Inspiring Humans: Joel Hugh

Happy Hump Day!

If you’re feeling a little bogged down by the recent time change, I’ve got a little dose of inspiration for you today! We’re back with another installment of Inspiring Humans.

Today I’m shining the light on an old friend, Joel Hugh. I met Joel when I was around 18 or 19. He worked at my parents’ restaurant and a group of us spent many a night drinking after work. I had heard him talk about Olympic Weightlifting a few times, but I didn’t really know much about it and it never came up very often so I didn’t put much thought into it.

A few years later after booze-hound Ariana turned into fitness-loving Ariana I started to notice more of his Olympic Lifting posts on Facebook. Not only was he doing all this cool Olympic Lifting stuff, but he was actually doing it with Olympians! Joel trains with Christine Girard, the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal in the sport. How amazing is that?

It was SO cool to see the Joel I used to party with on Friday and Saturday nights throwing barbells with 200+lb over his head! In addition to his own training, Joel helped start a weightlifting club and coaches athletes to prepare for their own Olympic Lifting competitions.

He has been a continued source of inspiration to me, was the reason I took a workshop that taught the basics of the Olympic lifts, & has really opened my eyes to how incredibly badass Olympic Weightlifting actually is.

Joel has been kind enough to share his story and I’m so excited you get a chance to hear it! 😀

Inspiring Humans

Ariana Fotinakis: How long have you been involved in Olympic Weightlifting?

Joel Hugh: I’ve been involved in olympic weightlifting on and off for 16 years. Even when I was “off” I still would watch the occasional competition if I had an opportunity and I always wanted to get back into it.

AF: How did you get started with the sport?

JH: I got started at Semiahmoo Secondary with the Semi Weightlifting club. It’s one of only a few schools in B.C. with a olympic weightlifting club. I had a couple family friends who where pretty good and I thought it’s something I’d like to do and that I might be good at.

AF: Did you ever take an extended break from lifting? If so, how did you motivate yourself to get back into it?

JH: I had to take a few years off because of work commitments. Olympic weightlifting isn’t something you can do at every gym and at the time I worked at the same time as my club was training so it just wasn’t possible. I missed it a lot so it wasn’t hard to get motivated to start training when I finally had an opportunity to go back.

AF: What’s it like training with an Olympian? Do you find it intimidating, do you find it motivating, or do you not even focus on that fact when you’re training?

JH: It was kind of intimidating at first because I didn’t want to get in her way or do something that could potentially interfere with her training. As I got to know her we became good friends and she started coaching me so that all went away. I’m always inspired and motivated by her.

I’m also a huge fan so to be kind of on the inside, getting watch her train and just seeing her prepare for a competition is just amazing. There’s not many 140lbs women, if any, in North America that can put 320lbs over her head! I’ve learned more in 2 years from her then I have in the last 10 years

(If you’d like to see a bit of Christine’s experience at the 2012 Summer Olympics, you can do so here. As if these lifts aren’t already impressive enough – 286lb…check out that barbell bend! – she did these with some torn cartilage in her shoulder.)

AF: What’s your favourite lift? The one you find the most challenging?

JH: There’s a few lifts I really enjoy. I love clean and jerks, push press and almost any kind of squats. Most challenging would be the snatch. It’s very technical and easy to miss if you make a mistake in the pull. I don’t hate it by any means but if I’m having an off day the snatch can be very frustrating haha.

AF: What made you decide to get into coaching?

JH: Well I love competing and I started coaching in competitions when I was about 15 so I could keep that competitive feeling going instead of just sitting around when I was done. I found I enjoyed it as much as my actual lifting.

From there it slowly evolved to today where I helped start the Kilophile Weightlifting club. Helping start a club has really given me a opportunity to work on and expand my skills as a coach. I now build training programs and handle the day to day coaching of one of Kilophile’s female athletes. I find coaching weightlifting so fun and I always look forward to the opportunity to work with people.

AF: Have you learned any lessons from coaching that surprised you?

JH: There’s a few things that I’ve learned. One is having a lot more patience. When working with a new person in something as technical as olympic weightlifting it sometimes takes awhile for a person to pick up the movement patterns and it can get frustrating from time to time.

Another is being more outgoing. I’m a shy person and it usually takes me awhile to warm up to people but with coaching I really had to get over that quickly.

Another thing that really surprised me is how much coaching has helped my own lifting. The more I’ve learned about positioning and how the bar should move during the lift the more I started becoming more aware of that stuff in my own training.

AF: Have you ever experienced any setbacks due to injuries? If so, how do you deal with those?

JH: I haven’t had any significant injuries. It may seem surprising but olympic weightlifting is an extremely safe sport with a low injury rate if done properly. I do have to occasional thing that gets tweaked from time to time such as a sore wrist from missing a lift incorrectly.

If something does come up I just do what I can and sort of train around it. There’s always something to work on in this sport and there’s always something I can do that can help me get towards my end goals.

AF: What does a typical training cycle look like for you? For example, are you lifting year-round, do you take breaks every few months, do you ever do anything “just for fun”?

JH: For me a typical training week is 4 days with 4-6 exercises a day. I train all year round and the only time I kinda get a break is the week after a competition. Some people will take a week or two off but I usually will want to get back into training after having a few days off. The week after a competition I’m allowed to kind of have fun with my training so I’ll do exercises that I really enjoy.

Joel rocking an impressive 242.2lb clean & jerk!

AF: What does your nutrition look like? How much do you have to eat to fuel these big lifts?

JH: Lots and lots of coffee hahaha. I tend to stick to a clean, paleo style diet. I have to stay close to my weight class so eating this way helps me keep my weight in check while consuming enough fats and protein to keep my energy up and help me recover from workouts.

On training days I’ll eat 4 meals with a snack and on non training days I’ll have 3 meals and a snack. My meals usually consist of meat and vegetables and my snacks are either fruit or nuts.

AF: How have the lessons you’ve learned in the gym translated into your everyday life?

JH: Hard work and trying to be the best you can be everyday. I also have a habit of turning everything I can into a competition either with my self or with other people. I find doing that always pushes me to be a bit better and try a bit harder.

AF: What is your biggest piece of advice when it comes to staying motivated?

JH: I like to say I stay motivated because I love the colour gold but mostly it’s just reminding my self of why I’m there and what my goals are. I think though if you find something you love be it running, weightlifting, yoga or what ever then it shouldn’t be hard to stay motivated. Sometimes you just have remind your self of your reasons and goals.

Thank you Joel! How cool was that? If you’re interested in learning more about the Kilophile Weightlifting club, or just want to see some people move some crazy heavy weight, head over to their Facebook page and click “Like!”

They also occasionally host Olympic Weightlifting seminars, so keep checking Christine Girard’s website for more details. I’m really hoping to attend one in the not-so-distant future!

Have any of you ever dabbled in Olympic Weightlifting? Remember, if there are any awesome people in your life you think I need to know about, send their story my way! 


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