Why I Clean and Jerk and You Should Snatch Too

Release your inner Schwarzenegger at DeVargas mall

As someone newly outfitted with a BA in liberal arts, I have to admit that the entirety of my fitness knowledge comes from magazine covers and Internet forums. The most heavy lifting I've done was carrying War and Peace around with me for a month. In short, I'm in no way fit to train myself. So this summer, when I decided that I was tired of being a weakling bookworm, I figured I'd try my hand at weightlifting. Only problem was, I had no idea where to start.

I found my answer when I was introduced to Olympic-style weightlifting at Carl and Sandra's Physical Conditioning Center (153 Paseo De Peralta, Ste. A, 982-6760). Owned and run by Carl Miller and his wife Sandra, the center is one of Santa Fe's best-kept secrets.

Upon meeting Carl Miller, any assumptions you might be tempted to make about the 73-year-old based solely on his age are most certainly false. Carl—a three-time national Olympic coach ranked first national coach in the country from years '73-'78 and the author of five books on the subject—is still practicing what he's been preaching for most of his life. The formidable man has not only trained Michael Jordan and Joe Montana, but also coached his way to four gold medals, "more than any team since 1960," he notes.

Olympic-style weightlifting consists of two lifts, the "clean and jerk" and the "snatch." Both are full-body lifts that involve moving a weighted barbell over your head. You need practice, patience and a good coach to properly master each lift.

"It takes speed, timing agility, flexibility, balance and strength throughout the whole body," Miller says when asked to describe the sport. "Young and old, the very fit and the people in bad shape can practice it. It is a total body developer and it's fun!"

I can attest from personal experience that it truly is fun. Rarely enjoying exercise, I found myself after my first session gushing to my patient friends about my experience. It makes you feel powerful and strong. You will be amazed at what you're able to accomplish.

OSL, or "the fourth dimension" as Carl refers to it, requires lifters to devote most, if not all, of their attention to their form, instead of how much weight they can lift or how loudly they can grunt. As a result, the lifts feel much more like an art than a mindless series of motions. Because of how much emphasis is placed on form, anyone, in any shape, is capable of executing and benefiting from the moves.

Carl and Sandra's gym isn't special just because of their focus on Olympic-style lifting; they create fitness and nutritional programs and train each of their members personally. In addition to OSL, they also have a variety of programs to fit everyone's fitness goals. The ages of gym members range from 20 to 70 years old and you often see people with several decades between them sharing the lifting platform. Instead of just focusing on the cosmetic effects of exercise, Carl and Sandra's uses their happy and clearly satisfied members as advertisements for the health benefits of their program. Both owners believe that fitness should be a lifelong journey and do all they can to create a community where members want to keep coming back year after year.

"See it; try it under a good trainer," Carl advises those who are thinking about getting involved in the sport. "As you get better experience, you will gain confidence and you will see the results. Train in a friendly atmosphere, where progress is wanted for all and it's fun."

After spending a summer doing just that, I assure you that not only can I now lift more than just the classics. Instead, I have a newfound addiction I won't be giving up anytime soon.

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