To Compete (Part 3 of 3)

It’s over. 




Months of preparation, physical, mental and emotional have all led to your competition. And now it’s over. 

What do you do from here? Let’s reflect.

1. You had a good meet

Happiness after getting my third bench attempt.

Well done. If you achieved what you set out to achieve or more, then it is imperative to appreciate that. To acknowledge that you’ve achieved your goals. Allow it to feel good. Bask in your glory, whilst it’s there.

When trying to optimise everything, you can be so used to finding flaws in yourself and your lifts (or whatever other pursuits you are following) that you aren’t satisfied even when you’ve had a near perfect day. That is an extremely sad existence. 

Of course you will want to strive for more. But just with many other things, do keep pushing, but try and appreciate what you’ve got. 

2. You had a bad meet

Sadness when I realise I’ve missed my third squat attempt. Feeling crushed – physically and emotionally.

All that toil and struggle for nothing, right? Right or wrong, it’s a common question you may ask yourself. 

How do you deal with it? I think it’s fine to be unhappy with a meet. It’s perfectly acceptable to be dissatisfied with one’s performance.  

If you’re not content with your performance then that’s fine. Your feelings are your feelings. If you’re a competitive athlete and you don’t perform well, it makes sense to be unhappy after that. It’s good to feel disappointed. Because you know you can perform better. You believe in your ability and are not happy with your inability to demonstrate it. Embrace the feeling of despair after a poor meet. It means you know that’s not what should happen. It means you know that you are capable of better. And you probably are.

One thing I dislike can be people’s attempt to console me after a poor performance. “At least you got 5 attempts” (as opposed to 9), or “you still did very well”. Their intentions are pure. But it irks me. Because my expectations are higher. Maybe they would be satisfied if they performed as poorly as I did, but I’m not! I have my own goals. I want to achieve my goals. I measure success in my way and I don’t feel successful if I’ve only achieved it according to someone else’s metrics and not by mine. I don’t want to be satisfied with a poor performance. I don’t want to be told that it’s “still a good performance” because I don’t think it is. 

I know other athletes who feel similar. My advice when dealing with those who are unhappy with their performance is to acknowledge it. Don’t try and trivialise what is making them feel dispirited. Maybe to you, missing a third bench isn’t a reason to cry. After all, aren’t there so many bigger problems in the world? Aren’t there so many things they should be happy about? Maybe. But to them it clearly means a lot. So try to not dismiss it. 

At some point you need to reflect on why your competition didn’t go well. You must. Hopefully you didn’t mull over this during the competition itself, but saved the deliberation process for afterwards. Now is the time. What were the reasons you didn’t do as you expected? Maybe it was lack of sleep, or recovery. Maybe you pushed too hard in training. Or not enough. Maybe your technique has flaws. Or maybe you were overthinking it such that you couldn’t be mentally present and execute on the platform. 

At the same point reflect on what DID go well. During this storm of a competition, what things helped you weather it? When things were going wrong, what did you do that helped some things go right? What had you done in preparation that worked (if any)? 

Daymond John said “Life is a cruel teacher. She loves to give you the test first and the lesson later.” Well, if you did poorly in the test, now is the time to make the most of the lesson. So by all means, feel unhappy and despondent, but also do something so that you won’t feel this next time you perform. 

Life is a cruel teacher. She loves to give you the test first and the lesson later.

Daymond John

Finally, you probably won’t appreciate it at the time, but poor meets do add to the bucket of experiences that makes you a more seasoned lifter. They also help you deal with failures. Meaningful failures where you’ve given everything and received nothing back. This is not the ‘silver lining’ of performing poorly though. An athlete who has just under-performed is probably not looking for this as consolation. You don’t go home after a poor day thinking: ‘ah, I didn’t achieve any of my goals, but at least I will now learn how to deal with failure’! It’s simply something to note. 

3. What is a meet?

It’s easy to see a meet as the goal of your training. To see the next meet as the culmination of everything you’ve put in. An event testing you as a powerlifter. 

I’m trying to now see meets as checkpoints as opposed to end points. The time after a meet can be a good one to step back, reflect on training and make the changes required. It is an important and useful milestone to review ourselves. 

By seeing each meet as a stepping stone to the next one – as an opportunity to build and make incremental progress over time – it has helped me perform better, by taking the pressure off individual meets. 

Of course, it can be hard to do this if the meet is actually an important one for you! Different people will find this strategy works to differing degrees.

4. From Hero to Zero

Failing a 172.5kg deadlift. I was pretty drained and exhausted at this point.

Regardless of how you’ve performed, the days after a meet can be mentally tough.

You probably have to go back to work and normal life. After a few pleasantries, your colleagues stop asking about the “weightlifting” thing you did over the weekend and delve into the daily grind, despite the fact that you can’t stop thinking about the weekend. 

In addition to this, after months and months of consistent trips to the gym, you’ve now got a week off. Or rather, your coach has made you take a week off (to rest and recover). 

You’ve gone from a powerlifting peak (literally), where you would have been surrounded by powerlifters, talking about powerlifting, and doing lots of powerlifting, to nothing. To no powerlifting. The withdrawal can be hard, and some refer to it as ‘post-comp blues’. Competitions are a massive rush. You’re bound to feel drained and exhausted after them, because you put so much energy and emotion into them. 

Adjusting back to normal life, where no-one cares as much about powerlifting as neither yourself nor your fellow powerlifters, is tough. I’d recommend trying to keep connected to the powerlifting community. Whether that be going for a drink or meal with your powerlifting friends, just giving them a call, or even going to the gym to do some mobility and chill with your friends during their sessions. Some people will be completely fine post-comp, but for those that do get those ‘blues’, it’s probably best to acknowledge you have it and do something to keep you feeling good and mentally healthy.

Moving forward

This concludes our competition series. 

As you may have noticed, much of what’s discussed goes beyond just the sport of powerlifting. From being in the present, to appreciating the way things are whilst striving for more, to dealing with failure. 

And for all of our talk on being reflective and objective, it is natural and expected to not be objective on the day. To feel. After all, the day you don’t have intense feelings (be it nervousness, excitement or otherwise) when you step on the platform, is probably the day you should stop competing. 

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