Hello! You are probably here to read about my story of a nobody who enjoys the process of coaching turning into a powerlifting coach. You may have already read some bits and pieces that I have shared on my Instagram, so if you are here, I hope this story does not bore you.
Over time, on weekends, I also started coaching my close friends for free as I found pleasure in problem-solving training methodology, enhancing performance and increasing my knowledge of individual differences. The friends are those that I have made in Toa Payoh Safra when I was interning there. I helped them with their training and nutrition to help them have a complete body recomposition. I simply experimented with a simple progression scheme with 3 accumulated weeks and 1 down week, pushing their training hard while increasing their daily caloric intake. Coaching was fun and fulfilling! And that was when I slowly started to accumulate my coaching experience and knowledge.
My first competition – SPO’14
The high from winning made me obsessed with powerlifting and led me down a slippery slope. Right after the meet, I set my eyes on SPO’15 and resumed training aggressively. No Pain, No Gain, right? That was when the greed of success took over. Without any regard, I forced myself through a deadlift training session which resulted in a pop in my lower back and caused me to experience immense pain. But being young, dumb and meathead, that did not stop me from squatting for the next eight weeks, which only made the injury worse. No surprise there. The injury prevented me from training my lower body for six months.
Since I couldn’t train properly for SPO’15, I shifted my goals to SPI’15 as I would like to compete one last time before enlisting into the two years of mandatory service. Once the pain mostly dissipated, I started doing Front Squat and Romanian Deadlift specifically for my lower body as these movements did not aggravate the pain. It helped me get into the groove of training again. Until about 20 weeks out from SPI’15, I was finally able to perform my usual training routine.
My first international competition – Asians Powerlifting Championship’17
During enlistment, I lost all my drive to exercise as many guys would. I did not start lifting again until I was posted to a unit that allowed me to book out daily. On the bright side, the lack of lifting forced me to do a tough reset and it was a good reflection for me – Enjoy the process rather than the outcome. Day in and out through my NS life, I booked out and started training by 7 pm and ended my training at 9-10 pm and only reached home by 11 pm. It was tiring but it was well worth it because I get to do the thing I love.
The fruit of my labour was shown in SPO’17 when I managed to win, after a close call with the deadlift (almost bombed out lol). SPO’17 was the highlight of four of my athletes as each of them attained podium finishes as well. It was during this time, when I hired a coach for myself to learn more about the different styles of coaching and training. My decision for hiring a coach was to take any mental stress away from writing my own training, and to have an extra pair of eyes watching over my technique. After that, there was a lot of high in my training. I was happy to witness promising results from block to block leading up to Asians’17. I managed to snag my first ever international gold medal! After snagging the win I flew right back on the same night to handle my guy, Daniel, back in Singapore for the Oceania Championship’17. It was tough handling with minimal sleep but I had to do it. He finished the meet off with a gold medal and we wrapped up 2017 with a blast by meeting Geno for the first time there.
After that weekend, I set my eyes on World’s. So as usual, it was back to work with a lot of volume to build up my work capacity. Unfortunately, things took a sudden twist when news popped up that I have to requalify for Worlds. I immediately updated my coach and training had to take a big turn. The sudden increment of intensity gave me chronic knee soreness during the prep into SPO’18 to qualify for World’s. 3 days out from the meet, I experienced an unfortunate incident. I picked up a piece of tissue off the floor, which caused my right knee to pop. Talk about a series of unfortunate events LOL. The pain made me unable to perform a bodyweight squat. I had to skip my last day of training going into the meet.
On meet day, it was all jitters and anxiety. “How am I going to squat or deadlift?”, “How can I qualify in this state?”. With the goal in mind coming into focus, adrenaline took over while warming up. I took a gamble on the squat selection to get as many kilos as possible out of my knee, which worked out fine at that point. But right after the squat, the pain got worse and that was the end for me. I lost the meet to a very strong friend, Ashton who had only been powerlifting for a year. The feeling sucked big time especially for me who had been training longer and had more “experience”. I broke down right after, not knowing the fact that I was nominated as well.
World’s Classic Championship’18 with my teammates at Calgary, Canada
With World’s still in place, it was back to work. Training volume was ramped back up to prepare for World’s. With no surprise, this made my knee soreness worse than it should have been, and there were a lot of instances when I had to train through the pain with pain killers. While those helped me push through my training, it was simply delaying me from dealing with the issue directly. Not to mention it burned through my wallet as those caused a bomb over time! I was taking up to 6 painkillers per session just to get through the prep.
Come Worlds’18 in June, it was a whole another experience compared to local meets, or even Asians’17. You can have up to 3 coaches in the warm-up room. From that alone, you can imagine how many people that were there in the warm-up room. Warm-ups were rushed and the cold weather got the better of me. Right after my third squat, my right hip cramped up and I cannot exert any force to it. I can still remember the pain walking back to the warm-up area and crashing down on the floor, trying to tolerate the pain to keep going in the meet. This affected how much I could arch when warming up for bench press after and extending my hip to lock out the deadlifts after. Unfortunately, I had to finish the meet with a poor performance again. That aside, I did have many learning takeaways from this international meet – adapting to a new time zone, cutting weight effectively and giving your all despite the pain. With every “bad” experience, comes growth.
Post-Worlds, I decided to stop the coaching due to personal reasons and engage with The Strength Guys, who are my current coaches. That was also when I started coaching more local lifters and guiding them with all the experience I had, both the good and the bad. Those gave me a chance to enhance what I can offer to them and this increased my client roster.
However, things started taking a big turn downhill a few months in. Juggling between Temasek Polytechnic, undergraduate studies, The Strength Guys and training – I had my plate full. I always wonder if time was ever enough, and I neglected a lot of things to fit in everything. On weekdays, I did not reach home till 11 pm and on Saturday, it was my only “rest” day without any distraction and Sunday it was back to work with clients check-in. As time passed, training took a hit as I did not have sufficient time to train, especially during the competition period for Temasek Polytechnic (POL-ITE, IVP). So 2019 was a quiet year for me as training was not a priority. That was the point where client success started to come first for me. I was happy to have wrapped up 2019 with a ton of client success – University World Cup with 2 first-place finishes and a 1st runner up. They were my that I have coached.
Flash forward to now – 2020. I have gained a myriad of experience through my years as an athlete and a coach. Coaching different individuals of different ages and backgrounds exposed me to constantly evolving my communication skills. As they always say, one man’s gold may be another man’s poison. Because without client success, goals met or enriching their knowledge on training and nutrition, am I really a good coach?
I also manage to fit a competition into 2020 which has shown my growth over the years as an athlete. It may come as a surprise to a lot of people as I was extremely quiet in my competition preparation, but it was a meet that I did not plan for. I decided to join the competition with a group of friends who had invited me to go lift with them and I definitely enjoyed that meet. You can just look at all my lifts with the smile at the end.