Andrew Morse is known at Wesleyan for his strength at the gym. I went to his house last week wanting to get to know the man underneath the muscles. We talked about barbell sports, Norse mythology, and overcoming shyness through weightlifting. While we talked, I realized that Andrew Morse is quite possibly the sweetest Texan I have ever had the pleasure of interviewing.
The Argus: So Andrew Morse, your name on this campus is sort of synonymous with bodybuilding.
Andrew Morse: That’s unfortunate. I don’t do bodybuilding. The three barbell sports are powerlifting, which is for lifting maximum weight; bodybuilding, which is for trying to get your muscles to be as large, not necessarily strong, but as large as possible; and weightlifting, which in America refers to Olympic weightlifting. Everyone thinks weightlifting and lifting weights are the same but they aren’t. Weightlifting—the sport—is what I do.
A: So you are a weightlifter. Sorry, that was my mistake as a novice in the world of barbell sports.
AM: It’s okay. Every day I hear that.
A: I’m sure. So when did you start training?
AM: Let’s see. I just did cardio at first, because as a freshman I weighed 270 pounds and I was really fat. I wasn’t strong. I did some football stuff for the first two years of high school but I had knee surgery and then I just started playing World of Warcraft and that was my life in high school. Every time someone looks in the mirror, I think they see a version of themselves they would rather be than what they are now, or at least I did, and I was kind of disappointed with what I saw. I had been overweight my entire life. I wasn’t happy and my body image wasn’t what I wanted. I just wanted to look like I was a good Texas guy….You know, I wanted to have some muscles. Not necessarily have no fat on my body, but just look like a fucking cowboy, I guess. Or look like a farm boy. So I got to Wesleyan and everyone here is so skinny.
A: It’s a skinny campus.
AM: Being 270 pounds and fat and blubbery, I thought, “This isn’t me. This isn’t who I want to be.” I was in my room one day and I leaned over my bed and started crying because I was so unhappy and then I thought, “Okay, let’s go. If there is any time where I’m going to be in a space where I can make the change that I want to see, this is the time.” At that point I had no idea how to do that. I expressed interest to my friend that I wanted to do rowing and I became a walk-on for the crew team, and that was my first step towards losing a bunch of weight. Come the end of freshman year, I was weighing 170 and I was learning about my body. However, rowing wasn’t necessarily the best fit for me. I wanted something a little more aggressive that looked cooler, so I joined up with the rugby team. I went out for practice at the end of freshman year so that’s the first time I got serious about pushing around some weight. I wanted to study abroad in New Zealand to play rugby at the best level, so the summer of sophomore year I went to Rotorua, New Zealand and trained at a rugby academy there for about two months where I was introduced to sports-specific weight training. When the semester started at the University of Auckland, I was doing a bodybuilding routine and I could always squat decently. I was squatting kind of heavy in the gym and some of the guys who did powerlifting saw me and asked me to come train with them. They exposed me to powerlifting, so that’s what I did for the semester. I liked it. You get to push around a bunch of weight, but I wanted something that was a little more dynamic and translatable to real-life situations. Then I saw a YouTube video of Dmitry Klokov doing a snatch and that was the first time Olympic weightlifting ever registered in my brain.
A: What’s a snatch?
AM: A snatch is a wide grip pull from the ground up to the hips and over the head all in one fluid motion.
AM: So I quit powerlifting and started training for Olympic weightlifting. I did an internship this summer at California Strength. This year, at the National Weightlifting Tournament, their team placed third in the U.S. So I got to train and work at the third best weightlifting gym in America, which is awesome. They completely shattered everything I thought I knew about strength training. That’s when I started to get a solid idea of how the body actually works. I had nine practices a week; it was insane. By the end of the summer, instead of just looking like a guy lifting things over his head, I started to look like an athlete.
A: How do you think people treat you differently now that you are so in shape?
AM: I don’t know. I mean, it’s not so much that people are treating me differently, it’s more that I have been able to develop as a person through my training and now I have a sense of who I am that I didn’t have before. Training doesn’t only affect your body; you learn things about yourself and develop as a person. Your courage builds and your patience builds all through physical training, which is cool. I used to be very shy and timid and I didn’t really know how to interact socially very well. Part of that was due to me feeling uncomfortable around people because I wasn’t happy. Losing a bunch of weight and getting kind of strong made me more confident. Not that I feel like I am better than other people, it’s just that I now can be proud of myself and I can present that to people. I couldn’t do that before.
A: That sounds great. I never really thought about taking a physical path to improve my mental well-being, but that seems like it has been big for you.
AM: Yeah definitely. I spent the majority of my life alone without people to talk to. I had a few close friends, but nothing like I’ve had at Wesleyan. The easiest thing I’ve always had to relate to myself is doing something. It used to be playing video games but now it’s developing myself as an athlete. I’ve always been more in tune with my physical side rather than a social side. Doing things helps me develop a little more mentally. Thanks to the guys who I live with and all the people at Wesleyan, now I can have a conversation with someone and it’s fine. That was a struggle before.
A: That’s so cool. How much can you deadlift now?
AM: Best deadlift I’ve ever had was at the end of the summer and I pulled 220 kilos [485 lbs].
A: Wow, that’s so much.
AM: Thanks? It’s hard for me to take compliments because I always compare myself to top-level athletes. I have to think of my best weight as nothing so I can keep having the determination to work.
A: So do you plan to do competitive weightlifting?
AM: Yeah, after college, I’m continuing this. It’s not a sport you can make a lot of money off of, but I’m definitely trying to plan my life around being able to train at the level I need to so I can make it onto national games and maybe if I’m lucky, one day international games. It’s my passion in life. I really love weightlifting. Not only the aspect of competing and training: I like to help people do things they want to do in the best way possible in terms of physical training. I’d love to help anyone who is curious.
A: Are you religious at all?
AM: Kind of. I like the beliefs of Norse mythology in the sense that they relate aspects of nature to gods. You don’t have to believe that Odin physically exists and is sitting on his throne way the fuck out in space, but what does Odin represent? He’s the god of death, the god of war, god of wisdom. I think there is some inherent aspect of wisdom in the universe and I think it’s cool that they are praying to that aspect of nature. That is what I most closely identify with: thanking nature for doing what it does.
A: Is there anything else you would like to add?
AM: I don’t know. I don’t know too much about myself. I go with the flow, train hard, do what I love to do. I try and bring out the greater good in myself and serve the highest purpose for me possible. There is a great quote by Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” I feel like I’ve found my passion with weightlifting, physical development, and nutrition, and I love to help people with that stuff. If people have any questions about training, I would love it if they would come to me and ask.