My Adventures in Powerlifting

My friends know that I’m pretty much a fitness fanatic.  I love working out and trying new things with my workouts.  Over time though I have found a few favorites that I continue to come back to…kickboxing, kettlebells, and barbells.

I first experienced barbell work when I did some different boot camps and CrossFit workouts with my friend and trainer, Amy Boyd.  Many years ago she had started her own business teaching fitness classes…and now she’s a CrossFit coach as well.  I had the opportunity to work with her and learn proper form on lifts like back squat, clean & jerk, snatch, deadlifts, etc.

I would say that I got serious about lifting a couple years ago when my gym, Brickhouse Fitness, started offering a Weightlifting class.  At the time, I was doing their other classes including kettlebells, kickboxing, and circuit work.  I saw folks doing the weightlifting class and enjoying it; the team had obviously bonded quickly over the barbell.  I knew I wanted to give it a try, but timing was tricky as the class was only offered Mon/Wed in the evenings and Saturday morning.  I decided to make the leap into the class in August 2016.  In November, they opened up a 5am class on Mon/Wed/Fri that worked better with my schedule.

Although I loved the class, 5am isn’t my favorite time to workout (even though I used to ALWAYS do 5am classes); I had gotten used to the 6am class option.  I also had a knee injury in March of 2017 that had me out of commission for quite a while as far as being able to do weightlifting.  I could do other classes that were more flexible as far as modifications and summer was coming – which meant I would want to spend more time biking in the evenings and on the weekends.

A turning point came for me when Brickhouse Fitness moved into a brand new facility in January 2018.  With the new facility, there were more lifting platforms, a bigger weightlifting room, and more class times and programming opportunities.  As moving time got closer, the coaches, Able and Rachel, started talking about plans and I started getting excited.  They were going to offer Powerlifting programming that sounded more my style and speed; it would focus on squats, deadlifts (my favorite!) and bench press with accessory work to compliment those lifts. I like Olympic lifting (clean & jerks, snatches) but they were hard on this ole body – lots of quick snappy movements.  Powerlifting would be the world of strength.  This sounded very intriguing to me. The kicker that sealed the deal for me is when they announced there would be a 6am class time – plus other times if I needed to be flexible due to work commitments or scheduled travel time.

I totally signed up on the spot January 1st!!!  🙂

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Honestly, I have absolutely LOVED it from the very beginning; it just clicks somehow for me. We have Powerlifting programming Monday through Thursday, Friday is open gym time for making up a missed workout or just working on whatever you would like. Since I had done the Olympic lifting track previously, I also have the option of lifting on Saturdays at 8am for team challenges.

Some typical workouts:

In February I heard about a Women’s lifting competition to be held at 22nd Street Barbell. I don’t even remember how I found out about it…probably from Facebook.  It was called the Women’s Barbell Classic and would be a women only competition in deadlift and bench press only (most typical sanctioned Powerlifting events also include back squat).  They were offering a bench press clinic Saturday, February 10th and I signed up.  I thought I’d check out the clinic and see what I thought before making any commitments.  LOL…

The clinic was so helpful!  The gals that taught it, Abbie Mork and Annie Brees, were awesome and explained all of the commands, various details about the lift and all about how the competition would work.  I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach…and I knew, I needed to do it!

I talked with my coach, Able, about his thoughts and how it could work into our programming.  He’s awesome and built our schedule out to work on those 2 lifts more closely over the upcoming two months.  It was official – I registered for my first Powerlifting competition. The Women’s Barbell Classic would be on April 28th. *gulp* Talk about doing things that scare you (see my last blog post!)…

They offered a deadlift clinic on March 17th and I went to that too; I wanted to learn what to expect at competition and get practice with others that would be competing.  One of the things that I appreciated most about the event and how it was run was that it really was focused on being fun and introducing more women to the sport of powerlifting and competing.

The next couple of months were focused on consistent training.  I did not miss a single day…or if I did, I made it up.  I wanted to really walk into the competition feeling strong.  The interesting thing about powerlifting competitions is that although you are competing against others in the same weight category and age category, you also are competing with yourself.  I was hoping to walk out with at least one new PR (personal record).

The day of the competition arrived; Able came with me for moral support (thank goodness because suddenly I couldn’t do simple math).  Several of my teammates  and my hubby came to cheer me on – which was amazing!

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How the whole thing is organized is rather interesting and efficient.  We had around 90 women competing and had 2 lifting platforms. That means they had to rotate through 45 women on each platform as efficiently as possible.  Each of us would get 3 attempts at each lift – so 3 times to bench press and 3 times to deadlift.  The idea is to lift the maximum weight you can, yet you typically want to work up to that weight (to build confidence, to prep your body, etc.). I had tracked my lifting numbers and had a plan created with my coach.  We could change it as we went, but we had to tell them in advance what our opening attempt would be for both bench and deadlift.  I landed on 90 lbs for my bench opening weight and 215 for my opening deadlift.

Bench press was the first lift.  To get 45 women through each platform, we were put into 3 groups called flights (about 15 women per flight).  I was in the last flight on Platform B.  While the flight before me lifted, we would warm up in the warm up area on one side of the room.  The plan for my bench press weight was: 1st lift = 90 lbs, 2nd lift = 95 lbs, 3rd lift = 100 lbs (which would be a new PR for me if I hit it).  You take turns lifting within your flight, but do all 3 lifts at once (rotate to the back of the line…each flight had around 15 ladies).

I hit 90 lbs no problem.  95 lbs went well although was feeling heavy.  When I went to hit 100 lbs, the bar path went a little crooked (not straight above my shoulders) so I missed it…dang!  I was sad only because I was sure I could hit it if I got another chance…but that’s not how competition works.  LOL…  On to deadlifts!

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We had a bit of a break while they moved the bench equipment and set up the deadlifting platforms.  Again, I was in the last flight on Platform B.  My opening deadlift was 215 lbs; it felt good.  My 2nd lift was 225 lbs…which felt good too…better than I thought. My 3rd lift was supposed to be 230 or 235 depending how I felt.  I had just told the judges 235 would be my next attempt when Able was yelling at me and saying go 240.  I’m like what…no…really?  LOL…I must have made 225 look too easy. So I changed my 3rd attempt to 240 lbs.  And I got it!!!!  Wahoo!!!  This was a new PR and totally unexpected.  You can tell by my face in the pictures it was heavy…Ha!

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It was an amazing day!  I’m so glad that I decided to compete even though a part of me was totally scared.  I feel proud of how I did…making 5 of the 6 lifts attempted.

I can’t even explain how great it was to have my coach, Able, there with me as well as several of my lifting partners…it truly meant the world to me!  The Aspire lifting group has become like family.  We lift and train together typically 5 days/week and it creates a strong bond.  They say that who you spend your time with is important…it shapes your destiny and the type of person you become.  I’m so glad that lifting brought this group together because each of my teammates do amazing things and I feel honored to lift beside them every day.

I’m not sure where this will lead or if I will do another competition, but for now, I am loving lifting. That makes it easy to go every day, even when I know the workout will suck or when I’m rather nervous about what Rachel and Able have programmed for us.  Isn’t that really what life’s all about???  Do more of what you love. Find your tribe, love them hard.

 

 

 

 

 

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