It was dark, smelled weird, and it took a long time to reach every afternoon after school. In fact, I fell asleep in the car every day after my mom picked me up and we made the trek from Sherwood Park to West Edmonton.
But once I arrived in body, I arrived in spirit.
There’s nothing like an intense, full-body olympic workout in the basement of an old school to remind yourself why you’re training. For me, it was in preparation for the season to come. When no one’s watching and no one cares how hard you work, that’s when you really know the measure of your work ethic.
It’s just you and a bar and an hour to get stronger.
Fast forward a decade and a half and I hadn’t cleaned anything (a bar or an apartment) since those days spent in the basement of Westwood School. It was like something was missing. Sure, I had a decent fitness routine going, but the outlet wasn’t quite the same.
Enter Steph St. Laurent, the North Shore Winter Club’s fitness director, for a few weeks of supervised training in an activity that used to mean so much to both my body and my mind.
Returning to olympic lifts, the first thing I learned from Steph was to focus all my attention on my core, because no matter what exercise you’re performing, your strength starts in your abs, back and hips. From there, a simple clean and jerk addresses what feels like every muscle in your body. The only way to execute olympic lifts properly is when each contributing muscle group is engaged and firing. Prepare to feel the fire in tiny muscles you never knew you had (these muscles usually reside in the waistline, so if they’re on fire then you know it’s working).
Again, these types of lifts should only be done with supervision from a trainer, but once you get the hang of it, your workouts will become much more of an all-round butt-kicking.
Have you ever heard of runner’s high? The same euphoric sensation can wash over you when you properly execute an olympic lift that adds weight to a prior best. When your entire body and your mind is acutely focused on the exercise and you achieve the lift, it’s just like scoring a goal in a hockey game.
One accomplishment creates an addiction to future success, so you work even harder to lift more and perform more complicated lifts. With olympic lifting, success is contagious.
Society wants you to believe Cross-fit, kale, and gluten-free bread is the only way to truly get healthy, but it’s simply not true. The difference between cross-fit routines and olympic lifting is the attention paid to detail with each movement. Whereas cross-fit might involve busting as many hectic pull-ups as possible in a certain amount of time regardless of form and technique, olympic lifting is a slow, steady process that’s about function as much as it is results.
Olympic lifting is hard, fun, and, if you can believe it, relaxing. It’s a fun way to push your body and mind to achievements you never thought possible, and it absolutely creates side effects away from the gym. It’s hard to be unhappy when you’ve just lifted your body weight over your head.
Part of the allure of this type of exercise is that it definitely shouldn’t be attempted without supervision. I did it for years but I still worked with Steph to ensure my technique was safe and effective.
Interested? Drop Steph a line and see what you’re made of: firstname.lastname@example.org