As a strength coach and strength sports enthusiast, my day-to-day life is governed by numbers. Mostly how much weight was on the bar, how many times did I lift it, or how long did it take – A profession and a hobby mostly governed by a ‘total’.
As a person, however my life is governed by a different total: the sum total of experiences.
I was recently presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, both as a coach, as an aspiring athlete, and as a person. I had the opportunity to travel across the world, meet the people I try to emulate on a daily basis, learn from them, train with them, and equip myself with the tools necessary to take my lifting and coaching to a whole new level. It was an entire weekend with legends of strength sports, nutrition, and rehabilitation under the one roof and completely at my disposal.
In a nutshell, I was presented with the opportunity to become unstoppable.
What do you do when presented with something like this? If you love winning and have any sense of self worth you book flights, pack your bags and count your blessings.
While Ireland and California are geographically and culturally very far apart, there is common ground where the hospitality of the strength community is concerned. Our weekend began on Friday evening with an introductory dinner at a local BBQ restaurant with a veritable “who’s who” of the world of strength where the JTS coaches, athletes and an all-star attendee list made introductions over large quantities of protein-rich food, exchanged war stories over a casual drink, and acclimatised to Southern California by keeping the kitchen staff on high alert until the last strip of beef was gone.
BUS3 officially began the following morning at Crossfit Tustin, a fantastic facility in Southern California and training home of Juggernaut’s own Chad Wesley Smith. Having seen his training videos it was surreal standing there by the power rack where records are currently under construction. Nothing fancy, just a power bar and a safe haven for heavy lifting tucked neatly into the back of the weightlifting area. The simplicity of the gym is testament to the Juggernaut philosophy – simple effective training executed with, for the most part, the barbell. I knew straight away that this was going to be a lot of fun.
After being introduced to the entire Juggernaut family, BUS3 began with a talk on the five pillars of raw powerlifting success by Juggernaut figureheads Chad Wesley Smith and Brandon Lilly – They spoke on core issues: from the importance of training specificity to the necessity of redefining your expectations. We were also encouraged, among other things to have some perspective. While lifting weights may, in part, define you as a person it does not make you a bad ass. Life will throw things at you that will challenge you in ways a barbell never can so appreciate that the few hours a week you have in the gym are a luxury and make the best of it. It was a valuable life lesson from guys who have triumphed through adversity to reach the pinnacle of the sport, and a refreshing reminder that even at the very top of the food chain success is rarely, if ever, an accident.
Darkside Strength opened the door to whole new world of movement. One of the guys I met that weekend exclaimed after seeing their approach, ‘I suck so bad at breathing it’s a miracle I don’t die every day. That’s what I learned’. My pelvic floor and my diaphragm also had the chance to meet face to face for the first time in 32 years – they have promised to keep in contact since and their relationship now looks like helping me set some PRs on the platform myself.
Mike Israetel let us all know that carbs are still cool (thanks Mike!) and that there are far more enjoyable things you can do with your coffee instead of using it to deflect bullets (which is unlikely to work even in the best circumstances anyway). Perspective is a wonderful, if sometimes humbling, experience!
Sean Waxman let us all know where our lifts stood in relation to the rest of the competitive weightlifting community. It filled me with great pride to know that I possess the strength for a bright future in weightlifting provided I can somehow compete as a 56kg girl.
Alex Viada then blew the lid off energy systems training, with parallels from the day before in the necessity of specificity, periodization, and balls of steel.
Attendees had a chance to work with the JTS coaches and athletes at a series of stations between lectures, each manned by experts in their field from powerlifting and weightlifting movements, to corrective exercises and rehab/prebabilitation protocols. Each was an opportunity to refine techniques, test PRs and pick the brains of the best that the strength industry has to offer. On more than one occasion I found myself stepping back and just taking stock of the situation – here’s me, a guy from Ireland squatting with Blaine Sumner (I promise to tighten up my upper back I swear), benching with Greg Panora (now with a grip that isn’t going to tear my pec directly off) and deadlifting with Brandon Lilly. This, to make the understatement of the century, was not your average day at the office.
On reflection, while I have had the privilege over the past number of years to learn from some of the brightest minds the strength industry has to offer across Europe and beyond, never before have I had the opportunity to meet experts from such a diverse array of backgrounds and skill sets under the one roof.
BUS3 was totally unique in that regard.
This line up included guys and girls that literally define what strength is, what it should be all about, and (most importantly) represent the many facets that encompass training success. The training, programming, associated nutrition, and mobility expertise transcends specific sports and feeds into athletic prowess in all its forms. Ignore one and watch yourself fall short of your goals, put them together and watch yourself redefine expectations. I truly believe all strength (equipped powerlifting to CrossFit) should be respected and celebrated, and the knowledge that underpins it should be shared.
That is what BUS3 was all about.
While two months ago I was aware of the Juggernaut community for their achievements, two months later, through this shared endeavour to become unstoppable, I can call these world class athletes friends. That speaks to the core of what this community represents.
As a fan, I got to meet my heroes.
As a professional, I networked with industry leaders.
On a personal level, I made some great friends.
Some (of many) take home points for me are that when you put all these things together you are in far more control of your training and lifestyle choices than you probably think. Simple options are often the most effective, and paralysis by analysis will derail even the best of athletes intentions. We must learn to breathe, we are probably doing it wrong twenty thousand times a day. We don’t learn to move faster and more forcefully by just trying harder. We do it by learning how to relax and move properly. The strongest, most passionate and most successful guys and girls are just normal people who, like any one of us, just love lifting things, sweating and challenging the boundaries of their physicality. If you aspire to be the best it might just happen… but it won’t be by accident.
So since, like me, your life is probably governed by metrics, let’s look at the numbers:
More memories then I can count
Lots of new friends
20,000 corrected breathes a day
A 17,000km round trip,
1 total success of a weekend
If that isn’t a PR I don’t know what is. Was it worth the trip? Ask me at the next one, I’ll be in the corner under a bar having the time of my life.