I’m a week out from what might be my last powerlifting competition for a while. As you might expect I’m not really looking forward to it, and I almost withdrew from competing; but I’m going to do it because if nothing else it gives me a chance to set a qualifying total for the next British Masters.
I’ve gone through several “I hate powerlifting” phases over the last 8 years but this one feels a bit different, a bit more. I think my feelings towards the sport started to change at the 2017 British Masters in March, which I enjoyed but was definitely different to how I was expecting. And now I’m a week away from the All England the whole training/competing cycle feels like an unbearable chore.
I’ve been told that now I’m 40 I can’t expect to lift the same as I did as a senior
I am completely au fait with the “compete against yourself” mindset but it’s hard to stay true to that when your whole training is set around competing against others. Plus, I’m not currently beating myself anyway – my gains all slowed down/stopped a while ago and now that I’m a master (over 40) they’re going backwards. I’ve been told that now I’m 40 I can’t expect to lift the same as I did as a senior, but I didn’t expect my decline to happen only 5 months in!
So I’ve done a bit of soul searching. I considered changing my program, changing my coaching, changing my gym, quitting powerlifting full stop etc etc. But after talks with a few people including my coach, people at the gym and an IPF International referee at the British Masters I’ve noted a few things:
1) This is meant to be a hobby. It’s meant to be fun.
2) It’s not just lifting I do at the gym, it’s the social media, it’s refereeing. A lot of people think powerlifting is just lifting & competing but it’s not (for me anyway).
3) I shouldn’t do the aspects of powerlifting that make it un-fun for me. I should just do the things I enjoy.
4) It’s completely possible to be a referee and not a competing lifter. It’s even possible to be a referee and someone who doesn’t lift!
I’ve had a lot of guilty feelings about stopping doing the things I’ve committed to do at the gym, but as my coach reminded me, no-one ever asked me to do them and if I don’t do them it’s not my problem. This is really far outside my way of thinking – normally I’m the sort of person who takes stuff on and feels awful if she can’t do it!
This is meant to be a hobby. It’s meant to be fun.
Throw into the mix the fact that as of June 2nd I’m starting a new job, which will be a lot more intense than any job I’ve had in the last 5 years and will involve a lot of travel. I can’t really commit to doing things at the gym if I don’t know what my movements will be month to month, and I may not be working a regular 9-5.30 while I’m at home anyway.
So the upshot is:
1) I’ve quit doing the social media stuff for the gym.
2) After the All England I’m not competing for a long time (I will aim to get my QT for the British Masters but I won’t commit to doing it until closer to the time).
3) I’m going to do the aspects of powerlifting I enjoy: refereeing and hopefully more coaching.
4) I’m not going to train for just powerlifting any more; I’m going to do more varied “fitness” things because that will be easier to do if I’m going to be travelling around / not able to get to my usual gym regularly.
The coaching aspect is the most difficult of these – my gym won’t be holding more ladies novice sessions (which is where I’ve been coaching) so if I want to coach, then I have to figure out some way of doing it myself. As I’m not a fitness professional this is easier said than done!
Overall I feel relieved and excited. I’m sure there are people out there who will think I am giving up – after all, one of the big mantras on powerlifting is “never give up”, right? But at what point do you admit that plugging away at the same thing for eight years and not improving isn’t making you happy? And am I giving up anyway, if I’m still committed to being a referee? (I still want to go for my international referee certificate in 2018 or 2019)
The funny thing is there are plenty of people out there who will tell me I shouldn’t care what others think (they’re right of course) but I bet there is a good proportion of them who very much care what others think of them (cough Instagram numbers cough) and who will also think that you should never give up. I kind of feel like I can’t win there!
I haven’t decided on any goals yet for my attempt to fall back in love with the gym again, but I have some ideas: jog 5km without stopping; do some bodybuilding-style workouts so I can actually build muscle (8-10 reps etc); more Yoga/Pilates; more mobility; try to do the splits (!). I think it’s going to be fun and best of all a change of scene.