A Girl Who Loves Powerlifting…

Why Compete in a Powerlifting Meet?

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So it’s no secret that I love lifting weights and I LOVE lifting heavy. Being able to push myself drives my confidence through the roof! I have been lifting on my own since 2013 and have consistently gotten stronger.

That’s great and all but why did I want to do a competition? I guess the best I can answer is, it was a way to push myself way outside of my comfort zone. To be among other women like me who love to lift heavy. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than me just lifting alone in my apartment gym. I wanted validation of my strength. I wanted to feel what it is like to have adrenaline pump through my veins as I walk on the platform and perform my lifts in front of the judges. I wanted to prove to my shy self that I was capable of competing in front of strangers. I just wanted it!!

Last year I stumbled upon the 2015 Naturally Fit Games and learned they had a Powerlifting section. The NFG has everything from Crossfit, Strongman, Weightlifting, Bikini, Bodybuilding, Grappling to Powerlifting. It’s a huge event. So I decided last year, I wanted to compete at this event.

I had no idea I could compete in smaller meets in my area, until the facility where I trained at hosted a meet there. I went to check it out to get a feel for it before I entered the big kahuna of meets. I loved the atmosphere of the meet and how the audience cheered for each lifter. I was sold, I now more than ever wanted to do this.

It was time to get serious, down to business and start gaining more strength.

Training for Powerlifting

I chose to hire a trainer, someone who would push me past my comfort zone and help me to overcome my mental blocks. I was not confident I could accomplish this on my own and needed better equipment than what my apartment gym offered.

I trained at Total Athlete with Troy (Zulu) Hamilton for 4 months, 3 times a week. It’s an awesome facility and I loved the equipment that I got to train with. Training was tough and I stayed sore most of the 4 months, but most of the time I recovered enough to give it my all for the next session.

Zulu saw my strength, my mental blocks and helped me to push past them.

When I started training my max lifts with good form were:

  • Bench 90 lbs
  • Squat 140 lbs
  • Deadlifts 190 lbs

At the end of training my max lifts with good form were:

  • Bench 110 lbs
  • Squat 205 lbs
  • Deadlift 237 lbs

Yep bench is my weakest lift, despite all we did to build up smaller muscles to support this lift.

There were a few set backs in training. I strained my lower back and that cost me two weeks of deadlifting and squatting. I also strained both shoulders at different times, but we were able to work around the injuries and go into competition pain free.

Towards the end I was cutting carbs to try and drop the weight I had gained and I could totally feel the negative affects of this in my recovery. I stayed sorer longer and started feeling a drop in my energy. Side note…carbs are your friend when lifting weights or doing any intense form of exercise!

Overall I had a great training experience and learned so much! Zulu didn’t just go through the motions of telling me do the lifts; he always explained what we were doing, why and how it helped grow other muscles. And it usually started with a story about he learned this secret technique from a guy in prison…LOL. No he has never been in prison but apparently knows a guy who spent all his “time” lifting weights and was built like crazy.

Weight Gain and Muscle Gain

Over the course of 4 months of training I gained 6 pounds. I was eating more to accommodate for intense training, so I know I gained a few pounds in fat, but mostly I gained a lot of muscle. My shoulders and arms blew up like crazy as I genetically gain muscle easily in this area of my body. I have always had broad shoulders; so adding muscle here just makes them look bigger. I halfway feel like I should be thrown onto the football field in the linebacker position lol! No really this is just how my body is and I am 100% ok with big muscly shoulders and arms!

I had it set in my head that I would go into the 132 weight class, because when I started training I weighed 131. But I continued to watch the scale climb from month to month. I thought at first it was because I was training at 7:30 at night and not getting home to eat dinner until close to 10 p.m., but that didn’t seem to be the case.

However this schedule didn’t work for my body at all. First I was raising my cortisol level with training, and then asking my body to digest food when it’s natural instinct was to prepare me for bed. Realizing the negative affects of my schedule, I switched my training to the afternoon and it really helped with getting in effective workouts and recovery.

 One-Month Out From Meet

Eeek!! One month out from the big event and it was time to start ordering my singlet and wrist wraps, register for the event and get my USPA Powerlifting Membership. So much went on during this month.

As far as training, I was to be as careful as possible so that I didn’t injury myself; we still went heavy until about two weeks out. I was advised NOT to have sex two weeks prior to the meet! I was like WAIT! WHAT?!? Confirmed, as apparently that drains your energy and takes a lot out of your body….. who knew.

Two weeks prior to the meet we went on our annual vacation to the beach, I had it all planned out and thought it would be executed perfectly. I had a gym picked out and had 3 workouts scheduled. Quickly I learned nothing was in my control during this vacation.

It started with my son spiking a fever the night before, waking up with one eye matted shut and vomiting twice before we even got in the car to leave. He was a trooper though.

Next monkey wrench was checking into a dirty condo, thankfully the cleaning crew arrived after we called and got it set for us. However, once we went to make the pull out bed, we discovered there were no sheet, blankets or pillows. Feeling thankful again that we have friends that live close by and helped us out!

I got my first training session in on Monday and quickly realized I was out of my comfort zone, all the equipment was different and I didn’t have my trainer to spot me. I did the best I could and called it a day.

Wednesday was my next scheduled training session, however I missed it due to no sleep the night before. My son wasn’t getting any better, he tossed and turned all night and complained of his ear hurting.

Despite no sleep we woke up super early so we could go catch the baby sea turtles being released into the ocean. What a great experience for us all!! Then it was off to see the doctor to confirm my son had an upper respiratory infection.

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Yep no training was done that day! I thought ok, that’s fine; I’ll either go on Thursday or Friday for sure!

Thursday didn’t happen as we were checking out of our condo and loading everything up to go stay a night with our friends who have an awesome condo on the beach. As we were getting settled I started feeling a little weird. I was really dizzy. My friend suggested I sit for a little bit and drink some water. I did that and soon it passed, so off to the beach we went to play.

Friday morning arrived and my plan was to take our last walk on the beach and then hit the gym before we packed up to go home. On our walk, I started feeling dizzy again. By the time we were packed and ready to go, the dizziness had me extremely nauseous.   I realized I had Vertigo, damn it! I have only had this one other time and oh it’s not fun!! My friend gave me a motion sickness pill, which ended up knocking me out for the 6-hour trip home, but the spinning only increased.

We stopped to eat lunch and I got out of the car took two steps and could not balance myself. I set at the table with my head in my hands and eyes closed because I couldn’t focus on anything. I tried to eat but no luck!

The only time I felt ok, was when we were driving in the car going fast. When we stopped, I felt horrible. Once we got home I took a decongestant because that’s what helped me the last time I had vertigo. The spinning continued until late the next day and then I’d have the occasional spin here and there.

Monday arrived and off to training I went, it was so challenging because every time I exerted myself I got super dizzy.   Ugh, I thought this can’t happen, the meet is on Saturday and I cannot be sick!

Wednesday’s training session was a little better. I was feeling stronger. This was my last training session before the meet. It was time to relax and concentrate on trying to lose the last 3 pounds before check-in on Friday morning. I reduced my carbs a little more, got in plenty of walks and tried not to stress over anything.

I woke up Friday morning and weighed myself, according to the scale I was still 3 pounds over. Oh well, not gonna let this drag me down. Off to weigh-in I went. Their scale had me over 1.7 pounds, Aaaah soooo close, but got bumped up to the 148 weight class.

Weigh-ins were done so it was time to EAT! I focused on getting in enough protein and as many carbs as my tummy could tolerate. We enjoyed pizza that night and I got a great night of sleep!

The Day of the Meet

I woke up feeling good and rested. I didn’t feel too nervous, which I was shocked by. I just felt like I had really good energy. Packed up everything and off we went to the convention center in downtown Austin, TX!

I ate a big breakfast of a veggie egg scramble and oatmeal; this is typically my pre-workout meal, so I know it would be good for my energy and digestion. I packed bananas, rice rolls, quality deli meat (chicken), pre-mixed protein shakes and gluten free pop-tarts.

As soon as we pulled in, my nerves kicked in and straight to the restroom I went. Ok I got that out of the way or at least I thought I did…..

Girl lifters were up first and we were starting with squats. We had about 20 minutes to warm up. I warmed up with enough weight to feel comfortable with my starting squat of 181 pounds.

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I was 7th in line for the first flight of girls. Everyone else in front of me had successful lifts. It was my turn; on to the platform I went. Got the bar settled on my traps, felt the power of my legs and lifted the weight off the rack. Took my two steps back, aligned my feet, felt set and looked up for the judge’s command. First command: SQUAT! I went down hit depth, pushed back up and that’s where I forgot to listen to the second command: RACK! I was in motion to rack the weight at the same time of the command. NO LIFT!

SHIT, they are not joking around, you have to wait for the command or they will not give you the lift even if it’s good. Ok, I thought relax; you have 2 more tries at this.

On the second lift, I was so focused on the commands that I didn’t hit depth. NO LIFT!

On the third lift, same as the first – I was so frustrated with myself!! NO LIFT on any of my squats, not a great way to start my very first competition.

It was time to rest, refuel my body and talk to the other lifters. All the girls were so helpful and supportive. They really helped me to understand what the commands would be for bench and deadlifts so that I could mentally prepare on the break.

Randy and I walked around to all the different vending booths and I enjoyed a coffee for a little boost of energy. But then my stomach decided we are going to stay nervous and be in the bathroom a lot!

Next up was bench, and I was super happy to get good lifts on all three attempts. We didn’t push a PR here, due to me being super nervous listening for three commands on this lift. I ended my lift with 104 pounds for bench.20160625_123226

We had another break before deadlifts started. I felt my energy bottoming out big time. I knew I could not continue walking around visiting the vendor booths; I had to eat again and eat really well. I got in a lot of carbs and as much protein as my body could handle and another coffee. I sat down a good portion of this time too.

Last lift were deadlifts, my FAVORITE lift!! I feel so powerful when deadlifting!!   The last round was about to start and my stomach would not let up! Are you eff’in kidding me right now?? Thankfully I make it back in time and onto the platform. I started with 192 pounds, then 220 and ended with a PR of 237 pounds. All lifts were good and it felt so amazing to end the meet with a PR. That last lift was worth everything I went through during the process of training, being sore for 4 months, trying to drop weight, getting sick, and bombing on all my squats! I know I could have lifted more than 237 it was only a slight struggle and went up pretty quickly! But I was super stoked!

This right here made everything worth it!

 

And then I was beyond exhausted and just wanted a real meal. Randy and I enjoyed Mexican food and a margarita in celebration of me competing in my first ever powerlifting meet! And then we went home and passed out, lol!!

 After Thoughts

It’s been over a month post meet and my workouts have been very sporadic. I tried to get back into the apartment gym, but I just couldn’t do it. Not having a free bar to work with has really unmotivated me to workout. The gym has a smith machine but it just isn’t the same. I have a small bar but again, just isn’t the same. I feel a little bit in a rut, but I know once I can get into a real gym and lift heavy that feeling will diminish. We also moved a few weeks ago, that counts as lifting right???

I most definitely want to compete again. I need redemption on my squats, but in the mean time I will work to continue getting stronger.

I have learned so much on my strength journey. I learned I lift heavy to feel better, to gain confidence in myself and to check myself from time to time. Gaining strength isn’t about the number on the bar constantly moving up, it’s about the struggle you go through to lift it. You have to get past your mental block, move out of your own way and stay humble. It might take a week or even months to conquer a new personal record, but once you do, damn that feeling is so amazing.

I learned I loved being a part of a bigger community of powerlifting girls, their strength, encouragement and determination is so inspiring.

I learned that powerlifting drives me not only in fitness but also throughout my entire life. It’s that POWERFUL!

 

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