Take the Leap

TAGS: small beginnings, Mrshall Johnson, first powerlifting meet, 5/3/1, Jim Wendler


My name is Charles, and I think you are an inspiration, especially with what you are doing with Hope Kids.

I wanted to ask you a few questions if you don't mind, and if you have the time. I am a 44-year-old out of shape guy. I could say that I am a big guy, but I am fat. Two years ago I was a biscuit shy of 270 pounds and way out of shape. (I am 5-foot-10). I had some personal stuff happen which caused a ton of stress, and along with training to run a half marathon, I got down to 215 pounds. (I had no appetite, and I usually chow down). I was training some MMA, lifting, and feeling good. However, I hurt my shoulder doing MMA, and I went downhill fast—not training and eating like I was going to the chair. I am back up to about 255 pounds and feeling like crap again. No more MMA since I don't have health insurance, so I just deal. I started powerlifting and really like it, and I have been doing Wendler's 5/3/1 program for eight weeks. My shoulder is hanging in there, but the bench and overhead press let me know that I have a shoulder. Dips are also out for now.

However, my question is, I have always done better with a goal or event (like training for the half marathon), but I don't think I have the kind of lifts worthy of doing a powerlifting event. A 260-pound bench, a 375-pound dead, and a 365-pound squat don't seem very impressive. I have no experience with powerlifting events and only train by myself. (I have a safety cage/rack so I can go all-out in relative safety). Should I just do it? Maybe train a little longer and then look for an event? I know that nutrition is a big part of my problem so I need to get that straight, but I am a single dad with four kids, so I don't always eat so clean. I am looking to see if there are powerlifting gyms in or around the Charlotte, NC area. I would feel better working alongside people who know what's going on.

Thanks for any help/advice you may have. I wish you continued success in your powerlifting career.

- Charles

What's up, Charles!

I wanted to first say that I think it's great that you are choosing powerlifting as your poison! I think you will find that the powerlifting community, as a whole, is much much more supportive than other sports. I completely agree and relate with you about how having a goal for something gives training so much more purpose. I will always be a weight lifter—it's my passion, and it's my life. So, even if I had no specific goals like a competition, I would still train. But if that was the case, there is no way I would have ever hit the numbers and made the accomplishments I have if there wasn't a goal or purpose at the end of the road. Giving your training purpose, or really anything in life, increases the chances that you will follow through and be successful.

For my first powerlifting meet, my numbers weren't that much different from your current numbers, but my eyes were set on the finish line—not the little steps along the journey. If you constantly focus on how far your have left to go, you will forget about how far you have come. If you would have told me four years ago that I would have to perform 10,000 squats before I could squat 1,000 pounds, then that might have been extremely overwhelming to think about. I might have just said "f" it. Instead, I focused on building a solid foundation and putting the work in, realizing that "someday" it will happen—whether it's next year or five years from now—it will happen. Great things do not come without sacrifice. Being a single father of four, I am sure you can relate with that statement. If you want to be a powerlifter, all it takes is hard work, and anyone is capable of working hard.

I think that you should get into a powerlifting meet as soon as you can, regardless of your numbers, skill level, and knowledge of how powerlifting meets work. A pleasant surprise you will find with powerlifting is the environment. When you're at a meet, you're surrounded by strangers that want you to get the lift just as bad as you do. There's so much support and encouragement. It's why I love this sport so much! Why train alone with limited knowledge and constantly wondering "why this?" or "why that?" or "how do I do this?" Get into a meet and be surrounded by dozens of people from all skill and experience levels that are more than willing to help you. And ya know what? They could care less about the fact that your numbers are low. You will have your foot in the door, you will have contacts, and you will now be a part of the community. Everything will just snowball from there. So my advice: get into a meet! A good place to check for powerlifting meets is a website called powerliftingwatch.com. It lists meets in every state and powerlifting gyms in every state. That should help you start your search.

As far as the diet goes...man, do what you gotta do sometimes. Eat clean when you can, but don't beat yourself up if you trip out of convenience. A good thing about powerlifting is that when you are busting your ass, it burns a lot of calories. You can get away with slipping. That doesn't mean go to town and neglect, just don't beat yourself up if you do eat badly.

I hope this helps get you started. You already have a great head start by training Wendler's program, so you're in good hands there. Just remember: where you start has little effect on where you will end—that's completely up to you.

- Marshall Johnson


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