Feel the Force: Snatching barbells with Nathan Pelton

President Nathan Pelton trades in his suit and tie for his headband and singlet to take us into his world of Olympic-style weightlifting.

It’s 7:00 a.m. While most people are still rubbing the gunk from the corner of their eyes, Nathan Pelton is wide awake as he looks down to the digital red numbers in anticipation of how they will dictate his first meal. At 7:15 a.m. he eats accordingly before heading out the door at 7:30 a.m. Only a little more than an hour from his first lift, he is again looking down to those digital numbers. Assuming he officially makes weight, it’s time for juice, a protein shake, Pedialyte and a honey and peanut butter sandwich. Assuming he doesn’t, it might just be the crust from that sandwich. At 9:30 a.m. it’s time for around 400mg of caffeine and dynamic warm-ups. When it finally hits 10:00 a.m. Pelton, now toting his singlet and Phi Delta Theta headband, begins loading the Olympic-style bumper plates on the barbell he will use for the next 25 minutes to build up to the weight he will attempt in competition. Finally, Pelton hears his name called, chalks his hands and steps up to the platform. He grabs the barbell. Despite all of the people in attendance, the only thing he sees are the 110kg and three judges that determine the success of his first snatch attempt at Force Barbell’s Freedom Classic Weightlifting Meet.

“My motto with this meet was to ‘go big or go home’,” said Pelton. “Incidentally, I went home.”

Pelton releases his second clean and jerk attempt at 145kg (319lbs.).

Pelton releases his second clean and jerk attempt at 145kg (319lb). Although unsuccessful, it would not deter Pelton.

At the July 11th event, Pelton’s performance was what is known as a ‘bomb out.’ This means he was not able to post a total weight for the event because he did not complete at least one of three attempts he had for the snatch and the clean and jerk respectively.

“Mentally this was quite frustrating, especially since I knew I could hit every weight I attempted,” said Pelton.

Although the Freedom Classic did not go well, it has only motivated Pelton to train harder for the USA Weightlifting National University Championships in Utah later this month. Pelton qualified for the championships earlier this year at a competition in Bloomington. It will be Pelton’s biggest competition to date.

“In my training I will be focusing on consistency and becoming more comfortable with the weight I attempted to help get over that mental hurdle,” said Pelton.

The mental hurdles of not completing his lifts are something Pelton has adjusted to in his three years as a weightlifter. Weightlifting is something no one expected Pelton to ever pursue, but now it has become his solace.

“Our 165-pound cross country runner morphed into a 200-pound weightlifter.” – Julie Pelton

A 5-year distance runner, Pelton became intrigued with the sport of weightlifting after his senior year of cross country. Pelton was looking to try something new, and when a friend began weight training for rugby he decided to tag along. Since then weightlifting became an integral part of his life. He spent a year training for power lifting (bench press, squat and dead lift) before switching over to Olympic lifting (snatch and the clean and jerk).

“I find Olympic lifting to be more mentally stimulating and more than just ‘brute strength,’ although that is necessary.” said Pelton.

After two years of recreational lifting, Pelton knew it was time to pursue competitive weightlifting. In his first year at Ball State, he started looking for gyms near his home in Carmel, Ind., that had a team and trained athletes for competition. His roommate, and fellow Phi Delt Andy Becker, found Force Barbell of Fishers, Ind. after an online search. Pelton believed it to be the right fit and began training there as soon as Ball State recessed  for the summer of 2014.

“He came in last summer looking to really get into the sport of weightlifting, which is significantly different than just going to the gym and lifting weights,” said Tyler Miller. Miller is the Owner and President of Force Barbell as well as Pelton’s coach. “He knew he wanted to get involved with a club and coaches that could take him to the next level. He was sort of lanky and tall for his weight when he started, so I knew we were going to need to get him a little bit thicker and build a lot of strength.”

It was a challenge for Pelton to gain the appropriate weight he would need to lift with the level of success he desired. A total increase of 45-50 healthy pounds is no simple task, but Pelton persevered through his training and diet regiment to reach his goal weight class of 94 kg (207 lb).

“As part of the training process, Nate has educated himself about the nutritional component of weight training,” said Pelton’s mom, Julie Pelton. “As with most high-level athletics, eating becomes a scientific process; a precise balance of food groups, food quality, supplements (the legal, healthy ones), all consumed at precise intervals to maximize training productivity and recovery. Nate’s knowledge of nutrition has been exponential.”

Julie admits that initially her and husband Doug did not give much thought to Pelton’s new found interest when he started in high school, but did not find his dedication and motivation to succeed in competitive weightlifting surprising.

“Our 165-pound cross country runner morphed into a 200-pound weightlifter,” said Julie Pelton. “It’s absolutely fascinating. Months and months of tough training come together for those few moments of lifting. As Nate’s mom, I’m always thinking, ‘this is my little boy,’ but I can barely hug my little boy because he’s not little anymore.”

Since the realization of Pelton’s dedication to weightlifting, Julie and her husband continue to make sure they can support him in any way possible.

“We simply stand back and watch with great fascination and pride,” said Julie Pelton. “We enjoy hearing the details of his training program, though I admit I need a translation sometimes. We are grateful to be in a position to provide whatever he needs to train and compete such as gym fees, transportation, training camp and lots of healthy food. The crazy, mismatched outfits these weightlifters put together on training days is entertaining, to say the least. I enjoy shopping for Nate’s bizarre tights and socks that are ‘haute couture’ at the gym.”

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