Growing Up Oly....Part 1

Growing Up Oly, Part 1…

I had originally written this post about seven years ago for a blog called “70’s Big”.  70’s big was an old school original blog about lifting for dudes, and their description of dudes was any grown male over 200lbs. LOL! I hope that will give you a better idea of what this blog was about.  At the time, my friend Ellie and I were trying to make lifting and curves COOL for ladies, so we did a few guest posts. #beforeourtime

I read the original version and thought, “OH MY! Did I write that? My, how times have changed!”  I’ve edited it a little bit and kept it to the early days of my lifting, family life, and where my love for lifting sort of began.  I’m planning on writing a few more parts of my story, but below is part 1.

“Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to grow up in a strong, loving, and quintessential “70’s Big” community since birth.  While we did not define it as 70’s Big, but looking back I think we can describe it as such.  This is a story about growing up in the strength world.

One of my earliest memories from childhood is from my play pen.  I remember sitting there watching my mom pound away at the stationary bicycle.  She was working on her six pack and getting ready for her next bodybuilding competition.  I remember watching a lot of squats.  Big squats.  Powerlifting style with large men grunting, steel plates and bars banging against the floor and the racks.  I remember my dad kicking a hole through the gym wall after a heavy squat.  I remember my brother and I would scooting our big wheels through our garage gym while friends of my parents would do endless pullups, deadlifts, and bicep curls.  Yes, I grew up in a powerlifting and bodybuilding gym.

My father Scott Safe (founder of Safe USA and coach of Team Cannon Weightlifting) learned from years of dealing with his own back pain and agony that competitive powerlifting was probably not the best way to train for sport or health.  He knew that there must have been a better way to train for young athletes; like my brother and myself.  It was then he fell in love with Olympic lifting.  He knew that my brother and I could use the sport of weightlifting to better our athletic careers.  And that’s where my weightlifting story begins…

As my father held an inventory for his weightlifting supply store, my brother and I would have free reign to the bars and plates in the shop after school.  I remember starting to play with the “kid bar” around the age of nine and thinking how empowering it was to power snatch.  I absolutely loved how loud and annoying I could be.  My father would say, “Okay that looks good, now try to take that snatch into the squat!”  I would practice this after school until the age of ten when I decided that it was time to do my first weightlifting meet; The Minnesota LWC Open at a YWCA in Minneapolis.  I was ready to show off my 20kg snatch with perfect technique, all the way into the squat!  I stepped on the platform and completely FORGOT about the squat.  My dad had told me prior to the meet that if I did not squat the weight, the judges would give me red lights.  Of course, that is not truth, but he wanted me to lift correctly and I did not know any better. 

After my first snatch which I POWERED right up I said, “Hey dad, they gave it to me and I didn’t even have to squat!”  He laughed and told me that I was correct and that he was just trying to get me to do it better than the other girls.  Then, of course, I squat snatched from that moment on.  Must be better than the other girls!

[OK – my 2018 self needs to interrupt – I realize how silly it sounds that I needed to be better than the other girls.  I actually believe that this type of thinking is what got me into a lot of trouble mentally later in life.  I realize now, that the only person I needed to be better than was the previous version of MYSELF.  How silly, silly, I was!]

Speaking of, I remember showing up at meets and thinking that I needed to show these other girls what I was made of.  I would literally be as loud as possible with the bar and my feet while warming up.  (I realize that you should not be jumping and stomping, but you have to realize that my thinking as a teen was not about having perfect technique.)   I’m not sure if my intimidation tactics worked or not, but I always got a lot of looks.  HA!

In high school, we always had a large competitive weightlifting team coached by my father and his friends.  One of my biggest influences was my brother Nate and his circle of friends, all of which were excellent lifters!  Not many girls wanted to lift with me, but the guys would always let me play.  I would watch my brother finish his pull and explosively land the heaviest weights with ease.  I would play copycat.  I will credit having good technique to years of watching my brother and his friends and learning from them.  It also proves how important it is to have good training partners and people to look up to and watch.

After my brother graduated high school, he moved to Fargo to play football for North Dakota State University.  He used his strength and power to become one of the best college left tackles in the nation.  After he left, I struggled with my training.  I didn’t want to lift and I did not feel that training was fun or inspiring anymore.  I still ended up competing nationally and doing the Olympic trials for weightlifting in 2004, but I never felt the same about lifting.  During the Olympic trials I acquired a bad case of Mono and was out for months after.”

I’m going to cut the story off here for now.  I plan on sharing Part 2 of my story next, which is an interesting journey through collegiate lifting, group exercise (oh yeah!), and young adulthood in Chicago.  Until then!