SO YOU JUST FINISHED YOUR FIRST COMPETITION
Where do you head now?
What do you do with your training?
Who even are you anymore?
Okay, while it may not be as dramatic as that last question it’s often a situation newer lifters find themselves in; they’ve just finished their first competition after pouring 12-16 weeks of their hardest training effort into it, and now the big day is done
If you’re lucky you ended up on the podium
If you’re unlucky, you bombed a lift and had a very long car ride home
Either way it’s important to know how to navigate these situations when they arise so that you don’t suddenly feel like there’s a massive vacuum in your life that needs to be filled with something else, and you can go on enjoying what you love - lifting!
You Just Finished, and You Got the Result You Were Chasing!
Nice! Congratulations - you just had a great day out on the platform, you likely went 9/9 and you hit the goals you were looking to achieve on the day
You more than likely now feel on top of the world
You walk into the gym after taking a single day off to recover, and you’re feeling more motivated than ever to keep all of the same gains going
You get a few sets in, and everything is feeling heavy - way heavier than usual
You’re getting very tired very quickly, and everything feels mechanical and foreign
Congratulations! This is called ‘de-training’ and is a completely normal response to peaking for a competition
When we prepare you for competition we plan out progressively more difficult waves of training followed by corresponding periods of recovery, essentially pushing you hard then giving you a small de-load each time to ensure you’re recovering JUST enough to keep pushing even harder the next week
It can be quite a balancing act getting it right with clients, but is typically one of the first major skills we master as powerlifting coaches once we have worked with enough people
While this prepares you for being your absolute strongest shape ever on the platform, the downside is that you are going to need equally as much time to recover on the other side of it
This is especially true because as we approach competition, we make things more specific, heavier and lower in rep ranges so that we can sharpen your ability to hit that good single while balancing out your recovery & fatigue demands
So for everything that goes up, it must also come down
Even though you hit 9/9 on the platform there’s every chance you still pushed yourself HARD to accomplish it, especially as a newer lifter
That means your recovery debt is going to be huge, and the likelihood of you continuing to hit those PRs and more in the week immediately following your competition is slim to none
Show Self Compassion & Patience
It can be easy to get very down on yourself in times like this and start telling yourself you’re weak, or get frustrated at the temporary dip in your performance so shortly after feeling like you were invincible
This is both NORMAL & TEMPORARY
This too shall pass, my friend
From a mental perspective, it’s important for you to practise self compassion at this stage of your lifting - while you are going to want to beat yourself up, is it actually reasonable to expect an even higher performance from your body just days after it’s best ever?
Check in with yourself to ask ‘What is it that I am actually frustrated with?’
And utilise the time & post-meet excitement to speak with your coach to plan out long-term goals, and what you would like your training to look like coming into the next meet
Is there something you struggled with you would like to address?
Is there a lagging muscle group you want to bring up?
Is there a big opportunity to address in your technical execution?
This is the prime opportunity to dissect these questions and plan for even more effective future training
Utilise Different Programming Methods & Positions
In the meantime focus on variations that require a little less bar-load, but are way more demanding of skill
Things like tempos & paused work are going to keep your internal load HIGH, but also reduce the total amount of weight needed on the bar for a hard session so that you can keep training hard without having to balance out your recovery
Consider also incorporating a lot more machine work for external stability, and to shift the focus temporarily away from chasing the high of a big single and instead enjoying training for its own sake - get a pump, get sweaty, get your conditioning & fitness up again
Get Away from the Bars for A Week or Two
Additionally it can be helpful mentally to incorporate activities away from the gym - walking or jogging, some gentle bike rides, kicking the football - something that will contribute to your need to stay active without the pressure of ‘performance’ with the bar
Show self compassion
Acknowledge you wins
Ball sports/non-barbell activity
Incorporate Pauses & Positional Work
More machine/external stability exercises
You Just Finished, and You Didn’t Get the Result You Were Chasing!
This is a tough one, but is an unfortunate reality
For everyone that ends on the podium, that means someone else didn’t have the day they were chasing
Not everyone gets to be the winner on the day, and that can sometimes mean it ends up being you in that role
Whether it’s a refereeing decision that went against you, some technical errors or just first-comp jitters, we need to be able to approach a situation that goes against your hopes in a constructive way that doesn’t prevent you from being able to step onto the platform again in the future
Acknowledge Your Feelings, and Stay Curious About Them
Importantly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room - losing sucks hard and it’s not a reasonable expectation to not feel upset about it to some degree
You are completely allowed to feel upset on the day
What you should NEVER do is
These are YOUR feelings - they belong to you, so they are your responsibility to manage
Instead of lashing out, instead take the time to communicate how you are feeling by checking in with yourself and asking why it is you are feeling the way you currently are
What is the name of the emotion you’re most feeling right now?
What is contributing to that?
Speak to your coach, your partner, your family or your friends about it - it does no good to hang onto it or tell yourself that you need to bottle it up, because you can only progress past it once you have put a name to it and can begin to dissect the event
Once You Dispel the Initial Emotion, Assess What Really Happened
Once the initial shock or disappointment of the event has worn off, this is your opportunity to look at what happened
If you have video footage view it with as much objectivity as you can
Did a call go against you because the referee was bad at their job? Or did it go against you because the standard of your lift wasn’t beyond a doubt?
Remember that a referee will always rule in favour of the lifter at competition unless they are SURE that the lift hasn’t met the standard
If you got a red or reds, your first stop is to ask ‘why did they make these calls and what can I do to improve it moving forward?’
If your technique and execution is beyond reproach, you don’t ever have to worry about red lights - that means lifting in the right environment, getting feedback on your performance each week as well as competing regularly to get used to the standards set by the federation you compete with
Another major contributing factor to your performance is feeling a bit shell shocked from the new experience
It should be no surprise that more experienced lifters tend to make better attempt selections, judgements on their performance and end up on more podiums
It’s because they understand the flow & rhythm of the day - they know where to put their bag in the warm up room, how to time their warm ups, when & what to eat and how to compete at increasingly higher levels
While it would be pretty cool to win the first meet you ever enter, it’s more likely that someone more experienced is going to be there on the day and will walk away with a higher placing
It’s unreasonable to have the expectation of winning when you first enter, though something you should definitely not rule out when training for the event - you should WANT to win, but be flexible in how you approach it when or if you do not
Could you have shown up earlier to the meet to organise yourself?
Could you have made time to check in with your coach the night before?
Were you 100% confident with your attempts planned for the day?
Did you plan out what to eat or bring to the meet days in advance, or in a mad rush that morning?
It Just Wasn’t There
Finally, peaking is a balancing act
With newer lifters where there is less data and experience to draw from it can always be a little volatile to assess how much or how little training someone will need to get to a peak level of performance
You can go out onto the platform feeling on top of the world then get absolutely stapled by your first attempt
What is important is to keep going - while failure hurts, it’s also very useful information for your coach and yourself to take into account to make an even better assessment of how to get performance out of you in the meet to follow
That burning sensation in your temples won’t last - that little bit of embarrassment will fade - this doesn’t have to be your final meet if you don’t want to, and you always have the power to come back and rewrite this chapter for yourself
Own your emotions - do not project anger onto others
Acknowledge how you feel, then let it go
Understand you will have another chance
Arrive earlier to assess the warm up room & organise
Check in 24-48 hours ahead with your coach to settle
Be 100% certain of your competition attempt plan
Use the result as data to improve moving forward
Address technical failure & why you received reds
Be specific about addressing weaknesses