Recently Amanda and Coach Michelle competed in their very first Powerlifting meet. We sat down with them to hear their thoughts on what made them decide to sign up to compete, and what they learned along the way. Congratulations, ladies!
How long have you been powerlifting? What drew you to the sport?
Amanda: I started deadlifting about two years ago. I’ve been benching for a year, and back squatting since last October. I trained with DJ at the same time as the barbell class and was intrigued, but a little intimidated by it. Everyone in the barbell class was so friendly and supportive of my training that it became less intimidating. I wasn’t sure I would ever do well or be as strong as they were, but I at least wanted to give it a try. My favorite thing about training before I started powerlifting had been going up in weight and being able to measure my increased strength and improvement. That’s what powerlifting is all about – constant, measurable improvement. Sometimes the increases don’t come as quickly as I want, and sometimes the numbers don’t go up at all. But I’m still getting better and stronger every day.
Michelle: I’ve been deadlifting for about a year now. I asked DJ to teach me to back squat at the beginning of this year, and I started benching in April. I remember the first day I walked into Queen City Kettlebell back in 2016 (as a client, before I coached here), DJ asked me if I had ever considered powerlifting. I told him that secretly I had, even though I’d never admitted it out loud before that moment. I think I was always drawn to it because I admired women who pushed themselves to get really freaking strong. I’ve always struggled with body image issues, and in the past have unfortunately looked at exercise as a way to get smaller. It felt refreshing for the first time in my life to focus on a sport that was all about getting stronger instead of skinnier! I knew that people of all ages, shapes and sizes were competitive, and in powerlifting, strength is not defined by how you look.
What made you finally decide to sign up for a meet?
A: After watching Kevin, Evan and Steph from the barbell class in their competition last summer, I knew I wanted to train for one, but I wanted to be better before I signed up. Honestly, I wish I has signed up for a competition sooner than I did. Having someone to do it with me was a huge factor as well. Once I found out that Michelle was considering signing up, that made the decision a lot easier.
M: I had started reading a lot about people’s first meet experiences and the common piece of advice was always to go ahead and sign up if you were thinking about it. Everyone echoed the sentiments in my head: you’ll never feel “ready” or strong enough, but you have to start somewhere, so I decided it was time to bite the bullet. Once Amanda was on board, I felt a lot better about it, and having her by my side during this experience made it 1,000 times better.
What was the best part about prepping for the meet? The worst?
A: I think the training program was both the best and the worst part about prepping. In the beginning, we were doing a lot of hypertrophy. I would walk into the gym, get a look at my program, and I just wanted to leave. It seemed impossible! But I would chip away at the work, one thing at a time. In the end, I was proud of myself for finishing. I hated that program in the beginning, but I absolutely loved it in the end. I got stronger on every single lift! I lifted more in training than I thought was even possible.
M: I agree with Amanda; the training was both the best AND the worst part of meet prep! I was challenged physically each week for sure, but even more so mentally. I really started to struggle with some serious self-doubt (especially when it came to squats) during this process, and there were some weeks that I really had to fight the battle in my head to keep training even when I felt like I was falling apart and not making any progress. The best part of prepping for me for sure was having a program to stick to and knowing exactly what I needed to accomplish each week and WHY; I’ve discovered that I really enjoy training for something (rather than just “exercising”) and so having this meet on the calendar was a great motivator for me.
Stepping into the gym on the day of the meet: was it what you expected?
A: My first thought when I walked into the competition was that I didn’t belong there – it was extremely intimidating. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but seeing all of the chairs for spectators and everyone warming up was this moment of thinking to myself, “what have I gotten myself into, and why did I think I could do this?” I wanted to turn around and leave, but I’m so glad I didn’t!
M: Kind of. We’d gone to the facility the day before for weigh-ins, so I knew what the equipment would be like, and I’d obviously watched quite a few powerlifting videos so I had an idea of how things would go and how they’d be set up. I felt awkward and inexperienced when I walked in, wondering why I decided to get myself into this, but I was surprised by how helpful and kind some of the people we met were! Everyone knew we were new competitors, so that was really awesome to experience the generosity of other people there.
What surprised you the most about competing that day? What do you wish you had known beforehand?
A: DJ probably told me 600 times that competition is different than training, and that hitting 95% of my training PR’s would be a good day. But I had still hoped for more. The most surprising and humbling part of the day was when I missed my first two squats – I wasn’t expecting that at all. We had chosen what I thought was a very conservative opener, but I didn’t hit depth- twice! I wanted to leave and never show my face at any powerlifting event again. I don’t want to make any excuses, but I will say that I was not prepared for the equipment at all. I had never used a monolift or a Texas bar (a thicker bar that weighs more than a standard barbell) before and that was a little scary to me. Add to that the fact that the platform was carpet, which I’ve also never practiced on, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone. My nerves were absolutely through the roof, and I pretty much forgot how to squat. If I hadn’t hit my third attempt, I would have been out of the competition – that is not a place that I ever want to be again. While everyone tried to prepare me for how very different competition was, it was definitely something I had to learn for myself. Overall, I am proud that I shook it off, hung in there and ended the meet strong. One thing I know for sure is that there will be something new that I haven’t prepared for at the next meet, and the one after that. It’s a matter of how I adapt and react. I know now a little bit more about what I can expect at a meet and where I need to work on improving myself. Hopefully that will help me to do better the next time around.
M: I didn’t realize how tired I’d be by the end! DJ tried to prepare us for how mentally and physically exhausting the day would be, but I don’t think I understood before I experienced it myself. I have pretty good stamina and can usually push through just about anything, but I really started to feel drained by the end. There is just so much adrenaline pumping through your system, and long periods of downtime that you have to manage your fuel, fatigue and mental game. I wish I had known that it would be a possibility we’d be squatting on carpet! We tested out the platform the day before and were shocked to find it covered in carpet the day of – that really threw me off!
Favorite moment of the day?
A: I have to say my favorite moment of the day was finishing with a deadlift PR. After a rocky start, I was very pleased with that!
M: I have two. First would be my first squat attempt. I was the very first lifter of the meet and I was beyond nervous. I rushed my attempt but still made it; seeing those 3 white lights and knowing I had points on the board made me relax so much and start to enjoy the day more. But my overall favorite moment was definitely hitting my deadlift PR on my third and final attempt of the day; my second attempt felt super hard, and I was so tired at that point, so I knew it would be a huge challenge to lift any more weight. The hardest part of the deadlift for me is breaking the bar off of the floor, so the feeling of relief once I felt the bar come up past my ankles was one I had never felt – as soon as that happened I knew I had it! And in the most “Michelle moment” of the day, I let out an uncontrollable “F*** yeah!” and Judd Nelson fist pump right there on the platform. It was the best feeling ever.
Would you do it again? If so, when is your next meet?
A: Absolutely! I haven’t signed up for another meet yet, but the best answer is ASAP!
M: Definitely. More importantly, I can’t wait to teach others what I’ve learned and help them prepare for their first meet experience. I think if you’re even slightly curious about trying powerlifting that you should!
Are you interested in training for powerlifting or preparing for a meet? Contact us today to learn more.