Strength Sports: Get out of the Gym and Onto a Platform

In which Alice addresses the reasons people wimp out and don’t compete in powerlifting, Oly, or strongman meets and SHUTS THEM DOWN.

Hey you. Yes, you. I see you there, at the gym. You’ve been lifting for a while now. I’ve noticed your form improving and your weights going up. I’ve seen you talk with trainers and other lifters to get pointers on how you can improve. I know you obsessively read lifting blogs (me, too!), and spend absurd amounts of time on YouTube watching lifts in slow motion over and over and over again. (It is a perfectly valid use of time.) Well, I think it’s time you go ahead and sign up for a meet.

You have objections; I get that. Let’s talk about ’em.

Training takes a lot of time!

Not really. You’re at the gym lifting 3-4 days a week anyway, that’s all you really need.

And don’t tell me you don’t know how to develop a training program. For your first meet, you don’t need to do anything super complex. There are a ton of free programs out there that will get you reasonably ready. As ready as you can be for your first meet, anyway.

I’ll look foolish competing against people who are much better than me.

No. You’ll look brave for giving it your best shot. And you’ll feel amazing when those people who intimidate you theoretically offer you encouragement and cheer like crazy when you make your lifts.

If you’re really nervous about competing against veteran lifters, find a meet like the Beginners’ Powerlifting Meet or Beginners’ Olympic Lifting Meet at Solcana Crossfit (Hannah and Mike, you guys better put these on again, now). Both are geared towards first-timers, so you’ll know everyone else is in the same boat. Also, smaller meets like these alleviate some of the pressure you may be feeling as a first time competitor. And if strongman is your jam, lots of competitions have a “novice” category so you won’t be going up against people who’ve been competing for years.

What if I don’t make a lift?

Well, what if you don’t? Do you think that the world will end? The sky will fall? Nope. I’ll tell you precisely what happens if you don’t make a lift, and I speak from experience. If you fail on a lift, you fail on a lift. That’s all. You’ll see two or three red lights instead of white ones. The spotters may or may not take control of the bar. You’ll leave the platform and give scorers your next lift (or just leave the platform if it was your third attempt).

That’s it. Speaking as someone who’s missed her fair share of lifts, it’s really not that big of a deal.

But, can I win?

I don’t know. Maybe?

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: winning isn’t the goal of competing. Sounds silly, but its true. Thousands (more than 500, 000 in the USA alone*) of people run marathons. Only a small percentage of them expect to be competitive in said races. Millions run 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons, with again, only a small percentage having any expectation that they could win. So, why can’t competing in strength sports be the same?

I compete, and I really like winning. I have a shiny medal that shows I was better than some people and not as good as other people in my weight class on one occasion. That’s one for three meets. It hangs on an elephant coat hook in my bedroom with my necklaces where I swear at it because it’s in the way when I want to access my jewelry.

I sign up for meets for a bunch of non-winning reasons. Competing gives me something specific to work toward, it challenges me to really give my all, it helps me push my boundaries and try for weights that I might not otherwise attempt. These are the same-ish reasons that people run marathons with no expectation of winning. Really, there’s no difference except that running marathons is something that lots of people do and lifting weights in front of a crowd isn’t.

I’m still nervous!

Well, duh. I’m nervous every meet. Hell, I’m nervous every lift, even my openers which are calculated to be something I can make no matter what. I will tell you a secret, though.

Part of the benefit of competition is facing those fears and telling them they’re not the boss of you. Plus the adrenaline rush is pretty stellar.

*I swear I found this stat online somewhere, but I lost it. Sorry for the lame citation.

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