Don't be left out!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Powerful lessons: Life Lessons Learned On The Platform

It's been a near a year since I last competed in a powerlifting meet and thanks to pregnancy it will be at least that long before I compete again.  Nonetheless, strength training, powerlifting and trying to stay at strong as *safely* possible is usually at the forefront of my mind.
Ashley giving hell on bench.  Photo by Ted Sandeen.

With just three years of powerlifting training under my belt and only a handful of competitions, I’m still new to the sport But the parallels between life and lifting continue to amaze me.

Spending time watching lifters compete recently reminded me of a few recurring lessons I've picked up through lifting that are completely applicable to everyday life. And since applying these "lessons" to my life outside the gym I've found more contentment and happiness.

It’s you vs. you. I know that sounds like one of those cheesy lines your trainer feeds you but it is absolutely spot on. There is no minimum strength requirement for powerlifting meets. So that “I’m not strong enough” crap won’t cut it. Unless a qualifying total is required, at any given meet you’ll find novices and experienced lifters alike sharing the platform, some lifting 100 pounds, some lifting 600.

Sure, there are talented lifters who enter meets with the intent of winning their weight class and/or best lifter, but the majority of the lifters are simply trying to do their best and break their own personal records, winning is a bonus. 

As counterintuitive as it sounds competing in powerlifting has helped me to let go of the constant competition I was having in my head with other women.  Gone are the days of sizing ladies up to evaluate who's stronger, prettier, leaner, more successful, or happier.  I managed to turn my focus inward and over time, what would have been jealousy for a stronger female has transformed into sincere happiness for their success.  

I have realized there will always be someone stronger, faster, leaner with better technique. That's not an excuse to stop striving for improvement but I did give myself permission to stop comparing. At the end of the day, what others are doing is out of our control. Spend your time focused on progressing your own lifts and not how they stack up against everyone else's.

My amazing teammate, Janis attempted a world record deadlift of 460.  Photography by Ted Sandeen
Effort is respected: While talented and successful lifters get most of the spotlight, effort put in by beginners or weaker lifters (comparatively speaking, of course) does not go unnoticed. At the gym I train at, 22nd Street Barbell, a stay-at-home-mom focused on gaining strength (like me) is supported the same as elite level lifters with over a decade of experience. Of course the outcome of said effort will vary from person to person but ultimately respect can be gained not just by the amount of weight you can lift but also by amount of effort you put in.

It’s not about what your body looks like but what it can do. Short, tall, lean, thick, straight, curvy, broad, narrow, small, and big. While certain bodily portions may bode well for particular lifts, you will find a variety of body types at a powerlifting meet. But more important than how your body looks, is what your body can do. How much power, force and strength can it produce? I have yet to watch someone hit a big deadlift personal record only to bitch about cellulite on their thighs.

22nd Street barbell photo.  Photo by Ted Sandeen
Pass it on. Competing in powerlifting may be (mostly) an individual sport but the preparation to get there takes a village. Hand-offs, spotters, encouragement, and accountability are all ingredients to success. As a whole, powerlifters are some of the most helpful people I’ve ever meet. Regardless if you’ve just met them or known them for years lifters help other lifters. Need a spot? No problem! Have a question? They’ll offer help. Squats aren’t deep enough? They’ll tell you because they want you to succeed. (Even though that last one bites a bit).

See, a lot of the knowledge powerlifters have attained is from years of training, trial and error, and learning from other lifters. That knowledge is worth it's weight in gold! When you get a chance to absorb some of that knowledge, you take it! Months/years down the road when someone else needs it, you pass it on.

Last year, I bombed out of my first full power meet because I didn’t hit depth in any of my squat attempts. (Grab great squat tips here) I was heartbroken but it wasn’t long before not one but two highly respected lifters approached me with words of wisdom I’ll never forget that encouraged me to keep going. Others have done that for them, they did it for me and you bet your bottom dollar if/when I see someone in need of the support, I’ll be there to pass it on.


Speaking of passing it on, before becoming a certified personal trainer, my lifting was a bit of a crap shoot. I didn't know exactly what I was supposed to do- I had some previous lifting experience but how was my form? How much weight? How many reps? How many sets? For how many weeks? I was guessing and hoping for the best.

Above all, I knew I wanted to become powerful and challenge myself in a way I found enjoyable (that last word is KEY, btw)

Thankfully I was introduced to 22nd Street Barbell which opened my eyes to a whole new world (cue Aladdin theme) to women striving to become MORE not LESS. After meeting and watching some women perform on the platform, I knew I had to get in on THAT! 

Finding the resources to help you get stronger in person is great but I realize not everyone has access to such. The next best thing, in my opinion- Unapologetically Powerful. Whether you want to actually compete or not Unapologetically Powerful will help you find answers to all those questions I once had too (and more). Friends, JVB and Jen Sinkler have been in the trenches just like you and me. They've taken all they've learned on the platform and want to pass it on to you because they know strength is a game changer.  Read more here.

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