This weekend our team travels out to Valley Forge Pennsylvania to compete in the American Open Series 2. We have 8 in house athletes competing this weekend from PFP Barbell. This will be our first large competition as a team as part of East Coast Gold and as an organization we have over 50 athletes competing this weekend. Our team is without a doubt much better than we were at the Arnold and I am excited to see what our folks can do with 6 more months of hard training and experience. Lets take a look at who is lifting and what we can expect out of them! The event will be live webcast here : www.teamusa.org/USA-Weightlifting/LIVE/live-stream
Gerald Spencer 77E (195 entry total)
6:00am Weigh in
Gerald leads the way this weekend as our first athlete to compete. This should be one of the more interesting sessions of our entire weekend. Gerald has had a great cycle of training over the last few months, he is stronger and better technically than he has ever been. Gerald is one of our BEST competitors on meet day, as meet day gets closer he zones in and gets more and more focused. If we handle our end as coaches and he handles his end as an athlete he should have a big big day!
Andre J. Ainsworth 62B (130kg entry total)
8:15am Weigh in
Andre come up next! I am so excited to see Andre lift , if we gave out a "Most Improved" award for this training cycle , he would be hands down favorite. Over the past few months his technique has improved leaps and bounds . Andre's strength numbers are up as well. As one of our most experienced competitors , I wouldn't be surprised with some big PR's in both lifts. Andre is well prepared and ready to go!
Marisa Galli 58D ( 118kg entry Total)
10:30am Weigh in
1230 pm Lift
Marisa starts if off for our Women's team at the AO2 . We couldn't have a better person to kick things of for our awesome ladies! As an Athlete, Marisa does all of the things that you need to do to be successful . She has crushed her training, recovery , nutrition, and just absorbs coaching like a champ. Its seems like every single meet she levels up and realizes more and more how good of a weightlifter she can be. In front of friends and family in front of a hometown crowd she has a chance to smash all of her previous bests. I cannot say enough about her as an athlete and a person , this should be a good one!
Laura Scheirer Woodward 48A (112 Entry total)
12:45pm Weigh in
Laura is our last athlete to lift on Friday . Laura is one of our newest athletes , but is no stranger to weightlifting she has competed on the international level and is our only A group athlete of the weekend. Laura moved back to the area recently after training and living in the Wilmington Area with Walt at Wilmington Weightlifting Club . She has trained hard to fix some technical faults and this should be a good breakthrough meet for her. Physically and mentally , Laura has turned a corner and should have a wonderful day .
Maggie Duer 63C (135 Entry Total)
8:30am Weigh in
Mighty Marge kicks off Day 2 for the team. This will be Maggie's second meet back from a 2 year hiatus in the sport. She is ready to build upon her 6 for 6 performance in her meet from a few month ago . Her legs are back and she is stronger than ever. She has all the tools to improve on her total big time from last meet. Maggie is a fierce competitor so I fully expect her to use the atmosphere to her full advantage .
Dom Gomez 94D (225 Entry Total)
1:30pm Weigh in
Dom is coming off a tough rotation and a PCL injury to make is comeback at the AO2. Technically he continues to get better and better and all his rehab has really brought up some weaknesses. Depending on how he feels he should be in great position to push for a few PR's along his comeback trail . This should be a great session to watch I feel like Dom is ready for something special .
Brandi Darby 90C (126kg Entry Total)
6:20 PM weigh in
Brandi Closes out Day 3 for us. Brandi has all the tools to bring down the house! This should be an great session for a lot of reasons . Another candidate for most improved weightlifter this training cycle, there is not one aspect of her lifting that hasn't improved tremendously . Brandi can lift as much weight as she wraps her head around. If her mind is right I think she will surprise everyone (including herself) . This is a great opportunity for her to level up and start to realize how great she can be .
Tonja Ayala 90+B (95kg Entry Total )
7:00am Weigh in
Tonja is our final lifter of the weekend. This is a great chance for her to get some practice on the big stage before she moves into the 55+ age group for next years Master's Nationals. She has been working hard and consistently improving on her technique and mobility all year. When she puts it all together this weekend she should be at or around the National Records in her new age group in 2019 . I'm excited for her to get more experience under her belt so she can start to truly shine .
Every one of our lifters is in a position to improve significantly from their last showing. I am excited to coach this group of athletes at the AO. As a group is has been a pleasure to watch them grow and develop over the last few months and this should be a great weekend for all . See you guys in Philly!
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As I was lifting yesterday one of our coaches made the comment that my motto should be "Do as I say , not as I do. " . Its not the first time I have heard this from a coach or athlete. I'm not going to lie, the comment usually pisses me off! As the head coach of PFP Barbell , I always do my best to lead from the front. I was getting ready for bed last night and I started to think about what "leading from the front " really means.
I always thought that leading from the front meant perfection( or as close to it as I could be) , perfect technique, perfect meets, perfect guidance etc. I understand that this is unattainable , but I strive to be as close to this as I can. I work hard , listen to my coach, give my best effort to our athletes in meets . I want to be the example that our athletes look to as how to prepare to advance in their weightlifting.
I think the part I was missing about leading from the front was the fact that you WILL make mistakes ..a lot of them ! I have bombed out of more meets than most of our athletes have competed in, had bad meet plans, been a bonehead leading up to big meets, coached bad meets for athletes, and generally have had some very public mistakes in my learning process as coaches. I always looks at these experiences as something to be embarrassed of or things I wanted to hide. Now, looking back at it I had it all wrong...
I realized part of my role as a coach is to make mistakes so our athletes don't have to. Lead the way and don't be afraid to try things , fail often , and learn . I can confidently tell our athletes and coaches not to do MANY things because I have done them and I KNOW its a bad idea . My experiences as an athlete and a coach save them from having to go through the same negative results that I have had . On the positive end I have had a ton of success as an athlete and a coach and have wonderful mentors helping me avoid more needless mistakes down the road. It allows those who follow me to confidently move forward , knowing that our actions are deliberate and based on experience.
So yes, do as I say, not as I do. Let me lead the way, make mistakes, and take on the consequences. Allow be to lead from the front , learn from my mistakes so you don't have to a make them yourself.
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About Coach Tom :
Another great blog post by Brandi Darbi one of our wonderful athletes here at PFP Barbell . Originally posted here :
In three weeks I’ll be competing in the biggest competition I’ve ever been to. And, in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, it’ll only be my third time on a competitive platform. If you know my writing at all, you know I keep it real; I’m terrified. My fear and doubt voices, as Brene Brown calls them, are alive and well as I continue training leading up to the big day. What’s different now is that I’m better equipped for managing those emotions than I’ve ever been and a large part of that is due to my coaches and the environment I train in.
Tom Duer, my head coach, is a nationally ranked athlete in the sport himself. His passion for teaching and cultivating a welcoming environment, where everyone thrives has removed many of the distractions I faced at my previous facility. I’m enduring long training cycles now without mental fatigue, I’m currently on the longest injury free streak I’ve had in a long time; (knock on wood) and I’m recovering from disappointing lifts in shorter amounts of time. I credit this to Tom and our whole crew at PFP Barbell because everyone deals with the same thing and supports each other throughout it. People don’t talk about how powerful groupthink is when it’s positive. Amazing things happen when you have a team of coaches you trust, lifting partners you like and a program you only kinda wanna cheat on versus always. I say all this but if you ask Tom anything about himself he’ll probably just tell you a dad joke because to him, he’s very funny. For confirmation, ask his wife Maggie, she also keeps it’s real.
Mind Over Matter
This is a dangerous idiom for someone with a propensity towards anxiousness. I can’t trust my mind most days when I get to thinking about the AO2. “The dip in my Jerk is too slow.” “Stop catching the Clean so high, get down!” “Am I ever going to stop getting stuck in the power position of my Snatch?” These thoughts on a loop plague me some days. I’m worried about all of it and I want to fix everything before I get on that platform. “It has to be perfect,” I tell myself. I want my friends to see and understand why I sacrifice time with them for training, I want to hear my team yell with approval when I stick a lift and let my coaches see their efforts come to fruition in my perfectly executed lifts. These ideas are cute but ever so unrealistic. First of all, perfection is a lie, and a waste of time I could be using on naps. Second of all, …I don’t remember what was second because that was a solid first of all.
Then I snap out of it and remember that I’m focusing on the wrong things. Mind over matter for me means keeping my head in the game, trusting my training and not the fear or doubts. At training camp two weeks ago in Virginia Beach, amid an exhaustive lifting schedule, we learned about goal setting and visualization. Weightlifting hall of famer Leo Totten taught us some key habits of elite athletes across various sports. I listened intently to him, noting all the differences between their behavior and mine. The list was not short. Many of the things that stood out to me was what they did outside of their active training times versus what I do. Mobility has become an enormous challenge for me over the last year after two consecutive knee injuries. Consistently adhering to a regimented nutrition plan has never been easy for me either. When I get hurt, I stop training altogether and indulge in all the carbs and sugar. Talk about focusing on the wrong things, right? Elite athletes work on things outside of their injured body parts. Broken knee? Bummer, train upper body. No training allowed at all? Bigger bummer, adhere even more to the diet plan. Terrible mobility? Do yoga. No money for yoga? Youtube is free. Aggressive travel schedule? Take your gym bag and drop in at gyms along the way. Excuses fall down like a house of cards when our minds are set. After I write this, I have to eat within my macros, drink a liter of water and do Romwod for 45 minutes because no joke, my mobility is laughable. So on rest days like today, I’m training my mind because I’ve seen how powerful it is when it’s working against me, I’m desperate to see what I can do when it’s working for me.
Make a Plan. Stick to said Plan.
Occasionally I try to sneak off-program in my gym. Sometimes I just want to squat or do snatch triples! It never works because Tom has parents ears and I suck at whispering my secret agendas to my teammates. “Do your program Brandi!” is commonly yelled across the gym when I’m up to shenanigans. That’s fun but Tom doesn’t live with me and I don’t have a chef doing all my cooking. So when I “occasionally” want snacks, no one is yelling at me to stay on my meal plan. I can’t expect to have the amount of accountability I prefer all the time. I have to want my goals more than I want truffle chocolate brownies or mexican coke. If I want to stop getting stuck in the Power position of my Snatch, I have to do my mobility work every day. At a certain level of anything we all do, self responsibility will be the defining factor of our success or failure.
It’s great that I care about everyone being proud of me but it’s not good enough. I know where my achilles heel of this journey is. I’m going to do great at the AO2 because I train like it. My lifts won’t be perfect because there’s always something to work on. I hit two important personal records this week, the first in months; that’s how to trust the process; do your program!
Come Join Brandi and the rest of the PFP Squad !
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This weekend we had 7 lifters including myself attend ECG camp in Virginia beach. Over the next few weeks I will be posting the things that each one of us got from our experience at camp. Brandi breaks down her experience at ECG's Add to the Atmosphere camp !
Get Comfortable being Uncomfortable
I love listening to my coach talk. Which is a good thing since he loves talking, but what’s more, what he has to say is full of experience and wisdom in this sport we love. Over the past few weeks though, I’d grown exhausted of hearing him talk about the East Coast Gold Weightlifting team! Ever since my coach, Tom, has begun working with Phil Sabatini, he’s seen growth in his own weightlifting progress and in how he trains our Barbell Club at PFP. Tom came back from the Nationals competition on fire as a coach and athlete. I was so proud of him and proud to follow his leadership but I had to see for myself what the hype was all about.
Next Stop: Virginia Beach
I signed up for the Add to the Atmosphere weightlifting camp excited to meet the people who’d inspired my coach. I’m someone who gets nervous about meeting new people, following new leadership and fitting in after I’ve already become comfortable with my own group. Once Tom, Maggie, Marisa and I arrived to our weekend house, we took a night time walk along the beach and suddenly, I wasn’t worried anymore. I’m competing in the American Open Series 2 in a few weeks. I thought about my training, I thought about questions I wanted to ask the new coaches and let my fears drift away with the water.
Set the Tone
Arriving at camp the next day, we got straight to work. The temperature in Virginia Beach was Hell degrees, so we were pretty loose but that didn’t stop Jake, the physical therapist from further warming us up. I remember the days when my warm up was five minutes, so glad I changed that bad habit or else I wouldn’t have been ready for the twenty minute primer Jake had planned! The snatch was first. “Great!” I thought, the Snatch is my favorite lift, it’d surely be a confidence booster, “I do these in my sleep!” Boy, was I wrong. Brendan McDaniel was the first to challenge me. “More control at the top! You’re all legs!” I smirked because this was something Tom has said to me countless times in our own gym. Brendan proceeded to show me what I was doing versus what he wanted to see then he gave me cues I hadn’t heard before and stood there until I got it right. It was an intense evening with lots of feedback and countless reps. By the time we left, I was dismayed and elated that we’d be back early the next morning to do it again.
The next morning came the Clean and Jerk. I’m not going to lie, this lift and I have issues, it doesn’t like me and barely I tolerate it. The one redeeming quality of this lift is that I Power Jerk instead of Split Jerking. I feel like a bro using all this jargon but if you’re keeping up, stick with me. I Power Jerk because I don’t have the balance for the Split Jerk, it’s too much to think about with the amount of weight I can get into the overhead position with. I was explaining this as a bunch of us were sitting on the bench talking shop when Leo Totten walks in and sits with us. Marisa, my own team mate, blurts out to Leo, “Make Brandi Split Jerk!” I declare that I don’t do that causing Leo to ask why not. I begin to tell him what my issues were when he interjects, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I began to respond when he looks me squarely in the eye and repeats it. I was silenced. He wasn’t being tongue and cheeky, he meant it and I knew it.
I joined my team on our platform and began working on the Clean and Jerk. I started splitting but as the weight got heavier, I reverted back to the Power Jerk. “These are heavy now. I have to do what I like so that they see how much weight I can move.” I thought, “They’ll only respect me if I’m lifting heavy, I can’t lift heavy and think about my feet splitting. I’ll be a joke!” I worried. Every doubtful thought I could think rang out in my mind each time it became my turn. I’d hoped Leo didn’t see, but the other coaches would so that they’d be happy with my performance. As I came into the 85% range when I typically lose confidence, I approached the bar, set up as usual and Power Jerked as if my life depended on it. I dropped the bar, proud of myself for not letting fear cause me to press out, when I looked up and Leo was in my face again. “Is there some reason why you’re not Split Jerking like I told you to?” I blinked. “I can’t get that much weight over my head from the split.” I confessed. “Then drop the weight, take it from the top. You’re split jerking this weekend. Do it again, let’s see it.” Leo stood there, arms folded across his chest, I split Jerked with an empty bar for the rest of the session. I was crushed.
Believe the Hype
For the rest of the weekend, my body took a brutal beating but my mind took an bigger one. I listened and watched everything. These coaches acknowledged what was right about my efforts, broke down what was wrong with them and showed me how to build. I felt their investment with every instruction, with every demonstration and every cheer of support when I overcame a challenge. Leo’s session on goal changing exposed a lot of changes I can make in my life off the platform that totals greater success on it. I took so many notes and replayed the conversations and advice given to me by Brendan, Nicole, Joe and Walt. In one weekend, I became a believer in this community and what it gives to its’ members.
The hype is this: without the minds and respect of the people; ones leadership is futile. I’m an everyday weightlifter but after being taught by the coaches of East Coast Gold, I see what ignitured Tom. I see why he’s more than an average lifter like me and I look forward to being deconstructed and built back up by him and the rest these coaches. I’m grateful for a coach that is tireless in finding new ways to make himself and our team better. Pittsburgh Fitness Projects Barbell Club is the real deal and thank you to everyone at East Coast Gold for embracing like me, without question or judgment. I look forward to adding even more to the atmosphere wherever we go and until we meet again.
If you're interested joining a team dedicated to your success, growth , and progress in weightlifting email :
This weekend we had 7 lifters including myself attend ECG camp in Virginia beach. Over the next few weeks I will be posting the things that each one of us got from our experience at camp. Gerald will be sharing his top three things he learned during his camp experience !
1. Positive Mental Attitude.
Don't beat myself up over missed lifts. Keeping a good mindset and visualizing the lift is key for top athletes. Mental strength is just as important as physical strength.
2. Be Coachable and Listen Carefully.
The key to your lifts can be with anyone. Even though i had several different eyes watching me saying the same tip, it was worded differently by everyone. One specific phrasing was all it took for the cue to finally click. If I let myself get frustrated and uncoachable i would not have learned as much.
3. Take Notes and Re-Read: Have a mental checklist.
With all the fatigue from multiple sessions i quickly started to revert to old habits. They started repeating cues I had heard and I was wasting energy and valuable attempts. I quickly ran to my notebook, reread and played catch up to practice what had been fixed already. Forward progress! I know have a mental checklist on what I aim to correct for each lift which has really helped reinforce what has been corrected.
If you're interested joining a team dedicated to your success, growth , and progress in weightlifting email :
This weekend we had 7 lifters including myself attend ECG camp in Virginia beach. Over the next few weeks I will be posting the things that each one of us got from our experience at camp. Andre will be sharing his camp experience
This past weekend, along with six others from the PFP Barbell team, I attended the East Coast Gold “Add to the Atmosphere” Weightlifting Camp in Virginia Beach. After seeing the agenda, I think we all knew it was not going to be an easy weekend but I know I underestimated how much “embrace the grind” would be needed.
First off, it was hot! The gym had no A/C, which isn’t much a surprise but it wasn’t something I considered while planning. I spent about 10 years living the Hampton Roads, VA area and I am certainly familiar with the Summertime humidity but my workout “uniform” is sweatpants and a sweatshirt and has been for several years now. I knew it would be hot but since I didn’t consider the possibility of a gym with no A/C, I simply brought what I normally exercise in.
The camp started on Friday evening, which is when I drove down from Pittsburgh. Even during the evening time, simply put, that first session was grueling. Of course, being the first session, everyone (including myself) was “full of piss and vinegar.” It was chaotic, electric and exhausting right from the start. My “sweatsuit” gained immediate attention which, ironically, is the opposite of its purpose (which is simplicity). During this first session, I decided I was going to exercise being comfortable with discomfort.
This idea of being comfortable while uncomfortable came up in a conversation between Coach Leo and a teammate of mine. Thinking back, although I was not directly involved in the discussion, I think this talk planted a seed which helped me stay motivated on several occasions during the weekend.
Because a ripped callus can affect training, I usually take care of my hands. I was proud of the fact that it had been close to a year since I had a callus tear. Well, referring back to the chaos and “piss and vinegar” during the first session, I was lifting without any chalk (not sure it would have helped anyway) and mid-session of the very first day of lifting, my hand was torn. I was annoyed but knew I couldn’t let me affect me too much. We finished that first session on Friday and I was totally exhausted.
On Saturday, we had three full sessions to work through. After the one session on Friday evening, I wasn’t sure how this was going to be possible. We got some rest and showed up Saturday morning. We were all moving a bit sluggish at first but amazingly, after stretching out and warming up, I felt ok to start our first session on Saturday. One of the coaches said it shouldn’t be as high-paced as the first session but after starting session two, it felt a whole lot like the first session.. Hot, grueling and my hands continued to get worse. As miserable as it was, during the first two sessions, the outstanding coaching staff provided couple of weightlifting queues that were immediately useful. I knew the pain was worth it.
We continued the cycle of finishing a session and wondering how continuing could even be possible. It was so hot, our hands were smoked, we ached all over.. Somehow, it just happened. I finished the weekend with a wealth of things to work on and am excited to continue
growth in the sport. Sure, quitting crossed my mind more times than I’d like to admit but I like getting to that place every now and then. It’s where I continue to learn about myself.
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This weekend we had 7 lifters including myself attend ECG camp in Virginia beach. Over the next few weeks I will be posting the things that each one of us got from our experience at camp. Marisa Galli is going to kick things off!
The East Coast Gold Training Camp held 6 sessions over the span of 3 days. Over 40 athletes and coaches traveled to the ECG Headquarters in Virginia Beach for a sweaty and tiring weekend. Why would anyone subject themselves to training that much when they could be at the beach instead? To an outsider, this might seem excessive. But ask any weightlifter there and they would tell you the same thing – it was well worth it.
For me, this was my first experience actually getting to meet the entire ECG team. Other than meeting Brendan and Erin when they stopped by PFP a few months back, I hadn’t met any of the other coaches there and was excited to hear different feedback and learn from their years of experience. Although I had expected to learn a lot, the camp was so much more than just coaching and fixing lifts.
Most of the PFP team left Pittsburgh on Thursday morning – it took us about 7-8 hours altogether with stops to get down to Virginia. After stopping at the scenic Bojangles, we were ready for a walk on the beach. We were able to soak up some sun on Friday morning before heading into the first session later that evening.
To kick off the camp, East Coast Gold founder Leo Totten and president Phil Sabatini spoke to the group and explained their vision for the weekend. It would consist of various explanations, different complexes, and common errors to work on reasons why most people were missing their lifts. We also went over different warm ups, mobility exercises, visualization training in addition to a full workload of lifting. Several other coaches helped out to work one on one with every athlete. The best part about camp was receiving feedback from every coach – they each had a different eye and a unique way of explaining things. It gave me a new way to identify where I was making mistakes and a new perspective on how to fix it. For me personally, I have a problem with the third pull and transitioning under the bar, my starting position, and my receiving position in the jerk. Each coach worked with my and gave me different cues on how to improve. After the first session was over a bunch of the athletes and coaches met up for dinner and got to know each other! It was awesome to get to build friendships with people that are so passionate about the same thing I am who just want to get better/help others.
After a good night’s rest, we got to the gym on Saturday morning for a long day. There were 3 full sessions on Saturday; we had about a 2-hour break in between sessions but we started lifting at 10 and didn’t end until 8. Lots of sweat and snacks later we finally finished all 3 sessions. Saturday night a bunch of the lifters and coaches hung around and had a “Pennsylvania beer tasting”. Phil and Brendan ordered pizza and wings and we all sat around talking, laughing, and tasting only the finest beers of Pennsylvania – Iron City (light and regular), Rolling Rock, Victory, and Yeungling. It was honestly hysterical – everyone got along so well it was like we were already lifelong friends. Although I loved every second of the lifting, hanging out with everyone was one of my favorite parts about camp.
Everyone was pretty fatigued by Sunday’s sessions but this was the day we finally got to push the weight more than any other day. We tested power snatches and front squat doubles! Surprisingly, I PRed both lifts even though I thought my hands were going to fall off. Everyone was pretty tired but the atmosphere was so electric that we were all hyped up to keep lifting. At some point or another we all just stopped and watched one person lift and cheered them on. It was so inspiring to see everyone not just hit max percentages but also look so technical while doing it.
After a long weekend, camp finally came to an end. It’s hard to put into words how much I learned and how incredible the whole experience was. Everyone who came to camp was so willing to put in the work and implement the feedback despite how fatiguing 6 sessions in 3 days was. Other than that, meeting the team and making friendships was just the icing on the cake. Every athlete got the same kind of treatment from all of the coaches no matter if they were a beginner, intermediate, or elite lifter. I’ve never met a more supportive and passionate group of people until this weekend.
So, what’s next?
I’m currently training for the American Open Series II in Valley Forge at the end of July along with several other lifters from PFP and ECG. I’m excited to use what I worked on at camp and keep getting better and hopefully hit some new PRs in the near future!
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