Category Archives for "Barbell Life"

Lessons from Lisa G

Lisa Lift I am writing this the day after losing my friend Lisa Gniewek, or simply Lisa G. In January of 2013, Lisa was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Lisa sent me a text on a random Saturday morning asking me if I would be in the gym that day. I replied, “Yes”, but I was really concerned right away. I knew that something wrong, but I figured it was just something that I had done or said. Lisa was famous for setting me straight. What she would tell me, would change my life forever. Her fifteen month battle is over, and I am convinced that she won. Right now she is in heaven giving her also famous crinkled face glare at cancer in complete defiance. She is cured!

Lisa G was so incredible special to the whole Mash Family, both in our compound and around the world. Both Lisa and I were introduced to Jon North’s Attitude Nation last year around the same time as her diagnosis. The Attitude Nation embraced us both as one of their own, and helped spread her story around the world. I want the world to know why she was so special to me, and that is why I wanted to write this little piece.

I met Lisa in 2008 when I was first starting Mash Elite Performance in Advance, NC. At that time, I did a lot of personal training, and Lisa was one of my first clients. To say the least, she was a mess physically. Lisa was a Pediatric Registered Nurse, mother of two, and wife of her childhood sweet heart, Matt Gniewek. Like most nurses, she didn’t do a good job of taking care of herself. She was a little over weight, physically inactive, and very weak. I would have Lisa do a body weight squat, and she would squat down and couldn’t stand up. She literally couldn’t stand up with her own body weight. I thought to myself that Lisa would probably quit after three weeks, but she never quit right until the very end.

One day she comes into the gym, and announces that she wants to try powerlifting. I was perplexed to say the least. My goal has always been to help my athletes reach their dreams no matter how high the bar is set, but this was a pole vault bar. The first few weeks were frustrating, but with Lisa G always a good time. She was quick to laugh at herself, and she didn’t let anything bother her very much. Her smile would literally light up the room, and like some drug, it caused everyone near her to feel happy and excited about life. We were excited when she could squat 65 pounds. I never dreamed that she would one day squat 215 pounds.

During the first few months of her strength training, we would get to know each other on a much more personal level. I was in pursuit of my one and only true love, Emily Drew. She was my dating instructor. I heard way too often, “You big dumb, dumb!” She consoled me through so many emotions sadness, frustration, and finally happiness. She helped me decide how I would propose, and she made sure that I asked Emily Drew’s father for her hand in marriage. She was front row when I married the woman of my dreams, and she has been there during every major event, competition, and holiday ever since. She was and will forever be a part of our family.

Some of the most memorable times were the discussions that we had about God. She was a Christ lover, and she desperately wanted to know all there was to know about her God. When I met her, we were both relatively new Christians. As much as she loved lifting heavy weights, nothing excited her more than a discussion about the bible. Now the mystery held within those pages has been fully divulged to Lisa G. I will never forget the excited look on her face when she would come in the gym having learned something new about God. She just couldn’t wait to tell me what she had learned.

Lisa would come to love the strength sports. We were able to get her ready for a powerlifting competition, and from the first moment that she walked onto the competition platform, she had found her sport. During her first competition in Asheville, NC, as always, she traveled with Drew and me. We had a fun tradition of weighing in, and then seeing just how much weight we could gain back. We would all be so bloated, but the laughs that we all shared with Team Mash still echo in my brain like beautiful notes of music from Mozart. The smiles that come to my athletes’ faces, the laughter, the community at Mash, and the reaching of goals are all parts of my musical concert. This is my art. This is the ministry that God has given me.

During this first competition, I hired my friend Chris “Ox” Mason to help coach because I was going to do my farewell powerlifting meet. Lisa was opening with 155 pounds on the squat, but her nerves were getting the best of her. She was warming up with 75 pounds, but when she squatted down, she fell backwards with the bar on her back. Chris looked at me with a confused look on his face, and I just said, “Go heavier!” Times like that were par for the course with Lisa G. You simply never knew what to expect, but you could bet your bottom dollar that her contagious smile would make everything OK.

Lisa, Drew, and I would travel to every competition that we could find. Every competition would be a mini vacation full of the Mash Team, heavy weights, and lots of food. The Mash Team is a family! When we compete, there is just something so different about our team that other athletes want to be a part of it. Lisa loved her Mash Family, and it was very important to her that we nurtured that family. If I ever lost focus for one second on the Mash Family, she was the first to tell me. If any team member had a problem with me, they would tell Lisa. Then Lisa would for sure let me know about it. A true friend will always let you know when you are being stupid. A bad friend will just tell everyone else.

In 2012, I introduced the sport of Olympic weightlifting to Lisa. I was surprised at how well she took to the sport. When I watched her Clean & Jerk 160 pounds, it felt like I was at my own gallery opening, and Lisa was my masterpiece. I had taken an overweight nurse that couldn’t squat her own body up off the ground, and now she was taking 160 pounds from the ground to over her head. Her determination, drive, and love of the sport has inspired us all to say the least. The best part of it all is that the 160 pound Clean & Jerk was performed after her diagnosis, and I will forever hear that bar slam ring life victory bells within my ears.

Thanks to my podcast Weightlifting Talk that I host alongside “the champ” Jon North, Lisa’s story was heard around the world. She would inspire millions to not let anything get in the way of dreams. She created awareness that more needs to be done in the fight with cancer. We hosted two Lift 4 Lisa weightlifting and powerlifting competitions over the last year to raise money for Lisa in fight. Now we will host a Lift 4 Lisa weightlifting/powerlifting competition every year for as long as I live in her honor with proceeds going to help with the fight against cancer. Her husband Matt has already approached me because he wants to continue with the Lift 4 Lisa movement.

During my time with Lisa G, she would teach me several valuable lessons that I want to share with the world. I will never forget them, and I will never let the world forget about Lisa G. I will start by teaching you all what I learned famous Lisa G.

1. Never Sway From the Path! Lisa G helped me and my wife build Mash Elite Performance. She helped paint the walls, pull the carpet, and place the mats. Her husband installed the ceiling fans. She will always be just a much a part of that place as me. We built that place on community, family, goals, and God. My heart was in helping my athletes reach their goals and become better people. She saw the way that I love my athletes, and that is what made her and most of the parents that work out at Mash Elite Performance decide to trust their families with me. Sometimes I have swayed from my calling for this reason or that, and Lisa G would always be the first one to shake me and say, “Don’t be dumb.” Lisa I will never be swayed again.
2. Focus on What is Important! Like most men, I will sometimes focus on money, size of my business, and what people think of me. Lisa G taught me to focus on the things that are important like my God, my beautiful wife, my daughter Bailey, Baby Mash(my wife is pregnant), my mother, my family, my Mash family, and my friends. I want to inspire others to do the same, just like she did me. I want everyone to set goals and have dreams, and I want them to be determined to reach for their dreams. The key is to never let a dream or goal over shadow God or your loved ones. As a matter of fact, let your motivation be to Glorify God, and to inspire and impact loved ones and the rest of the world.
3. Never Ever Quit! Lisa slammed bars until she could no longer pick them up. Whatever God has given you on this earth, I recommend that you nurture and care for that ministry until you die. Never waste a moment to help, inspire, and love those around you every day. Lisa inspired the world! You should do the same!

My friend Molly told me that our friend Lisa Sokolosky heard Lisa G say, “Ok Jesus let’s do this!” That is so Lisa G. I stopped in to see her yesterday morning just hours before she passed, and I can tell you that she was Lisa G to the end. She was trying to pull the IVs from her arm, and her niece told her to stop. Lisa gave her that wrinkled face stare as to say, “Hey I am Lisa G! I do what I want!” My heart is absolutely broken right now, but I am so glad that I got to see her one more time. When I left, I told her that I loved her, and her voice echoes in my mind like a cool breeze on a hot summer day saying, “I love you too!” Those are the last words that she ever spoke to me. Very fitting!

Heaven is one saint bigger now. Until I see Lisa G again someday, I will continue her fight. Lift 4 Lisa will go on! Cancer will be defeated! More importantly I will never stop loving the people that God has brought into my life!

Mash Elite Performance will forever be the home of Lisa G!

Let’s Change the World!

Below is a blog written by my friend Preacher Sam. Sam is my partner in a non-profit organization that we are starting called Open Doors Christian Coaching. After watching my friend Lisa G suffer in her battle with cancer, my priorities have been redirected back towards Christ, my wife, my daughter, my Baby Mash to come, my family, my Mash Family, and Open Doors. It is such a great way to affect young people, bring God glory, and help change the world one community at a time. I hope that you will read these weekly blogs, and with your prayers, contributions, and help, we can bring Open Doors to the world. Thank you!

Preacher Sam writes:

At ODCC we believe that youth from every type of background should have the opportunity to live life to its fullest potential. Whether that means being playing a sport at the collegiate level, going the Olympics, developing options for a great career path, or being the first person in a family to go to and graduate from college, we want to open the doors to all those options by providing a safe place for them to grow into individuals who can accomplish anything they can dream.

We also recognize that today’s youth do not always have a place to go or a person to turn to for guidance in these areas. So our goal at ODCC is to open a facility for youth to receive coaching in sport and athletic performance as well as in character and career path development. Our coaching staff will be made up of individuals who are deeply invested in the lives of each person who comes through our doors.

We are a Christ-centered organization because we fully believe that with Christ, all things are possible. And because we believe that, we refuse to accept that there are youth within our reach who have no hope. Not all kids are born to be Olympians, but we acknowledge that all kids are born to be great at being themselves. Our biggest goal is for them to become who they were born to be, and we believe that knowing who Jesus is will provide a platform for them to find their identity.

One of the avenues we will use to develop youth as well as provide coaches is through our weightlifting team. A diverse group of individuals has come together to make up the Mash Mafia, and we will use each person’s talent to help the youth who come through our doors. This weightlifting team has amazing potential so one other goal for our program is to provide funding for equipment and travel expenses for meets for the team.

In our first year we will partner with Mash Elite to provide a facility for youth to begin to train via scholarship and receive both athletic and life coaching from our staff. We will have one full-time coach who will both supervise training in our host gym and also provide time with each student individually to help them create goals for their lives.

We see clearly where we are headed as an organization; now it is time to begin to walk even further down the path. Will you join with us in this journey?

To donate please visit gofundme.com/opendoorscc

For more information email opendoorschristiancoaching@gmail.com

What’s Important? Lisa G teaches!

LisaG
My goal today was to write a section in my book that I am working on, but all I can think about is my friend Lisa G, my wife, my daughter, my unborn Baby Mash, my family, my gym family, and my God. I guess that I just named all that is important to me. Sometimes I get off track, and I direct my attention towards things that really don’t matter to the point that I let those things drown out the important aspects of life. My friend Lisa G has battled cancer for 15 months, and now she is in ICU suffering to no end. She is my friend! Watching this is one of the toughest things that I have ever had to do, but nothing has inspired me more. God has used Lisa to inspire the world. I watched her lift weights, break personal records, and support her team during those 15 months. When most people would simply lay on the couch and watch daytime TV, Lisa worked out every day. She never quit! She has also spent these 15 months loving her family, her Mash family, and her God with all her heart. I rest knowing that at the end of this battle, she will have peace and rest with Christ.

Watching her suffer, we are all tempted to ask, “Why God!” Even though I don’t know the entire answer, I know that her suffering has caused me to cling more to God, and she has taught me to focus on what is important. I came home last night after visiting with Lisa, and I held my wife like there was no tomorrow. Her suffering has no doubt pushed others to God because in times like this, there is nowhere else to turn. I have no doubt that she will be rewarded one day when she makes it to heaven, and a “Job Well Done” from the Lord.

I’m on my way to see her now, but I want the world to know what can be done in other’s suffering. She has single handedly caused me to be a better husband, father, son, brother, friend, and most importantly a better lover of Christ. I pray that I will never forget what she has done and continues to do for us all.

We love you Lisa G!!!!

Join the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Team

This week we are releasing our Attitude Nation Online Team Program. We have been working on this program for over six months, and we are very excited to offer it to you all. With this program, you are literally on the team with me as your coach, Jon as your team captain, and the rest of the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Team in your corner. Below are the three levels, and what you get:

Bronze:
• Choice of three programs: third pull, position strengthening, and general strength.
• Mobility plan with different options based on your needs
• Group Chat Room with teammates and a ANW Coach
• Recovery and Nutrition advice
• Video Library for tips on all exercises
• Access to team uniform and singlet
• Limited access to email questions

Silver:
• Customized Program based on your goals, needs, level, and equipment. This is perfect for all levels of weightlifters, CrossFitters, and all other athletes.
• Video Analysis of 5 videos per week. Awesome way of improving Technique!
• Unlimited email access for questions
• Mobility plan with different options based on your needs
• Group Chat Room with teammates and a ANW Coach
• Recovery and Nutrition advice
• Video Library for tips on all exercises
• Access to team uniform and singlet

Gold:
• Customized Program based on your goals, needs, level, and equipment. This is perfect for all levels of weightlifters, CrossFitters, and all other athletes.
• Video Analysis of 5 videos per week. Awesome way of improving Technique!
• Unlimited email access for questions
• 1 Skype Session per month with an ANW Coach! This is a full workout, and we have found it to be unbelievably effective.
• Free visits to the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Hall
• Mobility plan with different options based on your needs
• Group Chat Room with teammates and a ANW Coach
• Recovery and Nutrition advice
• Video Library for tips on all exercises
• Access to team uniform and singlet

Remember I will be your coach just like I am Jon’s. I will be at all National Events coaching you and the rest of the team. I will be at as many local competitions as possible. I look forward to working with you all. Go to https://www.mashelite.com/join-the-online-team/ to find out more and sign up.

If you get the free online program, you will see that I added this week’s program for our youth team in preparation for the Youth Nationals. Our Youth Team is quickly becoming the best Youth Team in America. We already have the 8th best youth in the Nation, Dylan Cooper. After the Nationals, I have a feeling that we will have several more that are highly ranked. You can join our youth team at the gym, or a youth can also join the Attitude Nation Weightlifting Online Team with Coach Mash as your personal coach.

Special Events Announcement! Check them out!

Right now I am at CrossFit Lando here in Woburn, MA, and I just wanted to take the time to let you all know about some special events coming up. We are working hard to bring you all as many opportunities as possible to increase your melting pot. Our mission in life is to bring the most efficient Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Athletic Performance, and CrossFit techniques to the world.

Here are a couple of our upcoming events that you or your children might want to check out:

• May 10th and 11th is the inaugural Mash Mafia Weekend Clinic and Open House! Come learn about Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Athletic Speed Development, and Mobility, and meet Jon North, Coach Mash, and the rest of the team.
• June 7th the second Mash Mafia Learn 2 Lift Level II Seminar. Centered around the advanced techniques of Olympic Weightlifting, Programming, Mobility, and the Competition itself.
• July 7th-11th Mash Elite Summer Camp for children 13&up! Learn all about goal setting, nutrition, mobility, speed, vertical leap, agility, athletic strength, and what it takes to be a champion!
• July 21st-25th Mash Elite Summer Camp for children 7 thru 12! Same topics as above, but scaled for this age group.

To find out more about any of these, go to www.MashElite.com/seminars/

I look forward to seeing you all!

Potential! The Open Doors Mission!

“…and because we believe this, we will do everything within our power to see these young people reach their full potential and live out their purpose.”

Above is a little insight into the DNA of Open Doors Christian Coaching. As a values-based organization we know that everything we do with and say to our clients/athletes needs to benefit them and help them move towards success.

We believe all human beings are created in the image of God. Not only are we created in the image of God, but we all have purpose as well (to glorify the one whose image we bear). Because of this, the means to fulfill that purpose lies within us. In other words, we hold within us the potential to do whatever it is we were created to do.

I did a little research on the word potential and the most interesting thing I found was that the main idea behind the word is possibility. When potential is in the equation, nothing is impossible.

Imagine with me a community of people who fully believe that they not only have the ability to accomplish great things, but also expect it of themselves because of who they have been created to be. This community would be unstoppable and would change the world, without a doubt.

Open Doors Christian Coaching will help young people realize that they are world-changers. They will know they have purpose, and they will know that they possess all the potential necessary to fulfill their purpose.

This knowledge will greatly impact all the young people we coach; however, we recognize that while knowledge is power, knowledge also requires action in order to produce a positive outcome. Our challenge to these young people will be to take what they learn with us and begin to put it into action in their daily lives. When they do this, they will not just have changed their own situation, but they will also be changing and impacting those who live with them as well.

Open Doors Christian Coaching exists to foster change within communities through individuals who have already been endowed with the purpose, potential, and power to bring it. All we want to do is mobilize a group of young people with open eyes to take this message into their world and turn it upside down for good.

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