Guest Post: James Aftomis

James at worlds

For those of you who don’t know. I am lucky enough to train at the history-ridden, famous Spoon Barbell. Spoon has been around for longer than I have been alive and that’s why in most of my videos it looks like I’m lifting in a gym from the 70’s. Because I am.

That being said, the head coach of the gym is Richard Flemming. He is far and away one of the country’s top coaches. His eye for errors in the lift is only paralleled by his ability still to demonstrate a first pull in his mid-60’s.

Richard coaches lots of lifters but most recently he coached two lifters to the Master’s World Championships in Italy. A huge congrats needs to go out to Melissa Knourek for her GOLD MEDAL FINISH in the 58kg class AND WORLD RECORDS! Secondly, James Aftomis competed in the 69kg class and narrowly missed his last jerk to take the bronze. He walked away from his first international competition with a 4th place finish. Having never traveled abroad for a weightlifting meet, James was gracious enough to share with me (and now with you) some things he learned form his adventures in Italy:


This is written intended for audience of people who arent world travelers and might find themselves having to go overseas for a Weightlifting competition for this first time.
If you already know all of this stuff, then why didnt you tell me! haha. This is based on trip to Europe, may vary from region to region. Dont know yet.
-I tried to sleep as much as possible but hard on planes. Wanted to wake up from overnight flight and get my body on the new clock asap. Melatonin.
-First big thing, I learned is that I dont walk a lot. By design as a lazy weightlifter. On first day, I walked so much getting around and getting lost that my calves were like rocks for 2 days. Dont do that. Not good for lifting heavy weights over your head.
-Learn the bus and train system best you can because usually cheap but allow for time and missing your stop. Once. Or twice. Take pics of landmarks.
-Taxis are great but gets pricey after awhile. Would definitely use them as gets closer to your competition day to save time and lets. Bring pics of said landmarks to show taxi driver. Explain later.
-Travel as a team as much as possible as helps with the initial confusion but makes it worse later, but hard with schedules, miles, etc.
-Sight-see way before or after. Dont forget why you are there.
-Google Maps is amazing and will get you where you need to go. Or close. See data plan line under COMMUNICATION section.
-Get luggage with wheels or a cart at airport. If you have traps, they will thank you for it.
-Try to get on a 777 plane. If not, 9 hours without WIFI is pure torture. I know, First World Problems.
-Bring everything and two of some things. You wont be right without your normal gear and wont be able to find it in a foreign land.
-Bring USA chalk in a Tupperware box. All chalk is not equal.
-Pack that gear in your carry-on bag. Cant risk losing or not having it. Teammate found this out the hard way.
-Competition bar and weights are usually Eleiko. Love. Warmup platforms might be if lucky. The training platforms are barely useable and primitive at best. Makes our Spoon gym look like the OTC or MDUSA.
-OK, dont judge but get a fanny pack. Mine was flat and went under my clothes but it makes things so much better and easier for passport, phone, key, money etc. Man, I wish it was socially acceptable in ‘Merica. Maybe, I will bring them back. Maybe.
-Wear a digital watch. Handy for timing how long to get places or between bus rides etc. Everyone will tell you everything is only 5-10 minutes. Its not. I timed it.
-Stash a roll of tp in your gym bag. Want to know why? I can text you a picture if you really want me too. Good thing I can squat a lot too btw.
-Bring a small digital scale in your bag if your weight is an issue. Checking weight once a day at comp venue isnt enough. You will go out of your mind if you cant check at will at hotel.
-Hope your hotel has 3 things: free breakfast, WiFi, and spa.
-Book hotel as close to comp venue as possible.
-Shaker bottle and your fave whey, etc
-Bring as much food with you as can sneak though customs, i mean, allow. Bars, jerky, single serve supplements, nuts, Justin’s packs etc. Key for those of you having to make weight or who shake if dont eat every 3 hours.
-For those of you that are Gluten Free, Trip Adviser is amazing for finding places that you can eat. You are probably already pretty skilled at ordering out but this is more for afterwards when you want to eat everything in sight.
-Saunas and whirlpools are great for post workout, weight loss and if you are lucky or sick like me, they might even have two words. COLD PLUNGE.
-So if you have to get a massage due to those a fore mentioned rock like calves from all that walking, and the masseuse strongly insists that you put on that that paper thong with the rubber band waist, just do it. When in Rome and all….
-Stay in bed as much as humanly possible the day before the meet, nothing really good can come from you leaving its safe confines.
-Stock up on Apps. Currency and Celsius converters. English to whatever converters. Dollars to Euros etc. You will need them. A lot.
-Get a prepaid SIM card from carrier in that country. Makes using the internet so much easier when not on WiFi. WiFi not always always available and you will need data plan on the streets. Trust me.
-IMessage is key for all you Apple people. Voxer, Viber, whatever for the rest of y’all.
-OK, I know this is hard to believe but not everyone speaks English. Not even at your hotel. All of my conversations turned into a games of Charades after 2 minutes. I won them all too.
-Bring 2 phone chargers. I ripped one right out of the wall and it disintegrated. Good thing there was an Apple store next door.
-Yes, they have different electrical outlets there. You will figure it out.
-I also got a Jackery battery charger for emergencies. Amazon it.
-TV sucks overseas. You cant understand it so didnt even watch. If you are lucky, you will get CNN. Catch up on Weightlifting podcasts. Bring a book or two. Make your self smarter or fall asleep.
-btw, Netflix, HBO2Go etc dont work overseas. FML. My plan to finish watching Orange is the New Black was foiled.
-Being from Dallas, found myself saying “Si” a lot for yes. Pretty sure that wasnt right.

Thats about all that I can remember, hope you get at least one helpful tip out of it. Bonus, if I made you laugh. If not, you get Spencer back tomorrow.
Oh yeah, after all this, then you have to actually lift weights!
For that, all I can tell you is, in sequence order:
-stay patient
-keep it close
-unleash hell on that bar in an upward fashion
-and yeah, dont bend your elbows at top, haha
Copenhagen and fanny packs in 2014!
James frame by frame

One response to “Guest Post: James Aftomis

  1. Yes of course congrats to Melissa Knourek and even more to Spoon Barbell. He is the coach who is said to be none other than an excellent icon for the lifters. I wish to have trained by him. Best wishes for you in the future Barbell.

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