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Change of Pace

2020: Year that was not — but memorable for sure

Powering up competitive bodybuilding fitness goals until pandemic, life got in way
By Holly Vanorse Spicer | Dec 31, 2020

This was supposed to be the year I donned a new hat. Became proficient in a new skill that tested my mettle.

This was the year my son started kindergarten, and as the result, I would have a little more time to myself.

I was going to step back on the competition platform. Albeit a different one that I was used to as someone who had a decade-plus-long run as a powerlifter, and, in a new age bracket (masters), but a platform the same.

In September 2018, I stepped away from powerlifting. It was not filling my cup anymore, and I had reached my goal of a 700-pound platform total. I had no further goals in powerlifting, and it had lost its luster.

A little over a year later, in December 2019, I took up weightlifting. The kind you see in the Olympic stage in athletes Lu Xiaojun, Lasha Talakhadze, Sarah Robles, or Lidia Valentin.

Of course, my powerlifting family had jabs for me.

CrossFit, which gained worldwide popularity over the years, employs the Olympic lifts of the snatch, and the clean and jerk. CrossFit gets a pretty bad rap being the “new kid,” despite metabolic conditioning having been a part of the fitness industry for decades.

I had friends in strongman, did I want to venture there? Leading one into the other was always the most linear path. I enjoyed training in that style — strongman — but I did not feel called to it.

What about bodybuilding? Given, nearly 20 years before, that was where I started before making the move to powerlifting, I was not jumping up and down to return there. It was not my thing then, it was not now.

I had been following Kris Pope, Sarabeth Jumper, Quiana Welch, Robles, Katherine Nye, and Mattie Rogers for quite some time on Instagram. All competed on the weightlifting platform, and watching the beauty in the technique of the lifts, I felt that tug.

I actually can say it was the sound of that bar whip in the lifts that hypnotized me into grabbing hold of that 25-millimeter bar, and going for it.

So I did the smart thing, and recognizing even with my background, and experience as a personal trainer, I knew absolutely nothing about weightlifting. I got a coach, and began working my way through technique primers, and learning the lifts.

Thankfully, long before Pandemic Home Gyms suddenly populated something like one in every three houses of a neighborhood, I already had been doing the home gym gig five years.

When gyms closed, and when daycares temporarily shuttered, I was still able to continue my training.

In late February, my coach asked what my ultimate goal was? Did I just want to do these lifts as a workout, every day? Or did I want something else?

I wanted to compete. Even if it was only small-scale competitions, small hometown meets, or fundraising meets, I just wanted to get on a platform before the judges, and go six for six.

I found a competition that would be doable given my work sports schedules with the different seasons, and the potential need to do travel to get there.

In July, the Bay State Weightlifting competition in Massachusetts was slated for a weekend in the middle of the month. Perfect timing in my work schedule of the summer baseball, and softball seasons.

Training went on, and we began planning a summer of fun as a family as well.

With no longer having the cost of daycare, the world was going to be our oyster in 2020. Trips to see family in other states, and other countries were being planned. Trekking to Foxborough to see the New England Revolution for the first time in six years was on the plate.

Then suddenly, the bottom of the fun bucket dropped out.

March came rushing in, and along with it — a global pandemic, caused by COVID-19.

Competitions in strength sports suddenly were canceled, or postponed.

Trips were canceled, or postponed.

We found ourselves turning on the metaphorical highway, and heading back to the roads that had been so familiar the past five years. Sticking close to home, doing the work, eat, sleep, repeat cycle.

In the spring, on a whim, I got my son on the hiking trails near our house. Something to pass the days, and get us safely out of the house until it was warm enough to start what we call "beach season."

I have no idea how many miles overall we trekked in spring of 2020, but I know it was quite a bit, as my son enjoyed every second of exploration on those trails.

My snowbird personal-training clients sheltered in place, which left my summer empty of juggling a work schedule with sports, my client schedule, and still have time for family moments.

Local sports ran on a brief, modified schedule. Which left a little more emptiness.

That empty quickly was filled with extra beach trips, far more than our twice weekly on the regular schedule. A lot of sea glass, dozens of sprawling sandcastles, hermit crabs, jelly fish, sand dollars, and even a star fish.

Games of eye spy, or scavenger hunts on walks around our neighborhood.

More kayaking adventures, and new fishing excursions. My son even learned to paddle my kayak in Hosmer Pond on one of those steamy days.

Somewhere along the summer adventures, I learned through my coach that my competition lost its venue. The original host, understandably, no longer felt comfortable having even just the competitors, and handlers. Suddenly, the future of the competition was shrouded in doubt.

That was my sign to take this as a learning year. I withdrew from the competition.

2020 was not going to be the year I became a master’s athlete. Maybe that will be 2021, or maybe I will have to wait until 2022 to don that title. I do not know. I have my eyes on that horizon, waiting for my opportunity.

2020 became a different year.

While a lot of it looked the same as the last half decade, it felt considerably different.

Every moment felt a little extra special. Every adventure felt a little more adventurous. Every sandcastle felt a little more, more. Our sea glass jar tells a different story, a year of beaches just down the road instead of all over.

I do not know if it also was because it would be the year my son started kindergarten, but every time an extra anything: moment of free time, day to hit the beach, day to hike, paddle, fish, play in the yard, it was seized in our hands without a second thought, and soaked up as though we were thirsty sponges.

We held on to those days as long as we could.

Eventually school started, and that presented a new juggling act, paired with a brief, modified high school fall sports season. The days got shorter, and colder. The pandemic still blankets every day life, and looks to do so awhile longer.

Beach, and fishing days have been swapped for craft days, Lego days, science experiments, and dino digs.

2020 may not have looked anything like we had planned at the onset, but we still took it in stride, made the best of it, and have 365 new memories of those times.

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