Last week I harped on about my training and the tapering process I was undergoing for my first weightlifting comp, held at Locker 27 last weekend. The whole day was a wicked event and my tapering plan had worked, as I hit two new PB’s in both the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk.
However, that doesn’t mean the perceived demons of failure were absent and the challenge of channeling one’s nerves, yet again, becoming one of the prime prerequisites for outdoing yourself…
Here’s how it went down…
Despite pulling a range of facial expressions that all qualified under the constipation umbrella, and wearing a Team Bulgaria onesie that revealed my package far more than any Spiderman costume, I did indeed manage to push myself to achieve the uncertain and previously perceived impossible.
There’s a lot of nervous energy at beginner competitions. Most of the competitors in attendance are shitting themselves. Constant fidgeting, stretching and pacing around soon become the norm. I did my best to remain focused on lifting more than I had ever managed previously, and this was aided massively by having my coach in attendance. Without him, my entrance-lift numbers would have been lower, my confidence thinned and probably my overall performance stifled with confusion.
Weightlifting comps are built on numbers. Double digits are shouted every minute, followed by a militant ‘Bar is loaded!’ battle cry from whoever is in charge. You have to be quite clear on what your opening numbers are, and be sure not to be in the pisser when they call your name.
Fortunately, this comp was lenient on form and all things official, taking the pressure off slightly. Although, for those that had never competed before, being told this didn’t really make a difference, we still didn’t know what to expect and still had nervous energy to channel. And this is where the value of the coach comes in. It’s a massive confidence booster to have a coach present who knows what your numbers are, what you’re capable of and can be on hand to push you when doubt may otherwise be creeping in.
You don’t need a coach to be there, many of the competitors didn’t have one present as they were representing their university club. I’d compare it to learning a skill from a book versus from a mentor. One is going to get you a better result, much faster.
I also learnt that my naive decision of wearing a Spiderman outfit was all very well, until the rules were dictated; the referees need to be able to see your joints in a locked out position to declare whether or not the lift counts – something I wasn’t previously aware of, plus the fact the spidey rig had gloves proved that it probably wasn’t the most ideal garment to break PB’s in.
In terms of head games, weightlifting is another skill that takes part a lot of the time in your head. The psyche to move a weight larger than you initiates with my own self talk. Everyone has different methods. One chap competing had his coach slap up his quads, beat his shoulders and massage his traps like a sumo preparing to brawl.
For me, I use a breathing pattern that involves a certain level of noise and aggressive inhalations that I formed from shitting myself before walking highlines over drops of death. The same breathing pattern still works for me to dispel nervous energy and shut up the voices of doubt that often lurk in the shadows of my own head.
I then chalk my hands and rotate my neck in such a way to get a click or two out of it and we’re ready to go. Set the feet so that I feel like I can jump, set the hands for the grip and it’s time to pull like a bull with tow-rope.
I opened my Snatch (pun intended) at 60kg and hit it. Second lift was a personal best at 65kg and I failed on my third and final attempt at 70kg. Reviewing the footage, I was just too slow and hesitant to get under the bar with speed. If I had hit the bottom squat position with more pace, I reckon the lift would have been ticked.
Snatch is the harder of the two lifts for me; I feel it is more technical with less room available to muscle one’s way through it to success.
My Clean and Jerk lifts went very well. I opened at 85kg, hit 90kg for my second, and went all in at 95kg for my third and final lift. 95 felt amazing. I knew that I only had to get the barbell on my shoulders. After that, it was game over. It flew up off the floor, practically guillotining my jugular, and with a fat arse-squeeze and a good old fashioned grunt, I squatted myself upright, took a fat lug of air in and jerked the weights over head. I can’t quite remember what happened, but I let out a roar and it felt awesome. I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do, I could sleep well with a clear conscience.
It was interesting to spot guys on the platform that were way skinnier than me, shifting a lot more weight than me and it all becoming a question of technique more than muscle. That acted as a confidence booster for me, too, know that I’d be capable of shifting that amount if not more, over time.
Though I’m not interested in ranking on the national lists for weightlifting (this beginner’s comp I placed 11/20), I do think competing is a very useful tool for pushing yourself harder than you would otherwise achieve on your own. Channeling nervous energy and adrenaline can push your own boundaries and it is a very difficult thing to simulate in training. Comps offer a pressured environment to take advantage of, and that’s where diamonds are conceived.
Big shout goes out to the other boys representing Locker 27, Mark my weightlifting coach, and the one ref who gave me a red stick on my final lift…
Harry Cloudfoot is a writer, stunt performer and aspiring iron pumper. You can follow him on Twitter.
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