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!

Ski Break in Austria – Skiurlaub in Österreich

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It took me seven years to complete my PhD dissertation (part-time). After finally submitting the document last week, including the changes requested by the two examiners, I took my family on a ski trip. I thought we all had deserved a break and spend some fun time together.  Initially it was strange for me, not getting up at five in the morning and work on the PhD.  But the beautiful nature in Austria, the ski fun,  the good food and above all, great company, makes  it easy to relax, as the picture shows.

Nach sieben Jahren reichte ich letzte Woche endlich meine Doktorarbeit ein, einschließlich der von den beiden Prüfern geforderten Änderungen. Jetzt sind meine Familie und ich im Skiurlaub. Ich dachte, wir hätten alle eine Pause verdient um einige schöne Stunden miteinander zu verbringen. Anfangs war es seltsam für mich, nicht um fünf Uhr morgens aufzustehen und an der Doktorarbeit zu arbeiten. Aber die schöne Natur in Österreich, der Skispaß, das gute Essen und vor allem die tolle Gesellschaft machen es einfach, sich zu entspannen, wie das Bild zeigt.

This Morning in Malahide – Heute Morgen in Malahide

It was a cold but beautiful morning in Malahide, so I thought I’ll go for a walk and watch  the sunrise at 8.06h. Wednesdays are my study days, so I did not have to catch a train to work.mWell, it was worth it – as the pictures show.

Es war ein kalter, aber schöner Morgen in Malahide, also dachte ich, ich gehe spazieren und beobachte den Sonnenaufgang um 8.06 Uhr. Mittwochs sind meine Studientage, also musste ich nicht mit dem Zug zur Arbeit fahren. Nun, es hat sich gelohnt – wie die Bilder zeigen.

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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