The World of Olympic Weightlifting: You Have the Choice to Succeed or Fail

This guest blog post was written by Taylor Gray.

It's really scary to do something new. I can remember the day I walked into Average Broz Gymnasium for the first time. I was terrified. I knew I was weak. I knew my Snatches and Clean & Jerks were a technical nightmare. I was sure I'd never be very strong. I thought the whole idea of me signing up for a membership at a gym with only barbells was stupid but, I'd already paid so I was locked in for three months.

I got myself into the mess after I met John Broz at the CrossFit box where I was casually attending classes. Once a week, he would teach lifting classes there and after a few terrifying lessons with him I told him I wanted to be stronger. In his very soft spoken, disinterested way he suggested I visit his gym. I had no idea who he was or what his gym was about but, it was closer to my apartment than the CrossFit box, which was really the deciding factor. I signed up for a membership with no real vision of where this might be going. There was no grand plan, big goals or dreams. I certainly had no idea I was walking into one of most talked about gyms in Olympic weightlifting; a gym that had produced some phenomenal athletes over the years. A Google search of any of their names yielded results from numerous forums, news articles and YouTube videos, all celebrating the lifters and John's coaching. Once I put all this together, going to the gym everyday became a pretty terrifying, stressful process.

I was a little 22-year-old girl with absolutely no athletic experience or ability whatsoever. Unless you count trying out for the cheerleading squad my freshman year of high school and being one of only two girls who did not make the team. My shirt got stuck on my head while trying to do a cartwheel during the try out routine, which snowballed into other problems and many tears. Besides that, I had been doing CrossFit for a few months, but really only started as a way to meet people because I was new to Las Vegas, NV. Despite my lack of real athletic ambitions, there was something about John that I liked, and I thought it would be cool to squat 200 pounds. So, I started showing up everyday.

I'd like to say I came in everyday with fearless confidence, picking up on the lifts and making strength gains that had previously been unheard of but that's just not true. I came in everyday, but I always felt a little awkward. When John wasn't there I was really uncomfortable in front of the other lifters. I knew I was bad at lifting and felt weak; it was embarrassing. The first few days I would wait in the parking lot until John arrived before I would even go inside. There were many days I was the only girl there. I'd struggle to move around the smallest of weights all while being surrounded by big strong guys moving big weights like it was nothing.  

There were so many reasons why I wanted to quit. Some days I hated showing up because it was so uncomfortable for me. Over the time of long conversations with John and being in the gym more, I believed in this idea that squatting 200 pounds wasn't going to be enough. I wanted to be a weightlifter. I wanted to be strong. So, I kept showing up. 

I trained for a year. I got comfortable at the gym. I got stronger. I completed in a few meets and qualified for my first national meet, Collegiate Nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I knew I had no chance of medaling, so I set my sights on qualifying for the American Open in December. It wasn't going to be easy, but it was definitely possible. Ultimately, nerves got to me in a big way and I bombed out. I literally did not make a single snatch that day, not even in the warm up, not even weights I never ever miss. I snatched an empty barbell that day and that was it. My two teammates who attended this meet as well both swept gold. One set a Collegiate Record and attempted a Senior American Record, and both made the world team. All while I didn't put up a total and was never in the running for anything. I sucked. It was really hard to deal with that. It's hard to have your own failure contrast so harshly with the people you train with. It's hard to be the one in the shadows when you want to be on the podium.

I had never really experienced failure until that day. While my athletic resume is certainly lacking, I've always been very successful at every other thing I've ever done. I was always in honors classes in high school. I always got promotions quickly at every job I ever had. I finished a four year degree in three, graduated with honors and a job right out of college. I was accepted to every grad school I applied. I finished my masters with a 3.8 GPA while working and training full time. I was good at everything I ever did until I found weightlifting.

It was at that point it became clear to me to be a weightlifter I was going to have to try harder than I had ever tried at anything else ever before. Becoming a good weightlifter was not just going to happen for me like everything I had done previously. I was going to have to really throw myself into this, to focus, to not be afraid, to sacrifice and to choose to be a weightlifter everyday. 

Collegiate Nationals was six months ago. Today, I am four days out from my first meet since and I am a completely different athlete than I was. Only because I chose to be. 

I'm not lifting records or competing for national medals yet, but I'm headed in that direction. After Collegiate's, I chose to completely reevaluate the way I feed and supplement my body, ultimately shedding 4 kilos. I chose to change my attitude in the gym, towards my own performance, towards my teammates and towards the barbell. I chose to show up at the gym every single day. I chose to take my coaches instructions to heart, to meditate on them daily in and out of the gym. I chose to rid my life of negative people and environments. Ultimately, I chose and continue to choose to create all this forward momentum in my life where everything is pointing towards one thing I really want for myself, to be strong, to be a weightlifter, to be a national champion, to compete on an international platform.

I talk to so many women in real life and on social media who tell me all the reasons they can't do things. We're almost always talking about weightlifting, but the idea rings true for other things as well. There's no can't, no impossible, no never. There's only choices. This path was not predetermined for me, nor did it make sense, nor has it been easy or even always fun, but it is what I want and what I choose to be good at. I am no different from anyone else. Anyone can do this, anyone can be a weightlifter, you just have to choose it. 

Taylor is a 23-year-old, full-time Olympic weightlifter, so most of her non-training time is spent trying to put her body back together. If she's not doing that, she's either weighing her food to fit her macros or acting as part owner of Comeback Supplements.

Follow Taylor on Instagram @taygray1991



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