By: Cydney Bushue
When it comes to competitions, powerlifting meets are an experience like no other. The sense of pride, camaraderie, and off-the-walls enthusiasm that you seldom get to witness anywhere else create an incredible, memorable experience. In a sport like this, no one wants anyone to fail no matter how we feel about them. At the end of the day athletes are just trying to be better than who we were in the competition before. Every single one of us is trying to reach the peak of our own personal mountain.
So with competitions in mind I wanted to discuss the experience of my first powerlifting meet and the emotions that came with it. Compared to giving speeches or walking down an aisle full of family and friends to get married, powerlifting competitions created a higher rate of anxiety in me.
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Up until this point I had been powerlifting for less than a year and exercising in general for less than a year and a half. My numbers were at the level of a novice lifter, my form was something from a horror movie, and confidence in my abilities was severely lacking. When Brian suggested that we compete together, I thought “There’s no way. I’m not good enough. I’m terrified of getting in front of people.” Obviously, Brian made a very convincing argument, because I now old world records in the bench and deadlift.
At the first competition I competed in the 148 lbs weight class while stepping on the scale at just over 143 lbs. There was so much anxiety and nervousness in my system that I ate absolutely nothing the day before weigh-ins. After clearing the scale hurdle, the rest of the day was spent eating as many boxes of doughnuts as possible and gorging on any other food that passed in front of my hands. This may be one of my favorite parts of competing, just the food I am able to try.
Sleep that night was non-existent as I spent the entire evening tossing and turning in the bed. I was horrified, mortified and a million other descriptors. I was going to do this thing, this powerlifting competition that I was so scared of. Movements and things I had done a few thousands of times in the gym before. But doing an event like this is the difference between doing your homework vs. taking a test. One feels significantly more intimidating when it comes down to it. This was something I was going to be graded on and held to a high standard with. I had never been more nervous in my life.
When it was time to lift we listened to the rules meeting, got mentally ready and the meet was starting. I was one of the first flights so I quickly threw on my knee sleeves and got to work. I can tell you for a fact, I didn’t eat a single thing that day. I had maybe a sip of gatorade but couldn’t force myself to stomach anymore. To this day, I can’t eat anything aside from gummy worms or other sweet candy on the day of competition.
The first event, squats, had gone well enough. I sat in the corner, headphones on, body rocking back and forth, a pure ball of stress. For my third attempt, we threw 226 lbs on the bar and went for it. The squat didn’t count because the judges called it on account of my hips to hitting depth. This is something that has caused me to be bound and determined to never miss squats again for this issue. The rule of thumb I was told and hold to my heart is: When you think you’ve gone deep enough on squats, just go a little deeper. That has stuck with me and is the greatest piece of lifting advice I’ve gotten.
At this point in my lifting career the bench press was the weakest link for my total. It had taken me so long to work up to the one rep max bench from my gym. Words can not describe how many months I spent working up to a single plate, 135 lbs of weight on the bar. During this first competition I was lucky enough to go 3/3 on the bench, finishing with an absolute grinder at 143. To this day I sit and think about how this weight is barely one of my first warm-ups on bench. I remember the people from my gym giving me high fives and telling me that not a lot of people get their 3rd attempt on the bench. This left me feeling like I was on top of the world, or at least the top of my weight class.
It was finally time for the shining star, the crowning jewel of all of my lifts, the deadlift. This was the singular lift that I had so much confidence in at the time. Looking back now and watching it compared to where I am there is a horrified feeling at how bad that deadlift actually was. My back was arched like a wild cat and my knees high fived one another on the way up. The amount of luck that I had to get that 330 lbs up was higher than Snoop on a Saturday night. My poor little spine has thanked me repeatedly for all of the effort I have put into bettering my techniques.
At the end of the day, I’m glad I competed in my first competition. I got a first place medal, PR’ing on all of my lifts (despite the horror show they were) and ended up leaving with a smile on my face. I still wear the meet shirt I got to every competition I lift in. The shirt brings good luck and it always reminds me of where I started and where I have yet to travel.
If you’re on the fence about competing, the best advice I can give you is to just say “Screw it.” Go compete. Tell your family and friends. The support you receive and the pride you feel at the end of the day for taking that leap is something you’ll never forget.
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