That First Meet

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That First Meet


I have been competing in weightlifting and powerlifting, since I was twelve-years-old. The meet is what most of us train for. We spend 3-6 months banging away at our bodies to get those precious minutes on the platform. We are performers! We perform! That is what we do!

I took about four years off from the lifting sports during my time at Appalachian State University. When I was finished with football, I immediately resumed my pursuit of strength. My last year of college, I competed in the sport of powerlifting. Powerlifting is easy to compete in because one can squat, bench, and deadlift in any gym in America, and it’s a little easier to progress in without a coach.

I remember that time like it was yesterday. I was working at this awesome gym in Boone, NC called Appalachian Fitness Center. I trained with my boy, Chris “Ox” Mason. I lived to train! It was impossible to drag me out of the gym. During that final year at college, all I did was sleep, go to school, train, and repeat. I was in love with the iron!

What does one love about training? Well for me that’s easy! I fell in love with the fact that I was in control of my own body. If I wanted to get bigger, then I increased the reps. If I wanted to get stronger, then go heavy. I also realized the power of nutrition and recovery. It has always been amazing to me all the ways that I could manipulate my body into becoming the machine that I wanted to create. As many of us do, I found myself obsessed!

I remember competing in my first collegiate meet at Clemson University. All of us that have competed know that the meet starts the whole week prior. Preparations have to be made. The taper begins so that your strength peaks on the platform. Are you making weight? If not, you have to put a plan in place to lose those kilos. Your brain is filled with thoughts about what is to come.

Personally I play the future, as I want in to happen, over and over in my head. You should too. I use visualization to practice the meet days, weeks, or even months before I ever arrive at the meet venue. Using visualization is a technique that I naturally used, but it is one that I teach to my athletes. I use visualization to see the crowd, hear the cheers, and to feel the stares of the judges. I imagine getting the calls and signals that the judges will give me. Most of all I imagine the feeling that I am going to have after completing a massive attempt. I can make my visualization sessions so real that my heart rate increases, and I will begin to sweat. That is how real those sessions can get. Then when I am at the meet, I am simply in autopilot.

A lot of new powerlifters and weightlifters have a hard time overcoming the anxiety of the meet day platform. It’s pretty overwhelming if you haven’t competed before. Visualization will help to prepare you. You should pull up some meets on YouTube, so that you can get an idea of what you are going to experience. Then spend some quality time in the morning picturing the venue in your mind. You should picture the crowd, the judges, the sounds, and the smells to the best of your ability. This technique will make meet day a little less overwhelming.

During my first collegiate meet preparation, I was blessed to have a gym that was totally supportive of me. Appalachian Fitness Center sponsored the whole contest, and gave me the company van to drive down. My training partners Ox Mason and his future wife Kristi accompanied me. Having them in my corner was all the confidence that I needed to dominate at my first meet.

Let’s face it, the meet starts the moment you arrive at the venue. I see the other competitors. Yes I am making friends, but I am also sizing up my competition. Who am I planning on beating? It’s never the person that you think that it’s going to be. It’s natural to think that the most jacked guy in the room is the strongest, but that is rarely the case. There are so many variables that go into someone becoming a top-notch strength athlete. Yes there is the obvious limb length, muscle fiber makeup, and connective tissues. However, it’s the mental capacity that one needs to overcome the barriers of doubt within their brains that makes someone great.


The most amazing thing that happens to my body during the meet weekend is “total surrender”. Any aches or pains that I might have had simply go away. I can’t explain this phenomenon, but it has happened every meet my entire life. It’s as if my body throws in the towel, and says, “I can’t deter you, so go ahead.”

The real game starts the moment that I walk into the warm up area. Let the games begin! It’s game day! I brought my A-Game! Did you? Whether it is the world championships or a local meet, I am going to be laughing and smiling. Believe me, this is just a façade. I am just as nervous and anxious as everyone else, but this is my way of tricking myself into relaxing. It’s also my way of confusing my competitors. It’s mental warfare!

I want my competitors to wonder why I am so relaxed. We all know that it’s the guy sitting in the corner relaxed that you need to worry about. I also figured out that if I pretended to be relaxed, I would definitely chill out more than normal. This allowed me to preserve my energy, and stay focused on the task at hand. Too many people crush themselves before ever stepping on the platform because they are exhausted from anxiety.

When the actual warm ups start, it’s go time man! The warm ups are where the meet is won. If I crush my warm ups, my confidence goes through the roof. The last thing a competitor wants is for me to be confident. The Clemson Meet was perfect for my first meet because it was filled with their collegiate powerlifters. Clemson actually had a Club Team, so they were stacked. This of course brought out my competitive juices even more because of course I wanted to destroy them all.

I have been in some of the most stacked warm up rooms in the history of powerlifting. However when you put a bunch of college boys in the same room, there is a whole other level of testosterone that fills the room. Looking back I am sure that a veteran powerlifter would have laughed at us, but to me it was Rocky vs. the Russian in Rocky IV. I was from the little school of Appalachian State University going against the best powerlifters that Clemson had to offer.

There is no better feeling in sport than strapping up and going to battle. That is what a meet is all about! Do you have what it takes? Did your training really go well? Do you need more work? Are you the strongest? There is a place that I can go when I compete that I can’t teach. I wish that I could, but it’s a place where all is possible. I go to a place in my brain where nothing can stop me. It’s a place that will allow me to lift whatever weight is necessary for the win. There is no drug on earth that can replicate that feeling of invincibility. I hope that you all can learn to find that place.

Competing isn’t the same for everyone. Some people simply need a goal that pushes them to train hard. Some people love the camaraderie of competing within the strength sports. All of these are valuable reasons to compete, but here is another one. Nothing teaches goals setting, plan implementation, and commitment better than training and competing for competition. Strength sports are awesome for anyone that simply wants to learn the process.

We are in the process of turning my entire gym into a ministry for at risk kids. Looking back I was one of those kids. I could have easily ended up in trouble, but competing kept me focused on something more important. The Barbell Life ministry will teach these kids important goal setting and life skills through competing in the strength sports. I have never been more excited for a new venture.

I hope that you will all consider competing at the Mash Barbell Picnic September 17th thru the 18th. There will be weightlifting day 1 and powerlifting on day 2. I want to see a lot of you rookie and advanced lifters out there testing your bodies, reaching goals, and growing as people. To sign up or find out more, go to:

==>The Mash Barbell Picnic September 17th-18th

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