How does having a powerlifting community contribute to our mindset?
The community aspect of powerlifting can be a great benefit to training.
Firstly, of course, it’s often fun to train with others. The rest times in lifting provide a great opportunity for socialising with like-minded people and having general chit-chat, and can be better for staying more present rather than going on your phone and scrolling through Instagram. Personally, I don’t always want to talk between sets, especially when I’m working up to a heavy top set – here I prefer to have my own space, and the people I train regularly with have learnt this! Having people around that you know can also be good practically – for example if you need a lift-off on bench or a spot it’s often much better asking a fellow powerlifter than asking a random person in the gym (since someone who knows you will know how you like your spot and you can therefore trust them more).
Having a community around for training can also be beneficial in that they can make you feel supported, providing general encouragement and noise particularly when you do a tough set. There have been times when I’ve been in the gym with CUPLC and have finished my set to see half the club watching or congratulating me. Or watched videos back to hear my friends shouting encouragement. It doesn’t matter what you lift, male and female, novice and advanced lifters, we all lift together and everyone is on their own journey.
There have also been times when training has been going abysmally for many months, and one of the only things keeping me going to the gym was knowing that I had friends there to spend time with. I dreaded pretty much every session and seemed to be getting weaker rather than stronger. But powerlifting friends have been there for me throughout, dealing with my emotional ups and downs. Having that support network there whilst I was learning that resilience meant I didn’t give up.
This often carries over to competitions, where I appreciate the noise and encouragement much more due to the nerves (but also since I’m usually found lifting in the gym with headphones and music on full blast, whereas at competitions this isn’t allowed and often the music is relatively quiet). Walking onto the platform and hearing multiple people shouting your name can help to diminish some of the nerves. Hearing people screaming for you when you’re in the middle of a hard lift can really help you to persevere with it. Of course, on the flip side you may feel pressured that people are watching you and that you may disappoint them. But for me the overriding feeling is one of support.
This spirit of encouraging and supporting one another is something which makes the sport very wholesome and welcoming.
When Raghul competed in the European Bench Press Championship (August 2019), his third bench press attempt was a huge grind. One he was not prepared for. But he recalls how during the attempt he could hear so much cheering (despite not knowing many people there) as he pushed through. Whether that was what helped him complete the repetition is debatable, but either way, it was a great element of support.
Another perk of lifting with a club, or having friends who powerlift, is they can come along on the day and support you personally – what I mean by this is that they can provide platform coaching (and, in my case, often emotional support when things go wrong). So even in the warm-up room you don’t feel alone.
Competitions are also somewhere you can strengthen your own community. It’s a good place to meet other powerlifters in your weight class, whether at a university competition, a national competition, or an international where you can meet powerlifters from all over the world, the competition gives you something to bond over.
Raghul enjoys meeting new lifters at internationals. He finds it a great way to meet people from very diverse backgrounds, through the common link of powerlifting.
When I first started lifting and competing as well there were far fewer women in the sport, and going to competitions has been a way for me to meet more women who lift. And in turn, I’ve used competition as a way to bring strong women in the university together to lift as a team. I remember seeing Bobbie Butters at 2016 Junior Nationals as she was competing in my weight class and being so inspired. Since then, clearly the sport has grown hugely and it’s much easier to find other women to be role models or friends.
We have both found powerlifting a way to meet people who have similar lifestyles and value to ourselves. Both in our local gyms and when travelling. It’s an easy way to strike up a conversation.
When travelling, especially internationally, often you only interact with the locals as a tourist. By training in a powerlifting gym, you get to experience the local powerlifting community and chat with people on a different level – as a peer. It allows for new insights into the country that you may not otherwise get.
Many of our closest friends are powerlifters. It can even be a good way to meet partners…
I understand that not everyone has the privilege of being able to train with a club, and some may have to train by themselves. This is where the online community can often come in helpful. There are quite a lot of powerlifters with a decent amount of presence on Instagram now, so this is often a good way to connect with others and share training and receive support.
And not only that but it can also be a way to find people to look up to – since you’re able to follow anyone from the complete novice to a world champion.
A benefit of training with a club is that I got to train with a range of lifters with different experiences right from the start. These lifters not only provided friendship but also advice. You can find a lot of this information and advice online of course, but it often doesn’t come with quite the same integrity as when you talk to someone in person.
I spent a lot of time training with a certain international level lifter who I found particularly inspirational, as cheesy as it sounds. To train with someone who reached that level made me also want to get to that level. I saw it as a long term, but realistic goal. And having this goal has kept me motivated to continue lifting even when I no longer train with this person, and no longer train with the university club most of the time.
It has been said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Keeping a strong community of people around you is essential to success in whatever you do. A solid community can provide support, advice and inspiration, as well as friendship.