Can YOU Do a 10K? Not Running, Weightlifting

Melanie Roach

10,000 hours.  Or roughly 10 years.  That’s about how long it takes to become an elite level athlete in nearly every sport.

Gwen Sisto posted a great piece on exactly this issue on his blog Gwen Weightlifting.  He makes the following points:

Even more importantly, factual case studies show that one only needs a minimal level of talent to become, say, Olympic Champion. What makes one greater than competitors is the amount of additional work and practice you have had. In sports, music, business, or academia, their are thousands, millions of talented people; the difference between mediocre, good, and great is the great people had unique opportunities that allowed them to put in the 10,000 hours to be the best.

Per Popov’s comments in Bulgaria — all you need to be a good lifter is (1) the ability to do a full squat, (2) rack a bar in a clean, (3) ability to do an overhead squat— the rest is a function of who has the opportunity and desire to put in the 10000 hours or roughly ten years of hard training.

Consistent, hard training is paramount above all other factors– age, perceived talent, etc.

These comments jive exactly with not only my philosophy of weightlifting, but with my philosophy of life.

Lots of coaches in all sports are obsessed with finding the next young star.  Youth is key, they think.  After 20, it’s too late.

That’s just bullshit.

I think the United States Weightlifting community needs to focus on building an “older” population of elite lifters.  Let’s be honest, Olympic Weightlifting is a pain in the ass (literally!).  It takes months just to be able to do full cleans and full snatches without falling over.  It takes years to be lifting anything substantial.  And it is repetitive as hell (MORE snatches, clean and jerks, and front squats).

Does any of that sound like the kind of thing a teenager is going to get into?  I don’t think so.  They want quick, now, hurry up! … what was I doing?

Once a person gets into their 20’s  they’re starting to mellow out.  They’re learning the power of consistency.  And they don’t mind putting in long hours, and long years, toward a goal post that keeps moving on them.

If you are 25, and you begin Olympic Weightlifting today, then when you’re 35, you’ll be remarkable.  You may or may not be ready for the Olympics, but regardless, you’ll be outstanding.  Take a look at Melanie Roach.  She’s 34 and has 3 kids, and she made it to the Olympics.

If you’re 35 today, you’ll likely be just as strong at 45 as most competitive lifters in their 20’s.  You’ll probably still qualify for the Open Nationals.  And you’ll have the body of a Greek God.

If you’re 45 today or older, then in 10 years you can be competing at the Masters World Championships.  You’ll be stronger, faster, and better conditioned than most high school football players.  And unlike you’re peers, you’ll feel strong and vibrant because you will actually be strong and vibrant.

When I’m 65, I plan on having a 500 pound back squat.  I think that’s a low ball figure. Why, cause I’ve got 35 years to train for it.

Time, it’s on your side.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by sb4life on October 24, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Thanks for this post.

    I am a 36-year old who started crossfit six months ago and is trying to learn Olympic weightlifting because I love the explosiveness. Unfortunately, learning to clean correctly is maddening. This gives me hope that its possible.


    • I’m glad you found this post helpful. At 36, you’re young as hell. You’ve got a lot of time to improve, get stronger, faster, and more athletic. Keep at it, and don’t let anyone discourage you. I’ve got people on my team quite a bit older than you, one of whom holds a number of state records (and didn’t start till she was in her 40’s).

      As for the clean. Yes, indeed. A total pain at first. Everyone talks about how tough it is to Snatch–and it is. But, after you learn how to overhead squat correctly (and are no longer afraid of it!), then the next big battle is getting low under a clean. This is true especially for men and women who have a lot of upper body strength.

      Men are rarely as flexible to begin with as women, and the least flexible part of their body is their wrists. So even just racking a bar is tough. I remember when I started, it took a good solid month to be able to hold a front squat without pain.

      Getting low is another issue. You’re learning to explode with maximal force … but that just makes it even harder to get under the bar! Don’t worry, these problems and more are VERY common. Keep hammering away it.

      I am planning on posting soon about exactly this issue–what it takes to get over the beginners hump in the clean. So, check back often as it might help you out.


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