Saturday, December 30, 2017

When The Benefits are Blurry

It's December 30, 2017.

Looking back on the year, it seems successful for the most part....I suppose. I have written before about my internal struggle with powerlifting. Honestly, I find myself in the middle of the same struggle.

Once upon time, a long time ago, in a land far far away, I went to lactation school. As in, breastfeeding. SPOILER ALERT! I didn't finish. Why? Because my return on investment (ROI) was going to be extremely low. At the time, in order for me to have a real position as a certified lactation consultant (read: hired by a hospital) I'd need to also be a registered nurse, and I had/have zero interest in that. I won't bore you with the geographical details and success rates, and my lack of ability to be able to predict the upswing in interest and activism for breastfeeding at the time, I dropped out. In short, I quit. HOWEVER, I fully support loving and nurturing your babies and if that means breastfeeding for you, then I can still help at a very normal level and I still love it and I will still recommend you to a consultant if necessary.  So, if you are a mother who just had a baby and you need an ear, PLEASE send me message! I very much believe "the village" is the what is missing from society. I'll be your village. End Commercial.

Back to powerlifting. This other passion of mine. This other "pet project" of mine. At what point do you draw the line? At what point do you really look at your ROI and be honest with yourself? (I'm literally about to write an entire paragraph of rhetorical questions). When do you say that you're "good enough" to coach? When are you good enough to handle day of? When do you know enough to write programming? When do you "deserve" enough sponsorship to pay your way to comps? And can you coach and be one of the best at the same time? When is it justified? And is it ever?

At the end of the day, it is all defined by the individual. I can say, that when I was in lactation school, I learned things that I still to this day use to help women nurse their babies and would not trade that for anything in the world. I can say the same for powerlifting.

A moment that stands out to me in particular just happened the other day. I coach my daughter's basketball team and I scheduled practice over the holiday break, because consistency is key! My practice attendance was very low so I had a great opportunity to work one on one more so than normal. We were practicing free throws, and after several misses by all the players, I told them about a "trick". The trick I told them about was having the vision. I told my player, "imagine the ball going in the hoop before you shoot it. See yourself doing it. BUT, it only works, if you believe it". This particular player, believes me, which makes everything easier! I'll be dammed if she didn't shoot that free throw and it swished threw the net! IT WORKS, she exclaimed!

I may have cried. Just a little though. I owe this lesson to powerlifting. There are many things I have learned through this sport that I pour out money and sacrifice to. And I'm taking a giant exhale and saying that it's worth it. While my ROI may not me monetary (for now), it is serving me in the greater scheme of things. And much like the school I dropped out of, I am at times severely underestimating it's value.

As I continue to learn, each day, the most valuable things we have to offer, are what we have to offer to others by way of experience and encouragement. #bethegasoline 

LET'S GO 2018!


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Going 9 for 9: Worth the Hype or Nah?

Is going 9 for 9 worth the hype or nah? I say (like everyone wise woman) depends.

I whole heartily believe that making attempts is what wins titles. If you're a contender, you have to make attempts and as many of them as possible. End of story. Why? Duh. More attempts made means a bigger total and totals win meets. World records do not win meets. Co-efficients and arbitrary mile stone numbers do not win meets. Big totals win meets, which means every attempt matters, every kilo matters. 

HOWEVER. I also whole heartily believe that you should work backwards from YOUR goal. Some (maybe even most), aren't necessarily chasing a title or winning a weight class or best lifter. Which brings me to setting outcome goals for a meet. Powerlifting is a funny sport in many ways, but particularly because it's competitors seem to be eternally dissatisfied with their results. For a long time, I went into meets without any particular goals or worse, goals of hitting very specific numbers (10/10 do not recommend). Eventually, I gave up on hitting very specific numbers and became a little more strategic in my game day plan. The damnedest thing happened when I did this.....I started making national/world record attempts, I started winning titles, I started winning best lifter. Say what?! You mean, strategy and planning have a place in powerlifting? Yes. Yes it does. 

So, how do I set up my meet day goals? First, I set a minimum goal. This is a pass/fail grade. If nothing else, I want to hit this bare minimum goal. Often times, this is something like PR-ing my total. This helps keep you on track if things start going to shit. Then, the ideal goal. This is what you came to do. This is what you're training for. This is what you've set up your training cycle for. Then, stretch goals, just in case you're on fire and crushing it that day. These are "pie in sky" but maybe there's a chance goals. 

Where does going 9/9 come into play? Often times, if you go 9/9, you're going hit your goals because you've been smart about every attempt. Not to mention, with every attempt you make, you're building up momentum, which is building up your confidence, which is building up your enthusiasm, which is building up your probability to hit some big deadlifts, which is building up your total. The only number that really matters. 

The other side effect of going 9 for 9 is you force your competitors to compete. The constant pressure of hitting attempt after attempt can have some psychological advantage because you may just put your competitors into the hamster wheel of chasing your marginal lead. If my strategy is making attempts, I pay no attention to what my competitors are putting on the bar because I'm here to win, and winning means a big total and big total means making attempts. 

Pulling for the win.
Should you pull for the win? It depends. Do you have an actual shot at making the attempt? Or are you willy nilly loading an unrealistic weight you have no shot at completing? If you have a chance at ACTUALLY MAKING THE LIFT, then I say load it. If you've already made 8 attempts, then you've probably closed the gap as much as possible and again, probably feeling like a rock star. So load it. If you have no shot at making the lift, then I say load AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ACTUALLY LIFT. I'm not suggesting sandbagging just to make the 9th attempt, but I am suggesting being smart and strategic and putting a weight on the bar that you think is possible. Make your competitors compete! Make the lift and make them make lifts. I realize this may make you be realistic about yourself and the day you've had. It may mean that on that day, you got beat but at least you can say you literally lifted every kilo/pound you had that day.   

Loading an unrealistic weight and hoping for magic is not a strategy. Loading a weight you think is your limit that day and getting the lift is executing. 

As for me, I don't hope, I execute.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

2017 Raw Nationals: Flipping the Switch

"I leave him there in the airport. Hands down, one of the most gut wrenching things I've ever had to do. When it comes to trauma and dealing with it, I'm reclusive. I prefer to go to a dark cave and be left alone until I figure it out, BY MYSELF, with no one. I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to be touched, I don't want sympathy, I want solitude."

July 2, 2017 is when I finally returned home with my whole family from IPF Worlds piggy backed with family vacation. My first outing at as a National team member was a whirl wind of emotions. When I finally hit the couch in my living room, I felt like I was coming down off of one hell of a bender. I was so grateful for everything that I was able to do, so grateful to be home again with my babies and my man. However, I never did get that solitude I so desired and quite honestly required.

15 weeks. That was the turn around time from Worlds to Nationals. Training for Worlds, I was so focused, it was almost trance like. After I competed, it felt like I had finally come up for air. I had actually done it. I actually did the thing. But a part of the whole thing was missing for me so it was as if I were having the best dream ever, only to be woken up before the end. And now, I had to do it again.

I wanted to train. I wanted to get to that place. The zone. That trance like focus that I know I'm capable of. I wanted to flip the switch. In an effort to be transparent, I'm telling you, I couldn't get there.

I trained. I showed up. I put forth effort. I was even hitting some PR's in training. However, my mind just couldn't get absorbed in it like it had before. I've read that your mind only has so much "will power" or what I would call grit and once it's tapped out, it's tapped out. Burn out. I've seen athletes burn out, I've seen myself burn out and I knew this was what I was experiencing. So, I accept it.

I know this is temporary. I know all I need is a little time and I can build it again. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time. The good news for me, is that I don't have to have the best meet of my life to keep my National title. So I let the pressure release. I stop waiting for the fire to return, for the trance like focus to commence. It's not coming and I'm not trying to force it and risk permanent burn out.

I don't think I ever fully processed all the travel stress that happened for Worlds. I wasn't sleeping well and would have dreams of losing my family. I would wake up and go check everyone and make sure they were safe and sound in their beds. As Nationals drew closer, I felt anxiety creeping in about flying and leaving my family behind. Because of the time Michael took off for Worlds, he was not able to make it to Nationals. So needless to say, I wasn't worrying or focusing much on attempts or totals or making weight. I was just trying to make it one piece.  

So, going into the meet my expectation was to increase my total by a few kilos. I wasn't looking to make a huge splash, just a little bit better than the meet before. I thought if I could manage to go 9/9, that would set me up to have a shot at best lifter and of course win my weight class. Come hell or high water, I'm deadlifting more that 187.5kgs. 

My body weight this cycle was not as cooperative as it has been in the past. Much of that though was my own lack of focus and I think my stress level was a bit high which isn't good for anything. I didn't get extremely heavy but could not consistently get below 130lbs to save my life. Another thing I decide to accept and leave to the water manipulation gods.

Let's get to the lifting! So, warming up, I feel very ok. I'm feeling guilty about not having the intensity I know exists within me....which I believe has also rubbed off on Wade....but again, it's just not coming, so I try to ignore it and just accept things as they are and get the job done. Attempts one and two feel just as warm ups felt and I knew even a small PR was going to be a reach. We call for 175kgs, Wade tells me I'm gonna have to dig.....I know, I freakin know. I unrack and the actual unrack felt strong, but uneven. I'm so used to ignoring shit like this in an attempt to overcome I just go with it. I come up out of the hole and feel the dip to one side and I just can't stand up with it.

I actually feel really horrible about this. It is not very often that I feel a need to please anyone or like anyone ever even thinks about me very much, but in that moment, I felt like I let people down. At this point, I knew we'd have to be pretty conservative to hit the total PR. THIS is why missing a squat is THE WORST. Lost momentum and now playing catch up. Boo. Despite my pity party, I'm still in position to hit my PR total and win my class.

On to bench! Bench, was not friendly this training cycle. It was not picking up any momentum and I'm expecting to simply match my best meet bench (100kgs). Opener, fine. Second, freakin slow. Now I'm pissed. We only have one place to go and that is 100kgs. I absolutely refuse to be miss this 100kgs bench. 100 KILOS is mine forever and always.

On this third bench attempt, I flip the switch. I flipped it to that dark side that refuses to fail and doesn't give one flying fuck about how I feel, what the training cycle has been like, what people think, what happened at Worlds, what meet I'm doing....none of it matters. I'm getting this lift and I'm getting a PR total. The lift is super slow, and good. The feelings I've been waiting for rush over me. In this moment, I feel some redemption and hope.

Deadlifts. If there is one thing that motivates me to hit a PR on a specific lift, it's when it's overdue. I wanted a huge pull at Worlds. It so happened that 1) I wouldn't need it and that 2) I'd be red lighted. I was so very annoyed at my deadlift performances, that it was in the forefront of my mind to make it happen. I actually decided to lower my planned attempts a week or so out. I opened lower than I did at Worlds. This was strategic in that I knew I was going to at the very least make a third attempt and it likely was not going to determine placing so I was just saving up for it. 175kgs and 185kgs for one and two. Now, we have a decision to make. Go for the total PR or a stretch goal. I tend to learn towards the conservative route because pride won't let me total less than my previous total. I tell Wade, let's just hit the total PR and be done. 192.5kgs is what we put in. .5 kilos more than my current total. At the last minute, Wade changes the attempt to chip the American record to 193kgs. I make the lift. My American deadlift record stands for now. Wade is the master meet day manager and thinker and getter of records.

So, I sit here like an asshole, feeling bad about my 463kg total, which unofficially breaks my current world record total by one kilo. So I bested, the best meet of my life and I'm feeling like I let myself, coaches, friends, family, and followers down. And that is the twisted world of powerlifting.

While I am feeling luke warm about my performance at Nationals, I am feeling great overall about the experience. It was really great seeing all of you in internet land in real life. I was able to stay in the meet hotel, something I have not done in the past, which meant that I was able to catch a lot more sessions than I normally do and just being around seeing everyone in passing was nice too. Social PR's all around.

Being able to watch many sessions, and even commentate the 72kg women/93kgs men's primetime session, I quickly noticed a very obvious characteristic in lifters. I could literally see people flip the switch. I could see when top name lifters in prime time flipped the switch after a particular attempt. I could see some that flipped it before the meet even started. I could see some in the early sessions that flipped it too....bound for greatness.

I'm about to contradict myself. While I really believe that flipping switch is necessary for life, I do believe there are varying degrees. So it's more like a dimmer, which is contradictory of said switch that gets flipped. Perhaps getting into "the zone" works more like a dimmer. When the training cycle is set up and going well, the dimmer slowly dims until you are completely on the dark side for meet day. Other times, it's not as successful and the need to go immediately to the dark side arises...some can, at that point flip the switch, while others fumble with the dimmer.

From my very own, very anecdotal, very un-expert opinion, here are few that I either noticed had dimmed the lights to darkness or flipped the switch. In no particular order.

1) Marisa Inda. Marisa had been battling an injury since Worlds. Obviously that can put a damper on any meet prep. However, she showed up to do her job and defend her National title. Marisa missed her third bench attempt. I was in the crowd, and couldn't tell exactly what happened, but knew that was a weight that she could hit in her sleep. Chad challenged the call because the blocks she was using had slipped. Marisa doesn't typically use blocks but was doing so here to protect the injury. The call was overturned and she was able to take a 4th attempt. Marisa came back like a pro, and made easy work of that weight. It is truly a skill to come back from a missed lift and make it. I was so fired up to see Marisa make that lift. She went on to win her weight class and will be in Calgary to defend her World title.

2) Generally speaking, the 63kg women. They were all so incredible. Jennifer Thompson coming back from injury, where no one knew what to expect and quite honestly may have counted her out...walked onto the platform for business. I knew by the end of squats, she was here and here to win. She had dimmed the lights. Quite honestly though, it seemed to me that all the top 63kg women had dimmed the lights. It was great to watch and was one of my favorite sessions. It's gonna be a great session for years to come.

3) Muh girl, Erin Kyle. I met Erin, via the internet. She is part of the #1atperformance team and I was pumped to watch her lift. I feel an unreasonable amount of responsibility for her success. It is unreasonable and unfounded. She is smart and strong and perfectly capable of success on her own. She also works really hard, is sarcastic, dry, and funny, so I'm a softy. She took her 2nd attempt squat, and I was worried for her third quite honestly, BUT the spotters very obviously took her third too early. I am literally screaming like a maniac from the crowd for her coach (and fiance) to challenge it and he does. I feel immediate regret. Dammit. It's going to be a dig. Maybe it's not worth it? I don't know. She comes out, takes the forth attempt. I'LL BE DAMNED if she doesn't get the lift. It was one of the longest, grind-est lifts I've seen, but she stood up with it. She flipped the switch. Literally, my most favorite lift of Nationals.

4) The entire 72/93kg session. Kim Walford, much like Jennifer Thompson, came out for one thing and one thing only, to take care of business. When I watched Kim, I could see the darkness she had dimmed to. Every attempt, she was bringing it, she didn't break. What she did do was break several records, win best lifter and go 9/9......oh and dim the lights all the way to darkness. Honestly, I could see it from the first attempt, Kim was there to clean up.....and for the sake of being candid, I was envious I didn't bring the same intensity.

I saw several lifters in this session flip the switch and at least one other that dimmed to darkness. Kloie Dublin. She is young, and smart, and strong and has a dark side. She was there in the darkness the entire time.  Dave Ricks and LS McClain both flipped the switch when it came time. Watch the recording of the sessions, and tell me you don't see the difference in the lifters.

I had a great time at Nationals. Thank you all for indulging me and reading my blog and following along with my journey. Let's all freaking dim that switch.



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Become What You Have Received; My Internal Struggle with Powerlifting

Become what you have received.

These words resonated with me at my daughter's first communion back in May. When I first heard them, I asked myself what is it that my children are receiving? What am I, as their Mother, giving them? The answer I gave myself was a mix of good and bad and a lot in the middle. It certainly gave me another perspective to the ever changing canvas of parenting.

Powerlifting is a hobby. It is not my job. I repeat these things over to myself when I'm stuck in the middle of obsessing and worrying about lifts, and meets, and form, and attempt selection, and body weight, and flights, and hotel rates, and time off from work.

I love this sport. I love training and competing. I love preparing. I love analyzing. I love almost everything that is necessary to be good in this sport. I'm good at it too. Really good. I don't mind waking up at the ass crack of dawn to train (80% of the time at least), I don't mind the annoying aches and pains, I don't mind the physical effort, I don't mind any of it. BUT FOR WHAT? The truth is, I really don't know the answer. Any result, whether internal or external, is and has been at sole benefit of myself.  This is my internal struggle.

But for what?! I yelled at my husband when discussing exactly why I'm pursuing a sport that rarely puts enough money back in my pocket to even break even. A sport that takes time away from children, money away from vacations we could be taking as a family, energy I could be putting into avenues that produce income, attention and validation I could feel from parenting, being a wife, being good at my job that this sport is currently doing for me. FOR WHAT?

Become what you have received. For whatever reason, which has become multifaceted for myself, I have received this gift of being strong. I am workhorse. There is no amount of work, or discomfort that will deter me from fulfilling my potential. I am not the person that needs external motivation to show up. I have a trance like focus and I can't escape it. However, I also have genetics. When I started lifting, I was immediately an outlier. Work and commitment will certainly take you to levels you thought were un-achievable, but those things combined with genetics, and you will become unstoppable.

Who am I to deny these gifts that I have received? What kind of asshole would I be if I received this gift and I were to ignore it? My pursuit of strength has made me who I am. My pursuit of strength has made me a better person, a better parent, a better wife, a better teammate, a better Jennifer. While I may struggle at times with the "WHY" of powerlifting, I am forever indebted to the sport.

I have received this gift, and I will become it. I will become it, I will nurture it, I will evolve it....AND THEN I will give whatever I received to my children, to any of you that read my blogs, to any of you that follow along with my journey, to any of you that reach out to me, to any of you that walk into my gym, to any of you that cross my that path.

I will give you what I have received.

Friday, July 7, 2017


Pressure. I've never been very good under pressure. I grew up athletic. My entire life, I love(d) playing sports of any kind. In a neighborhood full of boys, I was never shy about participating in any of the pick up games that came about. Depending on the season, it was always one of the three main sports in the south (at least where I grew up); baseball, basketball, or football. I played all three. In hindsight (such a bitch), I wish I would have actually pursued football a bit more, but because of the fairly obvious gender reasons, I did not (but future Jennifer would have told past Jennifer to sign up and get a helmet and pads, and to start eating). I've always had quick hands and feet, I've always been what most call aggressive (I call it playing to win), and I freaking LOVE studying competition and developing strategy, but I digress.

I was good enough at basketball to play with the middle school team for most of the summer. As mentioned, I've always been fast and aggressive. What I did lack was, uh, finesse. I was a star defensive player. My signature move was to steal the ball and break away. I would make a fast break, pull away from everyone, be all alone at my goal, and BRICK every lay up I attempted. I was also five feet tall. I played with the team all summer, and just before school started, I was told I wouldn't be moving on. I was crushed, but I also inherently knew it was coming.

At this time in my life, I believed that this is just the way I was. I wasn't good at the follow up. I wasn't good at making the basket. I just believed that is who I was. Eternally, almost great.

Softball. I was very good at softball. I was good at both offensive and defense. I started playing when I was eight, and I was started at first base. Quick hands. As I got older, I moved to short stop. There was nothing that could get past me. Growing up, I would beg my father to go out in the yard with me and hit grounders to me. I would ask him to do this after a solid weekend out of town where all I did was play short stop for eight hours a day ( my current powerlifting coaches, Aaron, Wade and my Husband shouldn't feel surprised by this at all). I thought about softball day and night. I loved everything about it, I would sleep in my uniform. I fell in love with this game. While I'm not 100 percent sure, I believe I was the only one (at the time), to hit it over the fence in Mt. Juliet Little League Softball.

I try out for High School Ball. I dominate at try outs and make the team. As a freshman, I get to pinch hit. But they want me bunt??????? What is happening? I am fast, yes, but I can hit the ball. What the hell is happening? I'm no good at bunting. In my mind I'm like, just let me hit the ball and let's move on. I eventually get the chance to start at second base. I am not used to pitchers who are pitching with strategy. I don't know how to handle curve balls, and risers (dude, they fucked me every time), and change ups. When it came to playing defense, second base wasn't exactly the same as short stop when it came to how to play the ball. In short, there was so much more strategy in High School Ball that I was quite unaccustomed to. I lacked so much grooming as a player with potential. I don't like to blame coaching, because after all, this is #poweryourown, but at this time in my life, I could have really used a coach that believed in my potential. I *knew I wasn't good under pressure, and my high school softball career was exasperating it.

I was cut my sophomore year. At that time, it was the most devastating thing that could have happened to me. It literally took my life away. From the time that I was eight years old, all I thought was the game of softball. I should have been BETTER. I should have tried harder. I should have been more pursuant about how to get better. I should have studied harder on how to bunt. I should have sought out help on how to make my throw better. I should have competed at a higher level to understand pitching strategies. Now, I'm sitting here in my coach's office, and he is telling me my life is over. It was in that moment that I decided I would NEVER rely on anyone to fulfill my potential ever again.

So, from here, the majority of my athletic career is over. I tried out again but didn't make it. I have some babies on down the line. Quite honestly, it was my decision to have these babies naturally (without drugs and pain relievers) that awakened this part of me that had been asleep for so long. This part of me that desires competition, that desires overcoming self doubt, the part of me that desires being better than I believed I was at the time.

After my second child is born, I decide I would like some of my shape back. I had gotten really thin and I prefer the curvy back road rather that the straight and narrow interstate as far as physiques go. My husband had been doing Crossfit, and I decide to give it a whirl. I love competing and I love winning so Crossfit really seemed like a great fit to me. Shortly after doing that, I do a push/pull and never look back.

I knew going into powerlifting, that I had loads of potential. I also knew my background and that I didn't deal well with pressure. My first few meets, I most certainly under performed. I never lifted well in meets and I always lifted way more in the gym. I was always so nervous on meet day, I just couldn't get it together when it mattered.

This was very frustrating for me. I have mentioned in quite possibly every blog I have written, an article by Dr. Mike Israetel on the process of training, and how to rely on the process. I hate to be so repetitive but this article was quite a pivotal moment in my career.

I am a person that requires evidence, and if it's anecdotal, that works even better. This article gave me something to work for. It inspired the idea that even if I suck at high pressure situations, I could pull out at the end if I did the work.

From here, I realize that performing under pressure is a skill I can ACQUIRE. I may have been born with these genetics that make me so nervous that I buckle under pressure and leave every ounce of potential I have in the mind of myself. However, I have learned to overcome that.

I know that come meet day, I will be super hella nervous. I know that my brain will not function like it does in the gym. I know that I will forget everything I have done up until this point. I know that weird shit will happen with unracks, and commands, and rack heights, and white lights, and red lights, and starting on time, on flights, and passports, and visas, and hotels, and meals, and water, and literally everything else in world.

What I can tell you is that I DON'T CARE. I have reached a point where performing under pressure is a skill that I have pursued. I have researched it and I have beat it into the ground. I may seem like a crazy person on meet day because I can't speak to anyone or direct my attention outside of myself AT ALL, but what I can do is perform. I can perform because I decided to. Not because I am a person that naturally trusts the process or naturally excels under pressure. I have learned to do that.

My intention in this post is to inspire those of you that may feel like nerves get the best of you come meet day. You can overcome it. You must be intentional about overcoming it. Read about it. Practice it, everyday. It is a skill that you can pursue. It requires trust and practice, but most importantly, self belief. Which is SKILL that you can acquire if you practice it daily.  


2017 IPF Classic Worlds...the old coach perspective

It was January 15, 2014 when I got a very short and to the point e-mail from a Jennifer Millican. The name was familiar but, I couldn’t put it together. I am sure I had seen this person at a meet or something as it generally goes that way. To this day, I still can’t recall how I knew of her. Anyway, it wasn’t but a few weeks later that in walks this tiny little lady and her Grandmother and the rest is, as they say, history.

In that time, lots of things have happened with many challenges. So many obstacles on a personal, professional and lifting level and too many to list but, be assured, this has been a journey and not all has been smooth and effortless.  What did and has happened was lots of talks, lots of messaging and lots of notes. How to get better, how to overcome each one encouraging the other. Each meet, an evaluation. Taking notes as to what needs to be worked on, changes that might be made and so forth.

Once the Arnold was done this year, Jenn and I spent a lot of time talking, well Jenn talked a lot more than I did…but, anyway, she never shut up the entire time we celebrated which was the rest of that day into the wee hours of the following morning. We both made a couple of key mistakes and drew from the past successes and what we needed to do to get better and grow. Jennifer trusts me and trusts me to rely on my experience. I have competed in many meets and different sports at a fairly high level. I have coached at a high level and I have judged at a high level. All those things count but, it still has to be applied come game day and for me to be of any assistance to her, at IPF worlds, I needed to be and we would have to be on point.

Jenn and I spend a lot of time talking about strategy and attempts, all cycle long. I generally write down what I think is feasible for her to attempt at the meet and she comes along and blows that out of the water with what she thinks is “feasible”. Then we work on it, hone it down and talk about it some more and repeat the process all cycle long until we pinpoint a plan. We did great at 2016 nationals. We were conservative and precise and when there was a little adversity, we didn’t panic. The results speak for themselves. At the Arnold, we chased numbers, there was adversity and we didn’t panic but, we fell short of our best. So, going into the training cycle for worlds, we discussed lots of things and knew that just like nationals, we had to make attempts and there was no ego. Attempts were discussed over and over, warm up routine honed precisely and then we discussed with the team coaches Siouxz and Matt Gary and they offered a few options and the plan was laid. Now, if you want a lift by lift account, please read Jenn’s blog about the meet in her recap. What I want to talk about is other things.

If you read any of Jenn’s writing, you will see that there as a theme with her family. We were leaving the Sunday before Jenn lifted on Thursday. We had a brunch and lots of family we there to send her off and some go with her on this trip. Not many of us have that kind of support. They cooked food, told stories, laughed and clapped for Jenn as we loaded up and headed to the airport. It’s that kind of support, that I assure you is always present and apparent, that is a rock for her. As you read in Jenn’s recap, we get to Chicago, so far so good and boom, Mike has no passport. I even saw him with it in Nashville. This was the first obstacle to overcome and by far the biggest. I knew it was hard on both of them. And let me say this about Michael. I know he felt awful, I could see it in his eyes and I know he felt he let Jenn down but, let me say this. There is noone that is more resilient. He shakes my hand and says, “take care of her” and stays behind and I hope and pray and yes, have threatened him if he doesn’t post a blog about this because, it wasn’t easy, it was really hard for him to pull off what he did. But more, it’s all the things he does you never see. The morning coffee, the kids getting off to school, the endless work hours. I have seen it with my own eyes and the guy just gets it done. There is no bitching, no moaning, just getting it done. Today, I tip my hat to you sir! This is the rock and glue that it takes day in and day out. Again, let’s hope he posts about what he went through and what it took for him to get there.

I can’t say enough nice things about SIouxZ and Matt Gary. There was plenty of communication prior to the meet and discussions about meet attempts and even warm ups. I like it. When we got out of the van once arriving at the hotel, they were the first people we saw. We had time prior to the meet to talk and it we melded and were on the same page basically immediately.  It was decided that Matt and I would have a better vantage point at the side of the platform from a distance and that also allowed me to take video. SiouxZ would be in the coach’s box and it was easy for us to discuss and consult between each attempt. They knew that we had a plan and that Jenn and I are very connected on game day. It was as well a collaborative effort as there could be and we’d never worked together. This is where experience really mattered and for the 3 of us, it was really what was best for Jenn and getting the absolute best result for her and the team. I would work with them again in a flash. It was a blast and we really worked well together.

As for Jenn, I think the thing that works so well for us is that we are in many ways very much alike. There isn’t a ton of talk or anything on this day. Each lift, the warms ups are hit with precision, everything warm up wise looks great. With squats, the misses from what I felt were the contenders allowed us to be a bit more conservative and we wanted the world record and knew that would give us a lead and honestly, that is not where we expected to be. I will say this about squats, I was confident. Training had gone well. I can only recall once a missed squat and she came back to hit it. I remember she asked, “Should I lower the weight?” and I used some colorful expletives to gently get my opinion and point across and that was that. I say that tongue in cheek. Now, I did blast some expletives but, to be clear, Jenn is not someone that is looking for something outward to be motivated, she’s already there. I’m just the one that if she gets a little nervous, or a little concerned or even scared, I just tell her to load the f’n weight and let’s get it done. I say it all the time, to be all time you have to be all time all of the time. Being a best lifter at nationals and then at worlds is not a fluke. Keep in mind, everyone there is not good, they are great and contenders and all of them can be a dangerous opponent so, to win and then be best lifter, you have to do the one thing that I love more than anything about Jenn, she loves to prepare and simply, that’s what it takes. Anyway, after squats and Jenn being in the lead, I knew she had what it took to go 3-3 in the bench and once the bar hit the floor, based on what I was seeing and what I had researched about each lifter, no one could beat her as long as she kept her composure. I repeated that to her. It was 3 words. Composure, patience and execution and every now and then I’d say something about precision but, this day was about staying composed.

Jenn went on to go 3-3 in the bench and that kept pace with her closest competitor Maria Htee. They both hit 100kg and for Jenn, the 100 was a big get and going 3-3 with no issues or hiccups. 6-6, all white lights and a 2 kg lead going into pull. All warm ups were silky smooth and lots of power. I have told Jenn since the first day, I know you love squat and think it’s your best lift but, to me, when the bar hits the floor, it is her time to shine and she is a great, world class puller. I knew that the gamesmanship would come into play and what the other lifters didn’t know, how the day went through squat and bench played right into our hands and put us exactly where we wanted to be save we didn’t anticipate a lead. The only thing Jenn ever asked and it came abruptly out of nowhere and we’ve since chuckled about it, WADE! Everything looks ok, right? I mean, she is 6-6 and a lead, I just nodded and said everything was great. I had to quell my excitement all day long and it got harder as each lift attempt was hit. It was time to pull.

The thing that struck me at this meet, not only with the 57’s but the 47 and 52 classes were how heavy the openers were. I am all about and teach and coach rhythm in lifting. Get an opener that is solid and gets you a number in and gives you a good platform for your 2nd and 3rd attempts. When I saw the order, I felt like the contenders were too heavy for an opener and again, quelling more excitement, felt this played into our strength. The ability to check the go and make lifts. Jenn pulls her opener and it’s super-fast and easy, we went to 187.5 and we knew that it would make it so to beat Jenn, 200+ would have to be pulled. I knew Jenn had a 195 and could break the 190.5 world record. We played the game with attempts and eventually, Maria went for her 3rd and on this day, it was simply too much and gold was Jenn’s. She yelled, not knowing weight selection, “Wade, I want to go 9-9” and I said, you are, you can pull this. And she did but it was turned down and the only 2 reds she received all day. Honestly, based on video, I took it much harder than she did. We smiled, a brief hug and it was off for her to change and get ready for testing. There were lots of handshakes and hugs. I took a minute to walk away, it was an emotional experience as it came back to all the moments it took to get Jenn to this point. All the changes and growth and just everything. I was all of the sudden just winded. I bent down, hands on my knees and took a minute. SiouxZ came and asked if I was ok and I said yes and she said, “Jenn needs you, NOW” and here came Shorty. She hit me head on and just cried and I teared up. I knew what this meant to her. As a coach, there is nothing better than to see a dream and goal achieved. What a huge achievement and, for her to want me to be a part of it, it goes well beyond saying it is and was an honor. What a cool thing. Lots of memories and a goal achieved. When she went up for her golds and they played the national anthem, the tears flowed for all of us. I can’t even express how it felt to see that and watch it. Once all the thanks and the handshakes and hugs are done, Jenn and I walk back and she even asks if I was just spent. I think she could tell. I got her to her room, went to mine and had 3 bourbons so I could chill out. I messaged Jenn and she was at the bar and in true Shorty and Ogre fashion, our way to celebrate, pizza and some beers and it was fitting. We met with her parents and walked out to this odd little place and ate and drank more and I was done. I headed back to the room and the next day, it was time for me to fly to Detroit to coach my Missy and my boy Thad. Our little gym has an IPF world champion and a top 10 finisher in the men’s Light HWT masters nationals and the women’s masters’ strongman nationals were Missy placed 3rd. A podium in her first nationals. Thad placing 6th achieved the goal of breaking into the top 10. All that was left was to get up the next morning and drive home from Detroit to our little gym/home in Mt. Juliet TN.

As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud for Jenn. As her training partner, it’s fun and a blessing for me to watch it all unfold to see her continue to grow and to improve and how infectious it is to the others around her. I got messages from Aaron and Michael all day. The girls, Missy, Cory and Damn Gina were in the gym with Power Your Own gear on cheering her on as well as many of the Team Ogre online folks. What a great effort. What an incredible result. It’s these things that continue to spur me on to work at this and inspires me to continue to grow and improve as a lifter and as a coach. As a gym owner, it just goes to show you, it can be a tiny little spot in the middle of nowhere. It’s never the building or the gear that makes the gym. Simply, it’s the lifters that train there. I continue to be blessed beyond anything I deserve.

So, what’s next? Cory is training for a qualifier and wants to join Jenn at nationals this year. Jon and Jodey expect to be there as they have both qualified so, it looks like nationals will see team ogre in the house again.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Aaron Thomas. AT and I spent more time this cycle communicating and even some face time about training, concerns, reports and other things. What a brilliant mind and, he likes bourbon, too. I love, again, the total collaborative effort that went into this. A lesson for all that lift, you do the lifting but, have really good people around you for the thinking part. I’ll take this team into a meet anytime and anyplace and I like our chances.

So, be on the lookout. There is more training, planning and scheming to come. I’ll say it again, I truly believe, the best is yet to come.

Lift heavy, train smart & eat more pizza

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 IPF Worlds Recap

"The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it"-Jordan Belfort

This is my bullshit story. 

Going into The Arnold, I'll admit I was pretty confident. After what I thought was a pretty conservative meet at Raw Nationals, I wanted to take some riskier attempts. After my less than stellar performance, totaling only 5kgs over my current total, my perspective on meet day execution came back into full focus. While I was disappointed in my performance at The Arnold, it was exactly what I needed going into training for Worlds. 

At The Arnold, I was flat. Super flat. Did not feel strong at all. After it was all said and done, I believe the flatness was from the weight cut. I got pretty heavy after Nationals and was bringing it down to the wire to make weight. I also weighed in really light (55.something) but the wilks carrot was dangling a little bit. 

So beginning my training for Worlds, I have a few strategies I've settled on. 

1) Body weight. I was determined not to get to any heavier than 130 pounds and not have to be in a caloric deficient the entire training cycle. While it wasn't as smooth sailing as I pictured in my mind, it was certainly better than the previous meet.

2) Deadlifts. I love the squat. It's my favorite lift and my best lift. After studying my competitors, I knew if I could stay within reach of them during squat and bench, I could take them on the deadlift. So much of my focus was to ensure I had a huge pull. Which in hindsight is ironic, but more on that later. 

3) Not showing all my cards. Once things started getting heavy, I decide not to post every detail of my training. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely wanted to post some of my big lifts. However, I didn't want my training videos to end up being the most exciting thing about Worlds. I wanted the platform to be where the work was displayed. 

(this is not about lifting, this is the bullshit story, feel free to skip to the actual lifting part)

I won't bore you with all the ridiculous details of making arrangements for this trip, but it seemed like there was a lot of red tape to get into Belarus. 

The day is here that we finally leave for Belarus. I've got my husband, my Mom, my Dad, and Wade in tow. While we aren't completely inexperienced with international travel, we aren't veterans by any means. So, the stress is a little high as we begin this journey. 

We board our first plane in Nashville to fly to Chicago. The seats are weird and for some reason I am not seated next to my husband. So I move to find my seat, leaving him in his. The plane isn't full and the fly attendant tells me I can sit where I like. I ask if my husband can sit next to me, she says yes, and Michael shuffling all his things comes back to sit with me. 

Long story short, Michael loses his passport between Nashville and Chicago. I considered seeing if a divorce were possible in the Chicago airport but we didn't have enough time between flights. I don't think I cried for the first hour because I was still holding onto hope it would magically reappear. No one in the airport seems to have any answers as to what steps to take next. 

Ultimately, a woman at the Finnair counter gave us some answers. I knew Michael wouldn't be getting on the flight with me, I just needed a plan. So, she helped us there and I have to leave him in the airport. I'm crying now, so is he, and I also need to find a water fountain because I'm in the middle of a water load. 

As bad as I feel, I know that I can't possibly feel as bad as he does. So, in an attempt to pull it together, I look at him (I may have shook him or hit him) and said, it's going fine.....just fix it....I'm still going to win.

I leave him there in the airport. Hands down, one of the most gut wrenching things I've ever had to do. When it comes to trauma and dealing with it, I'm reclusive. I prefer to go to a dark cave and be left alone until I figure it out, BY MYSELF, with no one. I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to be touched, I don't want sympathy, I want solitude.     

I'm on the other side of security now, filling up my gallon jug of water because I've still got to make weight. The fountain is incredibly slow and not conducive to gallon jugs. There are people behind me waiting their turn. My mother is standing there, staring at me. WHERE IS MY CAVE?

I'm not great at travelling. Generally speaking, planes, trains, and automobiles, make me physically ill. My husband knows this about me, so he treats me like a queen during this part of life. So, this chunk was hands down the most difficult for me. I cried nearly the whole day. I cried when I thought of a joke I would make to him or him to I. I cried every time I saw a significant sign. I cried picking out a movie to watch on the plane. I cried watching the movie. I just kept crying. IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. So many people saw me crying.


I needed to get to my room so I could get it together. My room was far, far away. We finally make it to our hotel. However, the stress isn't over just yet. Michael works for The Hilton and gets a significant discount which is the ONLY reason we were able to book the rooms at this very nice hotel. We have three rooms booked under Michael's name who is lost in Chicago. 

Luckily, the hotel staff is quite nice and understanding. I explain to them what happened and that Michael would hopefully be here soon. This is Monday. I go up to my room, cry some more because the room and hotel are both so nice and we have an incredible view. Then I shower, get some clean clothes on, and meet Wade to go find some water and food. 

The hotel may have saved my life on this one. It was so nice and the food was so good that I at least took comfort in nice accommodations. Wade and I go to the store, a bit more overwhelming than I anticipated, but we manage. Then we go to the restaurant in the hotel. I'm a bit stressed about what I'm going to be able to eat and still make weight especially after the trip to the grocery. Beef tenderloin and roasted mushrooms. Glass of red wine. Praise the sweet baby Jesus for this meal. I have it every night until I compete. 

I go up to my room and take some Advil PM and sleep soundly. Wake up the next morning (Tuesday) and go down to the coffee shop and get a latte. Also, life changing. I finally feel stable enough to at least let people know I've made it to Belarus. Still no word on if/when Michael will be joining us. 

I Still Have to Compete.

I begin to see people from the team and from other countries. So it starts sinking in that I still have to compete! Though it's all still just a bit eerie, all of it. In this country, time is faster it seems like. It never gets dark. Every time I woke up, I felt like I had breakfast and suddenly it was 2pm. 

Tuesday. Wade and I have to go get our credentials. We are off to find the venue on foot and go the complete opposite direction. We eventually figure it out and make it to the office and venue. Now things are really sinking in as I walk through the warm up room seeing my competitors. I see some guys in USA garb and ask them if everyone is done for the day and if I will be able to train. They introduce themselves and tell me they are coaches. We chat a bit and they make mention of Canada being my major competitor. Now, the nerves start setting in.

I've got a light training session I need to get in, so I run back to my room, change my clothes and head back to the venue. I wish I could say that I wasn't a nervous frantic mess during this session but that would be a lie. Maria Htee is on the other side of the room training and quite honestly, I'm feeling like a train wreak. Marisa and Chad walk into the warm up room. I haven't told anyone what has happened with Michael. I tell Marisa almost immediately and it actually felt nice to just get it off my chest.   

Finish up the training session and check my weight on the competition scale. All good there, a little under. Time to eat. Go back to the restaurant and have the same meal only add bearnaise sauce. At this point Michael had booked another flight and was due to be there Wednesday afternoon. Only I noticed he booked through Russia which requires a transit visit, so he canceled that flight. In the mean time, I finally caved and emailed SiouxZ asking for help. There aren't many options as far as flights and what we can afford. I suggest he books to Lithuania and take the train in. I sleep terrible this night. Waking up at 1am and am not able to fall back asleep until 5am or so. 

Wednesday. Somewhere in here, SiouxZ tells me that Michael will not be able to enter the country via train without a freakin Visa. The Visa free travel is only valid when entering through the airport. SOMEBODY KILL ME PLEASE. At this point, I'm over it, my frustrations are quite high and I really just want to be a powerlifter and not a travel agent. 

My bodyweight is still well under and I compete the next day. I sip water all day, keeping it under a liter. I eat eggs and toast for breakfast annnnnnnnnnnd another latte. I head over to watch the 47's and 52's. In the break between the two, I grab some lunch. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich, a brownie thingy, and maybe another latte. I notice a major difference in countries when choosing attempts. I watch my teammates Heather and Marisa both take gold. The pressure is on. 

I'm feeling quite stiff and sore all over. I go to the fitness room and stretch, do some random dumbbell stuff and feel much much better. I go have dinner and have the same meal. Beef tenderloin, roasted mushrooms, bearnaise sauce. Pop some Advil PM around 9pm, because I don't want to risk not being able to sleep again. 

During the 47's and 52's there were a lot of dropped deadlifts. I am told not to use the chalk. Some rumors there was baby powder put in it, but who knows. I think it was gymnastic chalk, so a little more slippery than we are used to and not in block form. Wade suggests we get some rubbing alcohol to dry out my hands. Turns out, a first aid section does not exist in Belarus. So that's a no go. I eat a cookie and go to bed.

Competition Day

I slept great and wake up on my own at 5:55am. Check my body weight, well under at 55.6. I go down to breakfast and have some quiche and a latte. I can't stop drinking lattes. Go to my room and shower, stretch, and leisurely get ready. 8:30am, check my weight. 57.1. I done fucked it up. I freak out for about 7 minutes, but then go ahead and get completely naked and check again, 56.9. Panic is over now, but I still shoved about eight pieces of gum in my mouth and spit just in case.  

I Think, You Lift

Arrive at the venue at 9:30am to go through equipment check. SiouxZ arrives as well and immediately starts giving me all the information about where to go, what to do, etc. On meet day, for me anyway, my brain doesn't work much so it's nice when you have people there to tell you what to do. I'm one of the last ones to weigh in, maybe the last one, and have the lot number advantage. Weigh in at 56.14, the heaviest I've ever weighed in. 

Going into this meet, as I thought about attempts and my competitors, I knew winning would be about making attempts. Our numbers were so close (at least I knew they were even if no one else did), I knew one missed attempt would be EXTREMELY hard to come back from. When I first started training at Wade's gym, he said to me, "I think, you lift", and much like almost everything he has said, it just took me a while to get it. My plan for Worlds was to lift and to leave the thinking to the amazing coaching staff I had with me. 

From the moment I walked into that venue, Wade, Matt, and SiouxZ make a fuss over me which is something I'm typically uncomfortable with but I just do what I'm told. Which was great. They told me where to stand, when to walk somewhere, when to start warming up, when to pee, when to drink, when to stand up but then left me alone. Which was great, because remember, I'm reclusive. Literally, all I had to do was lift weights. I'm good at lifting weights. 

I start warming up for squats and hit two red plates. From here, I knew it was on. Aaron freakin Thomas, has nailed the peak even better than we've managed to do in the past. My squat warm ups have never felt this good and I am so cautiously enthusiastic. 

Based on opening attempts, I think I'm ranked fourth. I had a plan and that's exactly what I expected to happen so I'm not intimidated by that at all. I fully expected to be out squatted if myself, Htee, and Filimonova all go 3/3. While I'm not exactly sure of who missed what, I ended up closing out squats with the heaviest attempt. I knew going into to my third attempt that I absolutely had to have it to play the game. I had no idea what Wade and the coaching staff called until I was walking onto the platform.

When it comes to making lifts, I've learned that you must impose your will on the weight. Be as technical as possible, but if something goes wrong, just fix it and finish the lift. My opening attempt, the rack height was wrong. I don't care, I'm not rattled by that. I tell them (and myself), it's going to be fine....just fix it....I'm still going to win. 

Third attempt. World Record. Moves me to the number one spot. I mess up the walk out. It's going to be fine....just fix it....I'm still going to win. Three white lights. I'm in the lead going into bench. Not what I expected to happen but still have work to do.

Attempts were 157.5kgs, 167.5kgs, 174.5kgs. 

My bench has been temperamental and I haven't managed to show what I'm actually capable of so it's been very frustrating for me. This training cycle Aaron has walked the line of keeping my shoulders happy while also bringing the weights back up to par. We also widen my grip a bit and make that the competition grip. I believe going into bench I was 2kgs ahead. Not much. So it was absolutely imperative that I get every attempt. 

Warm ups feel good but not as good as squats. I've had some issues with the booty staying down and ask SiouxZ to tell me if it's up in the warm up room. It's not perfect but some cuing here and there and it's time to make it happen. Htee and I have the exact same attempts. I was pretty nervous after the second attempt and I loathe bench in meets because I can never seem to get it right. So I was doing some pretty intense self talk before the third attempt.

The third attempt bench may be my favorite lift from the entire meet. I know I have a pretty decent bench, I just haven't been able to prove it. I finally freakin proved it AND I got all white lights. Redemption has never felt so good or come at a better time. 

Attempts were 92.5kgs, 97.5kgs, and 100kgs. GAH, so pumped about typing those numbers. 

So far, we've done exactly what we set out to do. Going 6/6 into deads is PRECISELY what I planned. Now we pull. Opener is no problem. Wade calls 187.5kgs for the second attempt, which is slightly under what we had planned, but like I said, I'm just doing what I'm told. I make that lift no problem. Htee missed her 2nd attempt but she also missed her 2nd attempt squat and came back to get it, so I knew I couldn't count my chickens just yet. As I said earlier, I had the lot number advantage so all I had to do was make the third attempt if Htee made hers. However, it turned out that I wouldn't even need the third attempt to win. 

I wanted to go 9 for 9. I looked at Wade, having no idea what was called for my third attempt and said, I want to go 9 for 9. He said, we only put on there what we know you can get. So I walked onto the platform and pull. It was heavy but I just kept pulling. I should have emptied my bladder before the third attempt. A rookie mistake! The meet was moving so fast I just didn't think I had time. I do end up standing up with the weight and pee all over the platform (so embarrassing, I can't believe I'm even including it!) and get the down command. Two red lights for downward motion. We attempt to challenge but to no avail. It would have given me the deadlift world record and the wilks world record. But I suppose the gold medal, a world record squat, a world record total, and best female lifter will do....for now. 

Michael Millican is still globe trotting and not yet in Belarus. I go to room and chat with Aaron and family about the win, change my clothes and head to the hotel bar. I see some other lifters and get to chat with them a bit which was nice since my person is somewhere stuck in an airport and Wade was still drinking bourbon in his room.    

We continue the celebration and go to a super weird restaurant down the road. Get back to the hotel and Liz Craven and her friends allow me to crash their dinner and talk about the meet. I had the meet of my life and it was difficult not having Michael there so sitting with Liz and chatting about it was clutch.

Training and the process is important. Following the process and being consistent is imperative to getting better at this sport. That being said, none of that matters if you can't put it together on meet day. On this day, I was able to that. I don't know how things would have gone had Michael been able to be there. Did I achieve mental super compensation because of the over reaching at the airport?? Hahahaha..........maybe I did just that.

MY NAME is Jennifer Millican and I am an IPF World Champion.