse than a fast 2k.
Really short intervals like 200 meter sprints, while being fun and often not miserable at all, also don’t seem to help much. For intervals to really help, I have to make them at least 500 meters, and limit the rest period. Multiple 500 meter intervals with 1 minute rest period are a pretty useful workout. But doing 10 sets of this interval again might actually be more miserable than just doing a fast 2k.
In short, there is simply no way to get around the discomfort of the training process. In this, rowing is much like weightlifting. The things that are useful are hard. Multiple heavy sets of 5 on the back squat. Heavy deadlifts, heavy pulls, or heavy push presses. All hard. All miserable if you push yourself hard enough to actually move the weight up over time. Maxing your snatch is not miserable. For many who “dabble” in weightlifting it is fun. Everyone loves to max the snatch. But that is not weightlifting. It is not the sport I fell in love with. The sport I fell in love with is hard. Brutal even. And to succeed in it you have to have a certain mindset. A mindset that develops over time and comes to not only accept the discomfort and sometimes downright misery of the training process, but to welcome it. To look forward to the misery. To fall in love with it.
As a competitor I fell in love with weightlifting, even with all the misery involved. Now as a rower and I am trying to appreciate the misery in rowing. But even more important to me is to foster the love of of weightlifting in a new generation of lifters. Even with all the discomfort of the training process, it is a great sport to love!