What to Expect at Your First Powerlifting meet

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As I cast my mind back to when I took part in the last competitions to write this, I am flooded with so many different emotions; the excitement, the nerves, the pressure, the elation and the relief. I, like you, had so many questions: what to expect from your first powerlifting meet.

You are committed to your training programme, pushing yourself, analysing every lift you do, preparing yourself physically and mentally but you just can’t prepare yourself for all those emotions on the day. Especially when it’s your first time.

My first competition and I was a bag of nerves. For lots of reasons. Would I be able to do it? How am I going to feel on the day? What if I fail? Will people laugh at me? What’s the warm up like? Will I make the weigh in? Ok, in all honesty, it was mainly the weigh in. I’ve found out since this is pretty common among powerlifters – some of us just aren’t that great at being disciplined in maintaining our weight in advance to ensure we make our weight category for the competition. I kept an eye on it.

Four weeks out and I was 3.5kg over. Nothing to worry about.

  • Three weeks out and still 3kg over. Hmmm, probably need to do something now…
  • Two weeks out and I’m still 2.5kg over. Maybe I should cut down on the ice cream….and puddings.
  • One week out and I’m still 1.5kg over and it’s not moving. Oh Crap.

I resorted to not eating carbs after lunchtime. This made me miserable but the thought of not making weight at the competition kept me in line. Just. At least I was on a de-load before competition so I didn’t need the energy particularly.

The morning after the night before….

I stayed over in a hotel the night before the competition to save having to make a long drive before lifting in the morning. It was the least enjoyable stay over I’ve ever had. I barely ate as I didn’t want to affect my weight. I did treat myself to a large gin (to be sociable obviously with my friends, one of whom was lifting and the other was there for moral support) I also told myself it would help me sleep. It didn’t.

I woke up early the morning of the competition and got straight on the scales. Yes, I took scales with me. Obviously. By some sort of miracle I was under the weight requirement, by a whole kilogram! But man, I was hungry. I got through the first part of the morning on pure nerves and adrenaline. Other lifters were there and a few made small talk with me but I didn’t know anyone and it was clear a lot of these guys knew each other so it didn’t help my pre-comp nerves at all. I had my weigh-in and lucky for me, I was one of the first few to be called behind the curtain. Stripped to my underwear I stepped onto the scales and held my breath (because you know, that makes you weigh even lighter right?) I ended up weighing 2 kilograms under the weight! I have no idea how that happened but one thing I did know was that I had spied a McDonalds across the road and I needed to be there asap! Starving was not the word. Greedy is what you might have called me had you been sat near me at said fast food restaurant.

I inhaled the food at a million miles an hour but realised my stomach was not really ready for it. Hungry? Yes but for the past week it had been in ration mode and I realised I had to stop, for the sake of my digestive system. My body rebelled and I was punished. Not ideal, especially when there is a distinct lack of facilities at the venue. But again, I’m not the only one who suffered this way and I was too nervous about my lifts to worry about that at this point anyway.

Wardrobe malfunction

I still had to get my clothing checked and my rack height sorted. I joined the queue like everyone else and when it was my turn I plonked my kit on the table to be checked. It was done quite quickly and I wasn’t really paying attention to him until he hastily pushed my kit back at me, barely making eye contact. I briefly thought how rude he was but put it down to just getting stuff done quickly to keep things moving and on time. I went and got my rack height recorded and went to get changed. I then realised when getting changed that the shoes I had checked earlier had my underwear stuffed into one of them and the poor guy must have seen the bright blue thong during his check for insoles hence the lack of eye contact! Absolutely mortified. I feel I need to explain that I had the underwear  in the kit as the singlet we have to wear for competition (or sexy little onesie as I refer to it) is seriously unforgiving! It leaves NOTHING to the imagination, just ask the men. They will tell you how cold it is at all the competition venues……

Warm Up

 I was tentative about stepping into the crowded warm-up area with people I didn’t know who were working four to five people per rack, warming up, getting focused and I was so relieved when a girl introduced herself and said it was her first time too. It also dawned on me that no one was worried about anyone else, lifters were busy getting themselves prepared for their own lifts.

Even as the lifting started, lifters were supporting other competitors whilst taking the time to mentally prepare themselves for their own lifts. I took note and did the same. It didn’t stop me shaking but I’m pretty sure that adrenaline helped me get through each lift as well as the amazing support from my friends who were watching. I had to keep remembering to tell them what weight I would be lifting for my next lift which was hard as I was busy trying to stay focused and remember all the points to keeping my form tight on each lift. I was so proud of myself that day especially when I got a PB on my second lift. I was floating on air after, even though I failed my last lift, I got that PB and it was the best feeling ever.

After that the competitions became more routine as the process wasn’t so new and I knew exactly what I had to do and when. Annoyingly I still had the same issues regarding the weight management and preparation and ultimately had the same problems (oops) even though I still made the weight but I have promised myself I won’t do it again going forward. The emotions are all still there but it gets easier to focus on your performance so you can go out there and smash it.

The Magnificent Seven….pointers for competitions that is!

  1. The de-load week before competition is crucial. Don’t be tempted to train heavy, your body needs a rest before you push it to the max!
  2. Ensure you have a weight plan in place well before your competition so you can eat normally right up to competition day! It’s really not a good idea to starve yourself before a competition as it can have a real impact on your energy and mental well-being and could ultimately affect whether you are successful with your lifts.
  3. Ensure you get a good night sleep the night before for the same reasons as eating well!
  4. I found that wearing my singlet during my last few training sessions prior to competition helped me get used to it (even though it really is not very flattering and you will get funny looks if you train in a more commercial gym)
  5. Pack your kit well. Check you have everything you need, that any competition requirements such as the singlet are approved by the lifting federation you belong to. I had to ensure my wrist wraps were IPF approved so I could wear them for competition. Also, make sure your underwear isn’t wrapped up in your kit that will be checked!
  6. Don’t worry about what other lifters will think about your lifts at competition, in reality, everyone is there to support each other so just focus on your own performance – it’s you versus the bar!
  7. Do what you need to do to calm your nerves and get focused on the day. My must haves are my headphones/music, my reebok legacy lifters (shoes) and Mr Meseeks, Can Do! I also find that a big bag of sweets helps too!

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