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Becoming a powerlifter - Getting into my stride.

It's been ages since I updated on my powerlifting journey, so what's been happening?

I did my second competition

Last July in fact. It was the Gloucester and Wiltshire Championships. It was good to get out and compete again, and I felt well prepared by Ryan from Project Barbell.

Good news: I put 40kg on my previous meet total. Which I was pretty happy about.
Annoyances: I was disqualified on my 100kg squat (a pb I'd never even attempted before) for reracking the bar too fast *DOH* and my third deadlift was a bit sloppy. I got 6/9 lifts.

I came away from that meet realising I needed to work harder at getting my head in the game, and not being either stressed or distracted in the competition environment.

Strength is about habits. You keep challenging your body consistently, you manage your recovery and nutrition CONSISTENTLY, and it will come.

Competing is about headspace. You arrive at the meet with a locked potential. No one ever turns up at a meet, has a good day and magically lifts more than they ever could before, your max lifts are more or less set before you walk through the door. Whether you can achieve them in a competitive environment however is a different matter.

Which is why those Insta-warriors who look at someone lift and go "yeah I would have come first at that meet" based on scaling up what they lift in the gym need to get out there and prove it!

I came away from that meet with some new objectives:

  • Learn to lift with distractions (that meant training in new places and without headphones)
  • Work on deadlift form (as I was losing a bit of energy breaking the floor in a non-vertical line)
In addition, somewhere in the aftermath of the competition, my squat form started going to the dogs, because nothing is ever simple.

I didn't compete in the rest of 2018, partly for personal reasons and partly for admin reasons.

But what I did do was...

I qualified as a Powerlifting Coach!

I got a great opportunity to go and train with DSW and I grabbed it with both hands. I had an amazing time training with Del McQueen and learning some of the subtleties of the 3 movements and programming for powerlifting performance.

I also got some great feedback on my own lifts and immediately got home and programmed my next training block to get the most out of it.

And then I lifted some more.

I made a snap decision to compete in the South West Open this April. This was earlier in the year than I had planned, but I had 12 weeks to prepare so I went for it.

It's been a rough few months personally, making the adjustment to single-parenthood and slipping off the management tightrope with my fibromyalgia a few times resulting in a few lost training days. I made the decision one month out to compete in a higher weight category, to make sure I could eat really well and manage my fatigue better. I believe that you can choose 2 out of 3 of calorie deficit, competition prep and personal life/health! Anything else is too much compromise.

I've had more issues with my knees, this shouldn't surprise me as my EDS means I still dislocate my patellae occasionally, even with training. I had to cut all lunges out of my programme and find ways to build quad muscle to stabilise my knees without compromising them further.

I've also been taking a deeper look at my form. I'm currently studying for a Corrective Exercise Specialist certification, and this has given me new insight into what I need to be looking for beyond the obvious lift form and musculature. I've done a lot of work on my upper back, and the subsystems that stabilise my lower back, which has really shone through in my squat, which is looking much better, and my deadlift.

Hitting the sweet spot.

So last weekend I competed again, and this time, I felt a lot more solid on the platform.

Once I got there.

I arrived at the meet feeling pretty awful. Getting up for a 7am weigh in probably didn't help, but I also felt tired, under-prepared (on reflection pre-meet deload always feels that way to me) and a bit emotional.

Being in a higher weight class put me in a later flight, which meant a longer wait to lift, getting more nervous and having the opportunity to watch earlier lifters miss lifts, when previously I would have been in the warm up area.

Once I completed my first squat though, I felt like I was locked onto the right track.

I think perhaps the lesson of this meet is that the run up to lifting will feel awful, and that this is not an indication of how you will perform. Knowing and expecting this should make it easier to manage, in the same way that I manage stage fright as a performer by expecting the physical consequences of anxiety and acknowledging that so long as I don't lose my head, this will make me perform better.

So this is how it went.

First squat: lovely. To be honest I was a bit worried I'd gone for a high opener, giving myself a chance to climb to my gym PB. Then in the waiting I started to question myself. Was this really a lift I could hit easily on my worst day? What if I just couldn't? Why hadn't I gone 5kg lower?

As an aside, this is a phenomenon I experience on a regular basis when I go in to train for a heavy session. Sometimes the numbers just look so huge and I can't imagine myself managing them, even though I might have done it dozens of times before.

Second squat I missed depth, I think I was just a little confident after the first was so smooth. Third one I got the illusive 100kg on the board. I was hoping to go to 105, but as a meet PB, I will take that gladly.

Bench was *lovely*. Bench is my weakest lift and I have a lot of trouble increasing it. I have worked so hard on building muscle for bench lately that I have ripped the seams of several work shirts. Paid off though, I got 55kg, which I had only lifted once before in the gym and was a meet PB.

As I was waiting for deadlift my fatigue started to hit, the coffee had worn off and I started yawning and getting a sharp headache behind my eye, which is a sign my nervous system is about to have a fibro-splosion.

But I wasn't having that. I went up and got an all-round PB (a weight I'd never successfully lifted). YES!

8/9 good lifts, 3 meet PBs, 10 kg (not 15... barbell maths) on my previous meet total. Happy with that.

Here's a quick recap of my 3 final lifts.

So what next?

Competition wise, I want to go again later in the year. I'm looking at about 6 months away so I will have a chance to train off-season and rehab my knees. I'm also going for a kit change. I've invested in a 3" belt (most are 4") from Strength Shop, which is competition approved. I am hoping this will allow me to maintain my numbers but also to train without constantly bruising my ribs and hip bones from using equipment designed for people substantially taller than me. It's going to take a while to adjust, but I had a trial run last week and it was *so nice* to not have my squat reps interrupted by the pain of being crushed by my belt and to be able to set up right behind a deadlift bar comfortably.

I'm going to keep programming for myself for now. It's been a useful experience to work through my own programme (and just like my personal training, I'd never ask a client to do anything I hadn't tried myself).

I've learned a lot about how my body responds to certain types of training, and also things like warm ups in competition (I have to take less warm up sets than most to manage my fatigue) and I want to keep tweaking this and gathering information on the effects.

My goals for training are now:

  • Get more on my bench (I'll be working with fractional plates to push the numbers up and a bit more volume)
  • Keep building muscle in tactical places
  • Work on muscle activation and chains to bring more muscles synchronising to stabilise my movements.
  • Get a bit more NEAT and cardio back into my routines, because that has suffered for my schedule lately.
Good times.


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