Photo by Eric Fan

The wait for weights

Forty-five minutes before he trains, senior Yubin Zhang grabs a quick snack — Rice Krispies, a Jamba Juice or candy bars — as well as professional equipment including a belt, lifting straps and chalk to help with his deadlifts and dumbbell curls.

In 2019, Zhang said he was seeking more challenges in his life and after stumbling on a random YouTube video of a bodybuilder lifting. It was then Zhang said he decided to try weightlifting and,  found a passion for it. 

Through weightlifting, Zhang said he has learned life lessons, including how to endure hardships and failures. He said he now lifts between 75 and 90 minutes five days each week. 

“I feel like if you constantly need motivation, then lifting is not for you,” Zhang said. “I just have passion and drive every day to train harder than the day before, and I am always excited to walk into the gym.” 

But Zhang said it has been a struggle to lift weights after school at Paly because there is no definite schedule as to who will be opening the weight room and when they will be opening it. 

“It isn’t certain which days the weight room would be opened either through a coach or team sports, and many times, the weight room was never opened despite many kids waiting outside,” Zhang said. 

Senior Eric Gabbassof said he began weightlifting during his freshman year because he was determined to become a better swimmer. 

When the weight room closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both Gabbassof and Zhang said they continued to train outside of school. 

“Sometimes it’s difficult to find time to use the gym, and I wish it was open during preps,” Gabbassof said. “When the Paly weight room was closed, I got a membership to a different gym where I can lift.”

Boys and girls swimming varsity coach Danny Dye said the key to weightlifting is talking with students to teach them the benefits and techniques of lifting. 

“Every sport is different, and so are students, so it’s important to direct the training towards the needs of the specific student,” Dye said. 

He said he urges his swimmers to use weightlifting to maximize their potential each season. Since school started, Dye said he has been opening the weight room before school for all students. 

“With the late start, it is an advantageous situation for the students to work out, get the blood flowing and the mind clear before school starts,” Dye said. 

Dye said that to help with the inconsistent weight room schedule, Paly should hire one or two dedicated strength coaches to work with Paly sports coaches, their teams and students on a consistent basis.

 “There is a lot going on in our district with the students coming back from COVID-19,” Dye said. “I know it is something our (athletic director) Mr. Gifford is looking at, and I trust in time, and with the right resources, the experience for both athletes, students and teachers will be awesome.”