Raising the Barbells

Local weightlifter Mike Choi is picking up bigger competition


Mike Choi’s goal is to execute his lifts flawlessly at the 2013 World Masters Games.

Mike Choi will be hoisting more than luggage on his Italian vacation this week. The 40-year-old Petworth resident is in Torino to compete in weightlifting at the 2013 World Masters Games.

Picking up heavy plates in front of a panel of international judges is a recent development for Choi, who was introduced to the sport by way of CrossFit. When he began training with CrossFit DC’s Tom Brose in 2006, Choi found his strength.

“I’m short and can do things quickly,” says Choi, who converted to being a full-time weightlifter by 2008. He also founded the DC Weightlifting Club (facebook.com/dcweightliftingclub), which runs out of CrossFit DC’s 14th Street location and gives local lifters a chance to sharpen their skills.

Before CrossFit brought weightlifting more visibility, it was “kind of a small, boutique sport” that Choi says he never would have found on his own. And it’s very different from what he originally envisioned.

“It’s every bit as mental as it is physical,” Choi says. “There’s the power aspect, but there’s also grace and an intellectual component. Lifting heavy things is surprisingly fulfilling.”

That’s why Choi decided to aim for the World Masters Games, which are held every four years. For the Web content developer and father of two, it’s been an all-consuming undertaking.

“This is all I do in my spare time,” Choi says. “It’s the hardest I’ve worked for anything in my life.”

His training schedule alternates between heavy and light days. For Choi, heavy means 92 percent or more of his personal records — his best lifts ever have been a 95 kilo snatch and a 116 kilo clean and jerk.

Generally, each of his workouts focuses on one of the classic lifts (the snatch or the clean and jerk). But he’ll also work on specific elements of the other lift and additional strength moves, such as dead lifts or back squats.

Technique is a crucial part of training: It doesn’t matter how much weight Choi raises above his head if his form is off.

So Choi — who doesn’t have a full-time coach — has had to find ways to keep himself in check. He travels to Pennsylvania and New Jersey to work with East Coast Gold, the country’s largest weightlifting team. He evaluates his lifts daily by video-recording workouts on his iPhone.

How is he as a coach? “Critical,” says Choi, who’s also cracked down on his habits outside the gym. He makes sure to get adequate rest, and he’s strict about his diet — just proteins and produce.

“I can’t believe I’m going to Italy and not eating any pasta,” he says.

But he’d rather lift a barbell than a noodle.

Closer to Home

The next weightlifting event on Mike Choi’s schedule is the Aug. 17 Frederick Open (cmgweightlifting.blogspot.com). Although he’s no longer competing on a local level, he’ll be there to coach; for many members of the DC Weightlifting Club, it’s their first competition.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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