Weightlifting isn’t the type of sport I imagined to be easy. I’ve never put down my book of an evening, kicked off my slippers and thought, I know, I’ll take up Olympic weightlifting for the night. It looks tough and physically punishing – even the professionals sometimes seem like they’d rather be standing barefoot on a plug than straining beneath the burden of those massive hunks of metal.
I didn’t, however, imagine weightlifting to be so, well, finicky.
On my first visit to Kilmarnock Amateur Weightlifting Club on Saturday, I watched in awe as what were truly athletes – men and women alike – pushed weights up and over their bodies as though gravity deferred to their superior physiques. From the safety of a corner of the well-equipped gym, I winced and flinched, jumping each time the juddering weights reconnected with the floor, hoping with all my puny might that the ceiling of the hall below was made of sterner stuff than my nerves.
Yes, I was my usual edgy, awkward mess of a bystander – and would have been a lot worse had the club’s members and coach, Charlie Hamilton, not been so receptive and welcoming, even though I was clearly lumbering through what should have been their private training space. Throughout a workout that would have made Bruce Banner wince, they found the energy to chat to and encourage this self-confessed weakling in their midst.
And then it was my turn. Three of the club’s high-achieving female weightlifters took the time – and considerable patience – required to show me the basics. But ‘basics’ makes it sound easy, and it’s not, even with an empty bar and expert coach on hand. The basics are technical and detailed, and difficult for me to remember all at once. If my hands were in the right position, my knees were too close together; when I checked my footing, my balance would falter. Bringing it all together at the same time was beyond me, and that was without the added stress of weights bearing on my mind and my joints.
But I tried and (hopefully) improved and, pleased with what I had learned, left the world of weightlifting after two hours with a small sense of achievement and some practice exercises to try using household objects before next week’s lesson.
It seems that in weightlifting, as in life, everything has its place – and mine, for the moment, is beneath a wobbling broom shaft in the comfort of my living room.
Olympian Peter Kirkbride passing on some weightlifting tips