What Competing in My First Powerlifting Meet Taught Me
A little less than a week has passed but I’m still riding the high of PR’ing on squat, bench, and deadlift amongst a sea of spectators.
I want to rewind this story to three months ago when I first decided that it was about dang time to do something I was afraid of and try something new (which is, in itself, something I’m very afraid of). I was a fitness fiend as well as an employee at the campus gym, leading me to spend a large part of my time at the gym… Call me a bro or something.
I started making connections with people from all realms of fitness; some that were different from mine, others that were similar, and all in between. The one thread I found throughout, though, was that I seemed to connect a lot with all of the powerlifters I had met even though the sport itself seemed wholly unappealing to me. I mean, who wants to only perform three lifts and on top of that, load the bar with heavy af weight? Not I. I mean, not then.
Anyways, my friend mentioned he was competing in Charlottesville in September and that I should take a chance and do it with him. At first, I was incredibly resistant to the idea. I thought that it “wasn’t for me” and that I wouldn’t enjoy it and, honestly, I was afraid of how I would look because of it (helloo diet mentality!).
After a great amount of positive peer pressure and consideration, I told them I would think it over. In typical Hannah fashion I waited until there were two whole spots left in the meet and signed up impulsively, using upwards of a hundred dollars from my paycheck to finance my personal growth. I texted my friend about my decision and a week later, my training began.
I knew absolutely nothing about the sport going in but thankfully I had a strong base to build upon. We quickly fixed my technique for squatting and benching and got to work; with 11 weeks to go, I went in with a mindset of curiosity, expecting little while taking interest in what I could accomplish in pushing myself outside of my comfort zone (like, way outside of it).
Time flew and at last, it was meet day. I drove to Charlottesville with my coworker, friend, and handler the night before and we woke up ready to kill it. I ended up going seven for nine on my lifts, missing my final attempt on squats and my first attempt on bench. (For reference, in powerlifting you are given three attempts at each lift; you can only go up in weight, not down, and if you miss an attempt it doesn’t count towards your total). My final numbers were 220, 120, and 225 which were nearly 20+ pound improvements from where I had started.
So yes, all of that happened and it was extremely fun and invigorating, but what exactly did I get out of tearing my body up for a month straight and lifting heavy weight in front of a bunch of people, you may ask?
Above all, I gained new and strengthened connections with people and learned the power of community. Never in a million years did I think I would have done this and actually enjoyed it, but I owe it all to the people around me during training and at the meet itself. When you surround yourself with people who have similar mindsets, goals, and interests, you are lifted up as well and continually reassured in who you are and what you’re capable of. Without the support and encouragement of those I met along the way, I would not have continued with the training or accomplished nearly as much as I did. To all of you, thank you so much.
Beyond that, I was taught that the surest way to invite personal growth into your life is to do something that scares the s*!% out of you. I’ve been taught time and time again that the thing that scares you is typically the most important thing you should be doing, so I decided to act upon this principle and try it out (spoiler alert: it’s true). I have never been tested like that physically or mentally and I have been given a newfound sense of self-confidence and assurance because of it.
In the past I had been so concerned about the way my body looked from years of body shaming and self-esteem issues. Going into my training, though I made a heck of a lot of progress on this front, I was afraid of how my body would look when I changed my exercise regimen. In reality, I look exactly the same and I feel better knowing that I’ve let go of the need to look a certain way or live up to an unrealistic expectation for my body size.
Going into powerlifting taught me how to love myself and my body as it grows and changes; it has allowed me to relinquish control over how I appear externally, and ya know what? It feels freaking GREAT and I truly hope each and every one of you is able to experience that liberation at some point in time.
I’ve always (well, not always but you get it) accepted the fact that food is fuel and we need it to do anything, but with the intensity of my training, I had to take this idea to the next level and allow myself unrestricted permission to eat whatever my body wanted in that moment in order to nourish myself and recover properly. I’m still new to intuitive eating and it is certainly a learning process, but I believe my experience in prepping for this meet enhanced my growth on this front and allowed me to come to terms with my diet mentality and say goodbye to it forever.
Though I had to cut weight last-minute in order to compete in my intended weight class, the scale was never something I focused on and even when I gained five pounds, it did not affect me. If anything, I was happy knowing that I had grown and allowed myself to enjoy all the foods and live my damn life.
Lastly, I learned that I am so much stronger than I think both physically and mentally and that most, if not all, of the perceived barriers to success are mental constructs. I had never tried deadlifting over 220 pounds in the gym because I thought I couldn’t do it, yet I ended up pulling 225 at the meet. Some days I would look in the mirror and start to feel upset with myself, but I quickly pushed those thoughts off and invited loving ones in instead.
Success starts in your mind and with an undying, positive belief that you can do anything and that what you want is already yours, there is no option but to flourish. There is so much abundance in the world and your mission is to cultivate the power of it in order to bring it into your life; though I had always believed this, my experience with competing solidified it even further and taught me to never doubt myself, not even for a second.
And now here I am, proud and happy with myself, who I am, and who I’m becoming. To all of you, I challenge you to do something that scares you whether it be quitting a job, asking someone for coffee, or heck, signing up for a powerlifting meet! I promise you will gain something from it no matter how small and you’ll come out on the other side a better person than when you went in. After all, what is life if we are not constantly pushing ourselves to grow and expand? I hope you can learn from my experiences and take what you need, leave what you don’t, and push yourself to new limits.