Some people brunch hard on the weekends and others prefer to lift heavy things. This past Saturday marked my second powerlifting meet, the Right To Bear Iron competition in Poway, CA. We lifted hard and won hard.
Take that brunch!
But first, let’s backtrack to my first meet earlier this year (Read about it HERE). At the time I was burnt out in my corporate career, on the cusp of a mental breakdown and so overwhelmed balancing two careers that I barely trained. Yet, I chose to compete anyway because let’s face it, it was paid for and I figured it’d be fun (spoiler alert: It was loads of fun!).
This time around, the competition felt a lot different. Not only had I quit my corporate career two months prior, launched a new business and devoted most of my free time to my mental wellbeing post-career burnout, but I trained consistently for three months. It was also a much smaller, local meet so I didn’t have to wake up at 5am to drive out to the meet. Quality sleep is everything, my friends.
The Training: Before and After
Training this time around made all the difference. Here’s my before and after approach to training, where ‘before’ refers to what I was doing for meet #1 and ‘after’ refers to what I did in preparation for meet #2.
– Trained inconsistently 2-3x a week
– Got hurt in month one and had to take 2 weeks off
– Little to no rest days
– A mere 1 hour of cardio per week
– High stress time, tons of mental fatigue
– Only trained in the evenings, sometimes as late as 9pm, with a wake up call of 5:30am
– Did Pilates up to 2-3x a week
– Not eating enough and/or stress eating
You can read all about the experience HERE.
– Trained consistently 4x a week
– Only a handful of missed workouts due to life ‘stuff’
– Fueled up with more carbohydrates and protein shakes
– Took up to 2 days of rest per week
– Added 2 days of HIIT training in month 2, winded it back down as the meet got closer
– Had more training partners, which made it more fun
– Had coach watch my lifts more, which helped me resolve some issues that were holding me back
– Little to no stress, more sleep, adequate nutrition
– Trained mostly in the mid-afternoon
– Developed a pre-programmed warm-up for each lifting day
– Trained with knee sleeves (did it make a difference? Who the hell knows but it looks cool)
They say luck is where preparation and opportunity intersect, and in this case, it was no different. I was well-rested, in a positive mindset, well-fed, and competing with a smaller group of women in my weight class. While I competed the first time with lackluster training sessions under my belt, this time around I prioritized training and my health. I mapped out specific warm-ups before each training session, focused a bit longer on my mobility and even added a sports massage here and there. I also added more conditioning work, breathing drills, visualization exercises and stuck to my nutrition basics. Could I have done more to prepare? Sure. But I focused on just one thing to make myself better, and that was consistent training with appropriate warm-ups and adequate sleep and recovery. I’m a firm believer in focusing on one thing at a time, especially when it comes to health and fitness. When we try to overhaul everything at once, we end up dropping the ball on everything.
So why does preparation matter? After all, I competed the first time without much training. The answer is simple: Because I care about doing my best. The prep work, which also includes a restful night’s sleep the day before, helped tame my nerves. Anxiety is nothing more than mental chaos on competition day. Who needs that when you have to lift heavy things, ya know?
The Game Changer
While preparation and consistency are critical for any successful endeavor, the game changer for me was again in my mental strategy. Knowing I was physically prepared for the day’s events meant I could easily release my attachment to the outcome. My goal was never to win, break records or hit a specific PR. These are all “nice to haves” not “must haves” in my book (for now). However, clearing up our mental clutter ahead of time is so beneficial in times like these because mental chaos almost always veers us off course.
My strategy included focusing on one lift at a time. People asked me in between attempts what numbers I hit and my response was always “I don’t know. I don’t want to know.” Some people might not like this, but I personally don’t get too attached to the numbers on the bar during meet day. That’s why I have a coach; he can take care of all that so I can focus on what matters: Lifting. This strategy may not work for everyone, but with anything in life, when we attach ourselves to the outcome we want, we tend to push it away or close off the better outcomes that are in store for us.
My only goal for this meet was to make all nine lifts.
I came close. I made eight out of nine attempts. I also came in second place in my division, an unexpected achievement considering I missed my last bench press attempt and got so hangry I cussed out my coach. Note to self: Bring more snacks.
On and Off the Platform
This meet was a lot more intimate than the one prior, which I liked because it was a lot easier to warm-up and get in the zone with less bodies running around. There was also a youth division this time around, meaning there were lots of kids and babies around.
A word on youth sports…
…The coolest thing I’ve seen so far in the powerlifting/weightlifting world is seeing young girls and boys take up this sport.
This isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill little league program. Powerlifting is a patience game, and sometimes, a really dull one. To take this up at a young age is like fast-tracking your child to success. Not only does the training teach you a thing or two about resiliency and delayed gratification, but it’s a huge confidence builder for young girls who are unfortunately, bombarded with messages like THIS. It’s also a great message to send boys who aren’t often exposed to ‘strong’ women and girls as must as they are to helpless princesses in pink castles who need to wake up pretty to be of any value. Ugh, but I digress.
Back to powerlifting…
In any event, all the women on our team took home a medal. I can’t even describe what it’s like to be around such a supportive group of people during competition but this picture of me and my teammate hugging on the platform sums it up nicely.
The biggest improvement was evident in my squat. There is still a lot I need to work on here but it’s encouraging to see evidence of all the training I’ve put in. During my last attempt, I didn’t think I hit proper depth and missed the lift altogether. Also, I had a brief moment of terror where I didn’t think I’d get up again. It was heavy, dammit! Thankfully, it was all in my head and I pushed through to see those three white lights pop up.
The bench press, my weakest lift of all, wasn’t terrific. I hated not getting that last attempt but I can proudly say I benched with zero shoulder pain. This had a lot to do with minor tweaks we made in training to my set up, which helped a lot. I now know that my upper body strength needs more work, and while I’d rather get punched in the face then bench press any day, looks like bench days are here to stay.
The end result was this:
Squat: 70kg, 75kg, 82.5kg (PR)
Bench: 37.5kg, 42.5kg, 47.5kg (missed final attempt)
Deadlift: 85kg, 92.5kg, 97.5kg (PR)
Total: 222.5kg PR 8/9 on attempts
Someone asked me if I’d be competing again in the fall.
My answer was “no way.”
I’ve really enjoyed the training process and competing so far this year but after years of competition in martial arts and running, I value the off-season a lot more. Not only is this valuable time to slow down, work on technique and new skills, but it’s a great time to workout just for fun. Sure, I’ll keep lifting. You better believe that squats, bench presses and deadlifts will make a regular appearance in my training, but so will snatches, clean and jerks, pull-ups and track sessions. As fall kicks in, I’m looking forward to more hikes and trail runs, as well as more Pilates to keep my muscles and body sane and balanced. Throwing in another meet wouldn’t be a terrible idea, but I like variety. Too much of one thing makes me dread competition altogether, and I don’t want to get there so early in my lifting career.
What I do know is that the next few months of training will be more skills and fun-based than ever. I can continue to hone in on technique, get stronger and work my mental game without putting so much energy into my training. It’s nice to go into the gym and workout because you want to rather than have to. Plus, I get to enjoy more ice-cream and pumpkin pie. It’s pumpkin season, people! I’m sure my dog would prefer to spend more time on the trials and beach than at the gym, anyway. He deserves it just as much as I do.
Now over to you. What’s your goal for the fall season? Chime in with your health and fitness goals, competitions and training stories.