The 9 Things I Learned about My [powerlifting] Self in 2015

1. Some part of my body will always hurt: my knee, my elbow, my back, my shoulder – oh, those poor shoulders! Some body part will be “talking” to me in every training session and in every set that I do, just like the little devil on my shoulder. But, when I listen to the little angel on my other shoulder, I experience that “aha” moment – the moment of complete surrender to the movement where all of the pain fades away – albeit temporarily. Which leads me to my next lesson learned:

2. I will always find a way to train. Pain or injury is no match for the call of the barbell. On some days it’s the challenge, on other days it’s the calm – it seems that whatever I need, training will always help.

3. If I am not a bit anxious about my next training session, then I am not challenging myself enough. I am not talking about major anxiety here, but a more conscientious awareness where I know that the stakes are such that it will require my full attention and focus. And it even translates to my contest platform, too. I have learned that I must always elevate myself – on each and every set; on each and every competition attempt. “Take the weight seriously!!!!” And when I do, the outcomes are always something great.

4. Establishing my ‘zone’ is critical to the success of my training. Creating my zone is now an orchestrated practice. From the people in my training space, to the music or the quietness I need, to the conversations and energy during a session, to the spotter who is my co-conspirator to success (and even my dog), I am careful to always surround myself with those who harmonize this zone so that we can mutually achieve our goals. This directs me to the next lesson:

5. Despite the environment that I am in, I will always find a way to get to my ‘happy place’. A moving song, a simple breathing exercise, or a moment of visualization can be enough to bring me to my state of readiness – not rushing, but pausing because it is there that I have also realized my 6th lesson:

6. There is ‘strength in the pause’, literally and figuratively. (Thank you, Linda McFeeters for the analogy). The literal strength in the powerlifting ‘pause’ gives me grounds to work on it: the pause on the chest in the bench press, the pause in the bottom of the squat, and the pause in the lockout of the deadlift. I’ve also learned the figurative strength in the ‘pause’: the pause as I grip the bar to squat, the pause as I position myself for bench press, and the pause in that split second before I take that big breath I need for my deadlift. The strength in that moment – that pause – is always limitless. It does not come without sacrifice – I mean, who really likes training pause squats??? But, the rewards are many.

7. Finding joy in each set, rep and training session is far more important to me than ever before. I had joy in my sport endeavors right from the start of my competitive years, and I’ve learned that I still need joy, today! The joy I felt on the basketball court is the same joy I seek and celebrate in the squat rack. Some athletes are motivated by fear; others by anger. I am always motivated by and for joy. Without joy I would not experience success. Period.

8. Remembering my WHYS will take me beyond the WHATS. The root of my motivation (‘why’ I do what I do) will always catapult me past my goals (‘what’ I want to do). This concept is the latest thing I have come to realize. And that is thanks to a survey I recently completed (and you can find it here: Masters Powerlifter Survey). The final question of the survey was initially one I brushed off, but only when I began to write the answer did I experience yet another “aha”.

The survey question: “Has powerlifting altered how you feel about and treat your body?” And my answer was: “Powerlifting has allowed me to be freer in my body. I have never had extreme body image issues (says the gal who spent 15 years essentially yoyo dieting for competitive bodybuilding), but bodybuilding certainly created an awareness of my body – more negative than positive – that I felt eventually had to be addressed. Powerlifting has allowed me put on my competition singlet and celebrate my 63 kilos in all their glory. (You see, 63 kg was my pre-dieting bodybuilding weight and it would have been anathema to show any of my bits at that weight). Now, I don’t give a f*&#!”

Now, I’ve realized that I always do what I do for myself. And surprisingly, I am getting far more than I bargained for all those years ago when I decided to give powerlifting a try! Amen for that!

9. Finally, I’ve learned that my path to powerlifting success is NOT linear. From my competition results to my weekly training experiences, there are times that I feel like I am on a rollercoaster of outcomes! I’ve learned that just because I lifted 100 kg last week, I will not necessarily lift 101 kg this week. Likewise, if I got a personal best in my last competition, I won’t necessarily top that in my next. And that is OK!!! Progress comes with challenges and challenges always reap rewards – just not on my timeline.

And so today, on the advent of this New Year, as I take stock of all of these lessons, I am strapping on my seat-belt, ‘cause I’m always ready for this roller-coaster of a ride – in powerlifting and in life! Won’t you join me?