Lessons from Powerlifting that apply to Supply Chain Management
From the Platform to the Desert – Applying the lessons from Powerlifting to succeeding in the Desert in Operation Iraqi Freedom
By Joe Walden
For over twenty years, my primary focus was competition on the powerlifting platform.Although non-lifting related injuries forced me to retire from powerlifting in 1996, the lessons that I learned in from powerlifting were beneficial to me when I deployed to Kuwait in February 2003 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.
What could possibly be related between training for and competing in powerlifting and preparing for combat support operations in a war zone?Let’s take a look at what I learned from powerlifting that helped in preparing for wartime support and what I learned from the Army that will benefit your training and competition preparation.
Here are some of the lessons that I learned from powerlifting – from my training, my training partners, and my coaches:
1.Establish a good plan that includes setting incremental and long-range goals.
3.Keep a log of your activities.
6.The importance of a good training partner.
7.It always takes longer than planned.
8.Know your limitations.
Now let’s look at how each of these lessons benefited by experiences in establishing the first ever Theater Distribution Center in a theater of war.This operation involved designing, establishing, and operating a multi-million square foot distribution center to receive, store, ad issue all of the supplies needed in support of the Armed Forces in Kuwait and Iraq.
Establish a good plan that includes setting incremental and long-range goals.On the first day that the Theater Distribution Center was “functional,” we were already about eight days behind in getting supplies to the soldiers and units that needed them and there were lots of supplies still arriving daily.The US Military moved the equivalent of 150 Wal-Mart Super Centers into Kuwait in late 2002 and early 2003, much of which was backed up waiting for distribution to move it forward. Just as it is necessary to have a sound plan for your training cycle in preparation for a meet, it was also important to have a plan in place on how to organize the distribution center in preparation for combat operations.A good training cycle plan has incremental goals.
When I was competing, I had a goal for the meet based on the accomplishment of the weekly goals that comprised my training plan.My training cycle plan detailed every set of every workout so I could focus on the lifting and not have to stop and decide what the next set would be.The planning for distribution operations in Kuwait was no different, we set daily goals for the development and daily goals for the execution of getting the supplies and equipment to the soldiers and units.
Discipline.Preparing for a meet required me to watch what I ate, how much sleep I got and being at the gym at the same time everyday and then trying to train the three major lifts with the same strictness that I would expect of the judging at a meet.I also trained to meet the time limits for competition to prepare me mentally for the additional stress of the meet.If you cut the corners during training, it will show at the meet.For example, if you squat high in the gym, you will probably squat high at the meet.If you do not train your bench press with a pause you may very well find yourself missing lifts at the meet.It was the same principle for us in Kuwait, if we did not have discipline in our supplies ordering and distribution, soldiers may not get what they need – which could have larger, more serious implications than missing a lift.
Keep a log of your activities.When I was competing, I learned from Mike Scott and Gary Watanabe at the Power Pit in Pearl City, Hawaii, to keep a record of every workout.I would plan the workout down to the sets and reps, write it down in a notebook and then make notes during the workout if something went well or if it did not go well. My notes included how I felt during the workout (powerful, tired, excited, etc.).I found these notes valuable in planning future workouts, adjusting the original plan, and preparing myself mentally for the workouts and the meet.Id did the same thing in Kuwait.I logged what we planned for each day’s activities and then at the end of the day, I compared what we planned to what we actually accomplished, my thoughts as to why something did or did not work and ideas to fix them.Just like my training notes, these were not excuses but reasons that could be worked on for improvement the next day.
Perseverance.I have made no secret in the past that I bombed out of my very first National Championships in 1982 and then repeated the act again on a different lift a few years later.The lesson here is that I could have easily quit after the embarrassment of bombing out in my favorite lift, the squat, but instead I learned from the experience both times and continued to train and compete.This same lesson in perseverance kept me going in the desert in the face of sometimes perceived insurmountable odds to make operations work.There are worse things in life than missing a lift or bombing out of a meet.I know it does not seem like it at the time.The lesson is determine why you missed the lift.Be brutally honest with yourself and then fix it and persevere in preparation for the next meet.Rarely is it really the judges, the spotters, or the equipment that causes you to miss the lift.Sometimes it may be poor training which can be fixed or ego which is usually fixed by bombing out.Determine the real reason and adjust your plan accordingly for the next time – but do not get discouraged and quit.
Dedication.How many lifters have you seen that lack this critical requirement for success?Over my lifting career, some of the lifters with the most potential either did not have the dedication to reach their potential or spent more time looking for the short cut to success.Just like lifting, there is no short cut in providing support to soldiers in a foreign country getting ready for war.The dedication to doing what is right when tied to discipline and the perseverance to keep going in the face of adversity leads to success in lifting and was critical to al of the civilians and soldiers that I worked with to ensure success in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The importance of a good training partner.Over my lifting career, I had a number of training partners to include some of the best lifters in the sport at the time – Lonnie Keyes, Barry Walker, Magic Dent, John Gamble, Rock Urekis, Jim Drapal, and Francis Silva.Having a dedicated training partner is critical to lifting success.Your training partner is there for motivation, advice, guidance, and to keep you focused.In Operation Iraqi Freedom my “training partners” were the soldiers that worked with me – they were there to keep me going and provide motivation, give me advice, and help set the goals for each day’s work.You can always learn something form you training partners – be careful in choosing them so that you have someone that will be open and honest when you ask questions and need advice.
It always takes longer than planned. In Kuwait things seemed to take longer than we planned for supplies to arrive and then get to the units.In lifting, my experience taught me that success can take longer than planned.We talked earlier about the importance of the plan for a training cycle.I have seen some folks that insist on sticking to the plan even when lifts are being missed in the gym.Plans are start points for the training cycle and just like the plans in Kuwait, can be altered to adjust for unexpected occurrences such as missed lifts, minor injuries, or over ambitious plans.
Know your limitations.Just as you would never try to lift something beyond your limitations just to see what happens, it was important in Kuwait to know what personal limitations we had, know the personnel limitations and the equipment limitations.Exceeding your limitations can result in injury.In Kuwait, exceeding limitations could result in needlessly putting someone in danger.But remember, in the gym you are only limited by the limitations of your mind.The first time I squatted 800 in the gym was after several weeks of walking out of the racks and setting up with 800 pounds and then walking back in.The feel of the weight on my back convinced me that I could indeed squat that weight and with that psychological limit erased, the lift was actually much easier to do than even I envisioned it would be.
Now that we have looked at how lifting helped me in Kuwait, let’s take a quick look at some of the lessons that I have learned in the Army that carried over to my lifting.The most important lesson is do not forget the basics.This is as important in military operations as it is in the gym.Don’t get fancy just stick with the basics.
Pay close attention to details.When you stick to the basics and pay close attention to the details of the basic lifts, you will start to see greater gains in your lifts.Remember, do not get discouraged when your plan does not go as you thought it should.Military plans are only as good as the preparation up to the line of departure or the first round down range.Lifting plans are the same – create a good plan for your training cycle, but remember to adjust the plan as you go along.Sometimes you may find that your plan was too conservative or you may find that it was too optimistic.Train the lifts not the plan.
When you apply the lessons from lifting that helped my military career and apply the military lessons that helped my lifting you will find a new outlook on your training and start making new PRs.