On June 18th, 2016 Eric Le competed in his first Weightlifting meet at the Star of the North Games in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Eric has been at MSP fitness since 2012 where he initially participated in our Strength + Endurance Program. Through the evolution of his fitness, Eric took a great interest in the Snatch and Clean and Jerk movements introduced to him through the Performance Classes at MSP. His initial interest in Weightlifting, combined with commitment and hard work, eventually led him towards pursuing an Exclusive Coaching relationship with our Head Weightlifting Coach Michael Pilhofer. Being an avid fan of the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, Eric set a goal to progress his involvement from purely training in the discipline to competing in a local competition. What follows is the account of his first Olympic Weightlifting competition. Note: Here is a video of his lifts.
Q: Eric, you had been training the Weightlifting movements for quite some time before deciding to take part in a competition. What sparked that switch AND under the direction of a quality coach how hard was the transition?
A: A couple of things, first there’s a unique environment to competition that’s almost impossible to replicate. The butterflies in your stomach as you step onto the platform, the sleeplessness the night prior. These are all things I really missed from my days playing competitive tennis in high school. Also, working at EPIC I’m surrounded by people who compete in ultra endurance races and the spirit of competition is definitely one of our core values. The second reason for wanting to compete is that I missed the focus of training day to day with a performance goal as my carrot to chase. I had a handful of goals with my training, but the clear priority was performing my best at the weightlifting meet. That leads into my answer for your second question. It was really easy to transition to training for competition thanks to having Michael as my coach. For me, the hardest part about training is deciding on the priorities, and then holding your programming/training accountable to those priorities. With Michael, I simply just had to explain my priorities and he designed the training accordingly. With the understanding that priorities can change/shift, Michael can adjust the plan accordingly. He and I have constant communication as far as my progress, goals, and results of my daily/weekly/monthly training. Just knowing that takes a huge weight off my shoulders (MEATHEAD PUN!) as I’m definitely someone prone to overthinking my training.
Q: Once you set your mind to the task of competing, what was the ramp up to the meet like? Physically? Mentally?
A: Physically the ramp up was great. I didn’t encounter any injuries or setbacks at all. Given it was my first meet, and my first real training block with the meet in mind, there was a lot of focus on technique, so more reps with lighter weight. I thought I’d struggle with this, that I’d miss “going heavy”; but when you’re as new as I am, Olympic Weightlifting is a lot like golf. When you nail a lift with perfect technique, it feels so effortless that you chase that feeling forever moving forward. That really helped keep me stay focused on the day-to-day grind of technique drills, chasing that sensation. Mentally, I learned a lot from my time at MSP Fitness just watching Taylor (MSP’s Group Class Coach / Competitive Weightlifter) train with Michael. Understanding the importance of the routines and habits you engrain in training so that when you step onto the platform, it all feels natural. You don’t have to think about “where do I look, where do I step, or where will I put my hands” because you’ve practiced it already.
Q: Did you have any goals for yourself at your first Weightlifting meet?
A: I really just wanted to perform up to the levels I knew I was capable of… So I just didn’t want to miss any weights I’d made in training.
Q: A great goal! Okay, spill the beans, how was your actual performance?!?
A: I thought I did pretty well for my first meet. We went 6 for 6, and my 3rd snatch was 1kg away from an all-time PR, so I felt like we rode the line well between being conservative and having a fun meet while still picking weights that were truly challenging for me. With my numbers, I knew I had zero chance of winning anything, but it was never about that for me. It was about the opportunity to train and step onto the stage. And the singlet. It was always about having an excuse to wear a singlet in public.
Note: Here is a video of Eric’s lifts!
Q: Congratulations on going 6 for 6 at your first meet! Weightlifting is notoriously demanding mentally. The performance, the training, it can be defeating sometimes. Were there any strategies or tactics you/your coach implemented on the day of the meet to focus and perform with such consistency?
A: Uh yeah…my strategy was “whatever Michael says”. Seriously, I just turned my brain off and Michael timed all my warmups and told me when to lift and how much. The other thing I thought helped was that I just tried to be myself, even in competition. Some folks have a talent for getting very zoned in for competition, these are the people that don’t talk much in the warm up area. They spend a lot of time with their eyes closed — all that intensity works really well for them. I just know that’s not me. I definitely think visualization helps, and I certainly had my moments backstage doing so, but for me, staying loose, chatting with Michael and Taylor, joking as I normally would helped to keep things loose and in perspective. I mean I was walking around in a unitard.
Q: There’s a bunch of articles written to people preparing for their first Olympic Weightlifting competition. As a first timer, what’s something you’d say to an individual who is ramping up for their first meet? What about someone who’s on the fence, considering competing?
A: I think you learn so much about yourself, not just in the moment of competition, but in the training for one. How important is this thing to you. How do you prioritize life around it (nutrition, sleep, etc.). I’d definitely encourage folks to train for and do a competition regardless of your experience level or where you think you’ll “finish”.
Q: Not many readers may know this, but you train with your coach Michael remotely from the Houston area of Texas after moving there from Minneapolis. Now that you live in Texas, how has the Exclusive Coaching relationship differed from your time as a group class participant onsite at MSP Fitness?
A: Oh man I really really miss the community of training on-site at MSP Fitness. In answer to your question. I think the EC (Exclusive Coaching) relationship is a great one for someone with a specific training need and/or someone with a performance goal they’re aiming towards. I had to juggle training for this meet with a really busy work travel schedule, moving into a new house, etc. Having the flexibility to shoot my coach a quick note with all the challenges, and having him adjust the programming on the fly is great. Invaluable actually. Could I ‘hypothetically’ write my own program? Sure! But I know I’d spend a ton of mental bandwidth I didn’t have.
Q: The input of a coach can make a significant impact on a client or athlete’s fitness or performance. If you could, describe the “impact” of working with Michael directly through the Exclusive Coaching Program at MSP Fitness?
A: Hate to repeat myself, but it’s really just having the ability to focus on the rest of your life since you’ve “outsourced” your training to a coach you trust. I absolutely love fitness and performance. I could spend hours in that wormhole, but those are hours my wife would take off my life if I did!
Q: Now that you’ve checked off your first competition, are there any performance goals on the horizon?
A: Definitely, more competition! And to really dial in my snatch technique. I still cringe at all my snatch videos from the meet where I pretty much power snatched then overhead squatted my lifts.
Q: Awesome! We at MSP can’t wait to see and hear how those go! Now I just have to ask a few lightning round questions! You can only choose one… Favorite Lift? (Doesn’t have to be Snatch, C&J)
Q: Fashion is huge in sport, Weightlifting is certainly no different — Look good lift good. Shoes? Singlet? Who’s your go-to brand?
A: Ha, I feel so lame answering this question because I’m such a newb and am definitely “that guy”. You know, the worst player on the basketball pickup court wearing Air Jordan’s and an elbow sleeve? That’s me in weightlifting except I’ve got Adidas Adipowers on my feet and Virus tights on.
Q: Training remotely at home, you got to have some hype music to pump you up for big lifts. What are you jamming out to currently?
A: Way to plant a question Michael! So i have a “training mix” I’ve added to for years with what you’d expect, hard rap, heavy rock, etc. Typical “meathead” pump-up music. But, I saw a hilarious video on Instagram of a guy hitting a PR with Mariah Carey blasting in the background and was inspired. I’ve since created a playlist largely filled with the sugariest of pop music. It’s heavy on past and current pop divas and boy bands. Lots of Mariah, Beyonce, Katy Perry, One Direction, Madonna, even Hanson. It just makes me laugh when I’m getting ready for a heavy squat and reminds me that training is fun.
Q: The 2016 Olympics are coming up in Brazil. What weightlifter from the USA are you most excited to see perform? Lifter from another country?
A: I am definitely most excited to see Morghan King from the USA. Was a fan of the MDUSA team when I first got into Weightlifting, so to see her journey from there to the OTC, and then to make the olympic team has been amazing. Lifter from another country? Hate to say it, because it’s so typical, but Lü Xiaojun. We have the same collarbone bump, so we’re pretty much twins.
Eric thank you so much for detailing out your experience at your first weightlifting meet! We can’t wait to see your training evolve and look forward to more meet updates as your time in the sport goes on. If anyone is interested in pursuing a relationship with a coach like Eric did, you can find more about our weightlifting program HERE.