Lessons from 2021 Palm Beach Open

This past weekend marked the beginning of Team Soul Barbell’s 2021 competition year or season. We had the privilege of competing at our good friend, Carl Penney’s, yearly weightlifting competition, Palm Beach Open. PBO has become not only a staple in our competition calendar but also one of the major meets in all of South Florida. For me, this was the first meet I have been able to coach at since the 2019 American Open in Park City Utah. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as a meet like PBO can be a mixed bag of coaches, athletes, teams, etc. Meets like these can run the gamut from World Team Members to a 9 year old taking their first lifts on a competition platform. To be quite honest… That is a very good representation of our team at the moment and it showed this weekend.

One of the reasons I love PBO is because it allows us to cater the competition experience to our team quite well. What does that mean? Well from a coaches perspective it’s a good meet for us to help athletes accomplish a wide range of goals. These goals should be consistent with the athlete’s experience and competition goals. Some of you are so new to this sport that you don’t have very definitive goals while some of you have very detailed, specific goals. Either way this meet (because it’s run well and is early in the competition season) works as a great meet for us to cater to any goal. The level of care for someone competing at PBO as a tune up because they haven’t competed in 2 years and have their eyes set on qualifying for Nationals is very different from the ex-CrossFitter who has been Weightlifting for 3 months. Regardless of these differences PBO gives us a chance to come together as a team and progress. This is why meets like these are so important for our development as a program and I am thrilled it comes early in our year/season.

First off I want to acknowledge our coaches and the Palm Beach Weightlifting Team for their commitment to making sure everyone had a great and competitive experience. If you take a moment and sit back, you can really see the selflessness and drive these people have to help others. Our team really did experience a huge amount of success and without the combination of our TS Coaches and the PB crew that wouldn’t have been possible.

I am writing this to first acknowledge everyone’s hard work but more importantly I want to make sure that everyone leaves the meet with a sense of accomplishment. Yes I recognize that some of our team members may feel like they were not as successful as they wanted to be this last weekend due to the numbers on the cards or misses, however there is always a lesson to be learned. In the big picture just showing up and competing is a success, for some of you this was your first meet and just getting out there and competing in front of people should be seen as a success. This is a STARTING point and you will only get better from here. For others that have competed before this was still something that we haven’t done in a while due to the pandemic and getting back into competing is a success in of itself. That being said whether you went 6/6 or you went 2/6 there are things we need to take home and work on. Like I always tell you guys… Every session, every warm up, every workout, every session is an opportunity to learn something and get better. We need to ask ourselves if we are present and listening or not.

The overarching message I want to get out to our team is about HABITS and ROUTINE. Some of the behaviors I saw in the back room are not really consistent with how many of you train and that is something I really want you all to consider. The day of the meet, the focus needs to be on routine and consistency. Eat the same things, listen to the same music, warm up the same way, same supplements, etc. This is my low hanging fruit theory. There are SO MANY things that are out of our control when it comes to competition. So the focus needs to be on doing what is in your control WELL. Things like caffeine consumption, hydration, sugar intake, warming up (pre barbell), competition warm ups, etc. These are things I saw and spoke to many of you about and we came to the conclusion that many of you do not train like this. What’s up with showing up to a meet with totally new habits and routines that are not established in training? The fact that our athletes train in a setting like they do at Soul is a special thing and our goal is to replicate that as much as possible on competition day.

Two other hot topics that need to be addressed are weight cutting and weight management. Obviously in the Sport of Weightlifting, making weight is a huge component. That doesn’t necessarily mean that WEIGHT CUTTING is. Cutting weight is a method meant for those with years of competition experience who have a realistic goal they are using the weight cut for. For example, someone who has the potential to qualify for a national competition or someone who is cutting to win a medal (not at a local meet). Without even getting into the physical dangers of weight cutting, there are other factors that I am addressing by not advocating this practice. As a coach, it is my goal to eliminate as many barriers in between the athlete and their goal or success. Weight cutting is a distraction of epic proportions and it’s something that we have seen hurt performance time and time again. We want our athletes to have a positive relationship with competition, not a stressful one. Competition is stressful as it is and we don’t need to add more layers of complexity. When I see someone desperately starving themselves at a local meet in person or on social media, all it tells me is they are not being well lead. No badges of honor for that. This is not meant to be a sales pitch however using a Coach to help you with your weight management is a key component to this sport and those athletes who have used our Team Soul Nutrition Program have experienced a tremendous amount of success. Setting up a realistic weight management plan with a nutrition coach is one thing. Starving and dehydrating yourself to make weight at a local meet is something else. I want my athlete to worry about hitting their openers and living in their routine, not worrying about weighing out their Sour Patch kids because they haven’t eaten in 35 hours.

In closing, I really want to make sure everyone takes something home from this meet and understands we all have something to take home and work on individually. Start making permanent changes now so you put yourself in an even better position for next meet. What is your mantra? What do you need to change? What worked for you last weekend or what didn’t? Ask yourselves these questions and meditate on the answers so we can help you be even more successful going forward. Remember the low hanging fruit concept. There are things in our control and we need to make sure that we dial them in and do them routinely well.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Armenian author, Emily Maroutian. This quote resonates with me in a major way and it transcends sport. On to the next one!

“You’re not stuck. You’re just committed to certain patterns of behavior because they helped you in the past. Now those behaviors have become more harmful than helpful. The reason why you can’t move forward is because you keep applying an old formula to a new level in your life. Change the formula to get a different result.”