Weightlifting

It’s been a busy week, so I should probably get my “this sporty prison of my own making is such an unbelievable cross to bear” whinge out of the way before I move on. If it sounded, last week, like this silly project is starting to take its toll a bit, that’s because it is. When I’m not doing my day job or launching myself head first at a crash mat, I’m either sitting at my laptop or eating. Sometimes I mix it up and do both at the same time. The point is, some of my friends have forgotten what I look like, which is probably just as well since running around in this horrendous weather has caused my skin to finally reject my face. To be fair, it definitely had it coming. I still hate running and running still hates me. A different part of my body aches every week, but the one enduring pain is my stupid ankle.

So I took the advice of some people who know a bit about such things. Enter Neal’s Yard Remedies, like a Fairy Godmother, jubilantly decreeing that I shall not have muscular pains that make my slightly crusty face sad (nor shall I have a slightly crusty face), and taking me under her organic wing. Lovely manager of their Covent Garden store, Kim Myatt, talked me through a variety of sports recovery lotions and potions and sent me home for an arnica-infused bath (which was very pleasant). I’m pleased to report that my skin and face have engaged in some tentative negotiations, following an intervention by some wild rose balm, and all signs point to an imminent reconciliation.

In other exciting news, ACTUAL OLYMPIANS are now taking a more active role in promoting my blog than my direct family members. In the last week, Gemma Gibbons, GB Women’s handball player Kelsi Fairbrother and ACTUAL OLYMPIAN ROYALTY Dame Kelly Holmes, have all done their bit to spread the word of Inspire a Jen via the medium of Twitter. Bradley Wiggins isn’t checking my posts for grammatical errors yet, but it’s always good to have something to aspire to. Mum, just so you know, when he inevitably steps up, I’m ditching you as my editor.

An element of competition was introduced by the participation of sports writer, Daniel, in my 19th Inspire a Jen challenge – weightlifting. It’s been a while since I hung out with any actual Olympians, but this week’s kindly weightlifting chaperone, Giles Greenwood, is a Commonwealth Games gold (and silver, and bronze in fact) medallist, which is basically the same thing. Giles broke the British and Commonwealth Snatch (that’s the name of a competitive lift, FYI) record by lifting 180kg at the Manchester Commonwealth games in 2002. To put this in context, that’s almost three times my body weight.

Bethnal Green Weightlifting: They win things

Bethnal Green Weightlifting: They win things

Whilst waiting for Daniel, I chat to Giles about Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club, which is technically an adult education centre, where he runs weightlifting courses. Giles’ m.o. is getting people participating in sport, preferably weightlifting. It seems to me that weightlifting is a bit of a niche sport, so I’m quite interested in it and the impact of the Olympics on participation. Since starting this silly project, I’m becoming more and more convinced that there is a sport for everyone, but they don’t necessarily know this because they’ve not come across it yet. Daniel’s website, The Offside, shares my view that some of the less mainstream sports need more coverage in order to change that. But Giles isn’t so sure. Apparently we’re becoming so obsessed with watching elite athletes, who are basically genetic freaks, from the comfort of our sofas, to the point that we’re not actually participating in sports. I’m not sure I agree 100%, but I can see his point.

I’m not expecting to be very good at this, given that I have the upper body strength of a 4 day old kitten, but that’s my first mistake, it’s not actually just about upper body strength. Daniel has a clear advantage in that he has a GCSE in weightlifting (really?? What school did you go to??) and he is a man. Again, not so says Giles,  pointing to second place-holder of the club’s leader board – Sally. Weightlifting strikes me as a predominantly male sport, or at least the common preconception is that it’s deeply unfeminine. However, around a quarter of Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club’s class members are women, though this hasn’t always been the case. GB Weightlifter, Zoe Smith, might have had a positive influence in this case, debunking these particular body-image misconceptions.

Daniel: He has a qualification in this

Daniel: He has a qualification in this

The classes are also attracting more men at the moment. In fact, quite a few elite athletes are using weightlifting as part of their strengthening and conditioning training, these days. Giles doesn’t attribute the increasing numbers of students to the 2012 Olympics, though, rather the recent popularity of Crossfit classes (which incorporate weightlifting) giving the sport more exposure. He does, however, make the point that he doesn’t actually interrogate course members about their reasons for enrolling. Fair enough.

First up, Giles teaches us the Snatch lift, whereby you lift the weight, bounce it off your thighs before triumphantly raising above your head as you squat.

“If you hit your unmentionables, just widen your grip on the bar” Giles instructs Daniel. Maybe he doesn’t have an advantage, after all.

We’re lifting 10kg in total, but the weights are massive, so we look utterly ridiculous given that we’re neither of us exactly built like weightlifters. Some weightlifters are “chunky in a way that you might not associate with being particularly fit” I comment, to Giles, why is that? “Mass moves mass”, he responds. Lifting a 10kg weight doesn’t sound particularly hard, but balance has never been a strong point of mine and it’s pretty common for weightlifters to fall over we’re told, though I manage to avoid this. Giles comments that my technique is not too shabby and he reckons that I’m “better than average” for a beginner. Given my usual levels of ineptitude, I’m happy about this. Unfortunately, Daniel’s technique is also pretty good.

Looks quite heavy, doesn't it?

Looks quite heavy, doesn’t it?

The next lift is the Clean and Jerk, where again you lift the weight, but this time you hold it across your chest, with your elbows raised skywards before lifting it above your head as you jump in to a lunge of sorts. The fun bit, we’re told, is when you throw the weight on the floor after you’ve completed your lift, which I do nervously. Has Giles ever seen anyone drop it on their foot? Not in 30 years, he tells me, but I’m not sure I believe him.

Having established that we’ve both got the technique ok, we increase the weight to 15kg. This is just about ok for me, though I’m starting to struggle. When we increase the weight again, by switching the training bar to a women’s lifting bar, which on its own weighs 15kg, adding weight to this is too much for me and I yelp “I can’t do it!” mid-way through the lift and give up. If I’m able to process that sentence, then I’m not giving the lift my full effort – my body can lift it but my brain is holding me back, Giles tells me, but this is common in women. Men on the other hand are more likely to try to attempt a weight that they’re physically incapable of lifting.

 

Daniel is able to lift the heavier weight and so, based on some calculation of our weights against those we were lifting, Daniel pips me to the post and takes the gold, which is annoying given my twitter trash talk, earlier in the day. But he DOES have a GCSE in this, if it came to a competition on who could make the best Charlton Athletic themed waistcoat, I’d probably win (unless he also has a GCSE in this, which seems highly unlikely).

The following days are spent in agony and I almost cry as I rub my newly acquired muscle salve on my shoulders on MONDAY night. But despite this and the disappointment of another silver medal, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed weightlifting.

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

Jen

7

11

1

19

Jade

2

1

3

Gemma

2

2

Nick

2

2

Harriet

1

1

2

Chloe Rogers

1

1

Dalston Dunkers

1

1

Daniel

1

1

GB Handball

1

1

John

1

1

Naomi

1

1

Otter Water Polo

1

1

Romford HC

1

1

Ruislip Eagles

1

1

Steve

1

1

Su

1

1

Simon

2

2

Uncle Becky

2

2

Ali

1

1

James

1

1

My Mum

1

1

Nic

1

1

Pete

1

1

 

© Inspire a Jen, 2013.

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