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It’s All About Leverage


 What’s on your bar?

I have a new understanding of the term “leverage” now, and I got it at the gym.

I’m referring to Carl and Sandra’s Gym, hidden away on the back side of DeVargas Mall in Santa Fe. I began training there in early January to recover from a fractured ankle, which I now consider one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I’ve worked out at fitness centers before, but Carl and Sandra’s Gym is a totally new experience. Established 30 years ago and as spacious as a warehouse, it is filled with an amazing array of equipment, all of which can be used in multiple ways. Every six weeks or so members get a new program guided by Carl Miller’s unique training philosophy, and the developing challenges steadily increase strength, dexterity, and balance.

Kim Alderwick

I derive extra benefit simply from watching some of the superb athletes who work out there, but I want to focus for the moment on two women. Coached by Shane Miller, Carl’s son, they have won numerous gold medals in American Masters Weightlifting Championships in Olympic-style weightlifting. One move is the snatch, a lift straight overhead from the floor. The other is the clean and jerk, and here the weights pause at the shoulders before the final lift. The sum of the two determines awards.

The two women could hardly be more different. Kim Alderwick (57) taught aerobics for decades before beginning to train at the gym in 1991. She moves with the carriage and grace of a dancer, model-slim with only 105 pounds on her 5’6” frame. At a November meet in Monrovia, California, she set a new national record with a 33-kilogram (72.6-pound) snatch and a 38-kilogram (83.6-pound) clean and jerk in her age group. Her long-term goal is to lift her body weight. Lordy.

And then there is Jodi Stumbo (46), who has also been working out at the gym three days a week since about 1998.  Jodi is 5’8” tall and weighs 158 pounds. At the Monrovia event, she set a new national record with an 81-kilogram clean and jerk (178.2 pounds). Her snatch was 67.3 kilograms (148 pounds).

How in the world do they do this?

Jodi, Kim, and Shane all three talk about the way the brain has to engage with a complex series of movements. “Brain power is the best muscle,” says Jodi. “This is all about physics, about leverage.” Even before she said that I had taken personal note of the intelligence evident in the athletes on the platform.

To do this, you have to know your body, assess what you have to work with (a long torso is better for the snatch; a long femur for the clean and jerk), train to enhance strength and balance, and then leverage your assets to maximum advantage. The brain must be tuning into a dozen factors with every effort, which proceeds only after a moment to get completely centered.

Both Kim and Jodi both say that when everything is right, the moment is effortless. I may have seen that a few times, and it is a thing of beauty.

Physics was never my strong suit, but I immediately grasped the larger significance of a little story Jodi told me. She has dark eyes and this level gaze that’s not intended to be intimidating but could be with the flip of a switch. She competed in team sports early on and has the athletic ability, the energy, and the focus of someone who was probably born to be a champion. Jodi trains some of the high school boys at the gym and one day inquired about whether they were comfortable with her telling them what to do.“No problem,” was the answer. “Look what you’ve got on your bar.”

Jodi Stumbo

I chuckled at the story, and that’s when my mind started to travel. I thought about the physical fitness and the confidence that manifest in the way both Jodi and Kim move and relate to people. In the two, one can see the way this training seems fully to have compensated for the lack of muscle and bulk that has always been kind of a psychic liability for the feminine.

I imagined how wonderful this program would be in preparing a young woman for leadership and an authoritative role in life. When the inevitable moment of challenge comes, she could square off with that level gaze that seems to inquire, “And what’s on your bar?

As for me, I will continue with my enjoyable routines and observe for the time being. On the other hand, I remember an exchange with Carl Miller one day. He came up to compliment me on the progress I was making. I thanked him and said “But I guess there are limits.”

“I’ll let you know,” he responded and walked away.

2 Responses to “It’s All About Leverage”

  1. Barbara McCarthy

    Thank you, as usual, for a wonderful piece. You seem to be able to put into words what I can think about, but can’t seem to articulate as well as you do.

    • celeryellen

      Muchas gracias, Barbara. Your encouragement is always greatly appreciated, but I loved listening to your comments on The Meadow today, the special way you have of seeing.

      Hope the rest of the week is wonderful for you.