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2016 roundup

2016 is nearly over, so it’s time for a bit of a roundup!

Unfortunately 2016 really hasn’t gone as I hoped. My aim for this year initially was to get a 290kg total, later revised to 300 so I could qualify for the British Classic in my last year as a senior. Instead, I’m ending the year having only competed twice (I usually compete 2-4 times a year), neither time nationally, and with a 285kg total – a measly 2.5kg increase on last year.

I’m not as disappointed as I could have been. As the 72kg senior class QT for the British Classic is now a whopping 325kg, any hope of me doing that competition has now gone out the window. I’m a bit sad to not have the prospect of any more senior classics, BUT as of January 1st 2017 I’m a master, so I get a whole new set of competitions to enter!

The QT for the 72kg M1 class is 227.5kg (at the moment) so I’m safely in. And so, perhaps a bit prematurely, I’ve already booked my plane ticket and hotel for Belfast, so I can take part in my first British Masters in March!

All I need to do now is get over my injuries. 2016 has been a year of injuries – first I hurt my foot doing cardio, luckily only minor; then I injured my left hip running, which meant a few weeks off squatting. Right now I’m nursing an injured right QL, which seems to have pulled my entire lower back & both hips into spasm & out of alignment. I’m seeing a physio, and have decided to abstain from squatting & deadlifting until Christmas to give my back some time off.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting into spinning, using the leg press for the first time and concentrating on my bench press. I’ve often heard it said that the best thing for improving your bench press is more bench press, and right now mine seems to be moving in the right direction. My best competition bench is 57.5kg, and I really want 60+ in March. On Saturday I did board press, hoping for 70kg but in the end working up to 75kg (165lbs!) for 2×2.

My bodyweight this day was 73.5kg so that’s more than my bodyweight in my hands, and let me tell you it feels scary!

In powerlifting-related news, I am now a British Powerlifting National Referee. In practise this was little more than a formality – I’d completed my 2 years as a Divisional Referee & officiated at enough national competitions. But it means I get a new tie, and a newfound sense of power!

So my plans for 2017, so far, are:

  • Try not to lose it too much when I turn 40 in January!
  • Compete in the 2017 British Masters (hopefully not coming last)
  • Take a few Greater London M1 72kg records
  • Organise some more “Introduction to Strength Training” sessions at Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club
  • Not injure myself so much – take better care of my body, get more massages and eat some protein!



Greater London divisional, 27/2/2016

It’s a pretty disgracefully long time since this competition, and I should have written it up ages ago! As usual life has run away with me. I had actually forgotten all about my “Competition Fatigue” post until I logged in to post this entry, and I think that competition fatigue definitely did a number on me. I didn’t do very well at this competition, and a lot of that is probably down to negative mental attitude.

I had been hoping for a 285kg total, to get me a qualification for the All England this year (so I could do at least ONE national competition in 2016, since I may not get a qualification for the British). But I came away with 277.5kg, worse than my last two competitions. Oops.

Squats were the worst. I just can’t seem to hit depth any more. I opened on 92.5kg and got red-lighted for depth. I had intended to go for 102.5kg as my second, but because of my opening failure (which always puts a crimp on your day) I took a relatively safe 95kg for my second, which I got. I then went for 102.5kg as my third, and again got red-lighted for depth.

At this point I decided I hated powerlifting, which I do (some of the time). But I soldiered on. I was hoping for a new bench pb of 57.5kg but as per usual I couldn’t get it off my chest, so 55kg it was.

Deadlift was better, though. I went 115kg / 122.5kg / 127.5kg for a new pb and I got all three! The 127.5kg felt really good and I think I have a chance of getting 130kg in July. The lift was caught on video and I’m a bit worried I might be heading back into hitching territory, so I need to watch out for that. But it was definitely good to get *a* personal best!

I have only been back to the gym once since the competition as I felt I needed a whole week off. I’ve sort of lost my motivation for lifting again (which happens every now & again) but I know it’s going to come back… eventually. Next competition is in July and I will try to aim for that 300kg total.

British Classic 2015

I’ve been trying to sit down & write this for a couple of days, but I think I’m suffering from some sort of post-event comedown (like you get after a holiday) so I’ve spent a couple of hours staring at a blank screen.

The short version is that I did really well at the British, better than I hoped! I didn’t place as highly as I thought I might do, but I still did better than last year (and the year before).

My results, in a nutshell:
Squat: 102.5kg (new personal best)
Bench: 55kg
Deadlift: 125kg (new personal best)
Total: 282.5kg (new personal best)

I got 8/9 lifts – the only one I missed was my last bench, 57.5kg, which I’ve never attempted before.

Overall, I came 16th. There were 24 competitors on the entry list – 4 didn’t turn up and one was disqualified, so I came 16/19 (I wish it was 16/24 – it sounds better!)

[For reference, in 2013 I got 90/50/110 and came last; in 2014 I got 100/47.5/117.5 and came 12/14]

Good things

I made weight so easily, I was honestly shocked.

I was 70.3kg at weigh-in (70kg exactly in my hotel room). As opposed to last year – when I low-carbed for 6 weeks and drove myself into a bad place (mentally & physically) – this year I cut out bread & pasta for 7 days before the competition. The only exception was a bacon roll & a Twix I ate on Saturday, when I was refereeing (the day before lifting). I’d weighed myself that morning & reckoned there was no way a bacon roll & a Twix would make me put on 2kg!

I even had a beer on Saturday night (the night before my competition!) because I was struggling with anxiety and unsure if I’d be able to sleep. Luckily it worked, and I slept from 9pm – 6.30am on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Talking of refereeing, I had a great day doing first weigh-in for the lightweight ladies, and then refereeing the 47, 52 and 57kg classes. I got to officiate for some new national records!

The venue for the competition (LEAF Academy in Bournemouth) was really great – it had a huge warm-up room, two large changing rooms and lots of spectator space. My hotel was lovely too (quiet!)

Bad things

Nothing went badly over the weekend per se. There were a few annoyances, though.

For starters, I woke up far too early on Friday (5.45am!) even though I didn’t intend to leave until midday. Then the drive to Bournemouth took 4.5 hours, which was hellish. By the time i got to my hotel (which was, fortunately, a peaceful haven) I was stressed and frazzled.

I had intended to get a nice long sleep on Friday night ready to referee on Saturday. But my body had other plans and I woke up at 4.40am. For real. So I spent all of Saturday feeling tired, cranky and worried that I wouldn’t sleep on the Saturday night and my lifting on Sunday wold be shit. Even worse, if I was tired on Sunday I couldn’t possibly drive home that evening, so I’d be forced to stay in Bournemouth for an extra night. To say I was stressed on Saturday was an understatement.

Unfortunately I had a bit of a go at my coach as I was leaving the venue in the evening, because he wanted me to go to his hotel for dinner while I just wanted to go to my hotel & sleep. I was also upset & disappointed that I’d had no time to enjoy Bournemouth with my friends. But needs must, and I wanted to lift well & drive home on Sunday. So I was tucked up in bed by 9pm with a sleepytime podcast (Relax by Andrew Johnson) and I slept fine in the end.

The ugly (or just the post-mortem)

I felt OK to drive home after lifting (I’d had a 4-hour break while the afternoon session was on) and happily the journey home only took 3.5 hours. Still, longer than the 2.5 hours Google Maps suggested both journeys would take (thanks Google).

I had a really, really awesome weekend overall, although I was a bit sad that I couldn’t enjoy Bournemouth more. Still, I had a great Vietnamese meal on Saturday night (on my own!) and the bits of the town I saw were lovely.

I met loads of other lifters whose names I only knew from Facebook, so that was fantastic. I did get reminded, though, of some of the aspects of lifting that I don’t enjoy – bro-ness, nutrition stuff, that whole “no pussies” culture. 99% of people involved in powerlifting are absolutely great, but it’s that 1% who can put a shitty veneer on everything.

That said, I’m really proud of how well I did (for myself, obviously I’m never going to place) despite the fact that I don’t do nutrition, I don’t eat tons of protein, I have never read anything by Mark Rippetoe or any of the lifting “gurus”, I don’t read lifting blogs, I am not & don’t want to be lean and I try to stay as far away from “lifting culture” as I possibly can. And that’s really how I want it to stay. I just want that whole mainstream lifting culture (with its emphasis on leanness and sexiness and “gainz” and “skwaaaatz” etc) as far away from myself as possible. If that makes sense?

Yesterday was a good day ⚪️⚪️⚪️ #powerlifting

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What’s next

Well, I haven’t been back to the gym yet, but I know when I do I’ll be told to “just play” for a few weeks. Argh, I hate training without a program! But after the men have done their Classic in October, we will be training for the next London divisional on November 21st. In the meantime, I think I’ll do a little volume work, like I did at the beginning of the year.

Now that I’d got my 280kg total (actually 282.5!) I guess I have to aim for 290kg… 300kg when I hit masters in 15 months? Who knows, it might be possible.

British Classic -1 week

[Content note for more weight talk]

Only a 8 days to go now (this time next week I’ll be refereeing!) and my training cycle is almost over. Only thing left to do is choose my openers & practise them on Monday.

I am very very pleased with how my bench session went on Thursday. I had 3 singles with full commands scheduled, and I was hoping for maybe one at 55kg. In the end I got all three at 55kg (120lbs), and all felt so good. I followed it up with a 10-rep set at 45kg. I don’t really know what’s made my bench so supernova recently – I did widen my grip a little a couple of months ago, and I’ve been working on striking the barbell just below my bra strap – maybe this is what’s made all the difference? It has definitely lessened the bar path, since I can get a decent-ish arch (and I have a big chest!)

I have been having stress dreams about my weight, though. I’ve not been anything like as obsessive about my weight as I was in previous years, which is nice from one point of view, but on the other hand I have no idea how much I weigh and it’s obviously stressing my subconscious out!

Me on 11 September 2014

Me on 11 September 2014

I recently got Timehop on my phone and yesterday it threw up a picture of me 1 year ago. If you’ve been reading a while you might remember that before the last British, I went overboard with my diet and tried low-carbing for 6 weeks or so. You might also remember that I was utterly fucking miserable and my digestive system basically stopped (fun).

I have really mixed feelings about this photo. On the one hand, I look skinny, and obviously I still have social conditioning that says therefore I look “good”. On the other hand, I can remember very clearly how unhappy I was; I was living on a diet of meat, eggs, vegetables and Califig laxative because otherwise I couldn’t poop. Good grief.

So that photo is kind of hard. I remember posting it on social media and people saying “You look great!”, which gave me a boost at the time because it was a reinforcement that what I was doing was OK. But on the other hand, I was too afraid to drink a 300ml glass of juice in case it made me over 72kg! Utter madness.

I feel conflicted at the moment, though, because I’m eating “normally” and trying not to worry about my weight. But if I go all the way to Bournemouth, stay in a hotel for 2 nights and wind up too heavy to compete, I’m going to be so cross with myself.

My goodness, this stuff is hard sometimes. Part of me wishes I hadn’t told everyone I was going to the British, because if I don’t compete that shit is going to be embarrassing. On the other hand, if I go and I weigh in at 71.9kg (which would be ideal!) then I will know I can make weight without fucking myself up mentally with food.

A slight caveat before I start today’s entry: I have no idea if anyone from my family reads this blog. If they do, they’ve never mentioned it. But I’m going to mention stuff on here that I haven’t told my family, so I run the risk of shocking & scandalizing them.

So in advance: Hello family member! If you’re reading this, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk to everyone else about it, as it contains information I’d rather tell the rest of my family in person. Thanks!

As you might know from reading my blog, I try to practise body positivity (with varying degrees of success). I’m also currently in the early stages of what I think is a mid-life crisis – turning 38 was hard for me, and 40 is looming in less than 18 months time. I’m sure life does begin at 40 – hell, I remember being utterly freaked out by 30 – and once I’m 40 I’ll wonder what I was so worried about.

I didn’t really start to get to know the body positivity concept until I was over 30, and one of the things I learned was that my body is my own, to do with what I want. Your 30s are definitely late to learn this, and sometimes I feel sad that I didn’t really twig before – that my body was my own thing, and my life is mine to do with as I please, were not principles taught to me in childhood. I won’t go into what was taught, but bodily autonomy wasn’t explictly a part of it.

So when I started learning all about self-love, acceptance and loving oneself, this aspect seemed quite radical. Sometimes I still find it hard to fathom – you kow when you change your hair, and someone says “But what will your boyfriend think??” That voice is stil pretty loud in my head. But I’m gradually squashing it down and learning that I can choose to do things with my body that I want.

Bearing this in mind, plus my mid-life crisis feelings… On Saturday I got my first tattoo.

If you’re a member of my family, I imagine you’re going to stop reading now. You’re going to miss the good stuff, though!

I’ve wanted a tattoo since I was probably 20-21 and I even had a design for one. But it never happened, although I did get a lot of piercings in my 20s. I think what’s prompted me to get one now is seeing so many awesome tattoos on awesome fat babes, many of whom I follow in Twitter and am inspired by every day. I also joined Instagram and discovered a treasure trove of tattoists’ accounts, showcasing not just completed tattoos but designs available.

I’ve had an idea of about a year that I wanted a tattoo of a pigeon, because I love pigeons. Why pigeons? Well they’re intelligent, resourceful, misunderstood survivors (they live pretty much everywhere on earth, often in terrible conditions). They also look beautiful. I’ve had a bit of a pigeon obsession for years, learning the names of all the different colours they come in, following the antics of pigeon celebrities like Camp etc.

One of the tattoo studios I was following on Instagram posted up a painting by an artist called Elmo Teale, of a carrier pigeon. I saw it and thought: that is exactly what I want. I had originally intended to get a totally custom piece, but this design was perfect (plus it’d be “my” design once it was tattooed, not re-used like regular flash). So I made an appointment, went to see the artist, and:

The placement is really important to me too. I like most of my body now (even my poochy, saggy tummy) but my upper legs have been the last things I’ve made peace with. Before the age of 35, I never wore shorts – I thought my legs were too hideous (I have a lot of cellulite, thread veins and large upper legs with fat knees). But in recent years I’ve been able to say fuck it, and have worn shorts in summer as much as I can. I even bought shortie dungarees a couple of months ago! This tattoo is another gift to my legs; sure, they may be large, but large legs equals a large tattoo!

Because of the placement I’m going to have to be careful with it when lifting (I haven’t been back to the gym since I got it done yet!). There’s a real possibility of fucking it up by scraping the bar against it, so from now on I won’t deadlift while wearing shorts. The only exception will be at competitions where I have to wear a singlet with short legs, but I will be as careful as I can. And there are always touchups if I do scrape it too much.

Overall I’m so happy I got it. It’s a little shocking to look down and see it, still – after 38 years with a naked thigh, seeing such a large thing on there is weird. But soon it’ll be a part of me, and I can’t wait to show it off in shorts once it’s healed fully.

Tattooing my body feels like a great way to honour it. The plus size people I see with tattoos look so beautiful. Drawing attention to your larger body with beautiful ink is a radical act (the larger canvas helps too!) I’m really proud to be (eek, it feels weird to say it!) a tattooed person

London Clubs championships (yes, I did it)

So that competition I’ve been dithering about? Dear reader, I did it. I very nearly didn’t though – I literally left my decision until the last minute.

I woke up on the morning of the competition, weighed myself, was within competition weight and still wasn’t sure. So I went down to the club, got weighed in, put in my openers and still wasn’t sure. Then I put on my singlet and knee sleeves and thought, OK maybe I’m doing it.

What really made me completely decide was my friend Orla looking at the openers for the other lifters in the 72kg class, and saying Hey Laura, you could actually win this! I have never won a competition and I really felt like I couldn’t pass up the chance, you know?

I decided to go in with no expectations (as much as I could); I can get very very stressed and anxious about competitions and I didn’t want to end up hating myself, like I often do if I don’t do as well as I’d hoped. I put in pretty conservative openers (90kg squat, 50kg bench, 110kg deadlift) and resolved to feel OK even if I only got my openers.

In the end, all the fears I had about the competition didn’t come true: it wasn’t hot; even though it was crowded and full of newbies, no-one dumped their bars on the spotters, and no-one sprayed talc everywhere (my pet hate!!); and even though a few newbies didn’t know the commands & forgot vital equipment (long socks!), everyone was very respectful of the officials. Phew. I am such a worst-case-scenario imaginateer.

As for my performace: I got my first two squats in (90 + 100kg) but once again I got ruled out on 102.5kg for depth; I set a new benchpress pb of 55kg (WHAAAT); and I finished with a 120kg deadlift. I was disappointed not to get a pb squat or a chance to equal my pb in the deadlift, BUT I set a new pb total of 275kg!

Honestly I was so surprised to get a 55kg bench – I’ve never benched that much in the gym without a pause, let alone in competition with a pause!

And the best thing was… Orla was right, I did have the opportunity to win:


Woohoo! My first (and, let’s face it, probably only) 1st place trophy! OK so the other 72kg lifters were all novices, but still… 🙂

The day ended up going on just as long as I predicted (I arrived at the gym at 8am, and left at 8.30pm) and honestly I was falling asleep while refereeing (oops) but the event was really fun. 5 ladies from my gym did their first competition and everyone was so suportive and fun to be around. The good days like that are probably worth some of the angst I feel around going to the gym.

Talking of angst (great segue there, Laura) I had intended my relatively new Instagram account to be pretty much lifting-free, only following fatshion and tattooist accounts; but it got found fairly quickly by my gym friends and over the last week or so I’ve found my IG account tagged in fitness memes (a massive pet hate of mine) and similar. Sadface.

I was also tagged in some pictures from the competition, and one of the commenters on the picture was an account called “leanerstrongeryou”. You can probably see where this is going. Yes, I ended up descending into a hate-reading spiral, looking at “lean” IG accounts and having all sorts of feelings around, well, if only I was leaner and ate vegetables and protein then maybe I might be a better lifter and maybe I might win things more often and maybe I would look “like a lifter” instead of a chubby nearly-40-year-old and blah blah blah. God.

Honestly, as you know I really struggle with this. I have followed back a few people from the gym on IG but I kind of wish I hadn’t, as I just don’t want to see posts with macros and tupperwares of food and stuff like that. It feels really incongruous to see stuff like that in between the awesome plus-sized fashionistas I want to follow. There’s so much fatphobia in the fitness industry and I try to keep it as far away from my life as possible.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about possibly having a career break fom programming & maybe trying out some work in the fitness industry, but if it means I’m going to be exposed to ~nutrition woo~ then honestly I don’t think my mental health would handle it. I spent the week before my competition eating all the stuff you “shouldn’t” (Domino’s twice, sausages, fish & chips, crisps – SO MANY crisps) and I don’t want to be in a place where I feel judged for eating like that.

But can you make it in the fitness industry if you’re both not lean and not a super-strong athlete like your Andy Boltons and Lulu Zhous? Who knows. Something to ponder on, for definite.

GBPF London divisional – 16th May 2015

I’ve been meaning to sit down & do a competition report for a while but as usual I’ve been too busy. But! It’s a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK so I have some time today.

I did… OK. All I wanted at the competition was a >100kg squat and… I didn’t get one. And honestly, I very nearly gave up on the whole competition at that point. I opened my squats with 92.5kg which should, in theory, be easyish for me, but to my horror I got red-lighted on it for depth. Argh. There is, seriously, NO WORSE FEELING than getting a no-lift on your first lift in a competition – it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

102.5kg squat attempt

I had intended to take 100kg for my second squat but given I’d just failed my first, I decided to take 97.5kg instead. A bit of a risk, but I was really careful to hit depth and I got it. Phew. Then for my third I thought, to hell with it, let’s go with 102.5kg. And I stood up with it! But I got red-lighted for depth again. Argh.

At least I now know I can stand up from a 102.5kg squat, I just need to get a couple of inches lower.

I was pretty miserable after my squats; I just wanted to go home & not bother with the rest of the competition to be honest. But I had to stick around as I was refereeing in the afternoon, plus leaving would have been silly. I’m too hard on myself at competitions (actually most of the time…) and luckily one of the other lifters taking part talked me round.

There was nothing very exciting to report on bench – I took 50kg for my opener & 52.5kg for my second, for an equal pb. I went for 55kg for my third & couldn’t get it off my chest, but I expected that, I haven’t got close to a bench pb for ages.

On to the deadlifts! I did an easy opener of 112.5kg, followed by an equal pb of 120kg which was hard but OK. I decided to go for 122.5kg for my third, in the hope I might get a new pb in something. My coach wanted me to take 125kg but I decided to play it safe & take a tiny nibble. I’m glad I did, to be honest, as I’m not sure I’d have got 125kg, but 122.5kg went up (just!)

So in the end I went 97.5kg / 52.5kg / 122.5kg for a total (5kg increase on my pb total) at 70.7kg bodyweight. Not a bad show, all in all. But obviously I’m still disappointed I didn’t get that squat!

My squat depth is definitely a serious problem right now, and I’ve seen this coming for ages – people have commented in the gym that my squats look shallow. So it seems I’m going to be doing work on getting deeper & staying more upright when squatting. First up: lots of squatting with the safety bar 😦