Looking at this – the Current BCWA Overall Rankings – I actually get a little shiver/thrill of excitement because there next to my name is the word “National”. Nationals.
I’ve never been the type of person to ease into something but rather prefer to dive right in and think later. This is how I am with a lot of things in life
e.g. University? Sure lets fly across the country to a town know nobody and go there. Swimming? Wading is for sissies lets just jump in headfirst
and this is exactly how my experience with weightlifting has been. I got into Olympic Weightlifting two and a half years ago and after a week or two of training was already signed up for my first competition.
And I was hooked. On lifting and competing. That was July 2012 and by August I was already looking at the Qualifying Standards to see how much I would need to lift in order to qualify for Provincials*. 107kg (238lbs)
*There are different classifications within weightlifting (determined by your Total) and it is these classifications that determine what competitions you are eligible for. e.g. In order to compete at Provincials you must be at least a be Provincial Level IV lifter (girls) or Provincial Level III lifter(boys).
Except that the much the moment I was Level IV I wanted to be Level III then II and I don’t think it was long before I had the idea of Nationals sitting in the back of my head. But I don’t think it was until Provincials last year (2013) that Nationals became more than a daydream, that Total started to seem attainable and I began to believe I could get there (only 10 more kg).
It took 12 months after I reached this conclusion before I managed to hit the total I needed to qualify for Nationals and If I’m honest with myself I think I was physically strong enough before now. But physical strength is only part of weightlifting and some of the other pieces weren’t there yet.
“Weightlifting is 90% mental”
I don’t agree with this completely, I think the percentage is perhaps a bit too high, but I do agree with the overall message. That lifting is about more than just physical strength and good technique, it about attitude and mental toughness. The ability to lift big weights, having good technique and following a good coach/program are important but if you aren’t
- willing to follow through with the lift even when it feels way too heavy.
- determined enough to fight for/save a lift , or
- dedicated enough to show up & put in the work even when you don’t feel like it.
… it won’t amount to much. Essentially you have to want it, be willing to sacrifice for it and honestly/truly believe in your ability to get it.
I had some competitions earlier in the year that really didn’t go well…
Westerns I dropped my first two snatches and came terrifyingly close to bombing my first competition.
Ogopogo I was missing what should have been easy lifts in the warm-up room & had to lower my start weights
Kilophile I hit only two lifts (my openers) and missed the remaining four, looking back at the videos I didn’t even fight for them.
…but good or bad every competition is a learning experience and an opportunity to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. And after three pretty shitty performances I came to the conclusion that while things like…
- 5 am weigh-in
- not having Coach there
…. probably contributed, in the end almost all of it comes back to focus & mental preparation.
I remember at my last competition before Provincials, (the Kilophile Open) sitting on the bench between lifts and feeling like I wasn’t even there. Physically I was, but mentally I was somewhere else entirely and after the comp my Coach said he’d never seen me look so scattered during a competition.
I took a step back after this competition to figure what was going on because I wasn’t lifting like someone who wanted to qualify for Nationals. If I was honest with myself at this point wasn’t sure I still wanted to, and that scared the crap out of me.
I got into weightlifting because I wanted a challenge and liked the idea of competing, but I quickly fell in love with the sport and the process itself not just the outcome.
- I loved the feeling of a barbell in my hands and usually (although not always) a good lifting session could snap me out of a bad mood
- I loved the atmosphere in the gym and the people I trained/competed with
- I loved the butterflies of competition, the nerves, the excitement and the sense of accomplishment afterwards, and
- I loved how a sport focused so much on strength & performance helped reshape the way I saw my body
But at some point over the past year, I let myself get too caught up in the idea of Nationals (the total I needed, the weight class I had to be in) and it stopped being as fun. I showed up and did my reps, I gave up CrossFit to lift more and kept telling myself over and over that this would get me to Nationals. But I felt like I was just going through the motions.
If your heart isn’t in something, you can’t give your best effort and even if you do reach your goal its bittersweet because it probably doesn’t feel how you imagined it would. This is pretty much the conclusion I came to after Kilophile and I spent the next month re-prioritizing and taking steps to make it fun again and less stressful.
1. I started doing CrossFit again.
Not every day or even every other day (lifting was still the number one focus) but I did set aside one day a week* to just play and fun. I understand why a lot people (my coach included) argue against that CrossFit for Olympic Weightlifters
it messes up the program, it promotes over-training, it can teach bad habits/technique
but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. And I realized that the trade-off is worth (for me, I can’t speak for other athletes) because I’m happier and it keeps my heart in my training.
Down the line I may need to revisit this strategy, especially if I start getting into the higher/more competitive levels, but for now its working for me.
*this depended the program/timing i.e. not if it’s a super heavy week or right before Provincials
2. I accepted the possibility of moving up a Weight Category
So far I have always competed in the 63kg category (with the exception of my very first meet when I was 58) and all of my goals have been based around the targets for that weight class
i.e. what I needed to lift to be PRovincial Level IV, III, II I and then National
but as I’ve gotten stronger I have also gained weight and have found it increasingly difficult (and stressful) to make cut down to the 63s. Part of this is just lack of experience (I know people who cut more than I do quite successfully) but part of it is also having grown up with a lot of weight issues and having gone through phases where I weighed myself obsessively I don’t like doing it now.
So I looked at the next category up (the 69s) and the total I would need and realized that it would probably mean an extra couple months of work but it was doable before Nationals. To be honest I would way rather compete in the 63s (I’m not ready to face Rachel Siemens!!) but accepting it as a possibility took a lot of stress off and in the end I had an easier time making weight because of it.
3. I got my head in the Game
Easier said than done. But unlike the last couple of competitions I was going in knowing that I’d done everything in my power to prepare, that I did want this and that if I didn’t get it I would have another shot at it. This time around instead of going into competition with thoughts like
“I don’t know if this is even what I want anymore” or “oh god oh god what if I don’t make weight”
running through my head, every single time I approached the bar I kept saying to myself
“You’ve got this, this is for Nationals.”
…And it paid off.
I made weight (62.9kg), Went 6 for 6, hit a competition PR on my snatch (64kg), opened with a competition PR C&J (78kg), then PRd my C&J by 2kg (83kg), got bronze and qualified for Nationals with a 147 total (2kg more than I needed & only 3kg less than I’d need as a 69kg lifter).
Finally to wrap it all up (almost done I swear) I just wanted to give a huge thanks to everyone who came out to cheer & give support, the Lions Weightlifting Club for hosting, the BCWA for running the event and of course Coach Mike who (on top of taking care of me and five other lifters at Provincials) also competed in the 84s and got silver. Also, thank you to anyone and everyone who had to deal with me leading up to Provincials as I can get a little emotional at times.