First Powerlifting Competition – Debrief

It’s amazing how nervous a grown woman can get when faced with the prospect of lifting weights in a public arena. 

For this, my first powerlifting competition I’d managed to work myself into quite a state about various disastrous possibilities including the risk of my underwear being deemed “illegal” due to its excess of supportive elastic fibres. 

I basically had an anxiety for every conceivable stage of the day:

  • Weigh In – am I going to have to strip to my pants?
  • Kit check – not to sound pant obsessed but are my regular sloggi control pants too supportive for an unequipped event?
  • Warm Up – having never navigated a proper gym where you have to share equipment with others, how was I going to muscle my way to a rack
  • Lifting – would I miss my call to lift? Would I flunk the lift by missing the calls or generally being too weedy to warrant a place in the competition?

I think you get the gist – I was on edge. 

Anyway, it turns out even old timers are nervous on meet days but it wears off, a bit, during the course of the day. 

Cold brew coffeeMy first weightlifting competition ended up being a great experience and not all of my fears materialised. No one showed any interest in my pants but I did get called to lift before I’d warmed up and then almost missed my bench Press as I’d relaxed so much I was wandering round Shoreditch sampling cold brew coffee. 

In terms of actual lifting it all went pretty much to plan. I wasn’t going in with any heroic notions, I just wanted to keep my nerve, get a score and hopefully make all my recent training PBs official. 

Starting with the squat, I planned 105kg, 110kg and 115kg, with my major concern being depth. The first squat on shaky legs felt fine but apparently one of the side judges gave me a red flag for depth. With two whites it counted as a good lift but I made sure there was no doubt for the next two attempts. 

I was less fixed in my plans for the Bench Press. I was going to open with 55kg but was undecided whether I should then jump straight to my previous tentative PB of 60kg. That’s what I did and nailed 60kg for lift 2 which left me firmly in unknown territory. I took my time at the desk pondering what I should list for my third attempt. The girls at the desk egged me on to “go hard or go home” so I slapped another 5kg on and asked for 65kg. 

I knew it was foolhardy. It doesn’t sound like much but on a bench press 5kg can make the difference between a legal lift and a crushed windpipe. I couldn’t budge the thing more than a millimetre off my chest and the spotters very quickly rescued me from imminent suffocation. 

Finally the deadlift. This is usually my nemesis so again I planned a steady climb to my 115kg PB. 

105kg went up easy so I dithered with my second weight selection at 112kg and went for a teeny tiny PB for my final lift, at 117.5kg. 

And an end to the day with a teeny PB for me 117.5kg #goheavysocks #liftwithpride #ladieswholift #greaterlondonpowerlifting

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I left the event with an overall score of 292.5kg, a Deadlift PB, the knowledge that I’ve got more in the tank for both squat and deadlift and an eagerness to earn that 65kg bench. 

I also left the building with a medal for coming second in my weight class. We can gloss over the fact that there were only two competitors in the >84kg weight class because obviously the other heavyweights were scared off by the intimidating competition!

Fab day, made so much better by the great camaraderie from the rest of the Strength Ambassadors powerlifting team and coach Sally Moss. It was such good fun to share the stresses and the glory – 9 personal bests between us! Lynn was there, supporting me through the long day and taking some fab videos of our efforts. 

Strength Ambassadors Powerlifting Team

The venue, Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club, looks like an old skool boxing club and I was obviously a bit intimidated by the place but the members and judges and other competitors were great and put us all at ease. 

I’m coming back to crack a 300kg total next time. 

Transformative Power of Lifting Heavy

I start a new job next week which means I have plenty of days off while I consume my remaining leave allowance. That’s time off when I’d like to be training, lifting weights, possibly running (only kidding), but as I’m only days away from my first powerlifting competition I’m supposed to be in taper mode. 

That just means I’m sitting around thinking about weightlifting and building myself up into a minor panic about the unknown. 

To be honest there really isn’t much to panic about. This is only meant to be fun, I don’t have any goals beyond getting out there and conquering nerves. I would obviously like to get some decent lifts but I don’t need to surpass my recent PB’s to feel like the day was worth it. Getting out there, getting a score for each lift and enjoying myself will be enough. 

When I first announced that I would be entering a powerlifting competition, I listed out a series of bodyweight targets that I wanted to achieve. These remain targets for the year but are not for this meet, which came sooner than I was anticipating. Hopefully I will have another attempt later in the year where I can build on the consistency I’ve shown so far. 

Earlier this week I posted a video of myself flopping at the deadlift only days out from the big day. It’s a little anxiety provoking at this late stage to be failing on lifts but its common to start fretting before a significant challenge.

Catalyst Athletics just posted a useful blog on Fighting Self Doubt in Weightlifting – it came at a prescient point. 

Just for the sake of balance I thought it was time to reflect on the progress made since I started to lift heavy, rather than dwelling on a weight that steadfastly refused to budge from the ground. 

Like many women, I have always, always, struggled with my weight and had crappy self-esteem issues as a result. I’ve lost weight and I’ve run thousands of miles in the process, and yet continued to have crappy self-esteem issues. 

A few years ago I started a trial program with Julia Buckley which involved lifting heavy dumbbells. It awoke a desire in me to be strong and I soon moved onto the barbell and found myself working with Sally Moss and her Strength Ambassadors crew. 

Now that I’ve accepted the value of consistency, I’ve started to see some gains and I’m really enjoying working alongside a group of women equally motivated to get god-damn strong. This time last year I was struggling with 80kg squats and deadlifts and I’ve now added 35kg to both and although we’ll find out for sure on Saturday, I think the squats are now full depth unlike my early attempts at going heavy. 

In terms of bodyweight, despite some ups and downs I actually weigh the same as I did last year but my body image has improved exponentially. 

Now I know this body can lift heavy shit and that makes it alright in my books. 

Insult and Injury – Powerlifting Progress

Back in Jan I announced my plans to focus on consistency in training and to enter a powerlifting competition within the year.
Squat Depth

Almost immediately after that declaration it was pointed out that my heavy squats were nowhere near the legal depth and to add injury to insult, my lower back decided it was a good time to rebel by tearing on a warm up Deadlift rep. So in early Jan, I quit drinking alcohol to remove all anti-focus excuses, drew up my plan of action and then found myself flat out on my back trying to recuperate my spinal erectors while pondering the mechanics of proper squat depth.

Fortunately my crossfit gym has a very good physio and one session with Mike seemed to be all I needed to start really low weight squats again. He set me off on some remedial exercises that involved wrenching my hips out of their sockets and then squatting face up against a wall. Within a few weeks I was daring to Deadlift again – gently and sumo styling.

Around the same time I discovered ROMwod which is a subscription based daily workout program, designed to improve mobility and range of motion via the practice of static holds.

ROMwodIt might sound a bit dull but it’s been a revelation for me. I do it almost daily, holding the kung fu style poses for upto 4 mins at a time, breathing deeply and listening to the meditative music. I feel totally zen at the end of the session and I credit the practice with my newly acquired legal squat depth.

ROMwod is easily the best £13 I spend each month.

So all in all, I seem to be in a reasonably good place at the moment. My lifts appear legal and my body is robust enough to be challenged again. In training for my first powerlifting meet with Strength Ambassadors, I have managed to secure personal bests in all 3 lifts and have finally cracked the psychological 100kg Deadlift barrier that has been taunting me for over a year.

Good job really because my first powerlifting meet is only 5 days away!

Squat, Bench and Deadlift for 2017

I normally start the year with some form of endurance challenge to get my teeth into. Previously we’ve had half marathons and 100k hiking events but as running has slowly slipped out of favour to be replaced by strength work, it didn’t seem like the right focus for 2017. 

So I started this year with a new plan. This year I am going to enter my first powerlifting competition, where I will squat, bench and deadlift my way to glory. 

My challenge is not just to turn up and knock out a few, preferably legal lifts. Instead I need to reach a certain standard, a level of attainment that would make me feel proud to strut my stuff in a dashing powerlifting singlet. 

powerlifting singlet
Weightlifting standards don’t seem to be particularly standard and are mightily varied depending on the source. I’ve decided to nick liberally from @hiclarky who has sent himself a challenge to achieve the ‘Ninja’ standards set by his crossfit gym and become Ninja or Not in 6 months

Here are my targets. All based on multiples of my hefty bodyweight, scaled for my planned weightloss! At the moment I am targeting the standards for a 100 kg bodyweight.

Powerlifting Standards
Bodyweight is seen as an advantage in lifting sports. The heavier you are the more you are expected to be able to manhandle. This is fine when you are talking about muscle bulk and perhaps the odd power belly but there is a cut off point when extra lard on the tricep no longer provides a powerlifting advantage. 

I’m guessing that I am some way beyond that cut-off point. 

That gives me two alternate routes to achieving the lifting standards. If I want to squat 1.25 x or Deadlift 1.5 x my bodyweight, I can either knuckle down and get extremely strong or I can shift shed loads of fat until I trim down to the relevant standard. 

As it’s not a straight forward task to shift only fat and I have no desire to lose any of my existing strength, I am opting for a combo approach where I lose a few kilos and hopefully build strength at the same time. That’s an untested approach for me so far, so watch this space. 

Operation Powerlifting Comp commences.