Lessons in a new sport

So, I actually took a day off. It wasn’t intentional, and I had meant to go and spend time with one of my CrossFit gym-mates before she takes off on a round-the-world trip, but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men.
Saturday I participated in a powerlifting competition, of the ‘raw’ no equipment variety. The event went pretty much as I expected, save for that I wasn’t expecting it to take all day. As you must lift in a singlet and I don’t own one, I had to rent one and it was ugly. But what the heck, it’s a powerlifting competition not a beauty contest.
It started with a weigh-in and urine sample for drug testing. I am glad that such events have mandatory drug testing. I wish all competitions did, to be honest, and it shows that the organisers are serious about at least trying to have a clean sport.
Normal powerlifting competitions are bench press, deadlift, and squat. This one was different, we did strict curl instead of squat. This was the first time it had ever been done in South Africa and you could tell – there were a lot of faults because people didn’t really know how the lift was supposed to work! But back to the beginning: the bench press. Now in a competition, unlike when lifting in the gym, for your lift to count you must obey all the rules. For bench press this meant that you have someone help you unrack the bar, then it must be stationary at the top. You lower it to your chest and it must be stationary again, then you press up and lock out. I struggled with this because you get out there and you are, of course, nervous, so I was shaking a little bit.
My personal best on the bench press is 66kgs, from a few months back, but I have no idea what my max is at the moment because we hadn’t had an open gym at Cape CrossFit since I’d been back in town. OK, there was one, but we were moving offices that day so I couldn’t go. Anyway I had no idea how strong I was, and the idea is to have your first lift be a safety lift. From there you can do what you want.
I opened at 55kgs, which was easy. My next lift at 60kgs was also easy. My final lift, 65, was somewhat difficult but nowhere near a max lift. Next time, 70! That bodyweight bench press is coming!
On to the deadlift. Now deadlift is a difficult exercise for me because I have form problems (I tend to lift with my back first). Since I also have back problems at the moment, my primary motivation in this meet was not to hurt myself, or strain that back. As a result I kept my weights moderate: I opened at 110, then went to 120, then to 125. All were successful, although my form on the final lift was not good.
Finally the hilarious strict curl. I guess I can say that I’m the South African recordholder in this event because no other female managed to lift the same weight (I did 25, then 30, then 35kgs).
I learned a couple of lessons in this meet. Firstly, you really should know your maxes coming in. I knew coming into it that I was unprepared and was just there for fun. Secondly, check to make sure you know the regulations around what sort of weight belts are allowed. My synthetic one that gives perfect support was illegal and I had to borrow someone’s leather one. Love that the guys let me do this, but a shame that I wasn’t prepared. Third, bring food along and don’t make plans for later in the day.
After we finished, I went out for all you can eat sushi with Hes, Ryan, and Jeanne from Ballistix, who were there to spectate. You know it’s kind of strange: even in a competition that I’m doing for fun and experience, you do still compete. It was awesome to have my own little cheering section, and to cheer on the other girls that I’d just met. Great to see such strong women about, and from all different backgrounds: bodybuilding, CrossFit, athletics, general fitness. But when you go out onto that platform to lift, you don’t even notice that the crowd is there. A competition is still a competition.
As it turns out, I finished second in my weight division by 5kgs. I lifted a total of 225kgs across the three lifts, and the woman who won lifted 230 (she beat me by 5kgs each on bench press and deadlift, and I beat her by 5kgs on strict curl). It was a very hard thing for a competitive personality like me to go out there and specifically not compete at deadlift, but I accomplished my goal of not hurting myself.
Until the next day when I got the genius idea to continue my squat programme …. But I was so fatigued that I lost form on a back squat and strained my back so much that I couldn’t front squat properly and had to stop my session. You would have thought that the 12 hours of sleep and obvious CNS strain would be enough to make me know I should take a rest day. But I am not so smart. I was actually laughing at myself a bit, when I felt something I hadn’t felt in over a year which was strain to the RIGHT side of my lower back.
The rest of Sunday was much more successful; I spent most of the day prepping for a company strategy session, and just getting all my strategic and tactical ducks in a row and thinking done.
What I love about sport is the people you meet, and what you can learn. I have met some great coaches and people through this powerlifting gym, and I have a lot more to learn. Competition experience is also great. Tactics and execution are just that. I learned about myself that it is actually possible for me to compete for fun …. Sort of.
I also learned that I am playing it safe way too much.
Sometimes that’s smart …. Sometimes it’s not. Fast-forward to Monday. Stay tuned.
  • “I just say: f*ck you, weights, you’re mine!” – Sean
  • “Yep, you cleaned it.” – Steve
  • “You can’t clean without moving your hip.” – Ellie
  • “I’m not a CrossFitter! How dare you!” – Joe
  • “You just put the whole thing in your mouth.” “Oh. No!” – Hes & Jeanne (they were talking about sushi)
  • “What do you need conditioning for?” – Roland
  • “Enjoy your lunch! It is lunchtime, right?” – Ellie 


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