The Grind : Part IX: Commencement Day

Part IX: Commencement Day 


“Dip. Drive. Punch.” That’s what my mind screamed as I adjusted my hands on the barbell.  The barbell travelled overhead and I heard my feet slap against the wood of the platform. It was all over.  

“Down.” The judge shouted and three white lights illuminated the box to my left. I had done it. A 104kg clean and jerk and a new competition PR.  I didn’t even hear the bar slam or the crowd cheer. I was too busy celebrating with Coach Nick.  For me, the meet was over and so was the journey I had taken to get there. 

Three hours prior, I walked into a room, found a wooden lifting platform, and five rows of twenty chairs situated to face the spot I would perform my lifts.  Two barbells and stacks of colored bumper plates of various weights waited patiently. I heard the familiar clang of a barbell being dropped and knew it was time to channel all of my nerves into positive energy and do what I know how to do.  Commencement day was here and it was time to go to work.


The Day of Broken Down


Mentally, I broke the day into distinct parts. I knew I had to complete each one well in order to make the day a success.


  • Weigh-in: 82.1 kg (180 lbs.) when I could be 85kg.  A little lighter than ideal, but not having to cut at all this week means being able to eat freely and still make weight.  Competing with a full day’s nutrition is not something lifters often get to do, so I had a bit of an advantage there.


  • Mobilize: Banded squats and shoulder dislocates.  Some smashing on my knobby lacrosse ball and lots of loud music blaring through my headphones to help drown out the sound of my heartbeat ringing in my ears.


  • Warm-up:  Coach Nick and I built slowly as always, starting with the empty barbell to make sure I was hitting my positions correctly. Weightlifting competitions are broken up into two parts but we only had to focus on the Snatch at first. There would be time to warm up the Clean and Jerk after everyone had finished their attempts


  • Compete: It was go-time.  “Justin Campanelli from Verge Athletics with his first attempt at 75kg (165).” The meet director’s voice echoed from the speakers.  As I made my way from the warm-up area, I looked out and saw that there were 50 people watching.  I made a mental note that at least 16 were friends, family, and fellow Verge Athletics athletes who took the time out of their Saturday to support me. It was the best support system I could ask for and they came out en masse today. 

You always want to start the day with a successful first attempt.  It sets the tone for the day. So with my pump up tune of choice ringing in my brain, I chalked my hands and walked up to the bar.  “Heels, hips, and overhead,” Coach Nick’s voice rang through the now silent room. Feet set, hands gripped, and pull.  As the bar snapped into place overhead in the bottom of my squat, a rush of relief waved through me.  The first lift was successful, and the day was off to a good start.

Five attempts later, it was done.  I was successful in two out of three of my Snatch attempts, and on all three of my Clean and Jerks. I finished with a 79kg /173 lbs. Snatch and 104/228 CJ for an 183kg total.  My total was good enough for a 4th place and a successful second lifting competition.


The Recap

The last 12 weeks have been amazing.  They’ve included lows, like two particularly unsuccessful days of training the week leading up to the competition, and many missed lifts. But they’ve also held many highs. I lost 12 pounds, set personal bests in every lift, and gained a new passion for a sport that does not end just because this competition is over.

Program Design with Coach Nick started out as an experiment and it was a rousing success. His support over the last 12 weeks, and the level of detail he provided in all aspects of coaching was key to the 5/6 showing at the meet and every bit of the progress I made.  There was not a day, including off days, that Nick and I didn’t share a text message to discuss how I was feeling, what was working, or what needed adjusting.  If you are dead set on accomplishing a goal, and want to commit the time and effort it will take to accomplish it, ask Coach Nick for a consultation. You won’t be disappointed.


The Thank You’s

Whether you read, edited, cheered, texted, or mocked: I appreciate it.  Without a lot of you pulling double duty and being something like a blog-editor/friend, training partner/motivator, or a coach/friend going above and beyond simply by staying late so I could complete a training session; I could not have been successful without you.  So, thank you!

My wife, Jen, is the absolute best person in the world and she puts up with a lot.  Anyone who knows me knows that.  So writing a thank-you in a blog probably doesn’t cut it, but she really is the best.  Dealing with the highs and lows of a training cycle is hard and being the wife of a person going through it is probably harder.  Thank you and I love you.

Lastly, thank you to the crew at Verge Athletics for giving me a voice and publishing this blog every week. It’s been a blast sharing this with all of you and I couldn’t be more excited to remain involved.

The grind doesn’t end here, but the “The Grind” blog does.  Thanks for taking the ride with me.