Preparing for the European Powerlifting Championship – Hoping for “Good Lifts” and “3 white lights”

Preparing for the European Powerlifting Championship – Hoping for “Good Lift and 3 white lights”

A big thank you to all wishing me well for the European Single Lifts powerlifting competition in Dublin next week. I hope I won’t disappoint you.

Over the last three months, I’ve been training hard, and now I’m in maintenance   mode. My nutrition is “angelic” the last time I had an alcoholic drink was at a wedding in August, a glass of prosecco. There I also had the last time sugary food – a beautiful dessert selection. From then on I ate lots of protein from different dairy,  plant and animal sources, good fats, lots of vegetables, nuts, fruit, some good carbs, but  no sugary food and no alcohol.

Ethically I would prefer to be completely vegetarian but once a week I have fish and a steak, to get the full spectrum of proteins from natural sources. I am lucky that I like cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir and buttermilk, all good natural sources of protein.

I have to stay at around 67 kg to compete in my usual under 70 kg category. The competition takes place over 3 days, Friday squat, Saturday bench and Sunday deadlift. I have to allow for putting on about 1 kilogram each day, as I will eat a lot to keep my energy up and stress levels down.

The biggest challenge is to sleep well coming up to the competition, and that is harder for me than sticking to good food. However, I’m working on it, with some relaxation exercises,  stretching and no scary movies before going to bed!

Powerlifting competitions are as unpredictably as any other sports competition.  Anything can happen! All the training and preparation has to come together and then each lift is over in less than 10 seconds.  Failure is public, but so is success!

The best image for a powerlifter is seeing the three white lights on the screen, showing that all 3 judges see your lift as successful.

The best sound for a powerlifter is the sound of the head judge announcing “Good lift!”

I’m looking forward to compete with the best powerlifters in Europe, I know what they all have gone through to be where they are now.

So, this is it – I can do no more – you hear from me again after the competition – hopefully in a good mood!

 

 

WHO plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from global food supply

WHO yesterday released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Eliminating trans fats is key to protecting health and saving lives: WHO estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease.

Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods. Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.

“WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply,”said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help achieve the elimination of trans fat, and represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular disease.”

REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply:

REview dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.

Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.

Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.

Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.

Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.

Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.

Several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food. Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.

In Denmark, the first country to mandate restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats, the trans fat content of food products declined dramatically and cardiovascular disease deaths declined more quickly than in comparable OECD countries.

“New York City eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed.”

Action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world.

WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, Michael R. Bloomberg, a three-term mayor of New York city and the founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said: “Banning trans fats in New York City helped reduce the number of heart attacks without changing the taste or cost of food, and eliminating their use around the world can save millions of lives. A comprehensive approach to tobacco control allowed us to make more progress globally over the last decade than almost anyone thought possible – now, a similar approach to trans fat can help us make that kind of progress against cardiovascular disease, another of the world’s leading causes of preventable death.”

Elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the global food supply has been identified as one of the priority targets of WHO’s strategic plan, the draft 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13) which will guide the work of WHO in 2019 – 2023. GPW13 is on the agenda of the 71st World Health Assembly that will be held in Geneva on 21 – 26 May 2018. As part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has committed to reducing premature death from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by 2030. Global elimination of industrially-produced trans fats can help achieve this goal.

“Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?” asks Dr Tedros. “The world is now embarking on the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, using it as a driver for improved access to healthy food and nutrition. WHO is also using this milestone to work with governments, the food industry, academia and civil society to make food systems healthier for future generations, including by eliminating industrially-produced trans fats.”

Notes
There are two main sources for trans fats: natural sources (in the dairy products and meat of ruminants such as cows and sheep) and industrially-produced sources (partially hydrogenated oils).

Partially hydrogenated oils were first introduced into the food supply in the early 20th century as a replacement for butter, and became more popular in the 1950s through 1970s with the discovery of the negative health impacts of saturated fatty acids. Partially hydrogenated oils are primarily used for deep frying and as an ingredient in baked goods; they can be replaced in both.

WHO recommends that the total trans fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g/day with a 2,000-calorie diet. Trans fats increases levels of LDL-cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk, and decreases levels of HDL-cholesterol, which carry away cholesterol from arteries and transport it to the liver, that secretes it into the bile. Diets high in trans fat increase heart disease risk by 21% and deaths by 28%. Replacing trans fats with unsaturated fatty acids decreases the risk of heart disease, in part, by ameliorating the negative effects of trans fats on blood lipids. In addition, there are indications that trans fat may increase inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.

From 4 May-1 June 2018, WHO is running an online public consultation to review updated draft guidelines on the intake of trans-fatty acids saturated fatty acids for adult and children.

Source: World Health Organization

 

The Game Plan of a Powerlifting Competition

It has now been a week since the European Championship in King’s Lynn, UK. Since I came back many friends, colleagues and other powerlifters asked me what I did for preparation and also what my game plan was to break two European records (Squat and Deadlift), win a gold medal in my category and achieve three personal bests. So I thought I write a blog about it.

As written in a previous blog, Nutrition – Strong, Simple and Sustainable to get stronger I not only train four times a week, I also eat nutritious food, try to get seven hours of good quality sleep and ensure that I take rest days also.

After having competed in 11 powerlifting competitions, including 5 international ones,  there are 3 rules I follow:

Rule 1: Prepare, prepare, prepare

There are no shortcuts in training – ensure that your technique is spot on, in accordance with the rules of your powerlifting association. Ensure that you regularly practice your main lifts, but also do plenty of auxiliary work, to strengthen the supporting muscles.

Rule 2: Know your personal best (PB)

For me, a PB is has to be achieved in perfect form and in accordance with the rules of  your powerlifting association, not a lift that is grinded out, almost injuring myself in the lifting process.

Rule 3: Pick your competition lifts wisely – don’t let your ego get in the way

Picking your lifts depends on your PB – but also on your form on the day.

1st lift – the opener. This lift gets you in the game. I have learned that I need to calm my nerves first, and show the judges that I know what I’m doing. So my first lift is one that I can to twice in a row, after a late night out or when sick.

2nd lift –getting serious.  Now that you are in the game, you have completed a successful 1st lift,  this is a lift that should be a little challenging, but you should have successfully completed it before it in a previous competition. If you have not competed before, choose a lift that you can do once in perfect form.

3rd lift – push out the boat. Trust in your training. If you have trained regularly, focusing on your main lifts, your technique and auxiliary work, everything should be in place now for your biggest lift.  This is your moment; the reason you came for. But listen to your body when lifting, if something is off, led the weight go.

Overall – don’t get distracted by what other lifters lift. Powerlifting is a sport where you first and foremost compete against yourself. Of course it is nice to win and break records. But my advice is to leave this for your third lift,  when you have already two good lifts under your belt (excuse the pun) and are confident and ready to show them all what for are made of.

In the European Championship I lifted as follows:

  1. Squat: 92.5 kg. 97.5 kg 105.5 kg (ER)
  2. Bench: 42.5 kg, 45.0 kg, 47.5 kg
  3. Deadlift: 122.5 kg, 132.5kg, 137.5 kg (ER) 

 

 

My Powerlifting Journey

Yesterday a colleague asked me how I got into powerlifting – at my age. This is a question I was asked many times before, so I thought I write a blog about it, to describe the beginning of the journey, the painful lessons, the successes, the benefits and what powerlifting does for me.

 

The Beginning of the Journey

I started lifting heavy weights in summer 2015 at the tender age of 54. As I had a month of work I thought it would be nice to get really fit and in shape, see what I achieve with exercise and good nutrition.
I had been a member of a lovely hotel health and fitness club for 20 years. However, none of the fitness routines such as treadmill, stepper and bike aerobics had improved my body, perhaps just kept me in reasonable shape.
I asked one of the fitness staff in the gym to tell me what else I could do “to get rid of the wobbly bits”. I was lucky as the guy I asked was also a strength coach in another gym. He advised me that I should start lifting weights.
I told him that I did not want to get bulky, look like a bodybuilder, but he said that there is “not a chance” as I would not have enough testosterone in my body to build big muscles.
So I thought I’ll give it a try. After a few weeks I saw results, my clothes felt more comfortable, I felt more energetic and lifting heavier and heavier weights made me feel very good. I slowly changed my nutrition, mainly more protein, less sugar, more vegetables. I learned about the importance of sleep, as the whole strength building process happens while sleeping (I’m sure there is a scientific rationale).
Soon I noticed in the gym that I lifted heavier weights than the young guys working out beside me. I looked up the weights I lifted on the web and the world records in my weight/age category were not miles away, in fact, I had already beaten the standing world record in deadlift many times in the gym!

Painful Lessons

So, thinking that I may have a talent for weightlifting I went to get a few lessons in powerlifting. Powerlifting is a form of competitive weightlifting in which contestants attempt three types of lift in a set sequence, squat, bench press and deadlift, which is called “Full Power”. Competitions are also held that include just one of these lifts which are called “Single lifts”, or a competition of two lifts.
In August 2015 I joined the Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Federation and in September I took part in my first competition in Ballina, Co Mayo, a “push – pull” competition, meaning bench press and deadlift.
What a (painful) learning opportunity! Similar to boxing, powerlifters compete in weight category and I thought, and still think, the weigh-in in the early morning is the worst part of the competition. Then I made so many mistakes, wrong shows, wrong belt, wrong technique, nerves….
I was disqualified after not being able to get one successful bench press. I wanted to drive home and cry! What had I been thinking! However after many encouraging words from another female powerlifter, I partook in the deadlift part of the competition, even though none of the lifts would be counted. I achieved three successful lifts, got a lot of applause and again I got a lot of encouraging words. Even though I left Ballina empty-handed, I decided to try again in another competition.

Successes and further goals

By now I took part in four world championships, in Wales, Italy, Belgium and Boston, USA. I broke and set some World and European records. I met other powerlifters from many countries, also passionate about powerlifting. My next goal is to partake in the European full power championship in the UK in May and beat my personal records in all three categories.

Benefits of lifting heavy

So far, I am enjoying the sport. Other powerlifters have described the relaxation aspect of this sport and the reduction of anger, the emotional wellbeing. I agree with them. No matter how much is going on in my life, I can put it out of my head for a few hours every week, without taking drugs. When I am preparing for a big lift there is this intense concentration with one single purpose – to get that weight of the ground. This is a quiet and meditative moment, I notice nothing else but the bar.

What does it do for me?

I think that my competitive sport enables me to manage the other aspects of my life – my hectic personal life, my managerial role in Trinity College as well as my scholarly work. Thanks to my sport I can completely switch off for a few hours a week.
I am now in better shape than ever. I am stronger, feel calmer, the best is really that the training, the discipline and determination gives me the ability to face better everything that life might throw at me!

Nutrition – Strong, Simple and Sustainable

Many people have asked me what I eat and drink to give me energy for my competitive sport, powerlifting, while leading a busy life.

Over time, through trial and error, experimenting with different foods I learned that there are three principles that work for me. Nutrition for me has to make me strong, give me energy, be simple to prepare and the overall diet plan has to be sustainable.

Strong

When I started experimenting with my diet I used to call good nutrition “strong food”. That was before I heard the term “clean food.” But strong food means more to me, it is food that gives me energy for my sport and busy life. It does not make me feel sluggish and tired. I now see food as nutrition, as fuel for the day, helping me to stay strong and healthy.

Simple

Once I get the so-called “macros” right i.e. protein, fats, carbohydrates and making sure the food is varied so all necessary minerals and vitamins are covered I don’t worry about a detailed nutrition plan.

I am getting protein from natural sources, for example from dairy, such as kefir, buttermilk, yogurt, cottage and other cheese, and from eggs, chicken, turkey, beef or fish.

I don’t worry about the fat intake too much as I guess there is enough there in combination with the protein.

Changing my carbohydrate intake was the hardest. As I ate more protein and fat since taking up powerlifting, I had to limit my overall calorie intake from carbohydrates,  so I would no put on weight and stay within my competition weight category.

Carbohydrates can come from three key sources, sugar, starch and fibre. As sugars have a higher calorie density, I switched to more complex carbohydrates, starches and fibres,  for example vegetables, nuts, grains and legumes.  Nuts and legumes in particular have the added benefit of being  a good source of protein.

I now eat lots of vegetables, leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and cabbage, and other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower,  peppers, beetroot, sauerkraut and asparagus.

Sustainable  ­

Sustainable means for me that I can stick to a diet for a long time – for life!  The food I eat needs to be easy and quick to prepare and available everywhere I might travel. For example, eggs, natural yogurt and cottage cheese are available in all countries I travel to, and so is spinach, peppers and most other vegetables.

Of course there is temptation to eat sweets. My weakness are chocolate and ice cream. So I usually eat chocolate during competitions, as a quick source of energy.  I stick to good quality chocolate though, ice cream and other treats, and thoroughly and consciously enjoy them!

The greatest achievement – choosing training over couch and TV! *** Der größte Erfolg, die Entscheidung für Training, gegen Couch und Fernsehen!

 

Yesterday I was asked if I am still doing the bodybuilding. I quickly corrected the person that I am not doing bodybuilding, but powerlifting. I am training for strength, not physique, even though there are similarities in the training  method. And yes, I am still powerlifting, even though I have already won many trophies and medals, broke many records.

So, what keeps me motivated? Why am I not resting on my laurels and enjoy looking back on my achievements?

After a week’s rest while on holidays I found it hard to get back to the gym. But I went and  was immediately rewarded by the great atmosphere,  support from the other powerlifters, and most of all, the feeling of having achieved something:

Choosing training over sitting on the couch and watching TV!

Every time I choose something that helps me to be successful in powerlifting – be it going training or making healthy food choices – is an achievement and  these (daily) achievements keep me motivated, not past successes.

Gestern wurde ich gefragt ob ich noch Bodybuilding mache. Ich korrigierte schnell die Person, daß ich nicht Bodybuilding, aber Powerlifting mache. Ich trainiere für Kraft, nicht für Körperbau, auch wenn es bei der Trainingsmethode Ähnlichkeiten gibt. Und ja, ich bin immer noch im Powerlifting, obwohl ich schon viele Pokale und Medaillen gewonnen, viele Rekorde gebrochen habe.

Also, was hält mich motiviert? Warum ruhe ich mich nicht auf meinen Lorbeeren aus und genieße es, auf meine Leistungen zurückzublicken?

Nach einer Woche Ferien fiel es mir schwer ins Fitnessstudio zurückzugehen. Aber ich ging und wurde sofort belohnt von der großartigen Atmosphäre, der Unterstützung durch die anderen Powerlifter und vor allem dem Gefühl, etwas erreicht zu haben:

Die Entscheidung für Training über das Sitzen auf der Couch und Fernsehen!

Also, jedes Mal, wenn ich eine Entscheidung treffe, die mir hilft, im Powerlifting erfolgreich zu sein – sei es für Training oder eine gesunde Ernährung, ist ein Erfolg und dieser (tägliche) Erfolg hält mich motiviert, nicht in was ich in der Vergangenheit erreicht habe.

Nutrition – Strong, Simple and Sustainable

Many people have asked me what I eat and drink to give me energy for my competitive sport, powerlifting, while leading a busy life. Before starting powerlifting, I typically would have muesli for breakfast, a sandwich or a salad for lunch and a range of pasta dishes, stews, or casseroles for dinner, whatever was easy to prepare after work. I also would have snacks during the day, for example biscuits in the afternoon.  And yes, takeouts featured on my weekly dinner menu. Read more