Tony Ciambrone knows what it means to “chase the feeling.” It’s exactly why he lifts.
Working through a set of push jerks, tucked away in a corner at Centerville CrossFit, he says what every weightlifter knows to be true: “This is a process. You can do this for years and never perfect it.”
While that might read like a lamentation, it’s actually more of a mantra. Some lifts will feel nearly perfect, others far from it, and the vast majority will fall somewhere in between. But every time he steps up to the bar, Ciambrone knows he’s moving forward.
That’s vital to someone who started on the path to Olympic weightlifting from a hospital bed.
Back in 2011, Ciambrone, now 29, had been hospitalized for a blood clot just a few weeks before he was to ship to boot camp for a career in the U.S. Army. An upbeat nurse told him about the new gym she’d just joined; not a regular gym, but something called CrossFit. She suggested he try it once he recovered.
The clot eventually lead to a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, meaning the Army was out, but Ciambrone did take the nurse’s advice to check out Centerville CrossFit.
While the workouts challenged him, what really helped his recovery were the friendships he formed with fellow athletes at Centerville CrossFit. It kept him motivated to get out of the house, go to the gym and keep working out when it would have been far easier not to.
He competed for Centerville CrossFit at regionals in 2013 and in other competitions as well. However between finishing grad school and a daily work commute to Columbus, he realized doing CrossFit competitively wasn’t something he enjoyed.
Convinced he’d found a better outlet for his competitive drive, he began focusing on Olympic Weightlifting at the beginning of 2014. He works with Dayton Strength and Conditioning coach Adam Rogers and regularly trains with the Dayton Barbell Club and Centerville CrossFit.
Ciambrone is no stranger to athletics or competition. He was a cheerleader for the University of Dayton, and a multi-sport athlete in high school.
The switch to Olympic weightlifting helped reinvigorate him, and Ciambrone shifted his competitive focus to qualifying for a national-level meet. He was on track to test his progress at the Second Annual Midwest Strongest Unicorn weightlifting meet Oct. 26. When, once again, another blood clot hit, derailing his training. After some time off, he’s kept a steady training schedule, but hasn’t been able to build up to the loads he planned to use in competition. He will still compete, but his focus is now more long-term.
He knows progress can’t be rushed. It’s a process. It’s a grind.