Monthly Archives: December 2013

So you want to lift at Bethnal Green Weight Lifting Club?

I won’t deny I spend a bit of time trying to recruit people into powerlifting, especially at Bethnal Green WLC, and I’ve had a few requests for info on how to sign up there, what level you need to be at, what it’s like etc etc. It’s actually a bit complex to sign up, as BGWLC is not a regular commercial gym, so here’s the info you need.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: This post is now out of date. Bethnal Green now has an official website – Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club – and Facebook page – please check those out for info!

Where is it?

BGWLC is at:

229 Bethnal Green Road
E2 6AB

The entrance is on Turin Street, near the corner of Bethnal Green Road. Nearest transport is Bethnal Green tube/rail; Shoreditch High Street Overground; Liverpool St rail or 8 & 388 buses.

When are the sessions & how do I sign up?

BGWLC is nominally administered by Tower Hamlets council, and is run on a term-by-term basis by their adult education service. The new 2014 term starts on January 13th.

The way to sign up for sessions is by calling 020 7364 5665 and quoting the course code(s) you want.

[Normally this could be done via but Tower Hamlets seem to have taken that site down!]

Mon 5-7pm B2435 (powerlifting)
Mon 7-9pm B1521 (powerlifting)
Tue 10.30-12.30pm B2090 (powerlifting)
Tue 6-8pm B1524 (powerlifting)
Wed 7-9pm B1525 (Olympic weightlifting)
Thu 10.30-12.30pm B1526 (powerlifting)
Thu 5-7pm B2434 (powerlifting)
Thu 7-9pm B1528 (powerlifting)
Fri 7-9pm B2309 (Olympic weightlifting)
Sat 10-12pm B1529 (Olympic weightlifting – beginners)
Sat 12-2pm B2307 (powerlifting)

These codes are valid for January 2014 only

The cost is £45 per term (10 weeks) for one session a week; so if you sign up for 2 sessions it’s £90, etc.

BGWLC offers Olympic Weightlifting & powerlifting. I only do powerlifting, so I’m afraid I can’t offer much info about Olympic weightlifting.

I train on Monday & Thursday evenings 7-9pm (I’m usually there 6.30pm onwards), and Saturday 12-2pm.

What will I learn?

The sessions are not taught formally, but if you need coaching it is available. Many of the people who lift are fitness professionals or experienced lifters, but absolute beginners are completely welcome.

You’ll learn the squat, bench press & deadlift, as well as the accessory lifts and general badassery. There’s no focus on weight/fat loss or aesthetics.

What should I wear?

Wear flat plimsolls or daps, e.g Converse. Avoid wearing shaped-sole running shoes! Clothes-wise, anything is fine – I like wearing capris/running tights, t-shirt & sports bra (the latter isn’t strictly necessary but is good for comfort).

Can I check it out before I sign up?

Yep! The gym is open outside of term times. I will be there on the days I’ve bolded, but at other times you can ask to see Martin/Giles and have a chat.

2nd Jan 6-8pm
3rd Jan 5-9pm
4th Jan 12-3pm
6th Jan 6-8pm
7th Jan 5-8pm
8th Jan 5-9pm
9th Jan 6-8pm
10th Jan 5-9pm
11th Jan 12-3pm


Done for 2013

I went to Bethnal Green last night for what I think is going to be my last lifting session of 2013. I just had a little play – 3 x 3 squats @ 60kg, some Dimel deadlifts, dumbbell bench presses and skullcrushers.

To be honest, I’m a bit fed up mentally with powerlifting at the moment and I think a break until next year will do me good. And in any case, I will be busy over the Christmas period so probably won’t find time to workout (I volunteer at Crisis between Christmas & NYE, so I don’t have much free time over my holiday!).

I make new year resolutions every year, and this year will be no different. 2013’s resolutions involved making a total at the GBPF Classic (which I did) and eating eggs for breakfast most days (which I didn’t – I’ve fallen in love with Oatibix instead!)

In 2014 I would really like to hit a 100kg squat; go to grappling regularly (maybe every 2 weeks or so, because it clashes with my commitment to Codebar) and work on my grip every workout with farmer’s walks, static bar holds etc. If I don’t make that 120kg deadlift at my next competition because my grip fails again I will be very upset!

I’m going to go to conditioning at Urban Kings today, and since I’m working on Monday/Tuesday next week I might even find some time to do some foam rolling there next week too. Maybe!

Improving my squat with yogalates

About 6 months ago I joined Urban Kings, a gym near my work, to have a secondary gym to go to during the day, when I’m not training at Bethnal Green WLC. One of the classes there that worked with my schedule was yogalates with Veronique, and I decided to give it a go, mostly because Wednesdays are quiet for me, it was convenient, and hey – after 30+ years of being sedentary, it seemed like a good idea to try to get more flexible.

It turned out that I love the class, and try to go every week as a result – plus it has had an unexpected bonus: I have broken my squat plateau since starting yogalates, and I think that’s down to the class.

Back in November 2012 I set a new squat pb (in competition) of 85kg, then (as so often happens) my squat totally plateaued. Plateaus are pretty much to be expected when you’ve been lifting for a while and your newbie gains are long gone. I of course continued to follow my programming & do all my assistance exercises, but no dice. I attempted a new squat pb in June 2013 at the Greater London Clubs championship, but buckled under 87.5kg. My weak point was my upper body – under 80kg+, my lungs felt crushed and I was bowing down into a “squat morning” at the bottom of the lift, totally unable to keep my head & chest up. Not good.

Back to the yogalates class. I found the first few pretty hard – one of Veronique’s main moves in the class is side planks, lots & lots of side planks. Guess who couldn’t do side planks? I struggled at first to do the side planks on my feet, having to use my knees for most of them. However, on 31st July I managed to do ALL the side planks and then it was onwards & upwards in every class.

And guess what? My squats started to improve in training.

The first thing I noticed was that I gradually stopped doing “squat mornings”. I could keep my chest & head up throughout the lift when squatting more than my bodyweight. Once I realised my form had improved, we decided to push the weight a bit. Being a non-novice lifter, I don’t often up my weights by much during regular training, but I felt able to say “Hey, let’s add another 2.5/5kg” on the last set and know I was going to make it. Eventually, I squatted 90kg in the gym a couple of weeks before the British Classic in October, repeated that at the Classic, then squatted 92.5kg at the Greater Londons in November & 95kg at my club comp last week. That’s 10kg in 6 months, after lifting for 4.5 years.

Adding 10kg (or just over 11%) to my squat might not seem like much, but bear in mind that my newbie gains are long gone, and pbs tend to be few & far between when you’ve been lifting a long time. I’m certainly not going to sniff at it!

So what happened? The short answer is: yogalates helped me find my core. In the past, when my coach said “get tight” before a lift, and people talked about tightening their core, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I did ab exercises, sure, but I didn’t know how to brace my core well. After doing yogalates for a few months, I can now tighten my core effectively when I need to, and I have the confidence to know I won’t (or, am not as likely to) buckle under a big weight on my shoulders.

Here’s how I set myself up for a squat now: I take the bar quite low on my back & step out of the rack. When the referee gives the command, I empty my lungs of air, then breathe a really deep breath right into my stomach & against my belt. Then I tighten my upper & lower core: the upper core feels like shutting a pair of doors around my ribcage; the lower core feels like I’m drawing my navel into my spine & holding it there. Then I squat, and blow all the air out of my lungs on the ascent, keeping the core tight. I only let go once I’ve been given the rack command & can replace the bar.

I’m now feeling really confident that a 100kg squat isn’t far away. I’m hoping to replicate that 95kg squat at my next competition in June, and (hopefully) add a little more at the same time. 3 numbers, baby!

Recipe – sausage & bacon toad-in-the-hole

Toad in the hole. If you’re not British you may be wondering what the hell this is! Basically it’s sausages cooked in Yorkshire pudding batter (I believe Yorkshire puddings are similar to “popovers” in the USA?)

This recipe is based on one from The English Kitchen, and I’ve pretty much left it unchanged except for a couple of tweaks. I’ve made it twice now (and used the batter mix on its own to make Yorkies for a roast dinner) and it’s not failed me yet!


175g plain flour
1 tsp English mustard powder
2 large eggs
150ml each of milk and water
8 pork sausages
8 rashers of streaky bacon
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges

First, make the batter mix about 30 minutes before you want to start cooking. Sift the flour into a bowl & add the mustard powder. Add the eggs, milk & water, and whisk until you get a smooth batter. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Set aside for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C fan / 220°C conventional. Heat up some fat (I used goose fat, but you can use butter or oil) in a large roasting pan. Wrap each sausage in a rasher of bacon. When the fat is hot, add the sausages+bacon to the roasting pan and place the onion wedges around them. Try not to take too long doing this – you want the fat to stay hot! Pour in the batter mix and put the pan back in the oven right away.

Leave the pudding in the oven for at least 30 minutes without opening the door (else the pudding might collapse). I find it takes more like 40 minutes. It’s ready when it’s risen, with a crisp crust around the edges & golden in the middle. If you find the middle doesn’t cook properly before the edges burn, you may need to use a larger/shallower pan (or, you can just eat it soft & a little undercooked in the middle – I like it that way!)

Serve with green vegetables, e.g. spring greens or sprout tops, and onion gravy. There’s no need for mash/potatoes with this, as it’s quite carby/stodgy as-is!

Serves 4. Or 2, if you’re me & my boyfriend!

Club competition 2013

Yesterday we had our annual club championship at Bethnal Green WLC. Despite training at BGWLC since April 2009, this was the first time I’d taken part in the club comp. Last year I was recovering from gynaecological surgery, so I refereed; I guess in previous years I must have been away or busy.

I didn’t bother to cut weight for this competition, as we were working a 4:1 relative weight ratio instead of weight classes. So, for every 1kg of weight you carry over your opponents, you’re expected to lift 4kg more.

I weighed in at 72.6kg on the day – i.e. only 600g over competition weight – which I’m really impressed with as I’ve been eating whatever I like since November 23rd and I ate breakfast before weigh-in. When I say “whatever I like”, in the last week or so I’ve eaten 2 Gu-Zillionaire’s Puddings, shared a Domino’s with my boyfriend, got drunk at my departmental Xmas lunch, and eaten chocolate/sweets every day. I must be doing something right-ish despite the astronomical levels of sugar I’m eating.

I’ve also had a horribly stressful week, as my beloved cat has been ill & needed a small operation. I had to take him to the vet on the morning of the competition, which didn’t help my anxiety levels. Happily he seems to be doing OK, despite having to wear a cone.


I did OK in the competition. I came last out of the 4 ladies competing (obviously!) but I got a new squat personal best of 95kg. I had to grind it out, and I remember thinking as I was doing it that I was never going to get it up, but I did. I’m so close to that magic 100kg that I can almost taste it.

On bench I opened at 47.5kg, then failed to get 50kg twice. My bench is abysmal. Oh well.

In the deadlifts, I opened with 115kg, which is my current pb. I was really unsure about opening so high, but I’ve opened at 110kg for too long now & I need to break that habit. 115kg went up OK, although my right-hand grip was touch & go while I was waiting for the ref to give me the signal to put it down. Then I attempted 120kg, got it almost up, but the bar fell from my right hand at lockout. So annoying. I tried 120kg again for my 3rd attempt but barely got it off the ground.

So, another thing to add to my list for 2014 is more grip work. Static bar holds, farmer’s walks with dumbbells etc. My legs have the strength, but my grip & upper back are weak.

For the rest of the year I’m probably going to wind my training down a bit. I won’t be training over the Xmas period as I’ll be away from home for a couple of days, then working at Crisis Christmas in the run-up to new year. I think my body needs the break!

Talking about powerlifting (part II!)

So, I mentioned a while back that I was going to do a lightning talk on powerlifting at Ladies Who Code, and last night was the night! I think it went OK (almost well) although I completely failed to look at my notes & forgot to make a few points I wanted to make. But the main thing is that I did it! And I also managed to talk about powerlifting without mentioning weight/fat loss and “sexy squat butts”. Not that I think those things are bad – I’m just bored of women’s lifting being framed in only those terms (that it will make you lean & sexy, and those are the only reasons to do it).

I’m now quite keen to do more talks; not (necessarily) on powerlifting but probably on more techie things, as that’s primarily what the meetups I go to are all about. Unfortunately I’m far more enthusiastic about powerlifting than I am about anything to do with my day job!!

In lifting news, at the gym on Monday I worked up to my openers for Sunday’s club competition. I was hoping to open my squat with 87.5kg, but 85kg felt heavy on Monday so maybe not. Then again, I don’t know how I’ll feel on the day. I think I’ll open my bench on 47.5kg as usual. And for deadlifts, I managed to do 115kg without a hitch (or at least without an exaggerated one!) so I might throw caution to the wind & open with that. Why the hell not.

Videoing my deadlifts the other week has really helped me see what my hitch looked like, and be able to think of ways not to do it. I’m not entirely there yet, but on the way to sorting it out (I hope!)

Hitching my deadlifts

…featuring a video!

I had deadlifts last night, 2 x 2 @ 85% (I did 100kg). As you may know, I have an issue whereby I hitch my deadlifts, and keep getting deadlifts disallowed in competition because of it. So, I asked Martin (coach) if he minded me bringing my phone into the gym to record my form – normally I’m not allowed by phone in the gym.

He grumbled a bit and said something about how I was turning into a fucking weightlifter, wanting to film my lifts and check my form etc etc, but I did it anyhow 😉 Hence there may be a little swearing my this video!

This is my third set of 2 @ 100kg, so I was a little tired by this point. Plus it was the day after my office Christmas party, I had a hangover & was sore from dancing in high heels! Excuses, excuses 😉 I’m quite pleased at how easy deadlifting 100kg feels to me, though.

OK, breaking it down:

Rep #1: It’s not bad. I don’t hitch it, for starters. I keep my back relatively tight (there’s a little softening) and drive my hips through earlier than rep #2.

Rep #2: Soft back, my bottom comes up too early, my hips come through too late, and I hitch it. It may not look like what people call hitching (i.e. stopping & starting the lift) but according to GBPF referees at least, that’s a hitch. My hips drive through too late, I put my upper legs under the bar, and I lean back. I wasn’t trying to hitch it – I was trying to do another rep like the first – but it happened.

So, my weak points:

  • Weak upper back – there’s too much softness there. I need to work on engaging my core and tightening my back before the lift. More yoga, and more bent-over rows for me in 2014!
  • Timing the hip drive better. When I hitch, I drive my hips through too late. I need to engage my hips earlier.
  • Staying over the bar. One of the main reasons I hitch is because I lean back too far. I need to stay over the bar a bit longer during the initial pull; then try to finish the lift upright, not leaning back.
  • But… if I lean over the bar more, I need to be careful to keep the bar close to me & not let it drift too far forward. If it drifts away, then at 110kg+ it’s just going to pull me down face-first.

I think that once this next competition is over (December 15th) I will try pulling Sumo again (I tried it last year but didn’t get on with it). I have this idea that the Sumo stance won’t let me lean back as much. I guess it’s worth a try!