|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on December 22, 2014 at 11:50 AM|
"DON'T BE A MENTAL MIDGET!"
“135KG on the Bar for Sean Hutchinson’s first attempt.”… “OMG, Can I make this?? I mean I’ve done it before in training and I’ve never missed it. But, I just cut weight. My legs feel week. Maybe I should have dropped my opener just to be safe. Shit…30 seconds left. OMG I made the clean, breath, breath, breath!!! FUCK, I just pressed it out. I’m so fucked. I can’t make this lift”….
That was me at the 2011 National Weightlifting Championships. It was my last major bomb out at a National Competition. I was already 5kg ahead of 2nd place in the snatch. I could have simply opened with 126kg for the win but I knew I was capable of more. At the time I had done 145kg in training so I had no reason to fear 135kg. That should be an easy opener no matter what the situation was. I remember making my last easy warm up with 130kg then going out to the platform with nothing but doubt and insecurity. Even though I was in an easy position to win, my mental state wouldn’t allow it. I honestly thought that I couldn’t win even though I had won competitions in the past. I don’t know what came over me but somehow I ended up missing 3 clean and jerks in a row with 135kg. After missing the 1st one due to a press-out I panicked. I knew I was done. I was going to be too exhausted to recover in time for the 2nd attempt.
Fast forward to 2014 American Open. I went 6 for 6, followed myself on almost every attempt except for my 2nd clean and jerk, and I hit a PR clean and jerk and overall total after recovering from shoulder surgery about a year ago. I had a torn rotator cuff where I needed 3 anchors to repair my supraspinatus. My rotator cuff looked like it went through a meat grinder. I still have shoulder pain due to the lack of cartilage in my shoulder after they cleaned out all the turn shredded pieces. I even had some bone spurs in there they had to clean out. At the time of my surgery I never thought I would touch a barbell again, let alone get back on the National stage and win competitions and hit PRs!
I think there are a few things I can attribute to my newly found success. The first and most obvious to me was having my shoulder repaired. Although going through the recovery process was anything but torture, I felt like I came out way more confident in the end. I knew I put the time and work in to make my shoulder stronger than it ever was. Within 6 months of surgery I was back competing and hit a PR competition clean and jerk of 141kg. I had not clean and jerked over 140kg in competition since the 2009 Rodger Degarmo and it wasn’t because I wasn’t strong enough physically. I was just mentally weak. Something my coach and my old teammates refer to as being a “Mental Midget”. It might sound like a crude term but for us it described somebody who wasn’t mentally tough enough.
I hate to admit it, but that was definitely my issue. I had become something I never wanted to be associated with. My mental game was at it’s lowest point over before I got my shoulder repaired. I remember going into the 2011 National Championships my best training lifts were: snatch: 112kgx3 without straps and 114kgx3 with straps but at the time my best competition snatch was only 116kg. How is that even possible??? My best clean was 142kgx3 and 150kgx1. My best jerk from the blocks was 150kgx3 and 155kgx1! How is it possible my best clean and jerk in competition was only 140kg?!?! Sure I had cleaned over 140kg almost every competition but for some reason I just couldn’t jerk it. Was it because I just wasn’t strong enough to get it overhead? Well, clearly I was plenty strong enough in the gym if I was able to do 155kg. Why couldn’t I hit these routine weights in competition?!?! It’s because I was mentally weak…I was a Mental Midget.
Now, to put this into perspective, let’s look at my training lifts before 2014 American Open. My best triple was 102kg, best single without straps was 109kg and with straps 111kg. My best clean was 130kgx3 and 138kgx1. The most I had put overhead was a 145kg behind the neck jerk from the rack. The most I had jerked from the front was 137kg from the rack and 134kg clean and jerk was my best effort in training. So how is it possible that I went from snatching 109kg with no straps and clean and jerking 134kg to snatching 115kg and clean and jerking a competition PR of 142kg after cutting 4#’s of water weight a few hours before I lifted? Something different is going on here, that’s for sure.
So, what was the difference between the 2011 National Championships and the 2014 American Open Championships? Well, I would have to say it was my mental game. My confidence was higher than it has ever been. I was in a mindset where I was just stoked to be able to lift. I didn’t care about winning medals anymore. There was no pressure on myself to try to win. I care about setting personal records and improving myself. If I happen to beat some people on the way to those new records then awesome. I think that is the problem with a lot of athletes I see competing these days. They hit these huge training lifts but then when it comes time to do it when it counts they have too much self-doubt and too much negative self-talk. When I approached the bar all 6x’s at AO all I thought was pull the fuck out of that bar and get under it! I wasn’t thinking about how heavy it was, or what ranking this lift would put me on for whatever team. Those are the last things you should be thinking about. I was out there enjoying my moment…that 6 minutes of glory we train our asses off for months at a time. I don’t remember anything else about my lifts except for how amazing they felt. It was almost like I was outside of my body watching myself do the lift. I was visualizing and I was conquering. When it was all said and done I was completely satisfied with my performance. I don’t think it was my best because there is always room for improvement, but I was satisfied for that day.
I remember going home and scrolling through all the facebook post and seeing so many lifters post stuff like this… “Well, this weekend wasn’t my best performance. I had to cut a lot of weight, I got sick a week ago, my warm ups didn’t go as planned, I only made 2 out of 6 lifts even though I had done way more in training. Hopefully I’ll come back better at the next one!” It makes me sad seeing those post. I used to make those posts. There was always an excuse as to why a competition didn’t go as planned. This leads me to my next point of being adaptable.
Sometimes the competition doesn’t go as planned. You show up, the weights feel heavy, the timing is off in your warm ups, the competition is moving too slow or too fast. Whatever it is, as an athlete you can’t let these things shake you. At AO when I found out Darrel would not be lifting I knew I would be following myself on every attempt. IF this was 2011 I would have been screwed. I would have told myself it’s impossible to recover in 2 minutes to go out and do another heavy attempt. Not this time. I knew no matter what the situation was, I would lift whatever weight was on the bar. Funny story…during snatches when I was warming up I managed to clock myself right in the forehead with an 80kg snatch. I honestly thought I knocked myself out for a second. I didn’t let that shake me though. I laughed it off…along with 10 other people who watched me do it in the warm ups, and got right back in the zone. I wasn’t listening to music, I was just replaying myself over and over in my head making the lifts. I knew exactly what to do and I went out there and did it 6x’s in a row without failure. That’s how it should always be. No matter what the situation is, you have to adapt. I’ve had competitions before where I literally miss-timed my warm ups and I had to jump from 115kg to a 136kg for an opening clean and jerk. I still went out there and made the lift because I knew that’s what I had to do. So next time you feel overwhelmed or anxious just tell yourself this is what you’ve been training for. You know how to lift the weight so go out there and do it!
I’ve been lifting since 2005 and I’ve definitely come a long way in that 9 years. I know I still have a ways to go before I am satisfied with my career but I feel like I am definitely back on track not just physically, but mentally. My ultimate goal for 2015/2016 is to snatch over 2x body weight and clean and jerk 2.5x body weight. Let me do a little math for you…I want to snatch 125kg and clean and jerk 155kg. I know it sounds pretty far fetched considering my best competition lifts are 116kg and 142kg but it’s literally 10-15kg over my best training lifts. Anyways, I think you guys get the point. It takes more than just a physically strong athlete to be successful. If you find yourself struggling to match your competitions PR’s to your training PR’s you need to stop and re-evaluate our mindset. There is no reason you shouldn’t be able to recreate those PR’s where it counts.