Ukrainian Adventure

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.

Helen Keller

My apologies for the late post, but between in and out wifi connections in Germany and getting back into a normal schedule, I just now have time to sit down and type out all my thoughts about my most recent adventures.

For those that don’t know, I had an amazing opportunity to go over seas and train in Kiev, Ukraine at an Olympic Training center in beautiful Koncha Zaspa with the Warm Body Cold Mind fellas (Aleskey Torokhtiy, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and Dr. Sergei Putsov). I will go into detail below, but first an over arching statement for camp:

The only source of knowledge is experience.

Albert Einstein

I will do my best to describe my training, my stay, and my whole experience during the two weeks training under their watchful eye, but I fear it will not serve it complete justice.


You cannot breed greatness if not surrounded by it

Let me start off by talking about the level of expertise we were surrounded by. I would guess that over the course of two weeks we may have had anywhere from 40-80 years of cumulative knowledge and experience coaching us. I know this sounds like an absurd amount, but let me lay it out for you:

Aleskey Torokhtiy: 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist (which comes from close to 18 years of intense training)

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Dr. Sergei Putsov: PhD in Exercise Science and Ukrainian National team member for numerous years (also roughly 18 years of weight lifting experience)

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Guest Lecturer: Did not get the professors name, but he came in twice for lecture and once to watch a training session. Not only is he a head professor of Exercise Science, but he also serves on the Weightlifting board of Ukraine (not to mention he lifted back in the day)

Vasyl Kulak: 4 time Olympic coach, with multiple medalist under his belt. Not only did he stay and watch most of our training, but he would throw a thumbs up or down into the mix (English was not his main language, but you could get the idea of how you were doing)

Syhmechko Ihor: You can look him up on Instagram or just google his name, he is a 3x Olympian (most recently competing in Rio) , and an all around genuine guy. He stopped by for 1 or 2 trainings, watched over a couple of lifts, and gave some hand gestures (not to mention took time to sit down and eat with everyone, which was pretty awesome)!

Kateryna: During our time there, this was the wonderful women that held us together. She gave out massages, therapy, pre- and post-training mobility, and even helped us with our laundry (she was pretty awesome). On top of that, we come to find she was a European Champion in the 63 kg class going 100/130 (which we could of guessed due to the intensity of our massages… she was very strong).

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Anastasiia: Last, but certainly not least, she worked all the behind the scenes! She was awesome, and was able to help us with anything we needed to make our stay more comfortable and was always willing to help if we had any ailments at all (she really helped me out during a couple of days when I was not feeling so hot). Throughout the week, we all saw her still squeezing in time to go get her training in!

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My point is that through out the two weeks, there was no one that I encountered in our camp that did not have some higher level of knowledge that they could lend to me. This came in the form of different cues, different insights, and sometimes, since multiple people were lifting at the same time, we had all the coaches we needed to watch everyone and give feedback!

If this does not impress you, let me forward some of the knowledge bombs that got dropped!


“We don’t make mistakes”

Now, before I start to type this out, please do not tell me that this is wrong or not the way you learned. This is also not the way I learned, but in going to a training camp you need to go with an open mind in order to get the most out of the expert coaching. I got cues I thought to be wrong, and in a couple of days they helped me to be more technical and move higher percentage weights much faster. My thought is this:

There is not one particular way to weightlift (if there was we would have champions from only that area of the world, which we do not). If you are not an Olympian or expert in the field (10+ years of training and experience), then how can learning different techniques hurt? In my opinion, this can only help. Maybe you retain two or three things from camp that make you better because you incorporated movements or slightly tweaked or perfected something you were already doing, in this, you have become a better Weightlifter, and that is what this sport is all about, those small improvements!

So, going into the quote above. This was something Sergei said to me on a day we were hitting some pretty heavy percentage cleans on our second session of the day. I had worked up to about 85% for some doubles and on the second one I caught and paused at the bottom before standing up. After I completed the lift and dropped the weight he looked at me and said “What is wrong, Why pause”? Obviously, I just looked at him because I had made the lift and thought it to be decent.  He explained: “When you pause in the clean, you have made a mistake because you need to adjust yourself. When we clean, we do not make mistakes, so we don’t pause.” Now, I did not write that to debate whether or not that is the correct thing to coach or do, what I did was give you an example of a cue that opened up my eyes. After that, the clean (which I am not that great at) made so much more sense to me. My focus became less about the catch and where I caught it and more about the path of my pull, resulting in a better bar placement, which then resulted in a better catch!

You see, the big thing I took out of my trip to Ukraine, is that two coaches very rarely are telling you two opposite things. What they ARE doing is describing the same movement with different coaching cues, which is beautiful because just like not every person on the planet learns the same (visual, auditory, and tactile learning), not every athlete is able to grasp the idea the coach is trying to convey from the same cue.

Moral: Research and watch videos. Let your coaches know what cues work and if they don’t ask them to explain it in a different way.


 

“Leave from a full foot”

Again, this is cue is nothing revolutionary, however it was in the way that they taught it to us that really changed my catch ever so slightly (and pair that with changing up my clean pull, Tokyo 2020???). The idea was simple, right? Leave from a full foot in your pull and then catch in a full foot. This avoids a couple of things:

  1. The bar does not fly way out in front of you due to your idea of throwing your hips into the bar and causing it to run away due to the aggressive nature of your hip thrust.
  2. In catching in a full foot we avoid the “toe to heel” catch which can easily throw one off balance and spit you back away from the bar
  3. It makes a really cool sound, so people know you lift…. What it actually does it bring your attention to an aggressive pull and turn over that will result in an all around faster movement, which in time, should lead to heavier weights (if your head game is strong–still working on that one).

This may have been the single most abundant cue during my two week stay (obviously I figured out I had an issue). However, this opened my eyes to why they kept me at such light weights for so many reps and sets (under 60% for at least 20 or more reps). I had a flaw in my game. A small weakness that got bigger and bigger as the kilos got added onto the bar. I had to make the bar look perfect to move to 40 kg, and then make that look perfect in order to add an additional 5kg, and so on and so forth until taking attempts at 70% and above.

Needless to say, two weeks later (I know such a long time, right…) and my warm-up game has changed. My reps and sets under 50% need to look and feel perfect before I will move on to my prescribed weights for the day. This has not only improved my turn over, but decreased the time needed for mobility training post workout due to all the lighter reps being full reps and paused in the bottom (mostly in the snatch and jerk).


 

Warm body, cold mind

Although the above examples are great to explain certain techniques these renown coaches taught me, the part I enjoyed the most was the personal journey they helped facilitate.

Camp was anything but easy, however I went in knowing that I wanted to work (why go to a weightlifting camp to relax…). The volume and work load were two things I was not quite used to and pair that with the mental fatigue from slight changes in my lifts and it was quite draining (don’t worry, we had plenty of nap time and lots of food).

To give an idea;

During my time at the Warm Body Cold Mind training camp I managed to get 18 weight lifting sessions in in a total of 13 days of camp. The break down went as follows: Sundays were lighter more technical days, Monday/Wednesday/Friday were 2x per day training sessions, Tuesdays would be heavy or light depending on the other sessions and feel, and Thursday was our lovely rest day (much needed). Now on top of this, we would do mobility and warm-up for 30 minutes every morning before breakfast and 30-45 minutes before each training session.

If they would have told me that I was going to be training with that much volume and intensity for that many hours a day and that I would still be able to complete roughly 90% of my lifts between 80-90% of my RM in both A.M and P.M sessions, I would have laughed. It was the “mental preparedness” that we talked with both Aleksey and Sergei about on a pretty regular basis. It was the atmosphere they made in the training hall. It was the amazing people that I had the pleasure of training with all week. It was all of these things combined that, although I was tired, sore, mentally drained, when it was time to train everything just kind of slipped away and I looked at the training log and knew what needed to happen (the massages and Ukrainian Rock Sauce really helped as well).

 


It was a family matter

It was not all about training. We took city tours around Kiev on our rest days. We all had our first experience with Banya (if you have an opportunity, check it out because although it sounds a little different it is actually a really cool experience). We ate every meal as a team and if you were lucky enough to have been told to gain weight you even got sent back to your room with food. We stayed up late and got to listen to stories of training, both coaches struggles and successes. We met everyone’s beautiful families and laughed and just hung out and had an all around fantastic time.

This really sunk in with me as I try my best not to make everything I do about business, because training and coaching go so much deeper than that. So to travel half-way around the world, be greeted by coaches of this caliber and whom I have never met, and then to be introduced to their family and for them to share part of their lives with us, well that was just something you would not normally get or expect, and in my opinion made the trip and camp stand out!


If anyone from the WBCM camp reads this, to you I say: 

Thank you for making camp a true adventure. Training with you and getting to know all of you was awesome! I hope one day, sooner than later, our paths cross again!

To the Warm Body, Cold Mind Staff:

You all are awesome! Thank you for organizing the camp, for sharing so much with me, and for teaching me everything you could in a two week time frame. I wish all of you only the best in your future camps and seminars!

To anyone that has a WBCM seminar near them:

Go! These guys have some great advice and tips that they can lend you. Hell, if you have the time check out their next camp in Kiev, because not only is it a great training opportunity, but it is also an amazing time!

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