Author Archives: Thom Van Vleck

Merry Christmas from the JWC!

by Thom Van Vleck

Me driving my Ol' Truck in the Christmas parade pulling our float.

Recently the Jackson Weightlifting Club had a float in the Kirksville Kiwanis Christmas Parade.  The take collections for warm hats, gloves, and scarves for the needy and we added to their collection. We decorated up the truck and trailer and my kids got about a dozen friends to walk in the parade, hand out candy, and ride on the trailer that was covered in lights and loaded with boxes wrapped to look like presents.  Sure, the “presents” were really my boxes used for weight training but it looked good!

My lovely wife rode on the trailer. She has been my personal Christmas present that I've gotten to wake up to every year for nearly 3 decades!

What you can’t see is my two oldest were carrying a JWC banner to lead our group and all the kids handing out candy along the side.  A bonus was it was Ethan Van Vleck’s birthday so we all went out for a birthday dinner afterwards.

We are a small town but I'd guess about 500 folks were out for the parade! And Santa was even there....though he looks suspiciously someone I know.

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has been a part of my family’s life for over 75 years and 4 generations.  What you see is the 5th generation.  The JWC is much more than just lifting weights.  So, from the JWC family to your family….Merry CHRISTmas and a happy 2015!  As my Grandpa Dalton Jackson, the founder of the club would ALWAYS say, “The best is yet to come”!   Amen!

Quality over Quantity

by Thom Van Vleck

I love being in the gym.  When I first caught the “iron bug” I’d spend hours in the Jackson Weightlifing Club gym.  While I would always be training….not all that time was working out.  I recall reading a story about Paul Anderson.  He would rest for up to 15 minutes between sets while visiting with others or other distractions.  I know I often found myself doing the same thing.  I would visit, read lifting magazines, or be writing down stuff related to my workout.  I was putting value in the quantity of time in the gym over the quality of my time.

I know I’ve been guilty of doing a certain number of sets for a certain number of sets for the simple reason my work out plan called for it.  Most of us go into the gym with a plan.  I have often found myself looking to hit certain benchmarks and success was measured on getting those sets and reps.  I was happy if I made my “goals”.   I was putting value in the quantity of sets, reps, and poundages over the quality of sets, reps, and poundages.

A couple years ago I decided to start focusing on the quality of my workouts.  As I started to use that as a measure over quantity I found myself very lacking.  I found that I could take a weight and lift it….or I could LIFT IT LIKE I MEANT IT!   I also began to notice that I was wasting a lot of time just being in the gym and not doing things that had a direct impact on my lifting.  Oh…you know….like actually lifting weights!   So my re-dedication  involved assessing every part of my work out by constantly asking myself one question, “Is what I’m doing adding quality to my workout or is it just quantity?”.

I began to notice several things.  I started to make gains again.  I lost weight.  I got in better cardio shape (my workouts much faster), I got more done in less time which meant I was working out more and most of all my attitude towards my workouts improved as it re-energized me and gave me confidence in the idea that what I was doing was going to help make me stronger.

So, the next time you work out you might want to ask yourself, “Quality..or Quantity”?

Osteoblasters Update

by Thom Van Vleck

A digital bulletin board on the campus of A.T. Still University advertises the upcoming Still Magazine. Our campus lifting club is featured and we made the cover no less!

I’ve share information before about the lifting club I started on campus.  We continue to grow and make progress.  We hold one or two workouts every day except Sunday.  We are one the youngest, yet largest, club on campus.  We provide supervision to over 200 workouts every week!  While I am the staff adviser the growth and leadership have come from within the club.  To be honest, I feel like I’m showing my age!

Thom Van Vleck presenting a check to the Osteoblasters for volunteering at the Kirksville Scottish Games

When I first started this club I envisioned old school workouts.  We would be doing lots of benches, squats, deadlifts….maybe some snatches and clean & jerks….the stuff I cut my teeth on 35 years ago.  What has evolved is a group dynamic focused more on bodyweight  exercises, lots of reps, fast paced, and less weight.  Similar to the “Crossfit” stuff you see growing ever popular.  I’m perfectly fine with that because it is leading to a new generation learning how to do snatches and clean and jerks and getting fit in the process.

The latest addition the club, a wall mounted lifting rack with chin up bars and roman rings.

Recently we were able to add a new addition, a wall mounted rack in the gym.  This will allow us to do more squats, presses and jerks out of the rack, along with the rings and chin up capabilities.  There are probably a hundred more uses that will come out of this addition and my hope is that if we get a lot of use out of it the Campus Center will be open to buying more equipment!  They have been very generous so far and that has helped tremendously.

I am looking forward to 2015 and seeing where things go with the club.  I hope perhaps we can host a lifting meet of some sort (maybe a USAWA meet).  I know we will help more people achieve a greater level of fitness and I’m sure the club will do more community projects that will promote fitness.  I has been a real pleasure working with these young people and the fact they are all on their way to becoming doctors or dentists makes it all the better!

The Smartest Man in the World!

by Thom Van Vleck

Recently I was talking to someone about lifting and why it’s a great idea to lift weights.  They seemed to struggle with the idea of lifting unless they were going to be the best at it.   Otherwise, why not find something else to do!  I enjoy weightlifting but in case you didn’t notice….I’ve yet to be the strongest man in the world.  I’ve also noticed that many people won’t enter an athletic meet unless they have a chance to win.  I think there’s a problem with that attitude.

Here’s my thought.  Nobody would say, “Well, if I can’t be the smartest in the world (or even that given day) then why bother ever learning anything….I’ll just stay stupid”.  The first thing you need to do when you start a lifting program is to do it for yourself.  Make yourself stronger.  Irregardless of who else is stronger.  Sometimes surprising things can happen.

I worked for 2 years and finally one day I was ready to attempt a 225lb squat.  TWO YEARS of HARD WORK led up to this moment.  I was 16 years old and weighed about 175lbs.  Some of you will know that I had to overcome two broken legs and a broken hip so I started not even being able to squat my bodyweight.  I had a couple buddies over to spot me.  To be honest, I had them come over to witness this and so I could show off a little.  Well, when I got done and racked the weight triumphantly one of my buddies…who had never done a squat with weights…said, “Hey, can I give that a try”.  Long story short, he squatted it with ease and threw on a couple of tens and did three reps before telling me that my lift was good, too.  Needless to say, I questioned my effort.  But I shouldn’t have.  I had went from a kid they thought might never walk again to squatting 225lbs.  I also want to point out I eventually did 600…..and that other guy never touched a weight again as far as I know!

While it’s good to have a little perspective, the guy you should always be concerned most about it the guy in the mirror.  Making that person you see in the mirror better is more important than what anyone else can do.  There’s always going to be someone stronger than you and smarter than you.  I just work on myself and let the chips fall where they may.  That’s been a tough lesson for me, but one that has led to my greatest gains.

Four Corners

by Thom Van Vleck

The Jackson Weightlifting Club has been a big part of my life.  As those who know me will already be aware it was started by my grandfather Dalton Jackson in 1928.  It was just him and some friends who were interested in weightlifting.  They never competed.  They were interested in training to get better, be stronger, healthier, and maybe impress some girls!  The club wasn’t official then, just friends.

Then in 1957 he got my Uncles, Wayne and Phil Jackson into lifting.  Wayne eventually won the Teenage Nationals in Olympic lifting and was a 4 time Missouri State Olympic lifting champion and won the powerlifting title once.  Phil won some meets as well but got more into bodybuilding and was in Muscular Development one time and in Strength and Health another time.  Phil got an “official” club going with a logo they wore on their lifting suits when in competition and they actually achieved something quite remarkable.  They won two state team titles in Olympic lifting against clubs in St. Louis and Kansas City.  Not bad for a little club from a little town.  They charged dues and opened a key gym as well.  At one time it had almost 30 members and had Phil not joined the Air Force (he was due to be drafted anyways) and left for four years I wonder where the club would have went.

As it was, the club kind of played out and by 1971 it was all but gone.  I joined my Uncle Wayne starting in 1977 with my own training and the “key gym” was again started in 1980.  We soon had about 20 members and had a couple of guys competing at the state level in powerlifting.  In 1982 I joined the Marines and soon the club died again.

Then, in 1988, I got back into hard training.  Slowly, I revived the concept of the JWC and in 1992 started competing again.  I had a few guys that traveled with me and we were mostly “unofficial” but we were a group of guys that lifted, traveled to meets, and shared a love of the iron.

In 1997 I had a chance to do a strongman show with Omega Force.  I invited my buddy Brian Kerby and we did 6 shows in 4 days in St. Louis including one final event that was the warm up for the US Nationals Strongman Contest at the Family Arena in St. Charles.  There were several thousand people there.  Brian and I were invited to travel to Austrailia and New Zealand with Omega Force but we had full time jobs, families….but we became open to the idea of doing strongman shows as part of an evangelism effort and decided to start a local group of our own.

We were trying to come up with a “catch” name for our group when Brian came to me and said that he thought we should go by the name “Jackson Weightlifting Club”.  At that time it really got me to thinking of what the club was really about.  I will say that since then we have done over 250 shows that have reached out to over 25,000 people plus we have directed about 20 lifting meets (including the USAWA Nationals) and at a couple dozen Highland Games and Strongman Contests.  But the club was something much deeper than that for me.

As I explored in my mind and heart what the club was all about I came up with what I call the “Four Corners” of the JWC foundation.  These four cornerstones are what everything the JWC does is built upon.

Faith:  First comes Faith.  The JWC exists because of the Christian Principles laid down by my grandfather and passed on to each subsequent generation.  The most importan principle being faith.  Faith is the belief in something with strong conviction.  My own interpretation is that it gives us the ability to believe in something even when the evidence seems to be against it.  Faith is important in lifting because it takes a long time and  lot of work to make progress in lifting.  You have to have faith in yourself, your lifting program, and believe it will pay off.  Many fail in lifting because they didn’t have faith.  To me it is most important.

Honor:  Honor has several meanings and the one I intend means having integrity.  There is a Viking poem I have hanging in my gym that talks about how everything can be taken away from you.  You can lose you fortune, your family, even your life.  But the one thing that NO ONE can take from you, only you can give away, is your Honor.  It is your reputation.  It is a core value in my family and thus the JWC.

Strength:  This word implies being strong.  But strong in what?  My use of this word in the JWC is that it strength goes beyond the physical state.  I know that lifting weights gives me strength.  Sure, I become stronger, but I also gain strength to endure.  I gain emotional and mental strength.  Most of all I gain spiritual strength from having goals and achieving them leading to a belief in myself and what I can accomplish in all things through hard work and sweat equity.

Wisdom:  Wisdom is last on the list but it’s still important.  Wisdom to me it the ability use intelligence for a greater end.  It is the ability to use knowledge with good judgement, common sense, and prudence.  I want to gain knowledge but if I can’t find the best way to use it then I have failed.  Lifting smart brings me success.  The best lifting routine will give you the greatest results with the least effort and the least chance of injury.  Weightlifting quantifies that result and makes it easier for me to be wise in all things in life.  Even when the results aren’t as easy to quantify I know wisdom is at work.

Over the years, at our strongman evangelism shows, these core values were at the base of our messages.  While our shows often focused on Christ and were at Churches and Bible Camps we often did shows at schools and community gatherings that focused on citizenship, staying off drugs, and other more secular topics.  We never denied who we were, Christians, but the “four corners” were always there.

I hope that some day another generation in my family picks up the JWC flag. That is my next goal in life, passing this tradition on.  The JWC has produced many champions and contest winners, but it is most proud of who those people were rather than their athletic accomplishments.  It always has been and hopefully always will be!

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