The Smartest Man in the World!

by Thom Van Vleck

Recently I was talking to someone about lifting and why it’s a great idea to lift weights.  They seemed to struggle with the idea of lifting unless they were going to be the best at it.   Otherwise, why not find something else to do!  I enjoy weightlifting but in case you didn’t notice….I’ve yet to be the strongest man in the world.  I’ve also noticed that many people won’t enter an athletic meet unless they have a chance to win.  I think there’s a problem with that attitude.

Here’s my thought.  Nobody would say, “Well, if I can’t be the smartest in the world (or even that given day) then why bother ever learning anything….I’ll just stay stupid”.  The first thing you need to do when you start a lifting program is to do it for yourself.  Make yourself stronger.  Irregardless of who else is stronger.  Sometimes surprising things can happen.

I worked for 2 years and finally one day I was ready to attempt a 225lb squat.  TWO YEARS of HARD WORK led up to this moment.  I was 16 years old and weighed about 175lbs.  Some of you will know that I had to overcome two broken legs and a broken hip so I started not even being able to squat my bodyweight.  I had a couple buddies over to spot me.  To be honest, I had them come over to witness this and so I could show off a little.  Well, when I got done and racked the weight triumphantly one of my buddies…who had never done a squat with weights…said, “Hey, can I give that a try”.  Long story short, he squatted it with ease and threw on a couple of tens and did three reps before telling me that my lift was good, too.  Needless to say, I questioned my effort.  But I shouldn’t have.  I had went from a kid they thought might never walk again to squatting 225lbs.  I also want to point out I eventually did 600…..and that other guy never touched a weight again as far as I know!

While it’s good to have a little perspective, the guy you should always be concerned most about it the guy in the mirror.  Making that person you see in the mirror better is more important than what anyone else can do.  There’s always going to be someone stronger than you and smarter than you.  I just work on myself and let the chips fall where they may.  That’s been a tough lesson for me, but one that has led to my greatest gains.

Four Corners

by Thom Van Vleck

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has been a big part of my life.  As those who know me will already be aware it was started by my grandfather Dalton Jackson in 1928.  It was just him and some friends who were interested in weightlifting.  They never competed.  They were interested in training to get better, be stronger, healthier, and maybe impress some girls!  The club wasn’t official then, just friends.

Then in 1957 he got my Uncles, Wayne and Phil Jackson into lifting.  Wayne eventually won the Teenage Nationals in Olympic lifting and was a 4 time Missouri State Olympic lifting champion and won the powerlifting title once.  Phil won some meets as well but got more into bodybuilding and was in Muscular Development one time and in Strength and Health another time.  Phil got an “official” club going with a logo they wore on their lifting suits when in competition and they actually achieved something quite remarkable.  They won two state team titles in Olympic lifting against clubs in St. Louis and Kansas City.  Not bad for a little club from a little town.  They charged dues and opened a key gym as well.  At one time it had almost 30 members and had Phil not joined the Air Force (he was due to be drafted anyways) and left for four years I wonder where the club would have went.

As it was, the club kind of played out and by 1971 it was all but gone.  I joined my Uncle Wayne starting in 1977 with my own training and the “key gym” was again started in 1980.  We soon had about 20 members and had a couple of guys competing at the state level in powerlifting.  In 1982 I joined the Marines and soon the club died again.

Then, in 1988, I got back into hard training.  Slowly, I revived the concept of the JWC and in 1992 started competing again.  I had a few guys that traveled with me and we were mostly “unofficial” but we were a group of guys that lifted, traveled to meets, and shared a love of the iron.

In 1997 I had a chance to do a strongman show with Omega Force.  I invited my buddy Brian Kerby and we did 6 shows in 4 days in St. Louis including one final event that was the warm up for the US Nationals Strongman Contest at the Family Arena in St. Charles.  There were several thousand people there.  Brian and I were invited to travel to Austrailia and New Zealand with Omega Force but we had full time jobs, families….but we became open to the idea of doing strongman shows as part of an evangelism effort and decided to start a local group of our own.

We were trying to come up with a “catch” name for our group when Brian came to me and said that he thought we should go by the name “Jackson Weightlifting Club”.  At that time it really got me to thinking of what the club was really about.  I will say that since then we have done over 250 shows that have reached out to over 25,000 people plus we have directed about 20 lifting meets (including the USAWA Nationals) and at a couple dozen Highland Games and Strongman Contests.  But the club was something much deeper than that for me.

As I explored in my mind and heart what the club was all about I came up with what I call the “Four Corners” of the JWC foundation.  These four cornerstones are what everything the JWC does is built upon.

Faith:  First comes Faith.  The JWC exists because of the Christian Principles laid down by my grandfather and passed on to each subsequent generation.  The most importan principle being faith.  Faith is the belief in something with strong conviction.  My own interpretation is that it gives us the ability to believe in something even when the evidence seems to be against it.  Faith is important in lifting because it takes a long time and  lot of work to make progress in lifting.  You have to have faith in yourself, your lifting program, and believe it will pay off.  Many fail in lifting because they didn’t have faith.  To me it is most important.

Honor:  Honor has several meanings and the one I intend means having integrity.  There is a Viking poem I have hanging in my gym that talks about how everything can be taken away from you.  You can lose you fortune, your family, even your life.  But the one thing that NO ONE can take from you, only you can give away, is your Honor.  It is your reputation.  It is a core value in my family and thus the JWC.

Strength:  This word implies being strong.  But strong in what?  My use of this word in the JWC is that it strength goes beyond the physical state.  I know that lifting weights gives me strength.  Sure, I become stronger, but I also gain strength to endure.  I gain emotional and mental strength.  Most of all I gain spiritual strength from having goals and achieving them leading to a belief in myself and what I can accomplish in all things through hard work and sweat equity.

Wisdom:  Wisdom is last on the list but it’s still important.  Wisdom to me it the ability use intelligence for a greater end.  It is the ability to use knowledge with good judgement, common sense, and prudence.  I want to gain knowledge but if I can’t find the best way to use it then I have failed.  Lifting smart brings me success.  The best lifting routine will give you the greatest results with the least effort and the least chance of injury.  Weightlifting quantifies that result and makes it easier for me to be wise in all things in life.  Even when the results aren’t as easy to quantify I know wisdom is at work.

Over the years, at our strongman evangelism shows, these core values were at the base of our messages.  While our shows often focused on Christ and were at Churches and Bible Camps we often did shows at schools and community gatherings that focused on citizenship, staying off drugs, and other more secular topics.  We never denied who we were, Christians, but the “four corners” were always there.

I hope that some day another generation in my family picks up the JWC flag. That is my next goal in life, passing this tradition on.  The JWC has produced many champions and contest winners, but it is most proud of who those people were rather than their athletic accomplishments.  It always has been and hopefully always will be!

Are you feeling Slunk?

by Thom Van Vleck

Slunk [sluhngk]

Adjective

1.  Being in a temporary state where one’s mental and physical abilities are impaired by a lack of sleep achieving a similar state to being drunk.

Every year there are new words added to the dictionary. This past year words like “Crap Shoot” and “Demonizing” were added among several HUNDRED others.  While the unabridged dictionary just keeps adding new words the concise versions have to trim words to keep balanced.  Recent words removed included “Video Jockey” and “Cassette Player”.  Some words once commonly used are rarely used and there are words that have been commonly used that are still not in the dictionary at all.  They all have something in common and that is someone, somewhere, had to make up a word to describe a feeling or situation.  That word either caught on or disappeared from our lexicon.

For years my Mom has made up words when her vocabulary has been lacking.  This has been amusing to me and my brother.  One of her words is “Befaffeldated” that means she was very confused and surprised.  I assume she meant befuddled and exasperated then kind of slammed these words together.  She has also used a word I’ve learned is being considered for the Oxford dictionary but didn’t quite make the cut…..yet.  That word is  “Slickery” and means that there are slippery conditions outside.   Again, I think she slammed “Slick” and “Slippery” together and I thought for a long time it was just another one her made up words.  Maybe she invented that word and now it has spread across the English speaking world and my achieve “real” word status by being included in the dictionary like other great made up words such as “Humongous” or “Ginormous”.  (Yes….ginormous is a word….it passed spell check so it must be a real word).

So, what does this have to do with “Slunk”.  Recently I traveled to Scotland to participate in the Masters World Championships of Highland Games.  Chad Ullom and Jackson Weightlifting Club members Bill Leffler and Jim Spalding were along.  If you’ve ever traveled internationally you may have experienced jet lag.  You also end up with these epically long travel times.  Chad told me that when he and Al Myers traveled to the IAWA World’s a couple years back they spent 40 hours on the road!  They got back Sunday night and Chad had to go to work Monday morning.  He said he was so exhausted that he couldn’t function….or was he “Slunk”?  So sleepy he felt drunk!

On my  recent trip to Scotland I had trouble sleeping on the overnight flight and ended up having marginal sleep for many hours and I jokingly said to Chad that I was “Slunk”.  We were all so tired we wondered if we should even be driving and kept taking turns as we caught naps.  I got to thinking and there have been many times I have been “Slunk”.  When I was in the Marines I was on a schedule where I would work two day shifts the first two days, then two 11-7 shifts the next two days, followed by two afternoon shifts the following two days.  I would then get 80 hours off and repeat.  I often stayed up between the two day intervals and became very sleep deprived.  I once fell into such a deep sleep afterwards that they almost called an ambulance when I wouldn’t wake up!

So, I’m going to try and go viral with this new term to describe that state of being so sleepy that you feel drunk….or Slunk!  It’s real, and we need a word to describe it so why not this word.  Sure, I’m in it for some personal glory, too.  I won’t lie.  If this word makes it I’ll probably cut the page out of a dictionary and hang it on my office wall and then gloat to all my friends saying, “I made that up”.

Do you still need to be sold on it?  Well, think of all the great ways it can be modified to describe things that we currently just can’t describe with one word.  So, if you are so sleepy you feel drunk you are simply “Slunk”.  If someone does this often, then you could call them a “Slunkard”.  If you plan on doing it then you can say you are going to be “Slunking” or maybe you are going to get “slanked”.  If you did it the day before you can say you were “slunked” yesterday.  I haven’t figure out “Slinking”…..maybe it’s the time leading up to getting “Slunked”. I haven’t worked out all these details yet….I’m an idea man not a detail guy.

Okay, so you have a new word!  The revolution begins.  Make me a superstar in the world of Etymology!  Start using “Slunk” every chance you get and, please remember….don’t slink and drive!  Now, if you excuse me….it’s my nap time.  I don’t want to end up a “Slunkard”.

All Round Mountaineering

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad atop the mountain!

After the recent Highland Games Masters World Championships Chad Ullom joined me on a “Mountaineering” expedition.  Last time I made a pretty epic climb but this time we took it a little easier after such a tough, three day competition. It is my opinion that a true “all rounder” should be in shape to do pretty much whatever he wants.  I enjoy hiking and hill climbing.

We had rented a house that overlooked Loch Ness.  Honestly, it was the best place I’ve ever stayed.  About as stereotypical Scotland as you could get and the views were spectacular.  While we were up above the Loch we were far from the top and that became Chad and I’s goal.  We heard you could see for 50 miles in every direction.  We set out up a road that met a trail.  The trail was was through woods and fairly steep.  We reached a logging road and after some discussion picked a route.  As we got above the tree line we were in fields covered with heather and rocks.

We were hoping for good weather as the view promised to be spectacular….but a heavy fog (or maybe it was clouds!) rolled in.  I’m glad we took layers as the wind picked up and it was very damp.  While the long distance view was ruined, it was still pretty interesting to pick you way down a trail in that heavy fog.  If you didn’t pay attention you could get easily turned around.

Thom Van Vleck at the top.

We ended up hiking down the other side and picking our way through several trails in the Abraichian Forest.  We ran across deep woods, unusual mushrooms as big as dinner plates and some bright red and some orange.  We saw an illicit Whiskey still reproduction (the Scottish version of a moonshine still).  There were glacial tills filled with rocks and we even saw some Scottish Red Deer.

As always, I had a bit of a side mission as well.  In 1971 my mother gave me my first bible.  Then for Christmas in 1978 by grandfather Dalton (Jackson Weightlifting Club founder) gave me a bible.  They were both small versions but have meant a lot to me because they are symbolic of the Christian principles I was taught and have come to embrace.  I know Christ is my savior and I’m a better man for it.  So, I brought those bibles along and laid them out at the top of the peak.

Two Bibles given to me by my mother and grandfather setting at the top of the mountain.

I can’t believe I’ve been to Scotland three times….and I can’t say I won’t again.  I’m sure there are many beautiful places in the world but there is so much I haven’t seen there and it’s a “sure thing” I’ll like it versus and unknown place.  Plus, the family history connection and the highland games are hard to beat.  I’ve already got a “next mountain” planned when I make it back.

Highland Games Masters 2014

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad Ullom tossing the caber in Scotland!

Recently USAWA members Dave Glasgow, Chad Ullom, and Thom Van Vleck went to Inverness, Scotland to attend the Masters World Champs of Highland Games.  Unfortunately, Dean Ross was unable to attend.  Dean was the last person to have attended EVERY SINGLE MWC since it’s inception a dozen years ago.  Larry Traub was in attendance to watch and cheer us on.  Dave and Larry had brought their wives along….I was stuck rooming with Chad…..

The event was great fun and I’ve already talked about the Guinness caber toss record.  This was a three day event and it worked out where I could help Chad in the morning sessions when he threw and he could help me in the afternoon sessions.  I know for a fact Chad helped me out and I hope he found me helpful as well.  We would video each other throwing and assess mistakes and changes.

Chad Ullom between Wilbur Stam and Tommy DeBruijn....and Chad beat them both in the caber!

Chad was 4th in what I would call one of the toughest 40-44 age groups I’ve ever seen.  He had former champ Mike Dickens to deal with as well as 6′10″ Tommy DeBruijn.  Chad did extremely well against a field of some 20 throwers.  His best event was the caber toss where he was one of only three in his group to turn the caber.  He was in a dead tie going into the third and final attempt and ended up 2nd by a fraction.  I have to say in my opinion I thought he won it….but they didn’t let me judge!  It was that close.

I was in the 50-54 age group and I was dealing with two of the all time Scottish greats….Mark McDonald and Allister Gunn.  Both former pros and it was no contest with 18 throwers in my group about who would be in the top two.  Allister pulled out a close victory and the rest of use were really contending for 3rd.  I was very pleased to have my 2nd best finish ever with a 5th.  However, what really made my trip was winning the Weight Over Bar event for the 4th time at the World’s.   I really thought I had no chance at beating the two legendary Scots but it ended up being my day!  Chad was a big help spotting for me and keeping me focused.  I get deservedly kidded for focusing on this event but I love it and I won’t apologize for enjoying my win even if it’s just one event!

Thom Van Vleck winning the WOB event.

I know Dave was in a very tough group.  It was great to see him in Scotland with Larry.  Dave’s best events were the hammers where he placed 4th in both the light and heavy.  He was also 5th in the Heavy weight for distance.  Dave was in the 60-64 age group…..Which had THREE former or current World Champs in his group….by far the toughest in my opinion relative to the competition and age. I think Dave would be at the top had he not blown both quads a few years back.  I think he’s an amazing story recovering from that injury and coming back to throw well enough to contend for the podium.

Next year the World’s are slated for St. Louis, Missouri…back in the USA!  Looking forward to it all ready!

Tomatin Toss

by Thom Van Vleck

All lined up for the "Tomatin Toss" which was an attempt to break the Guinness Word Record for a mass caber toss! photo by Chad Ullom

USAWA members Chad Ullom and myself recently took a trip to Inverness, Scotland to take part in the Masters World Championship of Highland Games.  I will report on that later, but first I wanted to tell you about an exciting event Chad and I got to take part in.

There is a Guinness World Record for simultaneous Caber tossing and it stood at 53 Cabers.  Cabers are “logs” or “telephone poles” that are stood on end and the athlete has to pick it up, run with it, and flip it end over end for an “official turn”.  The previous record was held by a Highland Games in Fergus, Canada.  After the Games in Inverness we were invited with some 126 other throwers to try and break this record.  I have to be honest at this point and admit that Chad and I had some reservations regarding this as it could be quite dangerous with 126 logs flying through the air at once.  Previous attempts were very dicey!  But, in the end, we couldn’t pass up the chance to take part.

Tomatin Scotch Distillery was sponsoring the event so it was call the “Tomatin Toss”.

As we set up the sun was setting.  An official from Guinness had been flown in and he appeared to be a very proper Englishman!  He walked around with his head up and seemed to be scrutinizing everyone and everything!  We lined up on two sides and were throwing at one another….we had to question that!  There was a truck with a big screen TV at the end televising the event.  We had to wait for what seemed to be forever to get the “go”.

The instructions we received were a bit vague and this led to some confusion.  It’s tough enough to turn a caber but to do it on cue….well…that’s a real trick.  Chad is a master at the caber and I feel pretty confident with it myself.  I was only one of 6 that turned the caber in by age group of 20 athletes who were all proficient with the caber.  Still, it was a tall order!  The cabers were also not well made, as they were made for a “one time” turn.  This is NOT to say they preparation was poor…just that the cabers had been cut over the past 6 months and some had dried too much!  Chad and I knew we could have a caber snap on us and when that happens you never know what will happen.

Finally, we got a countdown.  As I began to “pick” (lift the caber into the tossing position) I had to simply focus on my caber and no one elses.  This put me at the total trust of the athletes around me that they wouldn’t lose control and dump it on my head.  As I heard the announcer hit “one” I ran up the caber and at zero gave it a pull….and much to my own pleasure it went flying over.  I glanced to my right and saw that Chad had successfully turned his and as it hit the ground it snapped in half!

While 126 had attempted and we only needed 54 for the record it was apparent as I looked around we might have a problem.  Many of the athletes were not as adept at the caber and had failed to get a turn.  Others had misjudged the timing and while they turned the caber it was not “simultaneous” with the rest.  The video was reviewed over and over and we were asked to stay in position as the judges reviewed the video and scored each turn individually.  The Guinness judge made his way up and down the field repeatedly…..about a half an hour went by and we were beginning to wonder if we had done it!

Finally, the Guinness judge took the microphone….and he did milk it a bit….but in the end he declared we had broken the record with 66 successful turns.  We all immediately headed to the beer tent to celebrate….not just the Guinness record…but the weekend as a whole.  I was really actually pretty glad to just survive the whole thing.  I remember as a kid reading the Guinness record book and wondering if I would ever be a part of it….and now I am!

The Gada Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

The Great Gama with his Gada (Mace).

When I was a kid my first influence in physical fitness was my grandfather Dalton Jackson  He started training in 1928 at the age of 13.  At that time training information was sparse and what was available was often poor and sometimes dangerous!  One area my grandfather was interested in was wrestling and this led him to one of the greatest of all time….the Great Gama.  Gama wrestled in India (although I have learned he was ethnically Pakistani) for 50 years and was undefeated in that span!  He lived from 1880 to 1963 and his exploits were legendary.  He beat everyone in India and then sailed to England and challenged the world.  He had a “Gar Nal” that weighed over 200lbs that was a stone ring that he would put around his neck to do squats.  There is a story that he lifted a 1200kg (2645lbs) stone.  It is claimed he lifted this stone to his chest and then carried it.  I think that’s impossible but I do think it’s possible he may have lifted the stone in some fashion (such as lifting the edge off the ground or flipping the stone or some other partial lift).  Both of these stones are in a museum in Pakistan now.   It is also interesting that Bruce Lee studied Gama’s training habits very closely and adapted them to his own philosophies.

Classic use of the Indian Clubs in both hands from an old English book on training.

One of Gama’s favorite training tools was his Gada (or Mace).  It was a very heavy version of an Indian club.  The legend behind it is that it was the main weapon of the Hindu god Hanuman.  Hanuman was the god of strength and was the god that Indian wrestlers worshiped.  So basically it is a war club what the Europeans called a “Mace”.  I often think of it as being the first weapon ever and picture a cave man carrying his club!  It became one of the traditional training pieces in Hindu physical culture and was eventually transferred to England in the from of the “Indian Club” that was a popular part of the early physical culture movement in Victorian England over 100 years ago.  One Gada could be used or two.  You will often see the Indian club trained with two at a time.

Dalton Jackson doing his modified "Gada" exercises.

When I was a kid I would watch my Uncle’s train with barbells and dumbbells. They were Olympic style lifters and trained as such.  Meanwhile my grandfather always seemed to be doing something different.  I hate to say it but there was a point where I was a teen that I was “all in” to weightlifting and when my grandfather tried to teach me on some of his training I didn’t listen well (politely…but not closely as I always respected him).  I have few photos of him training but one I do shows him with makeshift “Gada” style dumbbells.  I realize now that much of his training was based on “Indian” style training and since the Great Gama favored the Gada, so did my grandfather.

Part II:  Building the Ultimate Gada

Leadership Awards

by Al Myers

Tim Piper (left) presenting the Leadership Award to Denny Habecker.

Tim Piper (left) presenting the Runner Up Leadership Award to Thom Van Vleck.

The Leadership Award in the USAWA goes to an individual “that has shown exceptional leadership qualities within the USAWA during the past year.  Things that should be looked at are going above the level expected of an Officer position, promoting sanctioned events with emphasis being on promoting National or World Competitions, promoting the USAWA by developing a strong club, writing articles for publications about the USAWA, or through other means.”

The two winner of this award, and very deserving of it, were:

WINNER – DENNY HABECKER

RUNNER UP – THOM VAN VLECK

Both Denny and Thom were on hand to receive their awards at our National Meet Ceremony.  But then you would expect that out of them as they are leaders in the organization.  Their inputs at our National Championships was vital.  Thom served as the Head Official of the entire meet and did not compete because he would rather “give” than “take”.  Thom’s contributions of writing for the USAWA Website on a frequent basis has helped ensure it’s success.

Denny has been our USAWA President for many years now.  He is the ultimate leader of the USAWA.  He attends practically every big event promoted within the USAWA and the IAWA.  If a lifter does not know Denny it is because they are not very involved!  Denny attends meets all across the country and interacts with the entire USAWA membership.  At Nationals he sat in the officials chair WHILE he was lifting just because that duty needed attended to.   I think Denny is the best President the USAWA has ever had.

I’m glad to see the USAWA membership recognize these two for their contributions to the organization. They have earned it!

Chad Ullom: All Around All Rounder!

by Thom Van Vleck

Chad turns another caber!

Chad Ullom has been a fixture in the USAWA and IAWA for some time.  He is a National and World Champ and has a slug of records to his credit.  You would think that would be enough to keep him busy but Chad is also a regular on the Highland Games circuit!  At one time Chad was a top rated Amateur in Highland Games and regularly won many “A” class Amateur competitions.

A couple years ago Chad turned 40 and as with most of us who threw A class and got older he found himself being beat out by the next generation and soon was competing (and winning) in the the masters category.  There was even and younger thrower named Chad Gustin from Lawrence that came along and he soon became “New Chad” and Ullom became….alas…”OLD CHAD”.  Anyone over 40 knows the feeling.

Well….”Old Chad” dusted off the age last weekend at the  2014 Kansas City Scottish Highland Games and threw with the A class again.  He was by far the oldest in the group but that wasn’t a factor at all.  I was the announcer at the games and had a front seat for all of it.  Chad began to win or place well in events and soon he was dominating the field.  Chad won handily.   Chad will tell you it was not the strongest field KC has ever seen but I think all you have to do is look at some of his throws and see that Chad was in top form.  For example, Chad had only cleared 14ft in the 56lb WOB  once in his 19 year Highland Games career….but he cleared it last Saturday!  And almost went higher!

I have to tell you, I found myself being the longest tenured athlete on the field that day going into my 20th season.  It was nice to see one of the “old” guys take it to the younger men.  Chad came back on Sunday and threw masters and easily won again.  It was quite a weekend.  Other USAWA members on the field included Dean Ross and myself.  We all plan on being at Nationals this coming weekend.

Great job to Chad and maybe there’s something to training like an “all-rounder”!

Big T’s Birthday Bash OTSM

by Thom Van Vleck

As many know by now I turned 50 years of age.  When this was coming up my wife asked me what I would like to do on my birthday.  I have two interests and from those interests come most of my friends.  They are the Scottish Highland Games and Weightlifting.  I thought about it long and hard and I knew that if I could have anything I wanted it would be to have my friends at my home and throwing and lifting being a part of that.  So, the first Saturday after my birthday (my actual birthday was May 28th and the meet was May 31st) I hosted a Highland Games and an Old Time Strong Man USAWA meet.

The Highland Games came first thing in the morning.  Like the USAWA there are age groups in the Highland Games with records for eight traditional events.  Moving up a class gave me an opportunity to do something that I had not done in nearly 10 years which was set a World Record.  I had a group of 4 masters that included myself, 8 time Master’s World Champ Jim Spalding, 8 time Master’s World Champ Bill Leffler (who broke his own 60-64 age group record in the 28lb Weight for Distance at the meet), and USAWA member Dean Ross who is a 2 time MWC Champ himself!

Now, bear with me as I do a little self promotion.  I spent the last two years trying to rebuild my strength base with an eye on setting the Weight Over Bar World record as well as going top ten in all the events.  So here’s a not-so-short story on that:

My best event is the Weight Over Bar.  I love this event and it plays right to my strength.  I have done what seems like a million power cleans in my life and I think all that work paid off as the WOB event involves pulling a 42lb weight over a cross bar for height.  Much like the pole vault or high jump the bar will go up and the greatest height wins.  I broke and rebroke the WR in this event in 2005 when I was in the 40-44 age group.  In the 45-49 age group I ended with the 2nd best all time throw…but no record.  I made it a goal to work this event and try and break this record.  This was a two year plan.  When it came time for that event I had the beginning of a nasty callous tear on my right throwing hand.  If it went I knew it would seriously screw up my goal as my grip would be compromised.  So I decided to not do as many warm ups and jump to a higher starting height which was 17ft.  I started with the standing style (they keep records for the standing style and the “open” or spinning style) and easily cleared 17ft.  I then jumped to 17ft 10in which was a half inch better than the current best by Mark McDonald of Scotland.  You get three attempts at each height and I missed my first two!  Disaster!  Not warming up on the event was causing me some problems!  I took a moment and got dialed back in and rolled it over!  So, one record down and one to go.  Had I missed that I would NOT have been able to attempt the second one so that was very critical.  I then moved the bar up to 18ft 6in which would at least give me the second best all time WOB with the spin style and it would give me a warm up before going up to the record attempt.  This was usually an easy height for me but my grip was giving me problems.  It was hot and muggy and my grip just felt “greasy” and that didn’t make me feel confident.  Usually this height would be a cinch but instead I missed it two times and again found myself behind the proverbial “8 ball” needing to get my third throw to even have a shot at the open WOB record.  I got some words of encouragement and was able to make that third throw but now I had to jump a foot to 19′6″ to set the break the record held by Jeff Loosle.  That’s a huge jump and I was not real confident after my struggles.  I went through my mental approach, visualizing my throws, going through my mental check list of what points to hit and lined up for the toss.  I hit it perfectly and knew it, but I also wondered if this would be enough!  I looked up and watched as the weight literally rolled over the bar!  I then felt a searing pain in my hand and looked down to see I had blown my callous wide open!  Glad it waited!  A two year journey had been fulfilled.  Thanks for bearing with me in that “totally unrelated to the USAWA” news.

Now on to the meet report!

We started with the new “unofficial” lift of OTSM which is “Thor’s Hammer”.  I was curious how this event would play out.  Would it be too dangerous?  Would it be too hard to judge?   When you have a new event you just don’t know until you test it out.  Art Montini was the brave soul that started us out.  I had a warm up bar set up as well and everyone was trying out different things.  You quickly realize that you can’t handle as much as you think and adjustments were being made.  Dean Ross jumped in next followed by Mike Murdock and Denny Habecker.  Art ended with 15lbs, Dean and Mike at 20lbs, and Denny at 25lbs before John O’Brien and Eric Todd jumped in at 30lbs.  I had done 40lbs in the one time I practice this event and figured I’d just start there.  John made 35lbs and Eric finished with a successful 40lb attempt.  I felt a little sheepish jumping in after those two were done and was wondering if I had made a tactical error in not taking an earlier attempt.  However, my nerves were calmed when I hit the 40 and I was able to finish with 45lbs.  Not often I lead over those two guys at any point in a meet and I knew they’d crush me later but I have to admit it was a nice birthday present to beat two guys I have so much respect for even if it were just one lift!

We next went to the Cyr lift.  Again Art led us off and got the party started.  Again Art, Mike, Dean, and Denny took their turns.  Art and Mike finished with 30lbs, Dean with 65lbs, and Denny at 85lbs.   I started with John’s starting lift which was 125lbs.  It was so tough I decided to end there.  John went on to tie his own USAWA best in this lift with 140lbs before missing 150lbs on a third.  Eric stole the show at this point and opened at 150lbs.  He then jumped to 170lbs and then made 180lbs.  This is special as he’s had an injured elbow that needed surgery.  So it was nice to see Eric pushing big weights again!

We ended with the Dumbbell to the shoulder.  I love this lift and had to fight Al Myers to even consider it.  I think it’s a really unique event and the small crown of spectators really seemed to enjoy watching this lift.  I think for spectators the slow, methodical style of this lift and the simplicity of the rules allows them to cheer and follow along as the lifter struggles to complete the lift.  However, for the lifter, this is one of the more painful lifts I have ever done and my sternum was sore for days after!  Art edged out Mike Murdock with a 60lb effort to Mike’s 50lbs.  Dean edged Denny with 130lbs to a 100lbs effort.  I opened with 200lbs then jumped to 235lbs which would be a personal best for me in competition.  After getting that I retired and set back to watch John and Eric battle it out!  They both made my best attempt of 235lbs look easy and jumped to 265lbs.  Both made it with some effort and then both jumped to 300lbs  This would tie the all time best in this event by Chris Anderson.  300lbs would also be a 35lb contest PR for Eric and 30lb contest PR for John.  So quite a jump.  Both athletes looked like they were wrestling a bear but both ended up successful!  Eric called for 305lbs which was all I could fit on my bar.  This was twice Eric has maxed out my equipment with the last time being on the Dinnie Stones.  John said he’d had enough so it was just Eric for the 4th and final attempt.  By now the Highland Games were completely over and my gym was filled to over flowing.  Eric  pulled the Dumbbell in and then tried to get a solid set on his belt to continental it up.  He seemed to slip on this a couple times and I was wondering if he were going to get it.  As soon as he got a solid set up on his belt I think we all knew that Eric was not going to fail but there was this little detail of finishing a very painful lift!  Eric bounced it up until Mike Murdock gave him the down signal.  I mention the fact Mike was judging as he is one of the toughest judges I’ve seen and if he says you got it….YOU GOT IT WITHOUT QUESTION!

It’s always nice to end a meet on a successful lift that breaks a record!  Several records were broken and I believe the Thor’s Hammer is an OTSM event that’s here to stay!  Everyone seemed to like it and after we were done the highland games throwers came to the platform to give it a go and this went on for another hour!

I had said I was going to crown two champions.  The overall weight lifted regardless of age or bodyweight and then the formula winner.  Eric Todd won the overall weight lifted with 525lbs.  John O’Brien was 2nd and I was third.  The age and weight adjust rankings go like this:  Eric 410.97 and still first, John 374.65 and still second, Thom 340.31 and still third.  Now we have a change.  Dean and Denny now flip at 4th and 5th with Denny at 251.33 and Dean at 220.92.  Art and Mike maintain their placings with Art’s adjusted total at 149.14 to Mike’s 128.23.

Results:

(age/weight/class)   Thor’s Hammer    Cyr Lift   Dumbbell to Shoulder   Total

Mike Murdock (74/180lb) 20lbs            30lbs (record)     50lbs (record)      100lbs

Art Montini (86/175lb)       15lbs             30lbs (record)    60lbs (record)      105lbs

Denny Habecker (71/195lb)25lbs            85lbs (record)     100lbs                   210lbs

Dean Ross (71/266lbs)         22.5lbs        65lbs (record)    130lbs (record)  217.5lbs

Thom Van Vleck (50/275lbs)45lbs        125lbs (record)    235lbs (record)  405lbs

John O’Brien (45/285lbs)   35lbs          140lbs                  300lbs (record)   475lbs

Eric Todd (39/257lbs)            40lbs          180lbs (record)  305lbs (record)    525lbs

Thanks to everyone that came and made my Birthday so much fun and a success.  I appreciate the guys being patient and waiting on the Highland Games to be over before we started the lifting.  A special award to Dean Ross who was the only guy that did both other than me!

Decline of Western (lifting) Civilization: Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

This almost takes a mechanical engineer to figure out!

Okay, so….I have to admit….I HATE Smith Machines.  I hate them so much that I was even offered a free one years ago and I turned it down.  I didn’t even want to sell or trade it because I felt like I would be taking advantage of some poor sap who would think he’d get strong on a Smith Machine!   To be honest, it needed some work and I just passed on it as I’m too cheap to pass up much free stuff….just ask Al Myers!  haha.

At any rate, I saw this thing.  It looks like somebody tried to take a Smith Machine and make it where you could not just go up and down but back and forth as well.  If you look closely at the bottom you’ll see the horizontal “rail” while the bar is attached to the usual “Smith Machine” rail.

Now I know what some of you are thinking…..”but Thom, that actually solves some of the problems with a Smith machine….this is better than a Smith Machine…”.  I actually would agree…but I would also agree that two kettlebells are better than one.  But what are you gonna do with a kettlebell!  Again, remember these are tongue in cheek….so don’t get bent out of shape.  Okay, maybe I really do mean part of it.

I saw this and got all excited.  I thought it was a power rack!  I bet it cost a fortune and I bet you that hardly anyone will use it!  That’s my issue with it.  Kind of like how you buy a kid a fancy toy and he plays with the box and the bubble wrap more than the toy.  That’s why this is more to add to the decline of western (lifting) civilization.  Complicated means most people won’t use it.  Simple is best.

Plus…..I don’t like the bar telling me where to push it!   I can’t have a weight tellin’ me what to do!

Decline of Western (lifting) Civilization: Part I

by Thom Van Vleck

Can you guess what this does?

The title of the article is play off of some documentaries that pondered the decline of the western civilization through the various music movements such as punk rock, heavy metal and so on.  They were as much tongue in cheek as they were a serious case that these musical movements would collapse our society and that’s how this article is intended.  You may notice it has a “part I”…..I plan on doing a series of these.

Recently I was in a gym and they had a new piece of equipment.  It took me awhile to figure it out but once I did I had to admit I felt myself becoming the type of self righteous complainer that I usually hate.  But I just have to make a comment on this one.  It was an assisted chin up/dip bar machine.  If you can’t do a single dip or chin up this machine will lift your fat butt up so you can dip and chin with the best of them!  Now, before someone goes all postal on me let me tell you the real reason I see this as the decline of Western “lifting” Civilization.  I get it that there are many people who can’t do a chin or dip and need help and this machine could offer the chance for them to get to that point where they don’t need help.

What I’m mad about is what has happened to the “gym”.   They seem to be getting worse and worse about equipment that caters for those that never had a childhood that involved hard work or exercise and instead was video games and maybe passive labor that was horribly overpaid.  It seems to me that it lowers the bar and in essence it lowers the lofty standards of fitness and strength that made America great.  But hey, that’s just me.

On another note, I did 100 chin ups today….and 1000 dips.  Pretty amazing, huh!?

Meaningful Lifting

by Thom Van Vleck

On May 28th of this year I will have been lifting for 35 years.   There have been times when life has kept me from training like I wanted.  There was a year when I worked on  my Master’s degree that I was taking a full load of classes, working a full time job as a counselor, and I had to do an 800 hour internship.   As an undergrad I worked full time but there was a point where I was needing the money so I took a night job (I could study while at this job) but for a 6 month period I averaged around 80 yours a week and went to school full time.  I know….I know….excuses, excuses!

So recently I pulled a 700lb trap bar deadlift at age 48.  This is more than I’ve ever done in my life.  I have a buddy who lifts and I was bragging about it to him.  He was a top powerlifter in his day totalling 2105 at 220lbs bodyweight back before all the super gear of today.  He has known me since high school.  He looked at me and said, “You know what that means….if you’d gotten your head out of your a$$ you’d pulled 800 years ago”.

He’s right.  There is no good reason why I’m stronger in most ways now than at any point in my life.  Sure, I now I have more time to train.  But the honest truth is I’ve always been a head case.  I would over think things. I would over train, then under train.  I would spend too much time thinking about my workouts and not enough time actually doing my workouts.  I have spend countless hours writing down workouts which would be okay but I’ve rarely (maybe never) completed them.

So, the past few years I’ve tried to change that.  I think it’s working!   Here are some key points that I have come up with that have led to my “late in life” success.  By success, I mean “good for me”.  I don’t claim to be a champ!  I just feel like I’ve gotten more out of my body than maybe I should have and had MUCH more fun doing it.

First, I try to may my workouts rewarding.  I try to establish a clear link between work and reward.  Too often the benefits of lifting are too distant in the future to really appreciate.  So I try and do things I enjoy in my workouts.  For me I use many ways to do this.  I can constantly set personal bests in the gym even if it’s doing more reps with the same weight or doing a new exercise.  It’s also reward myself after the workout with a meal I enjoy or a movie.  My wife and I have a “date night” once a week.  I try and workout that morning with the idea that our date is my reward.  I have also bought myself a tool or some new training implement after reaching a short term goal and in my mind I make the attachment.  I recently bought a new music CD and made myself wait to listen to it when I worked out (that made me move a workout day up!).  I have set a can of Mt. Dew in a bowl of ice and refused to let myself drink it until that last set.

Second, I create variety.  I have to tell you, me personally I find a 16 week program impossible.  Heck….8 weeks seems like a prison sentence to me.  I switch things up all the time.  I try and do 3 week cycles and then switch.  For me that’s about my attention span for a workout routine.  It eliminates my number one enemy that stymies my progress…BOREDOM.  I look at a workout routine as a battle plan in the Marine Corps.  Sure, you want to stick with the plan.  You have a plan for a reason….but there’s no reason that when you see a short cut or another easy target you could hit along the way that you can’t do it!  I have finished a planned workout and if I was jacked up….I do the next workout right after.  I have thrown in a new exercise if I feel like I’m just not enjoying the one I’m doing.  I try to experiment all the time as well.  Recently, I tried doing a push press from a dead stop off of my jerk boxes.  They were awkward at first, but now I love them!

Third, I need autonomy.  This may be most important of all.  I will workout with others but I believe that if you want to workout for life then you need to have autonomy.  I have often talked to guys that had loads of talent but when someone stopped running their workouts they quit.  Autonomy is responsibility.  I am responsible for my own workouts.  I accept the failure but more importantly, I take the credit for success.  The key element is I need to want this for myself.  Not a trophy, not for a pat on the back from others, not for any other reason that for myself.  That other stuff is great, it’s icing on the cake but it’s NOT the cake.  When I stopped thinking about winning my next contest, stopped thinking about what others thought of me and my workouts, and focused on what I wanted and needed I began enjoy my workouts more.  They gained intrinsic value.

I have been around guys who can discipline themselves for the long haul.  I admire those guys…..but that’s not me.  I needed to find my own way.  So if anyone has read this to this point I want to make clear that this is not an exact guide.  It’s just intended to put a couple more tools in your mental tool box for your lifting.  I think this is what I enjoy about this process.  Lifting has not only made me physically stronger, but emotionally and intellectually stronger.  And it never ends unless you let it.  As I age my body won’t keep up, but I know I will continue to grow through my training.  Getting better and better!

The 10,000 hour rule

by Thom Van Vleck

I just got done reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell.  He has had several best sellers, this one is “Outliers”.   The 10,000 hour rule is just one of many great chapters in the book and I could not agree more with his conclusion.

First, it takes 10,000 hours to master anything….even for the so-called “natural”.  He cites numerous examples, but one of my own examples is the actor Eddie Cantor.  He said, “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success”.  Too often we look at successes and we don’t realize how much work went into that effort.  Sure, some have more aptitude than others but you aren’t them.  If you want to be the best at whatever it is you want to be good at you MUST put in the hours to be successful.

Second, and this plays right out of the first, is there is no such thing as “natural talent”.  In studies done on the the greats in any given field, lifting, throwing, music, etc…..there is a DIRECT STATISTICAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HOURS OF PRACTICE AND ACHIEVEMENT.   There is no short cut!

Third, the elites tend to love what they do so they want to spend the time doing it.  That is the secret to getting in the hours.  Finding the intrinsic value in what you do when you do it.  If you are looking at what you are doing (lifting for example) as a chore and only at the eventual outcome then you are not likely to achieve your highest level of success.  Find the value in each and every workout or practice session.  I often think of the Marines when we would do our group exercises.  We would chant over and over, “We love it!  Good for me!  Good for you!”.  Find that joy in what you are doing or eventually you subconscious will begin to sabotage your efforts and you will not master your talents.

I have spent too much of my life admiring the “natural talents” of others when that energy could be better spent on my own “10,000″ hours.  So, embrace the work, learn to love it, and know that hard work equals success more than any other equation!

Simple Liars, Damned Liars, and Experts

by Thom Van Vleck

I like talking about training.  Even if half the time it evolves in an argument.  The one person I have learned the most about weight training is from my Uncle Phil Jackson.  He would often say to me, “I’ve forgotten more about training than you’ll ever know”.  I still often think he is right.  Another guy I’ll mention is Al Myers.  I have learned more about throwing for the Highland Games from Al than any other person.  A lot of the USAWA crowd may know Al competed in the Highland Games but are not aware he was world class at it.  The reason I listened to Al and Phil was not because they were considered by the majority of the lifting or throwing world as experts but because both had something in common with me.  None of us were what I would call natural or “gifted”.  We all had to work for every bit we have.

First I’ll say this.  There’s a fallacy out there that great athletes make bad coaches and mediocre athletes make great coaches.  The “logic” given is that great players never really learn how to play and rely on their natural abilities while mediocre players have to learn every trick to get better.  The evidence given is that there are many coaches that were mediocre players.  Well, that’s just Bull!  The reality is that there are MANY more mediocre players and it would make sense that they would end up a majority in the coaching world over the handful of great athletes.  What really defines a great coach is knowledge and the ability to impart that knowledge in a way another will take it and use it.  They have what’s been called “Practical IQ”.

Now, I don’t know for sure about Al, but I do know that my Uncle Phil would say I’ve barely listened to him at all over the years.  He’s partly right, I have been stubborn at times.  But I would argue he’s mostly wrong.  If you look at how I train there’s more of him in there than any other person on earth.  As for Al, I know I’ve frustrated him from time to time with a million questions and when he’s been nice enough to answer me I’ve often ripped apart his answers.  Al’s such a nice guy this may be hard to believe….but I’ve made him mad more than once!  Yet, if you look at how I throw…NOBODY has had more influence on my throwing and how I train for throwing!  I have just learned over the years that there are….Simple Liars, Damned Liars, and Experts.

The title for this article refers to a saying among lawyers and judges.  It refers to the “expert” witness.  It is often used to make the point that you can get an credentialed expert witness to support about anything.  Kind of like the saying “Lies, damned lies, and statistics” that make the point that you can find stats to support just about any point of view….whether that point of view is right or not!  This is the attitude I bring into how I approach all experts.

Heck, I AM AN EXPERT!  I have been called into court numerous times to provide expert testimony as a licensed professional counselor.  I have frustrated many judges and lawyers in this role because when I KNOW I’m being looked to as an expert then all the speculation, logic, “makes sense to me” is shoved out of my brain and I got with cold, hard, facts.  And the truth is…..you can’t get much from cold, hard facts!  You need to take that leap and expand out beyond what is known and take your “best guess” sometimes to find success.  When pressed by a lawyer or judge, I would preface my “best guess” by saying this is my “opinion based on what I know”.  That rarely helped….they wanted me to tell them that I “unequivocally” knew the truth and to say it as such.

So, what does all this mean.  I guess (based on what I know…..HAHAHA) that I’m trying to say that we need to seek out experts and understand that one person’s “expert” may not be your “expert”….we all have different needs.  These experts can be anywhere and don’t always need to be the “greatest” or the “most famous”.   We also need to look at being able to mine what an expert can give us even if sometimes they aren’t the best communicators.  We should never throw out the coaching of on person simply because they gave bad advice one time.  That’s like the old saying of throwing the baby out with the bath.  Finally, we need to open ourselves to find people who know more than us and take a leap of faith on what they are telling us…..but always remember there are liars, damned liars, and experts.  It’s all in how you want to look at it.  If you think it’s a lie….or the truth…you’ll probably be right.

Buridan’s Ass

by Thom Van Vleck

The story of Buridan’s Ass is a paradox where an ass (ass as in burro or donkey….not someone’s backside) is that is equally hungry and thirst is placed between a pail of water and a stack of hay.  The ass dies of hunger and thirst because it can’t make a decision about which way to go!  It is actually based on a parable going back to Aristotle.  The more modern version you may be more familiar with is the term “paralysis by analysis”.

Regardless of where it comes from it is the state of over thinking a situation to the point that no decision is made.  There is another parable that I think describes this mental dilemma even better:

There was a fox and a cat arguing over who had the better escape plan.  The fox had hundreds while the cat had only one….run up a tree.  Suddenly a pack of hounds approached and the cat shot up a tree to safety while the fox darted back and forth trying to decide what would be his best option.  In his indecision he missed his opportunity to escape and was caught.

You can get so caught up in seeking the perfect solution that no decision occurs and you end up making mistakes, missing chances, and losing the ability to test out ideas that may have worked for fear there was a better method just around the corner.

How does this related to lifting?  In a way it’s been the story of my lifting career!  I fancy myself a pretty smart guy.  I associate and affiliate myself with the lifters and throwers.  I read all I can about training.  In my early years when I had a spare moment you would find me writing out workouts then erasing parts, adding parts, pondering it….and often never (at best) finishing the workout…or (at worst) never even starting it because I was in search of the “next big thing”.

I think every athlete has been in search of that “holy grail” workout that will bring you big lifts and massive muscles…..and hot babes hanging off your biceps!  The reality is that there is no perfect routine and the most successful athletes learn to move on quickly and decisively from one routine to the next.

So, I’m saying, don’t be an ass…..but how you might ask?

1.  Avoid being a perfectionist….which means allowing yourself to fail.  Failing happens when we take risks and if you aren’t failing then you aren’t taking risks to stretch your boundaries.  In positive psychology they NEVER call it “failure”….it’s always a learning experience.

2. Value speed!  Rewire your brain to “go for it”.  Imagine every decision as a crossroads and you have no brakes on your car.  Make a decision and power through.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You back up and take the other road?  You will still save time over indecision AND you have the learning experience of what was the other way.

3. Focus on starting.  Too often we start to look too far down that road and trying to see where it goes.  If you have an idea, take 30 minutes, or a set time, and go for it all out.  Then assess where you are at rather than sitting down and trying to figure it out.  Set aside time for analysis…like one hour, a day, or 90 days.  Make the amount of time you are in action greater than the analysis time.

4.  Break down goals, look for quick wins, and appreciate every step that moves you forward.  We too often focus only on failure and in the process we forget to look at what worked.  Remove the fear of failure and replace it with an attitude that you embrace change and find opportunity in it rather than potential failure.

5.  Develop habits and routines that avoid the paralysis.  I am reminded of the Nike slogan, “Just Do It”.  For me it’s the Bible Verse James 1:12 which tells us to “Persevere under trial” and those who do will be given the ultimate reward.  Have things that help you get focused and develop them.

Finally, don’t do to this article what I’m encouraging you NOT to do.  Analysis is good!  As a matter of fact there is a common fallacy that our first answer is more often the right answer.  Have you ever been told to “go with your gut” when you don’t know the answer on a test?  Well, I hate to break this to you but it’s NOT TRUE!  It has been proven in study after study.  More often we will change a wrong answer to a right one…almost 2 to 1!  So why is there this perception that we change right answers to wrong?  Because we tend to focus on failure!  So, it is important to keep a positive focus to avoid creating your own fallacies or misconceptions.

As my Uncle Phil told me….train smarter not harder.

Big T’s OTSM (First Update)

by Thom Van Vleck

I have some more information on OTSM being held at the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  Entry info and a link to the first story on the meet can be found under the USAWA Future Events section.

This meet will be held outside weather permitting.  If the weather is bad, we’ll move it inside.  Each lifter will be given the chance to look at the records and attempt one record attempt on a lift outside the competition once the meet is completed.  Additional records will be up to there being time.  I wanted to mention this in case there was anyone coming that planned on trying some record attempts.

I thought I might catch some flack regarding my decision to have two champs.  One based on the formulas and the other based solely on most weight lifted.  So far not a peep.  I think it will be interesting to see if they are different!  Just so you know, it’s not my plan to do this with the OTSM Championships.

In addition, This meet will happen regardless of the turn out.  The idea of having this in conjunction with a Highland Games meet is I hope to get some new members to sign up.  You will notice I don’t have a deadline.  All comers!  So don’t worry about the meet being cancelled due to low turnout.  THIS WILL HAPPEN!

Finally, bring some shade, sunscreen, and a folding chair.  It’s pretty wide open at my place so shade is tough to find.  I don’t sunburn and don’t notice it….but we’ve toasted a few of the fair skinned lifters and throwers at my place!

Hope to see you there!

Nicknames

by Thom Van Vleck

I’ve told a story recently and reference a nickname for my Uncle Wayne Jackson.  I wanted to tell about where that came from.

A couple of years ago I hosted the USAWA Nationals.  Wayne was able to make it and was kind of a guest of honor.  At one point Al Myers noticed I called him “Staggo” and asked me about it.  As everyone that knows me, knows ALL TOO WELL, there’s a story behind that!

When I first started training at age 15 it was with my Uncle Wayne Jackson.  It was kind of a tradition to make up nicknames back in the day.  Often it was something that started out as an insult but over time became a badge of honor.  I go to a Lutheran Church and we are taught about how the Catholics used to make fun of us and called us “Lutherans” as an insult.  Now we wear it with honor.

I tended to favor the deadlift…because I was good at the deadlift.  Like a lot of young guys I tended to train what I was good at and ignore what I was bad at…which was pretty much everything else!  My Uncle Phil was the type of guy to cut right to the chase but Wayne was the type to try and use some subtle remark to get his point across.  I think he knew I had a pretty fragile self esteem so just telling me the way I was training was pretty stupid might have dealt me a blow….and I might have quit training.

So one day Wayne started calling me Bob Peoples.  If you don’t know who Bob People’s was, he was very much a deadlift specialist and I was on my way to becoming one, too.  Every time I would start pulling Wayne would say, “Well, there goes Bob People’s again” or he might say, “So is Bob deadlifting again today”.  He made his point and I started to diversify my training.  But I also had to get him back.

Wayne was kind of sensitive about his weight, considering he spent most of his life over 300lbs!  I once asked him how much he weighed at his heaviest and he told me 339 and A HALF.  I then asked, “So when you weighed 340…what were your best lifts”.  Wayne looked at me dead serious and said, “Tommy!  I NEVER weighed 340″.  He also would emphasize that a give weight was “in his street clothes” as if to say “I don’t actually weigh that much, I’m much lighter with my clothes off”!  We all have a weakness and that was his.  Now to exploit it!

We were watching one of the early World’s Strongest Man contests and there was a competitor from Holland named Staggo Piszko.  This guy was huge…and ROUND!  It was made more pronounced by the fact he had this little guy that was his “trainer” or “coach” that was dwarfed by him and kept running around him like he was on fire.  My Uncle kept chuckling every time he saw him.  So for the last 30 years it stuck!  And like many nicknames, what started out as a snappy comeback and a good-natured “ribbing” ended up being a badge of honor.

Many times I called up Wayne and said this line:

“HEY, STAGGO!  …..and he’ll be Staggo to me forever!

Better than Gold

by Thom Van Vleck

The medal my Uncle Wayne gave me.

I was recently at an event and one of the other competitors reached over and pull out a medal I had hanging around my neck.  He wanted to know what it represented.  It is a medal that I’ve worn in every competition I’ve been in or at least been on between lifts or events.  It’s been dipped in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, the Irish Sea, Mississippi River, Columbia River, Missouri River….even Loch Ness and other places I have traveled and competed.

It is a medal my Uncle Wayne Jackson won the year I was born. The story goes that he went to the meet and won this medal.  He would have been around 21 years old and in the midst of a great run of winning Olympic lifting events in the Midwest that included a Teenage National Title and 5 Missouri State Championships.  Wayne came back from the meet ready to show off his “winnings”.  He had been unable to reach anyone by phone and since this was the days before answering machines and cell phones….if you weren’t there to answer the phone you missed the call!  So he had not been able to tell anyone about winning.

When Wayne arrived at home the house was empty and there was no note or other information on where everyone had went!  He was a little concerned and a little disappointed that he had not been able to share his victory with his family.  Then my Grandmother showed up and told him that he needed to get down to the hospital as his sister had her baby.  Which was me of course!  He told me I had upstaged him!

Reverse side with the 1964

From as early as I can remember my Uncle Wayne was a part of my life.  As a kid he would pick me up and throw me high in the air.  We would wrestle and he would take me out hunting arrowheads.  He never had any children of his own and he became a second father to me.  My kids are like his grand kids.  Obviously, he’s the main reason I got into weight training and in doing so he may have saved my life.  At the least, my life has been much better for getting into lifting.  Over the years he is the first person I call after a contest and he’s also kept up to date on my workouts.  He’s always quick with a compliment and slow to criticize.  He has also been an inspiration to me for his faith in God and using his strength not to intimidate others but protect those that needed protecting.

There came a time when he wanted me to have this medal.  I’m sure it’s not worth much but it’s priceless to me.  It represents our friendship and love for one another.  It represents a passing of the torch in the Jackson Weightlifting Club.  It reminds me of him and when he’s not able to be there with me I feel like he’s there.  It is better than gold to me.

Big T’s OTSM

by Thom Van Vleck

MEET ANNOUNCEMENT: BIG T’S BIRTHDAY BASH OTSM

This May I turn 50 years old.  My wife asked me what I wanted to do.  Well, I love to throw, lift, and eat with family and friends.  So I will be hosting a Scottish Highland Games at my gym near Greentop, Missouri as well as an USAWA OTSM meet!  You may enter both if you like.  There will be burgers and brats grilled for lunch.  The Highland Games will begin at 10:00am while the OTSM will follow immediately after around 3 pm.  Weigh ins will start at 9:00am or immediately before the lifting starts.  There will be miniature anvils for awards.  One difference with this meet is that there will be two champions.  One will be decided using formulas while the other will be declared on most weight lifted.

MEET DIRECTOR: Thom Van Vleck

DATE: May 31, 2014

LOCATION: JWC Training Hall, 23958 Morgan Road, Greentop, MO, 63546

A special Iron Man award will be given to the combined thrower and lifter.

Following the throwing and lifting, weather permitting, there will be a bonfire and evening festivities.

Three lifts will be contested.  Two are tried and true OTSM lifts while the third is a brand new lift that will be tried out for the first time.

The Cyr Press

Any dumbbell with a handle diameter between 1 inch and 1.5 inches is allowed. The dumbbell may be brought to the shoulder in any manner, but must come to the shoulder before going overhead. This includes using two hands. Once at the shoulder, the dumbbell is taken overhead with only one hand anyhow. The other arm/hand is not allowed to touch the lifting arm during the overhead portion. The feet are allowed to move. If the lifter misses with one arm, the dumbbell may be switched to the other arm during the attempt, but the arm used must be selected at the shoulder. A time limit of 1 minute is allowed for the attempt. The dumbbell may be set down or dropped during the attempt. If the overhead portion of the lift is missed, it may be restarted at the shoulder. Once the dumbbell is overhead motionless with arm straight, the legs straight and feet in line with the torso, an official will give a command to end the lift.

Dumbbell to the Shoulder

A dumbbell will be taken from the floor to the shoulder using any method the lifter wants to employ. The dumbbell may be lifted with two hands, continental style, or may be rested on the belt during the lift by any part of the dumbbell. Hands may grip the plates, bar, collars, or any part of the dumbbell. Any size plate may be loaded onto the dumbbell. The lift is completed when the lifter is standing upright, with the dumbbell resting on the shoulder, and the lifter demonstrating control. Both hands may remain on the dumbbell to complete the lift, or with one hand or both hands off the dumbbell. A time limit of 1 minute is given to complete the lift. An official will give a command to end the lift.

Thor’s Hammer (NEW LIFT!)

A 2″ vertical bar that conforms to the rules for the 2″ vertical bar lifts (2″ in diameter and no more than 18″ long with no knurling) will be used. Just as with a vertical bar lift, the bar may be gripped by any grip with only one hand near the top of the vertical bar. In addition, the hand must not be touching any weights or collars used to secure the weights.  The lift will begin at the lifter’s discretion. There will be a one minute time limit to complete the lift. Once the lifter chooses to use the left or right hand, the other hand will not come in contact with the weight.  If the lifter misses an attempt they may switch hands but only with the weight resting on the lifting area.  The lift must be one continuous motion from the floor to a locked out position with no press out.  The lifter may choose to snatch or swing the weight.    The forearm must not touch the weight at any time.  The lifter may move the feet and body to adjust to the lift like a snatch lift.  The lift is considered complete when the lifter is in an upright position with the knees and elbow locked, feet in line with the torso with the weight under control.  At which time the official will give the command to end the lift.

OCPD: Weightlifting Sub-type

by Thom Van Vleck

Most, but not all, of my Scottish Hammers....I don't see a problem with having 20 plus hammers....that's normal, right?

Recently the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) was released.  It has the criteria for diagnosing mental health disorders.   I end up referring to it a great deal as part of my job as a Licensed Professional Counselor.   The DSM 5 is actually the 7th revision which plays into the fact that there are lots of arguements about what is in it because Mental Health is not as an exact science as we would like.  It relies heavily on the observation and self report of a client and not so much on hard science.  Someday it will, but not now.

The big argument that comes up every time they revise this thing is what is mentally ill and what is not.  Many factors play into this.  Some are pretty legit, some are very politically and culturally driven, and some may be related to special interests such as pharmaceutical companies and mental health facilities that stand to make a profit.  I’m not cynical, just realistic.

So with that in mind I decided to come up with my own disorder.  Obsessive Compulsive: Weightlifting Sub-type.  Now right now I need to clarify something.  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is different  than Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).  Many get these confused.  OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce anxiety.  The individual then seeks to reduce the anxiety producing thoughts by developing a preoccupation with some obsessive/compulsive behavior.  OCPD is a personality disorder and is characterized by a preoccupation with perfectionism and orderliness.  This can be with the things around them or the people around them.  The funny thing about OCPD is that the person afflicted with it often sees it as a huge plus and a reason for their success….and fail to see how destructive it is to those around them.

So, my OCPD Weightlifting sub-type (and if you haven’t figured out this is mostly tongue in cheek…..and a little not) is geared towards those whose preoccupation with the iron has become a chronic, non-adaptive pattern.  Their drive to achieve perfection in training, diet, and all aspects of life that will lead to that holy grail of being the best they can be has led to them becoming asocial, impossible to deal with, and actually leads to the opposite of what they want to achieve.  Some of the sub-types include narcissism, passive aggressive, paranoid, antisocial, and histrionic (look that one up…it’s interesting).

Now, I said this was tongue in cheek and it mostly is.  There is no way this will ever be a real diagnosis.  But I will tell you that I think weightlifters are a “special breed” (that means “crazy” and “nuts” to the average person).  We see what we do as good and we often reinforce each other especially when one of those “average” persons points out our insanity.  However, we also can box ourselves in with our obsession to the point where we think what we are doing is working and effective when it’s really not.  That’s what OCPD: Weightlifting Sub-type really is.  I know I’ve had bouts with it.  The very nature of the obsessiveness needed to be successful in weightlifting works against you from time to time.

So what do you do?  You need to take a step back every once in awhile and take a look at yourself, what you do, have you convinced yourself what you are doing is working or is it REALLY WORKING.  Take a look at those around you.  Are the blind leading the blind?  Sometimes if you are getting angry because someone contradicts your beliefs that may be a good sign you actually are OCPD:WS.  A good lifter is always open to new ideas.  If you are surrounded by people who agree with you all the time….you better watch out!  That means you are all OCPD:WS! Finally,  take a hard look at what you do.  I was once told by an employer if he asked me why we do something a certain way and my answer was “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” he would fire me on the spot.  I made a joke recently that if I ate hot dogs before ever squat workout I could easily surmise hot dogs were the secret if things went well.  Never assume, always experiment and you will stay away from the chronic, non-adaptive pattern that characterizes OCPD:WS!

So, do you have OCPD: WS….well….do ya?

Da Rules

by Thom Van Vleck

Let’s start off the new year right with some controversy!  I don’t think it’s controversial but I imagine some will.

When my kids were younger they liked to watch a kids’ show called the “Fairly Odd Parents” which was a play off of “Fairy God Parents”.  In the show a boy had two fairy god parents that would help him out in various situations.  The show often centered around him getting himself into trouble then wishing his way out of it.  However, if he could simply wish his way out, then that wouldn’t be much of a show.  There were rules he had to follow.  In the show there was a book called “Da Rules” and it would inevitable appear whenever he would try and make a wish that would easily end the whole show in the first couple of minutes, but then having to follow the rules would lead to a full half hour of hilarity.  The rules were enforced by the leader of the god parents.  Namely, Jorgen von Strangle who was built like Arnold Swarzenegger and suspiciously had an Austrian accent.  Jorgen enforced the rules like a German SS storm trooper and because of this was often the primary protagonist in most every episode due to his inability to bend the rules to any given situation.

Let me set up my “street cred” (what qualifies me as an “expert”….I know…BIG DEAL.  But I do what people to understand my history and that this is based on decades of experience and observations.  My family has lifted in Bill Clark run “odd lift meets” since the 50’s and I lifted in my first odd lift meet in 1979.  I am also a Level 2 Lifetime certified official in the USAWA.  I passed my test on the first try (and that’s a HARD test!).  I have judged in the required 25 competitions to achieve the Level 2 status.  I got Clark’s newsletter for decades and even had a bunch for the 60’s that I gave to Al to complete his collection.  I have followed this for a LONG TIME.

So, get to the point, you may ask!  Well, here’s my thoughts.  There have been times where I have sat around with guys and discussed the membership of the USAWA.  You would think it would be a big deal!  It seems perfect for many lifters that don’t have the leverages to be a great Olympic lifter or pure strength to be a great Powerlifter.  I know over the years it has amazed me how you can take a guy that is mediocre in lifting but he (or she) will have this one lift (or two) that they are flat out AMAZING at.  So why don’t we have people flocking to the sport.  I think I know why.

Da Rules.

I know we need rules.  There needs to be structure.  But when does the structure become a road block?  We try and create a system that is objective, but because humans are involved it’s doomed to always be subjective no matter what we do.

Some years ago I took my brother to watch his first Olympic lifting meet.  Art Tarwater was the head judge.  He’s been Olympic lifting and judging meets for over 50 years.   A great friend of lifting and a great lifter.  He’s also a stickler for  the rules.  If you get a lift when he’s judging, you did it according to the rules and that’s no joke.  He KNOWS every infraction.  So, my brother is watching this meet and about 50% of the lifts that were completed were turned down.  Press outs, catching the clean below the clavicals, elbow touch to the knee….on and on.  My brother kept asking what was wrong with this lift or that.  At one point Tarwater told the lifter to put the weight down as he has made an infraction on the clean and not to bother on the jerk.  My brother (who is almost a dozen years younger than me and this is important as I think he represents the mind set of a younger generation) finally made the comment “THIS IS STUPID…..THOSE ARE GOOD LIFTS”.

Now, let’s get into the meat of my point.  There are times when rules are enforced properly and then times when they are NOT.  There are many reasons for this but here is one I’ve seen repeatedly in the USAWA (and might get me in trouble with some guys).  First, let me say I haven’t gotten a speeding ticket in over 20 years (more than I can say for Al Myers).  Is it because I don’t speed?  Heck no!  I speed all the time.  I get pulled over, too.  But I get warnings.  My daughter, who is 16, got pulled over the other day….she got a ticket.  I bet you dollars to doughnuts (pun intended) that cops give younger people less warnings and more tickets than older guys.  Why?  Because they want them to learn a lesson.  I see that same thing with judges in our sport….in all lifting sports and event he Highland Games.  Heck, even in the Pro sports the old veteran gets the calls against the rookie every time!

I think we, as judges, have good intentions when we red light certain infractions.  But what I think has happened is younger guys come in and do a meet or two and leave with a bad taste in their mouth and that stop coming.  Then we are left with this core group that never grows and we are slowly aging ourselves out of existence.  I would also say there has been a time or two I have wondered if the intentions WEREN’T good and the judge WANTED to run off the lifter.  Yes, I said it and I stand by that statement.  We are all human.

So let me end with this.  I would challenge the members of the USAWA to encourage some young lifters to get into the sport and I would ask you to challenge yourself as a judge to look at these guys and know that they are learning and if an infraction did not help them in completing the lift then warn them before red lighting them (and I understand that’s not “Da Rules”….but a judge by definition forms an opinion or conclusion about “if” something fits the law…..otherwise we would be called “Police” who ENFORCE the law).  An example would be dropping the weight after the conclusion of the lift.  For many lifters this is part of lifting.  They just don’t know and need to learn.  Police officers give a ticket for the infraction, a judge forms an opinion and comes to a conclusion as to what the intent of the law was and if the event fit that intent or if the event intended to subvert the law.

Otherwise, we appear rigid and controlling and who wants to be a part of that.  I can tell you the younger generation does not.  They see Jorgen von Strangle as the enemy.

Black Angus MacAskill

by Thom Van Vleck

Angus MacAskill with a normal sized man.

I enjoyed hearing stories when I was a kid.  You know…good, old fashioned story telling.  Television was around, but with one channel the viewing was limited and since we live in a very rural area story telling in my family was a huge form of entertainment.   My grandfather was the king of story telling….he had a great voice and a knack for painting a picture in your mind of not only words being said, but sights and even smells!  He had been a fan of strongmen and wrestlers and I got to hear many stories about them.  One in particular became a favorite.  That is the story of Black Angus MacAskill.

Angus MasAskill was a giant but a special kind of giant.  The Guinness Book of Records lists him as the largest “natural” giant of all time.  He had normal proportions and no growth abnormalities.  He may have been simply the biggest human being that has ever lived that achieved that size simply through nature and not the result of a disease process.  At his peak he stood 7′9″ tall and weighed 500lbs.  His palm was 8″ wide and his feet were 16″ long and 8″ wide.  He also had a chest that measure 80″ around and shoulders that were 44″ across. Yet, if you saw him in a photo with no point of reference he looked like a “normal” sized man!

Something else made him special.  He had great strength.  He would often take on feats of strength but only if money were put on it.  Some of the feats credited to him (as with all past feats, some questions may arise as to the authenticity so I leave it to the reader to judge for themselves) are as follows:

1. Shouldering a 2,800lb ships anchor (some speculate it was set up where he simply had to do what amounts to a partial lift).

2. Carry two 350lb barrels, one under each arm.

3. Hold a hunderdweight (112lbs) with two fingers at arms length for 10 minutes.

4. Life a full grown horse over a 4ft tall fence.

5.  Set a 40ft tall mast single handed into a schooner.

6.  Carried a sick man over his shoulder for 25 miles in a blizzard to a doctor without once setting him down.

7.  Once was pulling a boat onto a beach and tore the boat in half.

Angus had many nicknames.  He was “Black Angus”, “Mount Kaskill”, the Cape Breton Giant.  He was from Cape Breton Island which was part of Nova Scotia but he was born on the Island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides Islands of Scotland.  It is a only about 4 square miles with barely over 100 people.  It is about as barren and wind swept of an island as you could imagine.  No wonder his father took him and his family to Nova Scotia!  They settled near Englishtown in St. Ann’s Harbor which is also a very remote location.  Later, many of the group that traveled with Angus’ family moved on to settle in New Zealand.

So Angus’ family had moved from a treeless windswept island to a land that had huge trees covering nearly every square inch so they quickly became lumberjacks.  This was hard work and the MacAskill’s were all know for their strength, but not necessarily their great size.  Angus was the exception in size.  So we know he grew up doing back breaking, hard labor.

The story goes that Angus did not become exceptionally large until he was 12.  He then grew quickly and gained the nickname Gille Mor which is Gaelic for “Big Boy”.  While he was tremendously strong, he was at first clumsy.  At 14 he traveled to Sydney, the largest town in the area, about 40 miles away by boat.  He had never been to such a place and they all put in at a local tavern that had music and dancing.  A local man was dancing and seemed to step on Angus’ large foot while he was sitting watching.  Everyone laughed but Angus did nothing.  This happened a second time and as good natured as Angus was, he still did nothing.  But the third time proved the charm and Angus stood up and hit the fellow so hard he was at first thought dead!  The ship’s captain found Angus hiding on the ship praying that the man was not dead.

There was a point where Angus’ father raised the rafters in his home to allow Angus to walk around upright.  His father also built him a special, long bed.  His father made his sons all work very hard and had a saying that Angus took to heart.  ”What’s worth doing at all is worth doing well”.  While Angus grew up in a very strict Christian environment he also enjoyed making side bets on who could finish a hard job (which he often won) and getting together for a “Ceilidh” or party where bagpipes and fiddles were played and songs were sung with wine, rum, and whisky being shared!

Angus loved his home and most enjoyed fishing along in a rowboat in the bay were he could look at the wooded hills and farms.  No doubt that is the reason that he returned there after traveling all over the world later with the circus.  It is also interesting that the world may have never heard of Angus MacAskill because he loved his life and home and was reluctant to leave it.  But a hard winter led to very hard times and he succumbed to and offer to travel as a giant.  He was promised good money and it was a way to help his family.

There are many tales of him being on tour and doing feats of strength.  One of my favorites was he entered a tavern and picked up a 140 gallon “puncheon”  or barrel of scotch whiskey.  He struck the top with his fist causing the bung or cork to fly out.  He then picked up the barrel and drank from it while toasting the other patrons!  Another was he was on a train when a robbery was attempted.  When he stood up the robbers fled the train without any loot!

Angus often dressed in “Highland Costume” while on tour. He toured all over the world but often hated the heat of the warmer climates.  There is a story that he once met Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.  Upon being presented with two gold rings by the Queen, he stomped his foot on the carpet to show his strength and left permanent marks with his boot heels.  It was there that Angus supposedly held William Wallace’s sword in his hand at arms length being one of the few to accomplish this feat.

Angus made two world tours that often lasted years.  His first return was a happy one with many of the same people still living in the area.  But his final return found half the population gone.  The timber market had slumped and growing crops or livestock was tough in that climate.  But nonetheless, Angus retired to his home operating a store and mill with his friends and family close by.  The story goes he was a good business man and disliked credit, but never turned away someone in need and was very generous to the local Church.  He died at the age of 38 and was a friend and hero to all in his homeland.  A legendary giant!

Wayne Jackson: Chasing Strength

by Thom Van Vleck

Wayne Jackson is my Uncle.  But he has been much more than that.  He inspired me to lift weights, he was a father figure to me, a training partner, and most of all, a friend.  Wayne, along with his brother Phil, revived the Jackson Weightlifting Club in 1957.  While the club grew to over two dozen members and fielded teams that won the Missouri State team title in Olympic lifting two times and several Missouri State Champions…Wayne was our most successful lifter.  Wayne won the Teenage Nationals and 4 Missouri State Championships in Olympic Lifting and one title in Powerlifting.  He was simultaneously the Missouri State Champ in Olympic lifting and Powerlifting in 1971!  Wayne also has the claim to fame of holding the Missouri State record in the Clean and Press.  That event was dropped in 1972 and as a result it can never be broken!  His best was 365lbs.

Wayne is a jovial, gentle giant.   I have called him “Staggo” for over 30 years in reference to Dutch World’s Strongest Man competitor Staggo Piszko who was  one of the biggest WSM competitors ever.  My dad always referred to Wayne as “Big’un”.  His arms were well over 20 inches and his chest was over 60 inches at around 5′10″ in height.  He made an impression with just his size.  But if you were ever around him much you would soon realize that he would never hurt a fly.  He was always interested in what you were lifting and you almost had to pry out of him his best lifts.  He was always very modest and often would even minimize his best lifts….I’ve not met many lifters that do that!

Wayne had a long time lifting rivalry with Wilbur Miller.  Now I specify “lifting” because otherwise they were the best of friends.  As a matter of fact I traveled with Wayne to an “Odd lift” meet held at Sailor’s Gym in Wichita in 1984 so that Wayne could reunite with Wilbur.  I would point out that Wayne never lost to Wilbur in the Clean and Press even though Wayne was never able to beat Wilbur in the total.  A couple years back Wilbur told me that he always wanted to beat Wayne on the press but that Wayne was “just too good at it”.

I have many stories I could tell about Wayne and I have written about him before in MILO.  But here is one that gives some insight into Wayne’s attitude about lifting.  I was a teenager and not showing much prospect at winning any gold medals.  I was thinking about giving up on lifting.  I had read a story where the author had stated you needed talent to be a truly great lifter.  I asked Wayne about it and matter of factly he said, “I just always figured a guy could be as strong as he wanted to be if he were willing to work hard enough”.  While some could challenge how true that statement is, it’s more of an attitude.  After that, I didn’t worry about what I didn’t have, I just kept working hard and didn’t worry about what talent I had or didn’t have.  All I could really control was how hard I worked.

Wayne loved lifting.  Some guys lift as a means to an end.  Wayne just loved lifting.  He lifted often and he trained very hard….often with no contest as a goal.  He would set lifting goals then break them and move on to the next goal.  He “chased strength” his entire life!  We lifted in a couple early odd lift meets that Bill Clark held and I had to almost beg him to compete.  But when he did he made some great lifts.  He did a super strict 280lb seated press (his training best was 330 but he had trouble adjusting to keeping his feet flat on the floor….I once saw him seated press 300lbs for 8 sets of 3 reps!), a heels together 300 pound press, a 300 pound reverse grip clean and press to name a few).  I saw him hang clean 400lbs (with straps) and on another occasion jerk 400lbs.  This was in his mid 30’s.

I could write volumes on Wayne, but wanted to give him some of the recognition I felt he deserved.  He lifted with Bill Clark and in Clark’s meets more times than I could count and was friends with many of the early USAWA members.  I had always hoped he would make a comeback but so far that has not come to pass.  He still trains and still loves to talk training and lifting.  It was his way of life!

Thanksgiving Day Workout

by Thom Van Vleck

Not sure if this is exactly how my house will look on Thanksgiving...but close!

Some families have a tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving.  I have a personal tradition of lifting on Thanksgiving!  I started this several years ago when Thanksgiving for my extended family kind of fell to me and my wife.  My grandmother passed away in 1990 and up until then we would spend ever Thanksgiving and Christmas with my grandparents.  All my cousins, aunts and uncles would come and often it was a very full house.  After her passing that “mantle” was passed on.  My parents took Christmas and my wife and I took Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is notorious…..and yet beloved….for the massive meal of Turkey and all the trimmings.  After a meal like that….about all you can do is lay around while your body directs all it’s resources to digesting a very heavy meal.  If you are like me, there seems to be something about eating  a lot that makes me get hungry again sooner than normal.  Not sure why, but it just simply adds to the calorie intake for the day.

So to counteract this I started a personal tradition of working out on Thanksgiving.  After all, aren’t we supposed to be thankful on that day and what am I most thankful about personally?  Being blessed with an  able body AND blessed by God to live in a country and a time where I can enjoy that luxury!  Of course, nothing like a tough workout to make you good and hungry for the feast.  I know that one of the added benefits for me in my training is that food seems to be so much more enjoyable after a workout!

I try and involve may family when I can and I know my son Ethan is planning to workout with me.  Maybe others as well!  So here is my workout for Thanksgiving 2013!

5:30am  A 3 mile walk!  Ethan is going and my dog, Sunny always enjoys it as well.  I live in the country and depending on who’s house I go by there might be 3 or 4 dogs walking with us by the end.  I think they look for me!  Our cat will sometimes follow in the shadows as well, creeping along the overgrown fence lines.

7:00am Active recovery routine.  This is a dozen or so stretching exercises that seem to keep my old bones limber.  I will also fire up the smoker at this point as well.

8:00am  Got a back workout planned this time.  I will warm up and hit a good ol’ 5×5 on the Power Clean.  This will be followed by several Lat and Trap exercises….I always mix them up but I will likely get in 3 sets of 20 on each.  Then it will be Bicep work followed by grip work.  I have been doing standard DB curls, hammer curls, and then finish with Concentration Curls.  The Grip work will be straight out of Bill Pearls training manuals.

10:00am will be Brunch.  My wife has traditionally made Scotch Eggs.  This is boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, breaded and deep fried.  Some pancakes, coffee, and fresh fruit.

The rest of the day will be preparing the big meal!  Lots of good food and good friends over.  Looks like we will have an even dozen this year!

So, how about a Thanksgiving Workout!  Start a tradition!

Battle in the Barn II

by Eric Todd

Group picture of participants at the Battle in the Barn II. (left to right): Conan Wass, Mike Pringle, Eric Todd, Lance Foster, Thom Van Vleck, Dean Ross, and Scott Tully

Battle in the Barn 2013 is done and in the books.  We had lots of fun, and some great lifting occurred.  I would like to thank Al for coming out and running the score table, and Thom for being our Judge.  I would also like to give a huge thanks to Conan Wass for loading for us.   Five lifters competed in 4 lifts.  Dean Ross came all the way from Oklahoma for the event.

Eric Todd (left) being presented the overall lifter awards from Al Myers (right).

Some of the highlights from the meet for me were:

Dean Ross absolutely grinding out his last deadlift.  HE just got edged out on a final lift from getting 3rd by formula.

Lance Foster’s Dumbbell to the shoulder.  He hit a big number, but missed out on his next one which would have been a BIG PR.  If he had not bombed on the deadlift, he would have been right in the mix.

Thom Van Vleck, the USAWA chair of the OTSM, served as the official.

Professor Scott Tully making a clutch Dinnie lift to put himself into 3rd by formula.

What I was most impressed with was a lean, mean Mike Pringle.  I hardly recognized him when he rolled in. This was Mikes the second ever all-round meet that he has competed in, and he came in STRONG!  I was very impressed with his dumbbell to the shoulder technique.  It seemed very efficient, though I could not duplicate it.  His People’s deadlift was also incredibly strong.

We scored this meet two ways.  One was by the standard formula, and the other was by straight weight lifted.

By formula, the meet ended like this:

5th-Lance Foster
4th-Dean Ross
3rd-Scott Tully
2nd-Mike Pringle
1st-Eric Todd

By straight weight the results are as follows:

5th-Lance Foster
4th-Dean Ross
3rd-Mike Pringle
2nd-Scott Tully
1st-Eric Todd

 
 
Lance Foster performing a 495 pound Dinnie Lift.

MEET RESULTS:

2013 Battle in the Barn II
Saturday, October 19th, 2013
ET’s House of Iron and Stone
Turney, Missouri

Meet Director:  Eric Todd

Meet Announcer & Scorekeeper: Al Myers

Official (1 official system used): Thom Van Vleck

Loader:  Conan Wass

Lifts:  Cyr Press, Dumbbell to Shoulder, Peoples Deadlift, Dinnie Lift

LIFTER AGE BWT Cyr DB DL Din TOT PTS
Eric Todd 38 262 170 265 605 770 1810 1402
Mike Pringle 37 175 110 225 520 535 1390 1342
Scott Tully 37 342 130 150 565 605 1450 990
Dean Ross 70 273 60 125 375 435 995 989
Lance Foster 47 330 80 175 0 495 750 562

NOTES:  All lifts recorded in pounds.  BWT is bodyweight in pounds.  TOT is total pounds lifted.  PTS are adjusted points for bodyweight and age correction.

RECORD LIFT FOLLOWING MEET:

Eric Todd – Neck Lift 1000 lbs.

This lift was officiated by three officials (Al Myers, Thom Van Vleck, and Lance Foster).   The plates were weighed individually as well as the bar to verify the accuracy of the final weight, and the lift was held for 2.06 seconds.

Why Progressive Resistance isn’t always Progressive Pt 2

by Thom Van Vleck

Next year I turn 50.  When I was a kid I remember when my grandmother turned 50 and she made it out like she was practically dead!  On the other hand I am enjoying life quite a bit as of late.  I’m the happiest I’ve ever been to be honest.  I’m healthy, I like my work, my marriage the best ever.  All my kids are teenagers and yet we get along very well.  Life is good.  I have nothing to complain about as I roll into the 2nd half of life should I live to be 100.

I also am working out as hard as I ever have.  But there have been adjustments in how I measure progress.  When I was young I needed to have actual “progress” in my progressive resistance to be happy.  When I was 30 I benched 360.  I worked my bench for a year and then I maxed out and hit 365.  When I was 30….that was a major disappointment.  There was also a time when I squatted 400 and then spent a solid year focusing on my squat and ended at 600!  That was great progress!

As I bear down on 50 my idea of progress has changed.  It would be unrealistic for me to look at adding 200lbs to any lift….except maybe some heavy lift in the USAWA.  I am now at a point in my life where holding the line is a huge victory for me.  I push pressed 300 for the first time almost 20 years ago.  Every so often I do a few and I seem to always hit 300….but my long ago goal of 400 will not likely happen.  I throw in the highland games and I’m throwing as well or better than I ever have….but setting personal bests are few and far between.  I also understand that the day will come when I will set my last personal record.  Then my idea of progress will have to change again.

At that point, it will be begrudgingly giving up my strength.  Mark my words, I plan on going down swinging.  But I know I’ll eventually go down.  I recall trying to get a buddy that had been a good lifter in his 20’s to try masters lifting.  His comment was, “I want to be good….not good for my age”.  While I can appreciate that statement, I’ll tell you that I’m happy to be good for my age!

So as I get older my idea of progress will adjust.  Otherwise it will all become an exercise (no pun intended) in futility.  My Uncle Phil once asked me, “Why do you continue to train when you know someday age and time will take it all away”.  Of course he knew the answer and was just challenging me as he so often has in my life.  To me it’s like climbing a mountain.  Once you are at the top, the only way to go after that is down.  But I would rather enjoy the view as from up high as long as I can.  Not everyone gets to the top but everyone eventually finds the bottom.  Life is a precious gift and I plan on sliding into my grave sideways someday as they say….well worn and yelling what a ride!

Why Progressive Resistance Isn’t Always Progressive

by Thom Van Vleck

Milo of Croton is often credited with originating the concept of Progressive Resistance.....at least in folk lore.

Most everyone knows the story of Milo.  He was a Greek wrestler that dominated wrestling in ancient Greece in his time…that is pretty much a fact.  The legend is he became that way because he observed that he could lift a bull on his shoulder and he supposed that if he did that every day that he should still be able to do that when the bull was full grown.  He then did that, and carried the bull on his shoulders into the Olympic Stadium, slew it and ate meat from it raw to intimidate his fellow wrestlers.  That part may be fact, partly true, or just a great story.  I know it would play well in modern professional wrestling!

The idea was that if you put the body under increasing progressive resistance it would adapt slowly but surely and become stronger.  I think most of us understand that if you weight train, that’s the idea!  What I don’t think most realize is that the adaptation to work load is a flat, linear line from weak to strong.  It actually probably looks like a zig zag line to slow climbs over time where you see ups and downs that if averaged made a nice linear line.

Most people handle making gains pretty well.  Who doesn’t!  What really separates those who make great gains is those who handle the down times.  My point is that when you have times that you slide it’s how you react to that lack of progress or even loss of progress that dictates long term success.  It’s the reason they set up great boxers with “bums” they can beat up on.  Sure, lots of wins and knockouts will sell lots of tickets but that’s not why they really do that.  It’s to create confidence in the fighter.  Getting you butt kicked does not instill confidence in most people.

Those most successful are those that learn to deal with failure and find the ways to most quickly turn it around.  They have short memories on failure and stay focused on success.  They know that failure is part of the process and keep their head down and keep working.  They understand that progress isn’t always linear, accept it, and make each failure a part of their learning process.  They also understand that a lack of progress means a time for change and they don’t stubbornly hold onto a set routine just for the sake of finishing that routine.  They make adjustments and keep focused on what’s going to help them reach their goal

So, my point is, progressive resistance my not always be as progressive.  Success comes from dealing with that quickly, efficiently, and getting back on track.  So the next time you hit a sticking point…know that’s when champions are made…not when it’s going well.  Because even great boxing champs get knocked out once and you never see them at the top again.  But the greatest come back time and again!

My Visit to Ledaig Heavy Athletics

by Thom Van Vleck

Banner that hangs in the Ledaig gym

Recently I got to make my first trip to Ledaig since Dave built his new facility.  This is Dave Glasgow’s family gym.  I say family gym because it belongs to his whole family.  You drive down that road and it’s hard to figure out which “Glasgow” to stop at as each mailbox has that name on it. But if you know Dave and he counts you as a  friend, then you are family, too!  This sits on some family property about 30 miles from Wichita, Kansas but really miles away from anyone!  It is near Rainbow Bend, Kansas and if you can find that then you are right up there with Columbus and Magellan as an explorer.  Dave used to train in a round metal tank that would literally roast you on a hot day.  The frame for the gym was put up years ago, I believe Dave’s Dad had built a metal frame and never finished it.  Dave got it done and there is a gym, shop and garage housed in the large building.  You could park a dozen cars in there if it were cleared out, but Dave has a quarter sectioned off for the gym that is walled in and the rest is full of tools, cars, and projects!

Dave Glasgow cutting some steel rod in his gym to make stakes for Highland Games trigs.

I have been to many gyms overthe years and to me my favorites also include other “manly” pursuits.  My Uncle Phil has a reloading room attached to his gym.  Al Myers has a full scale metal shop in his gym.  Randy Richey (http://www.usawa.com/omega-force-christian-strongman-team/) has one of the coolest gyms I’ve ever seen with the a massive metal shop.   Hard to believe anyone could top Al’s gym, but Randy just might! I can’t top those guys but my gym has a workshop as well. Dave has entered the fray with a huge workshop area with the ability to cut, weld, and shape metal along with working on the two antique corvettes parked in his gym.

Some old school Eleiko bumpers at Ledaig

Another hallmark of a cool gym in my book is to have historical and cool things to lift.  Ledaig has many things, old and new to lift.  I was especially salivating over his Eleiko plates.  They are old and well used, but still cool nonetheless.  Dave has some equipment that he has used for many, many years in his gym and you can just feel the positive “mojo” in there!

If you get a chance to make it to a USAWA meet at Ledaig, it’s worth the journey.  You can fly into Wichita and that gets you close.  But if you drive there just know this:  The cell phone reception is not very good and on more than one occasion I have fielded a call from a lost lifter driving the countryside looking for “Rainbow Bend”.  Be sure you know how to get there!   Because it truly can be one of those places that “you can’t get there from here”!

Unorthodoxy: A Training Program

By Thom Van Vleck

Bill Pearl autographed this cover of Muscular Development for my Uncle Phil. This picture hangs in the JWC Training Hall and inspires me in my bodybuilding workouts.

Anybody that trains for any length of time will get stale on any particular routine.  Everybody knows that.  We constantly switch things around to keep things fresh.  For many of us this means recycling many of the basic routines over and over….which can become stale within itself.  I have been training for 36 years and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and make no progress.  Or in my case, at age 49….trying to hold off the aging process which means lifting a weight I did 10 years ago is considered progress!!!! With those kinds of goals (avoiding decline instead of making gains) it becomes harder for me to stay motivated and enthusiastic about my training.

So, last year I decided I needed to shake some things up.  I upped my sets and reps, added  more exercises to the mix, and did what I would call an “Old School Bodybuilding” Workout.  Something that would make Reg Park or Bill Pearl happy!  This meant training heavy, but with more sets and reps.  I figured my single rep strength would suffer but to my surprise….it’s doing quite well.  I would credit the routine, but I really think it’s the enthusiasm this routine has created in my training.  My enthusiasm has been the highest it has been in years!

I really tried to start thinking outside the box.  I recalled about 18 years ago working my Bench Press for a solid year and adding a paltry 5lbs to my max.  Back then I was in my early 30’s and expected more!  I went from 360lbs to 365lbs.  I went into my next workout with no real plan and decided to hit ten sets of ten reps with 185lbs (about 50% of my max).  Boy was I sore the next day.  I had been used to a basic 3 sets of 8 reps program and this more then quadrupled my reps.  I went into my next workout still without a plan so I just added 10lbs and decided to make hitting 225lbs for 10 sets of 10 reps my goal.  I spent the next 6 months doing this same routine with NO ASSISTANCE work (of course, I was working back and legs….but no upper body assistance work).  This may be hard to believe, but I eventually did 300lbs for 10 sets of 10 reps.

Now, before Al Myers calls BS on me….let me explain.  When I did the 185, it was full reps, controlled, with a full pause at the bottom.  As I increased my form got sloppier and sloppier…..I didn’t care because I was so frustrated with my bench anyways.  I began to do half reps only locking out the last rep and slamming them harder and harder off my chest.  I also began to wear two, three, and even five tight t-shirts for extra padding.  So, I’m sure if I’d been doing these in a gym there would have been some guy making fun of me, telling me I was a joke, etc. etc.   I will be the first to admit that ten sets of ten reps with 300 was about the ugliest benches you would ever see.

The result.  The next week I warmed up.  I loaded 370 for the easiest PR I’d had in years.  I got cocky and jumped to 390….and got it.  Then I went to 400lbs…and I narrowly missed the first try and then did it on a second attempt!  I jumped up and screamed like I’d won the lottery!  The last Powerlifting meet I was in I got that 400lbs wearing a single ply bench shirt and that was my last  powerlifting meet.  I would point out I got 2 reds on that 400 for moving my feet….but I got it as far as I was concerned.  At that point Highland Games were beginning to consume my interest and I haven’t maxed on the bench since.

More recently, I have went back to that 10×10….with a twist.  I call it the 10×10x10.  Again, this is Unorthodox and will likely get you funny looks in gyms and chastised by most trainers.  But I just don’t care if it gets me results and keeps my interest up.  That’s worth more than “perfect form and the perfect routine”.  So, here are two examples of my 10×10x10.

The first is the Dumbbell Press.  I do 10 sets of 10 reps…..but at 10 different angles.  I have an adjustable bench that goes from a straight up and down to different angles of inclines all the way to a flat bench and then I slide plates under the front end to get two levels of declines.  So it’s ten sets of ten reps done ten different angles.  I have done this with the same weight allowing minimal rest and I’ve done it increasing the weight each set.

The second version of my 10×10x10 is with the box squat.  I have been using a safety squat bar which right there will get you made fun of my some guys.  I contend that you can save your back a lot with that bar and at my age that’s an issue.  I also would contend that you have to be very disciplined in using it as you can easily cheat.  I focus on keeping me weight centered on the balls of my feet and only using my hands to keep my body upright. This limits the weight…which is hard on the ego…but keeps the focus on my legs where I want it.  I do 10 sets of 10 on the squat but I start with a rock bottom squat, then to an 8″ box, then 10″…..in 2″ increments up to 24″ which from me having a 36″ inseam is well above parallel (God forbid!).  All the while I jump up in weight.

I’m not trying to say these are “secret routines” or you will have great gains, I’m just trying to show you how I have used some “Unorthodoxy” in my training to keep me motivated.  So, from time to time try being a little unorthodox in your training.  I would still say a good, structured program is best, but every so often do something outside the box.  A little change from time to time is good.

Jackson Stones

by Thom Van Vleck

My circle drive, the Jackson Stones in the foreground and my other concrete "strongman" stones behind them.

When you come to my place I have a circle drive in front of my house.  In the center is a tree planted on honor of my mother in law, Peggy Lynn Barton-Baybo, who passed away about 10 years ago.  Around the tree are four limestone fence posts that weigh around 225lbs each that came from central Kansas courtesy of Ryan Batchman.  Ryan is a great lifter (one time USAWA member) and thrower and a real friend.  They came from his farm and are fence posts carved from limestone used in the 1800’s in central Kansas when trees where scarce.  Then around that are my strongman stones.  I have several different sized  concrete stones….kind of your traditional strongman stones from 225lbs to 300lbs.  The biggest round stone sits on a concrete slab from my Great Grandpa Baugher’s well.  It has a hole in it where the pump went and a concrete ring around it.  I like it because it reminds me of a mill stone.  But I also have three natural Granite stones I dug up on my farm starting 20 years ago.

The 220lb "First" Jackson Stone

I eventually dubbed my three natural Granite stones the “Jackson Stones”.  But early on, about 20 years ago I discovered some stones that had been pushed in a draw on my farm.  Years ago the top had been row cropped and I’m sure as they came up with these glacial till stones they pushed them in the draw to get them out of the way.  They were half buried and I just wanted one to practice stone lifting so I picked the smaller one that was around 220lbs.  A good “starter” stone.  This stone was kept in my yard and from time to time I’d lift it.  It was used in my first ever strongman contest as part of a medley event.  Chad Ullom was at that event.

The second Jackson Stone, 299lbs

About 15 years ago I decided I needed a bigger stone so I went back to the draw and after much digging and work pulled this 299lber out.  It looks smaller in the photo but it’s not as round as the first one and the odd shape made it a challenge.  It was at that same time I pulled out the third stone, which weighed in at 330lbs.  This trio of stones was used in several of my strongman contests and was part of my training when I used to work on strongman events.  They also were often used in our strongman shows that USAWA member John O’Brien did with me.  We had a standard Whiskey Barrel that we would lift the stones on.

The 330lbs, the third Jackson Stone.

These stand as a challenge for anyone that comes to my place.  As far as I know, only Eric Todd, John O’Brien, Joe Costello, Brian Kerby, and myself have lifted all three in succession.  While they are rough and easier to grip, they are odd shaped and finding the center of gravity can be a real problem.  Making them challenging in their own way.  For years I just guessed the weight and I was at 225, 300, and 325.  I finally weighed them officially and found I was not too far off!  I have a plan if I can find a 440lber to make some Dinnie Style rings!   The pink granite crystals make them really beautiful in my book over the grey concrete stone.  I hope others will take the challenge.  If you want a crack, just come to my place!

New Orleans Anvil Lifting

Columbian Anvil at Sigles Metal Shop in the French Quarter....it waited 57 years for me to come lift it!

by Thom Van Vleck

Recently a friend of mine said that every weightlifter is always secretly sizing up objects around him to see if he can lift them.  I guess I do that to.  Some you know are impossible, others not so impossible.  I like to keep my eye out for Anvils.  Most of you know my affinity for anvils, you can find an previous article I wrote on my own family anvil here:

Grandpa Jackson’s Anvil

This past month I was able to take my wife on a surprise trip to New Orleans.  The choice to go there was almost chance.  I had a credit to use, there was a deal on New Orleans……so there you go!  We were just looking to spend some time sight seeing in the French Quarter.  Now, everyone has heard of Bourbon Street, and it goes right through the middle of the French Quarter.  But there is much more to it than that and my wife and I set about exploring the back streets checking out the unusual stores, bars, and shops.  Some were “interesting” to say the least but I came across one place that was closed on that day that intrigued me.  I was called Sigles Antiques and Metal Craft.

Sigles was a nondescript shop on Royal next to the Andrew Jackson Hotel.  There is a story on the Jackson side of my family that we are related, but I can’t prove it.  But my wife thinks his crusty, stubborn attitude pretty much proves we are related!  Sigles had all kinds of iron work.  Scroll work, hitching post tops, all kinds of stuff.  A very elderly woman ran the shop who I later found out was 91.  She said that she and her husband had owned the shop for 57 years.  My wife bought some fluer-de-lei coat hangers and I found a nice spear top that I’m going to use for one of my Highland Games flags.

Then I noticed a shop door that said no customers in the shop.  ”SHOP”….I had to see the metal shop!  I very politely asked the owner’s wife if I could check it out even if the husband wasn’t there.  She graciously complied and it was like stepping back in time!  All kinds of old tools….I mean really old stuff!   And then….there it was….the Anvil.  She had no idea about where it came from except it came with the shop when they bought it 57 years ago!   I explained I liked to lift things and she gave me the go ahead.  It was not fixed to the stand and it was fairly easy, I would guess it around 150lbs.  I then took some photos so I could learn more about it and promised to share that with her as she was curious herself!

The Anvil had what looked to be a “V” or inverted  pyramid and a large “M” on the other side.  I did some research and found out this was a historically significant anvil.  It was a “Columbian” which were manufactured in Cleveland, Ohio from about 1903 to 1925.  They were the first anvils to be “Cast Steel” in one solid piece.  Evidently this made them very tough compared to the “Wrought Iron” Anvils made before that were welded from pieces into one Anvil.  They were very popular in their time and while the “Cast” or “tool” or “Crucible” type steel was very expensive it required less labor to finish and it was around this time labor was becoming more expensive than materials so they really took off.  This particular Anvil is of the “London Pattern” and it would be valued at 2-4 bucks a pound….but to me it’s priceless!  They made these from 10lbs to 800lbs in increments and in 1925 or 26 the company quit making them and imported a like cast steel anvil from Sweden.  I wonder if it’s the same steel foundry that makes Eleiko!  (or made Eleiko as I hear they get their product from China now….).

I have  work trip that takes me back in September.  I plan to share what I learned and visit the shop again.  These folks live above their shop and are in their 90’s and have no plans to retire.  I think that’s pretty cool and….as far as she knows….NOBODY had lifted that anvil overhead before!  My wife said, “Leave it to you to find something to lift in the French Quarter”.   Yes, I’m always looking for something to lift!

Thom Van Vleck: NEW Level 2 Official

by Al Myers

Thom Van Vleck (right) is joined by fellow USAWA officials LaVerne Myers (left) and Denny Habecker (middle) at the USAWA Heavy Lift Championships in York in 2011. As you can see, these three took their judging duties very serious as they are getting "down and dirty" to get a good view of the lifting!

Thom Van Vleck has just been promoted to the highest level of officiating status in the USAWA.  He is now a Level 2 Official, and joins a very short list of the most qualified officials within the USAWA.  Since the development of the USAWA Officials Program in 2009,  officials must NOW be certified to judge any USAWA competition/event.    I would like to review a bit of this as it pertains to USAWA Rulebook:

VII. Officials

10.   There will be two levels of classification for Certified USAWA officials.

  • Level 1 Test Qualified – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test and completed the practical training sessions.
  • Level 1 Experience Qualified – The official has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.
  • Level 2 – The official has passed the USAWA Rules Test and has completed the practical training sessions, and has the experience of officiating in 25 or more competitions or events.  

Thom has been officiating in the USAWA for close to 10 years and has officiated at some “BIG” meets.  He has officiated numerous championships events, including the 2006, 2009, and 2011 National Championships.  He also officiated at the 2012 IAWA World Championships.  He earned the Level 2 classification for officiating in over 25 events (as well as passing the USAWA Rules Test).  He is now awarded a LIFETIME OFFICIALS CARD in the USAWA and will have the ability to approve new officials that undergo the Practical Training Sessions.  Congrats Thom!!!

JWC Redesigned Logo

by Thom Van Vleck

The New JWC logo.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club is one of the oldest Clubs in the USAWA…and that’s saying a lot because there are some old clubs!  To me, what sets the JWC apart is it very much is a family club.  Sure, there are lots of non family members, but the core has been my family and for over 85 years there has been a member of my family at the lead.  While I hope that continues, I just hope it’s around another 85 years regardless of who is running it!  I am pretty proud to keep the tradition going of lifting for not only strength of body, but strength of mind, spirit, and character.  That’s why on the logo below that adorns the front of the shirt it says “Strength, Faith, Honor, and Wisdom”.  I would say that lifting is more about life than winning awards for the JWC…..but awards are nice, too!

Logo that's on the front of the new JWC shirts

The anvil that is on the both sides is a silhouette of the Original “Grandpa Jackson” Anvil that sits in my gym.  Many will remember the story I’ve probably told too many times of my Great Grandfather lifting that anvil to impress his kids, then my grandfather turning to weight training to achieve that same feat….then that turning into a tradition of lifting in our family.  And yes, 1928 was the year my grandfather started lifting with his future brother in law and his friends that led to the formation of the the JWC.  While the name “Jackson Weightlifting Club” wasn’t coined until 1957, I consider 1928 as the date the idea was born…..which was more important than the name.  That idea was a man could use weights to make himself better in all ways….not just physical strength.

The "old" logo in use since the 90's.

The Logo drawn by my Uncle Phil in the late 50's that inspired all the future logos.

Here are the old logos just to let you compare.  I have tried to stay true to the original as I want to always honor those that came before me and paved the way.  I know I’ve shared the symbolism of it before, but since I’ve made an update, I wanted to share again.  I plan on having the shirts available at my Highland Games in October and the Old Time Strongman Championships this fall (looking at a December date).  So if you like them, come and compete and get one as a meet shirt!  I know a shirt won’t make my lift more (well….unless it was a bench shirt…but who likes those!)…but when I wear this shirt, I feel extra inspired to not let the tradition down!

The MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD – Dr. Robert Goldman

by Al Myers

Thom (right picture) and myself (left picture) with Dr. Goldman at the 2013 Arnold Higland Games in Columbus, Ohio.

A few weeks ago I made the trip to the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio.  The plans were made for this trip to be in conjunction with the USAWA  Club Championships in Pittsburgh, but when the Club Champs were called off because of bad weather that didn’t really end up happening , we decided to just make the trip to the Arnold anyways.  The four of us (me, Chad Ullom, Thom Van Vleck, and Mike McIntyre) had already made the plans to be gone, so instead of only getting one day at the Arnold, now we got two days. 

You always meet interesting people at these kind of events.  Some you heard of beforehand, and others for the first time.  On Sunday we attended the Arnold Classic Highland Games to support several throwers that we know.  It was a grand event, and sponsored by Dr. Robert Goldman.  Dr. Goldman put up the prize money for the invited pros as well as funding the game expenses. This was the first time I had met him, and I was very impressed.  When I got back home I did some research on him, and I might have to say, he is the MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD.  In fact, I have not met anyone who has accomplished what he has in his life in so many different arenas.  Add in the fact that he has a little “all round weightlifter” in him and I was thoroughly impressed.  But before I get to that, you need to read his resume first:

http://drbobgoldman.com/

Dr. Bob Goldman performing a WR 321 consecutive handstand pushups (photo courtesy of Dr. Goldman's website).

It would take a book to write about all of the accomplishments that Dr. Goldman has achieved (or a very extensive website like the one he has!). One of his first books was titled “Death in the Locker Room” which was one of the first unveiling’s of the drug and steroid scene in competitive sports. Dr. Goldman is very anti-drug, and even required steroid testing  at the Arnold Highland Games (which is not the common practice in Highland Games) .   Thom and I compared him to the mysterious Dos Equis man that you often see in beer commercials (who is portrayed as the Most Interesting Man in the World in the beer advertisements).  Dr. Goldman  just radiates confidence and vitality, and after meeting him, you know there is more to the story than what you experienced in that interaction.  On top of all the books he has written and the medical advances he is responsible for, he has achieved some great All Round lifting accomplishments.  He has set several Guinness World Records in such strength events as the handstand pushup, situps for repetitions, one arm pushups, and many others.  The following YouTube Video is very interesting, and is worth the 15 minutes it takes to watch.

YouTube Video –  A lifetime of firsts: The story of Dr. Bob Goldman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyDgV5WOxH8

It’s great the World has men like Dr. Robert Goldman.  He is proof that if you have a positive attitude and strong work ethic, anything is possible to achieve.  He’s a great role model for all of  mankind.

Me and my walking stick

by Thom Van Vleck

(WEBMASTER NOTE: Recently I issued a writing contest, in which I challenged lifters to write about an unusual training implement/device that they use in their training. The stories were submitted and judged, and I’m going to initially publish the top three stories in the USAWA Daily News as they were the contest award winners. Thank you to everyone who submitted stories for this competition, as they were all excellent.  Here’s story NUMBER THREE:)

Me with my walking stick.

Recently Al Myers put out the challenge for another writing contest.  This time around the challenge was to write a story on “an unusual training implement/device that you use in your gym for training”.  First of all, I’m pretty excited about this because I am hoping many of our members get involved and I will see some new things to possibly try out.  When you have been lifting as long as some of us have, you kind of need something new every once in awhile to spark that fire!

Second of all, I have a lot of unusual stuff in my gym!  Every so often I find something or make something that can be that “something new” to get me going.  Often, I use it for awhile and more often than not, it ends up stored away for long periods of time.  So I sat in my gym, trying to think of what I wanted to write about.  Then it hit me.

I would write about the one piece of equipment, other than a barbell, that I have used the most in my gym.  While not a completely unique piece of equipment, it is practical, can build strength, and I would think could benefit any gym.  But that’s not why I wanted to write about it.  It’s the story behind it and what it means to me.

Many of you know that when I was around 10 years old I was in a terrible accident.  Before that time I could run like nobodies business.  I was by far the best athlete in my school and once, while in the 4th grade, got beat up by a 6th grader after I showed him up in gym class.  Then it was all taken away in an instant.  Both legs were broken, my hip, both arms, a severe concussion, internal injuries…..let’s just say it was a bad deal.  My parents were initially told I would be brain damaged (I can see those who know me nodding their head and thinking “that explains a lot”!), crippled (almost lost my right leg), and even possibly blind.  I spent 3 plus months flat on my back with no guarantee I would ever make it out of that bed to anything more than a wheelchair.

The "tip" of the walking stick....painted green for my favorite color. That metal tip has saved me from some nasty falls!

I cannot explain to you what it is like to wake up in a bed two weeks removed from your last memory with that memory being a sunshine filled day having fun with your friends with your body busted up and on so many pain medications you keep seeing things that aren’t there.

As I lay there and my situation became more and more known to me, I sunk into a deep depression.  My Mom and Dad were having problems and this only led to bigger problems.  My father dealt with it by going to work driving his truck and staying away while my mother stayed by my side 24/7.  While I appreciated my mother’s dedication, she bought into the possible negative outcomes and this made it tough for me to stay positive.  I know realize we both share a family “curse” of depression and it was no fault of hers.  I did have the support of my extended family and many would often come visit.

One person in particular came every chance he got.  Of course, this was between his two jobs at the shoe factory and evening janitor work.  That person was my grandfather Dalton Jackson.  He and I were fast friends before this accident and this only brought us closer together.   We often went on hikes in the woods, hunted arrowheads, and in general had fun in the outdoors.  Dalton, or “Pop” as I called him, showed up shortly after I first came to with an old “Outdoors” book.  It was a book on how to camp, canoe, hunt, fish….a basic survival book.  This was 1974 and this book was from the 50’s.  It had some photos and drawings made by the author.  Kind of what he had learned in his lifetime outdoors.

In particular, there was a story on how to make a walking stick.  It was very simple.  You would take an old hoe, cut then blade off leaving a short metal “spike” on the end.  Pop pointed it out and promised that when I got out, we would make one.  It was that optimism that I hung on to.  Pop said I would need a walking stick which implied I would be walking again some day….and I believed him.

The top of the walking stick with the badge that represents the Isle of Skye in Scotland. This badge was with me when I climbed two of the tallest mountains in Scotland.

Shortly after I got home, I was in a wheel chair for some time.  At one point, we went out to the barn and he took a hoe he used in his own garden and we took a hacksaw and cut the blade off.  We then took some sandpaper to the wooden handle and sanded it smooth and then applied a little stain and some Shellac.  Pop used Shellac often.  Don’t see it much any more, but if you’ve ever heard the expression “he got shellacked” that’s where it comes from.  It put a nice, shiny, coat to seal it against water.

Obviously, I couldn’t use it right away.  But sitting in a wheel chair before cable television, computers, and the fact we didn’t even have a phone for awhile……you get pretty bored.  I would take that walking stick and find all kinds of things to do with it.  My grandfather showed me some exercises that I now realize were related to the “Weaver” stick.  I would lever that thing in all different directions chocking up on it as needed.  I would also pretend to do bench presses, overheads….you name it.

Then, as I started to be able to walk and I started lifting as a way to gain strength that stick found it’s way into my lifting.  I would use it to loosen up my shoulders.  I also couldn’t even squat my body weight so I initially lowered myself to a chair and use my arms to assist in my squats.  Then, when I could do a squat without help, the first thing I remember squatting was that walking stick across my shoulders.

Yes, I even hiked with it.  Pop and I retraced the railroad bed of the CB&Q that my Great Grandfather helped build in the 1800’s from Kirksville to Trenton.  It was about 60 miles that we did a few miles at a time.  I later took that walking stick and hiked in the Rockies, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, the Appalachians, the Ozarks…..countless treks and hikes. I have even taken it in parades.  I couldn’t take it to Scotland so I bought a hiking badge and have fixed the badge to a stick in Scotland and then taken the badge and put it on my old “hiking stick”.

Most any time I go to my gym to loosen my shoulders I will grab that stick.  I will also pick it up when I work grip and lever it in all kinds of positions.  I am pretty decent at levering a sledge hammer and I honestly believe using this stick over the years is why.  I also try to walk a mile every day around my property and that stick makes the walk with me most every time.

I would have to say that most people would find it pretty plain.  But not me.  That stick has power.  It made me believe and it reminds me of “Pop” every time I look at it.  I know he sacrificed a perfectly good hoe for me to have that stick because he understood what it meant.  I have always believed there are no “secret” routines….only the one’s that you truly believe in will be the one’s that work.  My walking stick is symbolic of that!

Now, you will have to excuse me….I have a walk to go on!

A Poet and Didn’t Know it. Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

Here it is, the “long lost” poem from my past around 1979:

Each and every day, when time is free

I head to the weight room to pay my fee

Sometimes alone or with a friend

I lift the weights to no end

My chest, covered with muscle and sinew

Is filled with happiness that is not new

From the first rep to the last

I build strength that cannot be past

I am above the rest

In my happiness

Because weightlifting is like no other sport

It’s just me and the weights, from beginning to end

and if I am true, I will always win in the end

Now….I’m not going to be submitting this to any poetry competition anytime soon but this really got me to thinking.  What motivated me back then?  Had I lost some of that?  I “self analyzed” myself and looked for what the 15 year old me could tell the 48 year old me.

Each and every day, when time is free how do I use my free time. Back then, I looked forward to every free moment and filling it with training or thinking about training.  I was excited!

I head to the weight room to pay my fee lifting it paying the price. Every time I go to the gym I want to pay the price and NOT sell myself short.

Sometimes alone or with a friend. I can have a training partner, but you have to lift first and foremost for you!

I lift the weights to no end. I leave it all in the gym

My chest, covered with muscle and sinew. I am there to get strong!  Never forget the main goal!

Is filled with happiness that is not new. I found joy in the journey and not just the goal.

From the first rep to the last. Make every rep count, never just go through the motions.

I build strength that cannot be past. Regardless of what “chicken salad theory” says, I have to have the attitude that I can be as strong as I want to be as long as I am willing to work hard enough.

I am above the rest in my happiness. I am exceptional.  American was built on exceptional-ism.  As long as I don’t bring anyone else down in the process.  If you want to be your best you have to think you are the best and find joy in that.

Because weightlifting is like no other sport. Weightlifting is special.  If you don’t get that….I can’t explain it.

It’s just me and the weights, from beginning to end. It starts with me and ends with me.  I can want help, I can accept help…but I should never NEED help.  I take personal responsibility for all that I do and if I get help, then it’s icing on the cake.  I have to do this for myself.

and if I am true, I will always win in the end. Fate or destiny…..I believe I am in control (no matter how delusional that may be) because when I believe I’m in control then I will believe that what I do will actually make a difference and if I believe that I’m more likely to actually do it.  I must stay true to my belief if I want to have any chance at getting stronger because if I don’t, I will most certainly not get strong.

Now, I’m not sure if 15 year old Thom really believed all those things….I like to think that in some way the seeds for my beliefs had been sown.  But the reality is that I don’t know what I was thinking then…but it my thoughts can say a lot of where I’m at now.  My mother used to tell me about the “Rawlings Curse” (my birth name was “Rawlings”…that’s a long story).  It was almost this idea that those of us with Rawlings blood couldn’t help but fail.  I hated that idea.  I wanted to be successful.  I rejected her logic and decided that I wanted to be in control of my fate.  I made that decision at a very young age.  However, one time my Uncle Phil did tell me, “If I believed in bad luck…and I don’t…..you have it”.   I could let life kick the life out of me.  But I choose not to and I lift on.  It’s all a matter of how you want to look at it….your perception is your reality.  My perception is that every challenge I’ve had in life has made me stronger.  I look forward to the next challenge.  

Dino Gym Challenge

by Al Myers

2013 DINO GYM CHALLENGE
“PRESENTING AN OLD TIME STRONGMAN POWERLIFTING MEET”

Group picture of the participants in the 2013 Dino Gym Challenge.

MEET REPORT:

I was expecting maybe 10 or 12 lifters for the annual Dino Gym Challenge – but then to my amazement lifters kept showing up and showing up!!  The total number of entrants came to 21 lifters!!!!  That’s only a few off what entered the World Meet that I promoted last fall!!!  I was very excited to see this, as it shows the interest that lifters have in the “new” Old Time Strongman Competitions.  This meet was promoted as an “Old Time Strongman Powerlifting Meet” because it contained three OTSM lifts that are partial-lift deviations of the three powerlifts (Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift).  The meet included two Official OTSM lifts (the Anderson Squat and the Peoples Deadlift) as well as one exhibition lift (the Hackenschmidt Floor Press).  The Hack FP  ”went over” really real with the lifters and I hope that it will become approved as an official OTSM lift this year. 

The three officials of the Dino Gym Challenge holding their souvenir beer mugs - complete with Dino Gym logo!! These mugs were given as the awards to all participants. (left to right: Chad Ullom, Thom Van Vleck, LaVerne Myers)

One thing that I GREATLY appreciate with the Dino Gym members is how we always “come together” to support each other in our promoted events.  Putting on any competition requires lots of “behind the scenes” work, and manpower on the day of the event. Even though we had more lifters show up than expected, things ran very smoothly because there was enough “helpers” to make it happen.   Often after meets the attention is always on the lifting performances, but things wouldn’t happen if it wasn’t for those facilitating the meet.  In this meet report I want to mention these guys first (they’re often the last mentioned).  The USAWA OTSM Chairman Thom Van Vleck is first on my list to thank.  Thom has been promoting the yearly OTSM Championships, and he has made a effort to be at most ALL of the OTSM meets in the USAWA, offering leadership and support.  He took on the hardest event to officiate (the Anderson Squat) for the day.  Chad Ullom, who normally doesn’t miss an opportunity to compete, sat this one out so he could be one of the needed officials of the day.  He officiated the Peoples Deadlift as well as loaded that event the entire day.  LaVerne Myers officiated the new OTSM event, the  Hackenschmidt Floor Press.  LaVerne has been a very important official in the club, and does an outstanding job.  He is very professional in his officiating and keeps things on pace.  His group finished before Chad’s and Thom’s in every rotation!!!  I also want to thank Mike Murdock and Tyler Cookson for helping spot and load throughout the day.  This help allowed me to focus on the daily details, keeping the scores updated, and taking lots of pictures.  Finally, I want to mention and thank my wife Leslie who made the lunch for everyone and puts up with me for stressing over every “little detail”. 

Dan Wagman pressing 435 pounds, which was the top Hackenschmidt Floor Press of the meet.

Now onto the lifting performances.  The IAWA World Champs Dan Wagman and Ruth Jackson made their appearance from Colorado, and added another overall victory to their USAWA resumes. Both performed outstanding in all of these OTSM events.  Dan “put up” the top Hackenschmidt Floor Press of the day with 435 pounds. Newcomer Mike McIntyre lifted 410 pounds in the FP.  Mike is a member of the JWC, and at 29 years of age, has his best lifting years still ahead of him.  KC Strongman Eric Todd also lifted 410 pounds in the FP.  That’s THREE lifters over 400 pounds!!! 

I was very interested to see the big lifts in the Anderson Squat. I was hoping to see several lifts over 800 pounds – and that I did!! Eric Todd became the first USAWA lifter to ever go over 900 pounds (with a lift of 903#).  ET has been “making his name known” in the USAWA this past year with winning the Heavy Lift Champs last spring, and setting the ALL TIME neck lift record at Worlds.  His second place finish in this stellar-packed field of lifters show that he is also a top contender in any future OTSM competition.  John O’Brien of the JWC upped his personal record in the Anderson Squat to 810 pounds. I want to mention that John did this after losing over 30 pounds of bodyweight. This bodyweight loss while maintaining his same strength helped him with the formula adjustment and aided him to get third place overall at this meet. I say this because he “just edged” out Alan English by one point!!!   Alan is a Dino Gym member who I have FINALLY got to compete in an USAWA competition. He is a gifted strength athlete who has lots of strongman victories to his name.  I hope that this meet has inspired him to compete more in the USAWA, because if he does, you will see several great things out of him in the future.  Rounding out the top five was another Dino Gym member, Scott Campbell.  Scott finished off his day with the second highest Anderson Squat, with a lift of 881 pounds.  Scott is a seasoned Highland Game Athlete who has strength that he doesn’t really know he has. 

Dino Gym member Chuck Cookson had the top Peoples Deadlift of the meet with this 800 pound lift!

I got a couple of other lifters that I want to mention.  First – Chuck Cookson.  Chuck started the meet off by putting up the top Peoples Deadlift of the day – 800 pounds!!!  However, he opened a little too high on the Anderson Squat (800 pounds!!!) and couldn’t get a lift in.  If he would have got in an Anderson Squat, he would have placed much higher in the overall.  I want to thank Art Montini and Denny Habecker for making the trip from Pennsylvania to compete.  It’s always inspiring to watch these two lift in meets.  I would like to know how many USAWA meets these two have competed in throughout the years. They seem to always be at USAWA events, and have been doing this for 25 years!!! I really doubt if there are very many other lifters in the USAWA that have competed as many times as these two.  I want to thank a couple of Jobe Steel Jungle lifters who made the trip – Tim Songster and Dan Bunch. I really appreciate it when lifters travel to my meets from out of state. This includes Dean Ross from Oklahoma.  I did a quick count and lifters from six states competed in this meet.  That’s simply amazing!!!

As always, I still have lots more to report on but I got to draw a conclusion to my meet report at some point.  Tomorrow I’ll reveal the results from the challenge between the Dino Gym and the Hoghton Barbell Club.  Also, I still have the results from the shooting competition that went on after the meet to report on. That’ll be coming later this week.  Again, I want to thank EVERYONE who competed, helped out, or just showed up to watch.  This will go down as one of the best Dino Gym Challenges of ALL TIME. 

MEET RESULTS:

Dino Gym Challenge
Dino Gym, Abilene, Kansas
Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Meet Director:  Al Myers

Officials (1 official system used):  Thom Van Vleck, Chad Ullom, LaVerne Myers

Scorekeeper:  Al Myers

Loaders:  Tyler Cookson, Mike Murdock

Lifts:  Anderson Squat, Hackenschmidt Floor Press, Peoples Deadlift

WOMENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT SQ FP DL TOT PTS
Ruth Jackson 51 107 286 160 319 765 1180.1
Jera Kressly 28 219 319 0 379 698 593.2

EXTRA ATTEMPTS MADE FOR RECORD:

Ruth Jackson: Anderson Squat 308#
Ruth Jackson: Hackenschmidt Floor Press 180#
Jera Kressly: Anderson Squat 352#
Jera Kressly:  Peoples Deadlift 399#

MENS DIVISION

LIFTER AGE BWT SQ FP DL TOT PTS
Dan Wagman 50 185 738 435 677 1850 1917.6
Eric Todd 38 262 903 410 717 2030 1573.1
John O’Brien 44 262 810 380 554 1744 1419.0
Alan English 29 231 694 320 702 1716 1418.1
Scott Campbell 38 287 881 325 654 1860  1378.8
Mark Mitchell 52 316 672 365 624 1661 1329.4
Tim Songster Sr. 45 205 501 285 554 1340 1251.8
Mike McIntyre 29 273 600 410 604 1614 1225.5
Darren Barnhart 45 302 628 340 624 1592 1221.1
Dave Glasgow 59 252 507 250 504 1261 1195.4
Doug Kressly 33  276 540 320 604 1464 1106.1
Scott Tully 37 313  600 320 604 1524 1086.2
Dan Bunch 48 360 551 275 624 1450 1055.3
Denny Habecker 70 198 331 215 349 895 1052.9
Dean Ross 70 273 402 180 379 961 955.9
Ben Edwards 37 217 440 225 449 1114 951.4
Art Montini 85 175 209 120 306 635 895.2
Chuck Cookson 43  275 0 300 800 1100  865.7
Lance Foster 47 330  402 180 554 1136 851.9

 EXTRA ATTEMPTS MADE FOR RECORD:

Denny Habecker:  Anderson Squat 352#
Denny Habecker: Hackenschmidt Floor Press 225#
Denny Habecker: Peoples Deadlift 369#
Dan Bunch: Peoples Deadlift 649#
Dan Wagman: Anderson Squat 782#
Dan Wagman:  Peoples Deadlift 707#
Dean Ross: Peoples Deadlift 399#
Lance Foster: Hackenschmidt Floor Press 190#

EXTRA LIFTS MADE FOR RECORD:

Dan Wagman: Curl – Cheat, Reverse Grip 204#
Dan Wagman: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 2″, Left Hand 180#
Dan Wagman: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 1″, Left Hand 217#
Dan Wagman: Vertical Bar Deadlift – 1 Bar, 1″, Right Hand 217#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Right Arm 44#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Left Arm 44#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Feet in Air 110#
Ruth Jackson: Bench Press – Hands Together 93.5#
Ruth Jackson: Holdout – Raised 33#
Ruth Jackson: Holdout – Lowered 33#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Right Arm 181.75#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Left Arm 181.75#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Right Arm 90#
Ruth Jackson: Deadlift – Ciavattone Grip, Left Arm 90#

NOTES:  All lifts recorded in pounds.  BWT is bodyweight in pounds.  TOT is total pounds lifted.  PTS are adjusted points for bodyweight and age correction.

A Poet and Didn’t Know it! Part 1

by Thom Van Vleck

I was going through some old magazines recently.  These aren’t just magazines that are old…they are magazines that have been in my possession since they were purchased by me from the newsstand (yes, we had one in Kirksville…and it’s still here!) since I started training.  The past 20 years I have spent a lot of my magazine time on the ones that my Uncle’s gave me from the 50’s and 60’s and the ones my grandfather gave me from the 30’s and 40’s plus some I have bought over the years from collectors or “inherited” from other old club members who know I will keep them and take care of them.   I have ignored the 70’s, 80’s and up.  Partly because I see those era’s as tainted by steroids and partly because I felt like the commercialism really got carried away (I know, I know…..all the early mags sold stuff too….and were practically catalogs for products….but it just seemed to get worse!).

At any rate, I dug out some late 70’s mags recently.  This included some old “Muscle Builder” mags by Weider.  There’s a reason I hadn’t looked at these for years!  I bought them back in the day because there was little information available and I took what I could get!  At any rate, as I thumbed through a 1979 issue a piece of paper fell out.  It was folded up note book paper with the vertical red line on the left side where you would start writing and the blue lines so you would keep things neat and straight plus three holes to put it in a three ring binder.  I felt like I had to describe that as I don’t think the younger kids would know what I’m talking about!!!!!   The paper indicated to me it was from school and it was probably something I had wrote while goofing off and avoiding class work.  I often would sit and draw pictures related to lifting, sketch out workout routines, write out goals, or just about anything you could imagine related to weightlifting…..from the age of 15 to 18 I was as fanatical as they come!

This particular piece of paper was jammed in an article by Mike Mentzer on calf training.  I recall that article well!  It almost landed me in the Emergency Room.  I often was too impatient (that’s what they called Attention Deficit Disorder what I was a kid) to read all the “details”.  My calves were as skinny as a marathon runner and I wanted to gain some size.  This article detailed about a dozen or so exercises and in my haste to get “Diamond Shaped” calves I decided to do them all for 3 sets of 20 with maximum weights.  The next day my calves were so sore I could hardly walk.  It was also a day I was supposed to go rabbit hunting with my Uncle Phil (also an accomplished lifter and as sadistic as they come when it comes to training!).  He saw me hobble out (in SERIOUS PAIN) and quickly surmised I was sore from lifting.  He offered to call of the hunting but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction as I knew I’d never hear the end of it.  So we proceeded to hunt for the next 8 hours in cold, wind, and rain and I’m pretty sure he picked the spots that required the most walking to get to.  Finally, we went home and my calves actually felt a little better….until I laid down.  Then, they began to feel like they were on fire and someone was slicing them open with a scalpel!  They hurt so bad quiet tears ran down my face.   My mom found me and evidently I was having trouble hiding my distress and wanted to take me to the ER.  I refused, and I recall her going in trying to talk my Dad into “making” me go….but lucky for me my Dad was as sadistic as my Uncle and laughed his butt off as he knew exactly what was going on.  I was lost in the memory as I held that paper in my hand.

So, back to my story….I opened up this long, lost paper expecting some workout routine, or something like that….and found a poem.  It was a poem I had written when I was around 15 years old.  You have to understand that I started lifting at age 13…but on my 15th birthday (because I read where Arnold started seriously training at age 15) I went “all in”.  And when I say all in, I was training around 3 hours EVERY DAY and lived, ate, and breathed lifting every waking moment….and then I would DREAM about it at night!   Evidently, I had run out of routines and things to write about and had written a poem.  While I write a lot and always have….I haven’t written a lot of poems.  I don’t remember writing this one, but I do know I wrote it as I recognized my handwriting.  I peeled the yellowed and folded pages open and began to read.

In Part II, the poem.

Everybody’s got to have Goals!

by Thom Van Vleck

My main goal for 2013 is to look as sexy as possible. (photo and caption courtesy of the webmaster)

Just curious if anyone else is a “goal setter”.  As the new year approaches, I try to ponder the coming year.  I have often set “New Years Resolutions” as many do and as many that set them also do….I break a lot of them!  Here are some things I’ve learned about setting goals.

First, don’t box your self in.  I try and set marks to shoot for, but I’m also not too rigid about leaving open the chance for “targets of opportunity”.   In the Marine Corps we were taught that you may have an objective, but if an easy target (target of opportunity” came up, the go for it!  Maybe you start out wanting to hit a big squat, but your knee flares up.  Then you find the squats you’ve been working on have helped your deadlift.  Go for a big deadlift and forget about the squat until the knee is better and DO NOT push the knee into a serious injury by stubbornly pushing through it.   Maybe you set a goal to lose 50lbs but find 35lbs gets you were you want…..how you look and feel is more important than what the scale says.

Overall shape.  My primary training goal for 2013 is to get in the best overall shape of my life.  I have went from 310lbs to around 280….I am not dieting, just stopped eating junk.  More protein, less carbs, fat, sugar.  I want to continue this.  I have no “goal” weight but I do want to lose fat, and get leaner. I have set a bottom number of 242lbs….that’s a long story…but if I can’t get lean enough at that weight I will just have to work harder!  Too often in the past I have just wanted to be stronger….when being healthy first will ultimately create lasting strength.

Lifting.  In the past, I have set poundage goals….This year I’m trying something different.  I’m not going to worry about how much I lift, I’m going to focus on intensity.  It is my goal to enter each lifting session with more intensity and not measuring success.  Too often I’ve set up lifting routines that are many weeks of hitting the same lifts….this time I’m going to be flexible.  I want to go into the gym excited about what I’m doing and embrace changes in my routine as a positive rather than a failure to hit lifts mapped out months earlier.

Have goals, sub-goals, and a “quota” goal.  My Uncle Phil years ago managed salesmen.  I asked him if he set goals for them.  He said, “They call them goals, I call them quotas”.  His point was he would set a hard goal that was high and probably unrealistic and make it a quota….then when they fell short he would sit down with them and look at what they achieved, not that they had failed to reach their “quota”.  He felt that by reaching unrealistically high they would achieve more than had they set “too easy” goals….because he found when most hit their goals….they QUIT TRYING.  He also like to set up sub goals that were rewarded along the way.  He often rewarded his salesmen out of his own pocket when they reached sub goals.  Reward yourself as you hit goals and make yourself into “Pavlov’s Dog”!  They you will salivate at the thought of being successful.

I don’t claim to be an expert in this area, these are just some lessons I have learned over the years.  I am looking for a big year in 2013!  I want to be leaner, stronger, lift bigger weights, throw farther in the highland games….and if I end up a little “sexier” (by the way, the photo above was Al’s doing!!!!) all the better!