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)

 

Yes we can! Women over 50 can get stronger!

Yesterday I came home from the European Powerlifting Championship in King’s Lynn, UK.  It was a fabulous weekend! I broke two European records, in squat with 105.5 kg and in deadlift with 137.5 kg. Including  47.5 kg with bench press I achieved three personal best lifts. So all the months of training and looking after my nutrition,  paid off! Even over 50 women can still get stronger!

 

Gestern bin ich von der europäischen Powerlifting-Meisterschaft in King’s Lynn, UK, zurückgekehrt. Es war ein fabelhaftes Wochenende! Ich brach zwei europäische Rekorde, mit 105,5 kg in der Kniebeuge/Squat und mit 137,5 kg im Kreuzheben/Deadlift. Einschließlich 47,5 kg mit Bankdrücken/Bench Press erreichte ich drei persönliche Rekorde. So zahlten sich das monatelange Training und gute Ernährung aus! Selbst über 50 Frauen können stärker werden!

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 through 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

World Powerlifting Competition in Boston, USA

 

The World Full Power Championship took place on 4th and 5th November in Boston. It was a tough competition, toughest ever, with lots of drama, strong contenders from all over the world, and VERY strict judges. But the hard training, good nutrition an early nights paid off!  I set a new European Record in Deadlift at 136.5 kg, and 1st Place in my category!