If you’ve been in these parts for any length of time you know that I freaking love barbell sports. In the five or so years that I’ve been seriously lifting and competing and coaching I have seen countless lives change. People become stronger. Happier. More confident. They sleep better. They love better. They learn to love themselves and they learn that they are capable of stuff they never imagined. More and more people have discovered that powerlifting and weightlifting open the doors to a better life and the sports have grown exponentially. Strength sports are awesome…
…and that can turn into a problem.
Because hands up, how many of you had that adolescent relationship where the person with whom you were infatuated was so amazing, and you tried so hard to fit yourself into that person’s life, that you lost yourself? And you forgot that the relationship actually has to fit YOU too…until it was too late and you got dumped anyway and ended up alone, all broken and tied in knots?
Just me? Liars. Where were we? Oh right, competitive lifting. It can be the same as dating that narcissistic asshole in that IF you do not remember that it has to work for YOU, you are in danger of losing yourself, doing all sorts of weird shit to contort yourself to the sport, and ending up alone and broken, wondering why it didn’t love you back. Listen, YOU are just fine the way you are, and relationships are a two-way street – if it’s going to work there has to be give and take. Also, ain’t nobody going to be responsible for your own health and happiness but you. But I’ve got your back – I’m going to tell you how to avoid some of the common pitfalls in barbell sports and stay healthy and competitive over the long term. Here’s what you need to do:
QUIT WORRYING ABOUT YOUR BODYWEIGHT. Repeat after me: I am just fine the way I am. I am just fine the way I am. It’s true, you know. Learn to be a good lifter, enjoy it, and when you decide to do your first competitive meet, just show up and make your lifts. That’s all. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, get sucked into trying to get into this weight class or that one. It doesn’t matter. I’ve seen too many lifters at community-level meets who have tortured themselves with drastic weight cuts, only to perform badly and leave disappointed – it’s actually heartbreaking. I heard one frustrated coach at a meet say, “if she (the athlete) had just gotten her priorities straight and dropped the weight faster she would have been fine.” This after the athlete didn’t get into her anticipated weight class AND didn’t make her lifts because she was dehydrated and exhausted at platform time…where if she had just decided to lift in the higher weight class and NOT done an aggressive water cut, she would likely have felt better, lifted more weight, and left happy.
Once you have a competition or two under your belt, and you have a handle on the way competitions play out and how you perform under some pressure, THEN you can think about manipulating your body weight to be more competitive. If and when you decide to change weight classes, give yourself as much time as possible to make it happen and for the love of all the ugly little rodents, do it right and for the right reasons (i.e. slowly change your body composition by increasing your lean mass and decreasing your body fat, because you love yourself and you love lifting and you want to get stronger and do it better). If you need to manipulate your fluid levels to set a record or qualify for higher-level competition, make sure you and your coach are on the same page and you are both comfortable with the process. This is important because trust me, you will not be capable of rational thought during an aggressive weight cut.
And on the subject of rational thought, keep this in mind: weight moves weight. If you decide to cut down to a lower weight class, you will not be able to lift as much. You are not going to get stronger in a calorie deficit and that is a fact of life. Make sure your expectations are realistic; sometimes (and this is especially true for athletes who are already fairly lean) you are going to be better off eating lots of food, recovering well, and gaining some weight to get more weight on that barbell.
In a nutshell, homies, REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED LIFTING. Was it to get smaller and occupy less space? Or was it to unleash the beast within, get fucking strong, and move as much weight as possible?