Five Things I Learned at American Open 2016 Weightlifting Woman

A few days ago, shortly after I arrived back home after bringing home my first podium finish (Bronze, baby!), my coach Greg asked me to send him 5 things that I learned at the American Open 2016 (along with 5 goals that I have).

At first, the task made me feel like I was a high school kid writing up an end-of-class journal entry after reading a lengthy novel in English Class, but I thought it was cool that my own coach wanted to know what I felt AND wanted me to properly reflect IN WRITING what I had taken away from this experience.

There’s something magical about writing something down in text and words, by the way, as opposed to just “thinking about it” that makes it REAL.

Once you put pen to paper (or text to email), you begin to involve most of your senses (feel, sight, smell of the pen if you’re writing on paper, sound of what you’re writing, and sight of the words).

Anyways, I thought I would go ahead and share with you what I shared with Greg in almost the same words, since I believe we all have something to learn from every single meet that we do, no matter how big or small…

…so that we do not repeat the same mistakes again!!

 


 

5 Things I Learned at the American Open Weightlifting Championships in Orlando, FL this year!

 

1. Clean & Jerks MATTER. Like REALLY matter. Not just the snatch.

Just because you didn’t do well in the snatch (or on the contrary, do extremely well) doesn’t mean that’s how your overall performance will be. The clean & jerk lifts can make or break your end result. Stick it out until the end!

 

I have to clearly admit, my snatches didn’t go as planned. I have been chasing to match my PR of 74kg in the snatch for almost 2 years now, and I just can’t ever put 2+2 together (or 3/3 lifts actually) when it comes to snatches. That being said, I have managed to increase my opening attempt meet after meet (this time opening with 69kg, the highest I’ve ever opened at any meet!). I feel that my snatch technique has gotten more consistent in lifts that are around the 80-85% range, but I haven’t been able to translate that technique yet to something closer to my max. Those extra few kgs added onto the bar just change my perception of how heavy the weight feels from the floor and it throws off my timing.

 

However, just because I only made one snatch doesn’t mean it was the end! Lo and behold, I am a cleaner and a squatter by nature. The clean and jerks are what saved me and got me the bronze in the end! I didn’t really realize that or put it together until Greg literally told me in my face that the clean & jerks are my strength and that I wasn’t allowed to be upset about snatches until after everything was over.

 

Now, some of you might have really good snatch days, which is awesome! What a great way to start a meet. But, (in the opposite manner of mine), the clean and jerks CAN make or break your meet! For example, what if silver medalist Jordan Delacruz ended up missing her third clean & jerk and bombed out even after making the 2nd highest snatch of the evening?

You HAVE to train yourself to stick it out until the end!!

 

ON a side note: only after the meet I realized  I maaaaaybe should have went for 101kg. What would I have had to lose, other than a lifetime PR attempt and a possible chance at the gold for C&J?

 

But, looking back I think it was important that we stuck to the game plan and attempted things that I knew I had done which gave me a lot of confidence, but now I’m in a position to attempt all-time PRs at a large competition rather than in my safe-zone in the gym.

 

2. Don’t just focus on the cues for the clean.

 

Coming up with a strategy for what to think about in the jerk is just as important, if not more, especially if you end up cleaning it after all. 
My jerks were a little shaky and I’m fortunate to be able to have the capacity to hold onto them (doing a 3-second hold for all those snatches in the bottom for 14 weeks really helped, didn’t it?).

 

BUT, when I went up to every clean & jerk attempt, I was way too focused on cues on making my cleans (for example, getting my elbows through quick enough) that I completely forgot what I needed to think about with the jerk. I just took a breath in and went for it! This would have helped immensely in my 100kg attempt when I was literally matching a PR and needed every ounce of mental effort put in for the lift!

 

3. Focus on you and your own lifts and not what everyone else is doing.

There’s no need to bother with that external nervous competitive pressure.

In past competitions, whether national or local, I used to be so concerned with what everyone else was lifting that it took away from me focusing on just making the lifts I knew I could make.

This time around, I forced myself to ignore what others were doing or lifting and I stayed away from looking at the board and just waited for coach to point at me and the bar, and tell me when to take my next warm-up attempt.

I do need to get myself some of those giant noise-cancelling headphones though 🙂
 

4. Fit in bathroom breaks during C&J Warm Ups…because going after the snatch just isn’t enough.

Ok, this is a slightly embarrassing issue but definitely an issue that a lot of lifters (female mostly) face nonetheless…having a weak pelvic floor when it comes to squats!

 

Only in the last 18 months or so have I really noticed the inability to really hold my bladder in when attempting VERY heavy squats (front squat, back squat, or cleans). Now, imagine this paired with taking in tons of water to rehydrate after making weight only a couple hours before.

 

I’m still trying to figure out the reasoning behind why I have a weakened pelvic floor – you would think with all my squat strength and work in mobility that the area down there would at least be moderately strong? Sounds like I have some core work to dig into…

 

5. Stay Tight Through Your Back And Core!

Don’t you just love when you get a cue to think about that makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE in how you lift? Greg noticed that I really needed to stay tight and snappy in my back & core through the turnover on the clean…and I’ll admit this was the most helpful thing to think about that literally allowed me to clean 100kg like a nobrainer.

 

Now the issue is, getting that same feel to translate to my snatches. If I can tackle my snatches in the same way as I can tackle my cleans, I think I’ll be onto something…

 

Bronze Medal Snow Charpentier 53kg American Open

My first podium finish with the bronze medal! I also got silver in the clean & jerk as well. My apologies for potato-quality photo, I’ll have to teach my husband how to take attractive iPhone photos that aren’t horridly zoomed in to distortion.

 


 …And now 5 goals that I have to hit between NOW and Nationals!

  1. Hit a 73kg+ snatch in Competition (My best is 72)
  2.  Hit a 75kg+ snatch someday. Long awaited goal. Seriously, why haven’t I done this yet?
  3. 102kg Clean & Jerk. Not just 101. Give me 102. That’s like 225#. (sadly, it’ll be a little harder to calculate percentages for my lifts now. 100kg makes it so easy!)
  4.  Total 172kg or Higher in Competition (especially at Nationals).
  5.  Make 3/3 Snatches in Competition. I’ve actually done this before, but I want to do it at a national level meet for once.

 

I’ll be seeing y’all in Reno, NV for the American Open Series 1!

Want to be Competitive? Respect the movements, respect your body.

I don’t think I really started to develop as a competitive athlete until I removed myself from the stimulation of a competitive environment.

I took myself out of a community that was constantly pushing to “try again, try just one more rep,” or with people who were yelling at my face to finish the round and keep picking up the bar, or with people who always wanted to repeat workouts all the time just to get slightly better scores just so they could prove that they were better than the score they received. Yes, I used to do that.

But looking back, the only thing I really gained from that type of environment was learning how to tolerate pain better “in the moment”.

Not all competitive environments are like this though – rough, tough, in your face, pushing until failure each day, trying to get a better score than the guy next to you every day. Some environments really have a huge respect for the science behind developing athletic performance – the perfect blend of intensity, volume, accessory work, recovery, stress management combined with encouragement and effort to develop a person from amateur, to intermediate, to advanced, to expert, and to elite or master. But it can be hard to really focus on these things unless you mentally remove yourself away from the overwhelming emotional desire and impatience to be “the best” and from people who are always pushing you to *beast it*.

I took a risk and left a competitive environment a couple years ago – I left a gym whose major goal seemed to be training athletes to get to Crossfit Regionals…I left a community of athletes I used to train side-by-side with who were also striving and pushing towards that goal…to coach and train at a place focused more on emphasizing and developing longterm, sustainable health (competitive is not sustainable) – and surprisingly, what awaited me here was a new environment that allowed me to gain more respect for form, for overall health and wellness, for recovery, and for not necessarily pushing the body to its limits all the time. It wasn’t until I learned and gained this respect that I become much stronger, and a more well-rounded athlete.

To become a better athlete, I needed to respect the movements, and respect my body for what it is capable of and what it needs.


I think we have this mindset that to be a top-tier athlete, we need to be constantly in the gym for hours because we see some of the professional athletes doing multiple workouts a day like it’s their full time job.

Um…well that’s because that basically IS their full time job – they have the hours and scheduling of the day to be able to move their bodies around all the time. Oh, what a fantasy life that is – to be paid for your performance. How stressful is that? I mean, didn’t most of us get into the sports we are in because we wanted an outlet away from the rest of life, and because we wanted to become “fit and healthy” for the long term?

Reality check. Many of us who are trying to be competitive don’t have this luxury (if it is a luxury?) of being paid to be a full time professional athlete. We have full time jobs, schooling and classes to take, families, kids, loans to pay off, mortgages to pay off, and other obligations that prevent us from putting in 24/7 effort into training to be paid based on performance. In fact, many of us partake in athletics because it takes us away from our other obligations – because it’s a hobby and because we have passion for it and because we want to live for many decades and to see our grandchildren grow and possibly great grand children.

So in our situation, where time is money, stress is around the corner, and restrictive schedules surround us…to be competitive, you have to train SMART, train strategically, and train with just the right amount needed (scratch that…the minimum amount needed) to get the maximum amount of gains so we don’t over stress ourselves and burn out.

Training to get to an expert or an elite level becomes more about the quality of the training, and not necessarily about the quantity of the training. There is a point in a day’s training program where you’ve reached the peak amount of time and stimulation needed to get the maximum benefits of those movements and intensity – and any minute spent or pound lifted thereafter will only give you diminishing returns on your performance…or worse, prevent you from recovering quicker because you’re just physically stressing your body more than it needs to be.

You have to focus on the quality of the movements themselves – the form, the mechanics, the right marriage of intensity and duration, and gain a respect for the movements and for what your body is capable of performing that day to truly get the most of your workouts.

This are the things that I have just now come to discover as a developing athlete who only started a few years ago – and still have a long journey to go…and I just want to share some of my thoughts and experiences with you who are also just starting out, who have the fire in your eyes to be competitive, and want to really grasp more out of your training to become a better athlete.

So, how do you truly become a better athlete and learn respect for the movements and for your body?

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EDUCATE YOURSELF ON THE MECHANICS OF MOVEMENT

Understand that the basic movement patterns and foundational strength need to be built before diving into details and complex movements.

Know what the ideal should be. Know what efficiency and effectiveness truly looks like – but also, know what kind of core strength is necessary or what might be missing when addressing the things you are struggling at.

The answer to becoming better at a movement is not necessarily just “doing more reps” and getting more practice and more muscle memory, but understand what type of movement and feeling is necessary to obtain and repeat (you certainly don’t want to be repeating form that will only work against you when you get to the refined level).

Sometimes, you have to break a complex movement down into pieces, or components (such as focusing just on the starting position and pulling up to the knees, or focusing on the top of a snatch pull where you “flex the triceps”, or developing enough thoracic mobility to be upright in a snatch, or feeling out how to transition from below rings to above the rings on a muscle-up) before you can put the whole back together again. You probably aren’t struggling with the WHOLE movement, but just a piece of it, and you need to identify that piece.

Also, don’t just look to the people and coaches immediately surrounding you. Look to the professionals, the elites, the coaches who coach the elites, and for science and research for answers. Pick up books, read articles, take seminars, expose yourself to a variety of different voices so that you can start to view certain movements in as many different ways as possible – then you are more likely to figure out the parts you are weakest at and the parts you are strongest at.

I think a lot of athletes (and just people looking to get into shape) can benefit immensely from just simple education on functional movements, what comprises more complex movements, what muscles are meant to be stimulated with certain exercises, and HOW you will benefit from certain exercises.

Even moreso, try out different coaches. I actually had the opportunity to train a couple times with Vasily Polovnikov (my husband has been training under his coaching supervision for the past several weeks now) – and learn how to break down the weightlifting movements again from complete scratch and with 100% different cues and 100% different way of approaching things. I felt like I was relearning everything again – but in the end it gives me a better understanding of the movement, more respect for the movement, and a better understanding of what it takes to be a competitive athlete.

I think we get caught up in the same way of doing stuff all the time and close ourselves off to new voices and opportunities once we’ve found our little niche and comfort zone. But, in order to get better, you have to learn how to break complex movements down to their essentials, and be open to exposing yourself to new ways of looking at things – or new cues, or perspectives from other coaches and people who will see new things that you haven’t noticed yet, and break out of that comfort zone for a bit.

 

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DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS THAN 100%

By 100% I don’t mean just effort. I mean FORM.

If you settle for 80-90% good form, or even 95% good form, then you’ll only become a 95% decent athlete.

But to be competitive, elite, and to show mastery at something, you need to be in that top 1%, or top .05%.

And to make world records, those athletes are at 100% because they just make it look so darn beautiful and easy (because when you do it 100% correct then it clicks!)

In just the two sessions of training I had with Vasily watching my form, I really began to understand how important CRITICISM is when learning things, and ACCEPTING CRITICISM because it will make you better. It sucks being told, “still not pulling hard enough….still not straight enough…etc” because I felt like I was trying to focus on improving every other part of the lift too and that wasn’t being acknowledged at all and I’m not getting anywhere!!!

But in the end, accepting anything less than 100% ideal form (regardless of if it’s a lighter “easy” warm-up weight or 95% of your max) will not make you a high level athlete – and even though you “made the lift” there are still improvements to be made. Even though in my mind I thought my lift felt and looked beautiful, or I had finally nailed down the “arch the back, chin up”, Vasily still told me “higher pull, more toes, straighter, still going too far back, blah blah blah.”

So discouraging, right?

Unless you are always striving to hit the ideal, you’re always just settling for less…which, if you are trying to be competitive, will not make you a master of anything. That’s because masters don’t settle for less than 100%. In the end, even though I still kept constantly being criticized for little things here an there, I ended up a better athlete at the end of the day because of how much more focused and stingy I was on perfecting form.

 

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FOCUS AND “STUDY” A COUPLE KEY AREAS AT A TIME

As a metaphor – think about college…where you have to take classes to specialize or major in a certain subject. In order to become specialized and develop expertise in a certain area, you must take classes that are thorough and specific to that area – classes that are very concentrated, that dive into the intricacies, ins and outs of that particular subject. Then when you finish the class, you have a much greater understanding not just of that subject, but also of the type of work and focus it takes to exploit a topic to its fullest (that you can then take with you to learning other subjects!)

Training is the same – there are areas in which you will need to spend much more time honing in on…and the best way to do that is instead of taking a “variety of classes” (focusing on developing everything at once), you take a cluster of concentrated classes for a cycle or two (focusing on thoroughly developing just 1-2 of your weaknesses).

You place all of your time, thought, and energy into really extracting all the details of these focused subjects so you don’t get distracted by other things – and then once you have developed these areas up to match your other strengths or have learned a sufficient amount, then you can take a step back to reassess the other areas now that you need to improve or “take classes on.”

But before you can do that, it might help to identify what your weaknesses actually are, and what’s really setting you back. A good coach can help you to identify these things. An flexible mind will help you trust that this is the right thing to do.

For me, that was understanding that my weakness was my lifting and barbell strength (because I’m short and pint-sized, you know! That’s a huge disadvantage for me!). I focused on weightlifting full time with minimal “crossfit” – I even cut out all the long distance and short distance running I used to do because I didn’t want it to take away from my strength gains. Lo and behold, I am now much stronger (still not as strong as many other bigger women) and am much more efficient and powerful at workouts.

 

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IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT PROGRAMMING…BUT IT HELPS.

First of all, I didn’t choose to switch away from the environment I was in ONLY because of its “programming.”

Programming alone will not make you a better athlete.

Understanding the MOVEMENTS and how to train the movements and recover properly from the movements MAKES YOU A BETTER ATHLETE.

Anyone can be given a program with X-movements and Y-reps but if you don’t practice and perform them properly, work on form and technique, nor understand how the programming truly contributes to your potential as an athlete, then you’re just doing mindless reps and sets.

Now, with that being said, programming that is appropriate for your skills WILL initiate you to focus on developing an understanding for the movement (beginner programming focuses on developing the basics, and more advanced programming will assume you already understand the basics and now need more refinement of skill). As an amateur or intermediate athlete, you probably will see a lot of initial gain and improvement simply because you’re starting from scratch, building up new muscle and developing your central nervous system to respond to new physical stimulation.

But for you athletes who are seasoned, who have some training age behind you, have proficient coordination and muscle memory and who are beyond the intermediate level – simply adding in more reps and higher weights, more volume and more intensity will not get you anywhere.

And definitely, putting yourself in a “competitive” environment where the people around you are pushing you, constantly yelling in your face to “do one more rep,” encouraging extra work afterwards will not make you a better athlete. Again, it just teaches you how to tolerate pain more.

Programming has to be specifically tailored to meet your own individual and personal needs – it addresses your weaknesses and helps you to focus on the things that you need most to help you become a better athlete. For example, I realized that I had a proportionally strong squat, but my “pulling” strength was lacking in terms of being able to power a weight high enough to catch in a snatch or a clean. Also, my overhead strength and core wasn’t as stable when it came to controlling a weight overhead once I caught it. So for awhile, my programming focused on pulling mechanics, incorporating a lot of lower back and hamstring strengthening accessory lifts and a lot of core stabilization exercises such as double overhead kettle-bell carries, single sided rows, front rack lunges, Romanian deadlifts and good mornings. Actually, it was a lot of emphasis on accessory work and supplemental work and not always “lifting big” and “big lifts” all the time.

 

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UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR BODY WORKS AS A SYMPHONY.

To become better at “crossfit” and constantly varied movements, you need to realize that every movement builds upon other movements, and that no movement sits on its own island by itself.

  • The mechanics of a squat take a role in a lot of movements (wall balls, pistols, leg positioning when rowing, box jumps, ball slams, olympic lifts)
  • The engagement of core muscles and their stabilization role basically gets used in almost 100% of movements (too many to list here)
  • The understanding of power generated from legs, hips, and full body extension (and all the other parts of the body that work too) carries over to many movements we do.
  • Pulling movements carry to other pulling movements
  • Pushing movements carry over to other pushing movements
  • Lacking mobility in one small area can affect and entire lift because it will throw your entire body out of alignment because you are limited in one area.

Your body has so many muscles, nerves, bones, and parts that work together as a symphony to move you in certain positions, to generate power, to stabilize, to mobilize, to hold up things, to push things, to pull things, to create speed and to create accuracy. To become better at one little thing, you also must address how your body works as a whole from core to extremity to focus on that movement.

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KNOW WHEN TO STOP, WHEN YOU NEED TO RECOVER.

Watch your ego and stop being so damn impatient and wanting to get better NOW!!

The two times I got injured were when I pushed myself beyond what the programming asked for – and specifically on days that were at the peak before tapering. I wasn’t satisfied with the reps I did and I really wanted to hit a certain weight for a 5RM back squat, or for a double hang-clean – and when I didn’t make the lifts I tried again, and strained my hip from over-squatting, and sprained an ankle from not having enough power left (from trying too many times) to properly catch a clean and having the bar crash on me.

I injured myself because I was stubborn and impatient – and the consequence was losing a lot of strength from having to hold back training and spend even more time trying to regain it all back.

There’s something neat about not always wanting to push to see what your max truly is for that day – or pushing because you “know you can do it,” or pushing until failure when you don’t have to (even when it’s in the program to work up to a max) because you’re always leaving a little bit more for later.

It’s like saving yourself those last extra couple bites of cake or brownie for later. Instead of eating them now (when you’ve already gained the stimulation and satisfaction from the previous bites of cake), you’re saving some pleasure and some anticipation for the future.

It’s easy to think “oh, that won’t happen to me” because it seems like everything is hunky dory until it does happen and you do get injured…and then you kick yourself in the butt asking “why didn’t I stop there?”

Strength comes in not just being physically capable of doing something, but being mentally capable of knowing your limits.


 

I could probably go on and on about this topic forever, because it’s something that I’m going through and experiencing now…and has taken me a couple years to finally understand the outer edges of. Even still, I have a long ways to go as an athlete, and the more I train and educate myself, the more I realize how much of an amateur I still really am to all of this.

Train smart. Train strategically. Respect the movements. Respect your body.

Independent & Dependent Goals - What Makes You More Satisfied in the End? Weightlifting Woman @powersofthesnow

You all,

I have another philosophical rant for you about….goals

(again, really?)

I was just reflecting on what types of goals make me the most satisfied with myself in the end – and what types of goals I set (that I don’t make) that make me feel like I can’t ever get there.

Well, it just occurred to me there there are two different kinds of goals or standards we can set for ourselves…and well I don’t know if this theory has been stated or written up elsewhere but I promise this is all from my head and I have no references:

  • INDEPENDENT GOALS (Meeting or matching a definitive measured number…a.k.a. quantitative). Examples:
    • lift a certain amount of weight on the bar (Clean & Jerk 2 Red plates, for example)
    • Run a 6-minute mile, or complete a 5k in under 25 minutes.
    • Have blood pressure measured at a certain level
    • Meet a certain number on the scale
    • Eat X number of protein grams per day, or successfully not drink any alcohol for 30 days.

Basically, Independent goals are goals that give us a definitive target regardless of who-else is out there. If you take everyone else out of the picture (other athletes, competitors, candidates, friends, family, etc), independent, quantitative goals will still be there for you to match or not.

Think of independent goals as getting a “Yay! You Participated!” Medal at the end.

  • DEPENDENT GOALS (Qualifying for or meeting a certain criteria dependent on the performance of others…a.k.a. qualitative) Examples:
    • To qualify for Crossfit Games “Regionals”
    • To finish on the podium at a sport/athletic competition, such as at Weightlifitng Nationals,
    • Qualifying for the Olympics
    • To back squat more than your best friend, or that “guy/gal” at the gym
    • To get accepted to a certain school/college/program/job

To summarize, dependent goals are goals in which your ability to meet that goal depends on the performance of everyone else around you also trying to meet that same goal. Whereas a medal won after an “independent” goal can be obtained by all those who have put in the effort, a medal earned from meeting a dependent goal was *given to you instead of others* because you accomplished something others couldn’t who were also striving for that same goal.

Now, there are some goals that do slightly fall in between the two (but I’d call them more “Semi-Dependent” goals because they are somewhat determined based off of the criteria others have set) Examples are: The current Clean & Jerk record for your weight class in the region, or even in the world; The qualifying total needed for the American Opens, or for the Boston Marathon; Fitting into a “Size 4” dress (lol! but it’s true – our standards of dress sizes change with generations, measurements and geographical location).

SO OK, what’s the point – why think of goals in this way?

Well, I guess I was trying to figure out which of these types of goals made me feel “happier” overall, or just more satisfied with my life – and which goals were just driving me down some endless cycle of constantly trying but never seeming to get there.

I don’t know about you, but I always feel more frustrated with my end performance when I set more dependent goals for myself, and don’t meet them. OR…try to train to be better than other people.

A few months ago our Gym set up a “Summer Goals” board – and I put on there that I wanted to Clean & Jerk 100kg, Snatch 75kg and finish on the Podium at Nationals.

Two independent goals and one dependent  goal.

I didn’t ever make any of them (and still haven’t to this day) – but now just wondering if my strive to meet the dependent goal (podium finish) took away from my ability to meet the independent goals (C&J + Snatch) – or the other way around?

Maybe my impatience on wanting to snatch and clean & jerk those numbers quicker (and doing multiple heavy reps when I shouldn’t be) took away from the greater progress of the podium finish goal.

So by not making my dependent “podium finish” goal – I felt like I left completely unsatisfied and wanted to make a drastic change to meet that goal…and in fact, something I’ve been teeter-tottering as well is the consideration of dropping a weight class in order to “perform better relative to others” in that weight class and perhaps finish on the podium (because my numbers I lift now would definitely get me a medal in the 48kg class) – but in the end my overall numbers would drop due to loss in muscle and I wouldn’t be close to lifting magical numbers like “100kg” anymore without putting in even more work. I’d be sacrificing an independent goal in order to meet a dependent one.


 

So with that thought in mind – is it more satisfactory to be weaker at something in general, but still better at it compared to others around you – or is it more satisfactory to drop that outer dependence of performance of others and just do it for yourself and yourself only? 

Meeting DEPENDENT Goals:

The Limitations & Downfalls of Setting & Obtaining Dependent Goals:

Uncontrollable Factors: The issue with dependent goals are factors that you cannot control – so the only way to really meet these goals is to study your competition, strategize, and train the best you can to perform the best you can in hopes that others won’t perform as well as you.

Comparative Nature: Another potential downside to setting and trying to meet dependent goals that comes is feeling that other people judge you based on your performance in relation to others. There’s usually a feeling of “I’m not as good” or “I’ll never be as good” because you’re always comparing your performance in the context of others.

Pressure: I don’t know about you, but when I feel the need to perform well in the eyes of others at that very moment well then I get a huge sense of anxiety and pressure that comes with that performance. I feel this anxiety and stress comes much less when it’s an independent personal goal that has no sense of urgency or a “must do it now’ situation.

 

The Upsides – What is there to Gain from Obtaining Dependent Goals:

Acknowledgement: Winning something, or beating a record, or doing better than the other competitors around you brings about acknowledgement and recognition from others – perhaps if you’re someone who’s been looking for this type of recognition your whole life to feel satisfied than meeting a dependent goal will certainly make you feel on top of the world.

Legacy: Getting yourself there means you got your name there written in the books to stay – and now you’ve given others a goal to try and match up to.

Pride and Boasting Rights for your Resume: Now when it comes to future competitions – being picked for a team or being the favorable choice, you now have this accomplishment written all over your resume as a way to convince people of your worth when faced with the pressure of others

Overwhelming Satisfaction: Um…you just did what a lot of others (who are trying just as hard) couldn’t do! You should be proud!

 


Limitations when it comes to meeting INDEPENDENT goals

The Limitations & Downfalls of Setting & Obtaining Independent goals:

No Context: How do you know if the quantitative goal you’re actually trying to meet is even good at all? Is it meaningful if it’s a number that’s just not as impressive compared to what others can do?

Lack of Urgency, Pressure or Motivation To Meet Inner Expectations: Independent goals are on your own timeline – and it really depends on if you have the drive to meet the inner expectations that you set for yourself. Sometimes, having an outer influence that pushes you to act faster can help you get to your goals quicker.

 

The Upsides – What is there to Gain from Obtaining Independent Goals:

You really are on a quest to better yourself just for yourself. There is no judgement, there is no comparison. You either meet the number or you don’t meet the number.

Feeling like you have complete control: Because this type of goal does not involve anyone else – it’s really all ON you, and when you do complete that goal…well it was all your effort, of course!

A sense of “wow, I can actually do this!” – Because usually (and I hope so) independent goals are goals we set for ourselves to hit that we KNOW we can accomplish because we have control. We may or may not hit those dependent goals sometimes (again, due to uncontrollable factors, etc), but we have complete control over our own independent goals and how far out we decide to set them.

Being strong and fit is a choice, just as being weak, out of shape and chubby is a choice. Just depends on which you really want more and how much work you’re willing to put in.

Overwhelming Satisfaction: Um…you just set a goal, and made it, and are now that much closer to where you want to be…congratulations you should be proud of yourself!


 

Now I end with some open ended questions:

Is it worth it at all to set some very high stakes, dependent goals for ourselves, knowing that they might lead to more dissatisfaction in ourselves if we don’t meet them? Should we just stick to only independent goals?

Is the satisfaction and happiness that we gain from a dependent goal really that much more worth it than meeting a bunch of independent goals?

Or maybe…does our strive to meet dependent goals prevent us from clearly seeing how much we’ve accomplished independently?

I’ll leave it there….but you know just something that just came to mind as I pondered why I compete at national weightlifting events or even compete at all.

 

American Open 2015 Recap Performance Bombing Out But Pleased

When I went to my first American Open competition a couple years ago, my goal was simply just to get my name up on the board and get a total. I ended up getting 6th place. My heaviest lifts and PRs back then are now weights that I frequently warm up with.

I’ve gotten better, but so have all the other girls in my weight class. Thus continues the relentless pursuit to just lift 1kg more than another lifter.

Results of my Lifts: So how did I do this time?

Snatch:
  • 68kg
  • 71kg (a meet PR!)
  • missed 74kg (matching a personal record).
Clean & Jerk:
  • Jerked 92kg, but given two reds for a press out
  • Cleaned 95kg with a rough drive from the squat, missed the jerk
  • Cleaned 96kg, missed the jerk

The 92kg would have given me a total of 163kg, putting me around 4-5th I think?

The 96kg jerk, had I made it, would have given me the bronze medal.

I left this American Open without a total, and therefore without a ranking or placement. But, I’m actually still very happy with how I did and I think I made the right decision in trying to go “All or Nothing” rather than just try to “make a total.”

I will say that last year at the 2014 American Open in DC that I also bombed out and didn’t make any lifts at all. But the main reason for that was I weighed in way too light because I had this bright idea that I wanted to eventually cut to a 48kg. I’m back in 53kg where I belong so that’s no longer an issue, although I still weighed in the lightest of all the girls in my session (51.94kg).

 

Quick debriefing of how The American Open is different from any other “local” competition

Locally, there’s probably 1-2 other girls who are basically my competitors in my weight class. I currently share the New England records with another 53kg lifter (I hold the clean & jerk record at 95kg, she holds the snatch & total record).

Therefore, unless she is also at the meet, I basically end up dominating my weight class and also coming close to winning “best overall female lifter” based on sinclair.

Local competitions, to me, are opportunities to land a higher total to put me in a better qualifying position for the A session at a national meet. Because of the lack of close local competition (and high sinclair in my region), I usually end up lifting all of my lifts at the very end of the session and either end up following myself (and getting 2:00 rest between lifts), or having a brief rest if someone else who is a heavier weight, or a close competitor happens to also be there to lift similar numbers as I.

With national competitions – all of a sudden everyone in my session is the same weight class as me and therefore also lifts very similar numbers. In fact, you might see up to 8-10 girls all trying to lift the same amount of weight on the bar because that’s simply where everyone’s capabilities are, but also because of how they are strategizing to lift “just one kg more” than the other girls.

Because everyone is lifting such similar weights, the waiting times between attempts can really vary – from following yourself to waiting 20 or 30 minutes just for 3 more kg on the bar depending on who misses and who makes that evening. Being able to keep track of attempts and following other lifters is enough of a stress itself, in addition to just going out there and lifting the weights!

It’s rare that you will see strong PRs at these national meets (although they do happen and are quite incredible to watch) but you will see some lifters having incredibly strong performances and some lifters…not having as strong of performances.

I happened to be in the latter group (from an outside perspective), but inside, I felt like I was in between the two groups. Yes, I didn’t make any clean and jerks, but I felt like I still had an incredibly strong performance.


 

The Positives: What Worked Well That Night.

Positive #1: Snatching:

I made my first snatch!

…and the second one!

(and I almost power snatched over 140# in the warmup area)

I love starting a competition with a lift made because it gives me confidence to make the next few lifts. I think in the end, I could have made the 74kg snatch had I took another attempt because I think nerves just got to me because I would be attempting to match a PR…or a lift that I had only done once in my life.

 

Positive #2: Dealing with the Time Change

Reno, NV is in the Pacific time zone…that’s 3 hours behind where I live. Thus, with a late lifting time of “6:30pm” I would be lifting at the equivalent of “9:30pm” Eastern Time. I don’t even workout around 6:00pm in general, but usually in the mid-afternoon (4:00ish).

We arrived in Reno two days before, so to “prep” myself for being awake during the time change, I did some mobility, stretching and yoga up through 9:30pm both Wednesday and Thursday night. I think this immensely helped to transition me over to the change in time in the short number of days I was there.

Positive #3: My Body-Weight at Weigh-In:

Usually 3-4 weeks out I start to really micromanage my diet, and was definitely hovering around 52.5kg in the weeks leading up to Reno. I know many women in the 53kg class tend to stay over 53kg as long as they can before having to cut water weight last minute to make weight. I happen to fall on the lighter end of my weight class due to my height and body type so I tend to have a little more freedom with what I can eat.

I ended up weighing in at 51.94kg, which wasn’t too light, but I could have definitely eaten a little more. When I got to Reno, I definitely didn’t feel the need to overly “restrict” myself, but I did watch my portioning and tried to keep it consistent to what I normally eat at home…because you know restaurants tend to give you waaaay more food, right?

Singlet with Donuts Weightlifting American Open 2015

Probably one of my most favorite singlets yet – here I am sporting the donut singlet with a Qalo ring and some coffee from the local Reno Hub Roasters. (because I love local coffee…sorry Starbucks! You were over crowded). Also, a case of desserts I scouted out for my “post lifting” meal…the choices!

 

Positive #4: I had donuts on my singlet:

Donuts! I make my own singlets because I hate being boring. This singlet has gotten me the most positive feedback yet. Sorry, not yet able to mass produce for sale unless you’re also a 53kg 5’0″ lifter.

(I did not end up eating donuts during my post-lifting re-feed. I choose a gluten-free brownie instead. Actually, I ate a salad first).

 

Positive #5: Overall Decisions in What Lifts I Would Take:

I think the snatch numbers that I took on were solid and on point. I don’t think that I would have make 73kg had I went 67kg, 70kg, 73kg because my 3rd attempt miss was more of a “nervousness” issue, not a “strength” issue.

During my clean & jerk warm-ups, I wasn’t feeling nearly as strong as in the snatch, so I decided to move my start to 92kg instead of a planned 93kg. I don’t know if going up to 93kg would have resulted in me not pressing out my jerk or would have mattered now looking back, but I think it would have slightly decreased my wait time between lifts.

Following that “miss”, in hindsight, I’m incredibly glad I decided to jump up to 95kg rather than take 92kg again. Why?

Because I’m a competitor, and I decided to go for it with an “all or nothing” attitude. If I made the 95kg it would take me that much closer to the podium. In fact, if I made my 3rd lift of 96kg, it would have given me the bronze spot on the podium!

What does 4th, 5th or 6th place really…REALLY mean to me in the end in this type of competition? Well, it means that I just “played it safe” and I didn’t take any risks. I KNOW what I can lift, and I have the opportunity to show that in many local competitions. I’ve already proven what I am capable of doing. So, what’s the point of a national competition then?

The end point of a national competition (such as the American Open or Nationals) is to try to finish on the podium and get to the top. It’s not just “to make another total.” I’ve already qualified and shown my potential – now I just need to show that potential where it REALLY matters. This is a different kind of pressure – it’s no longer necessarily lifting to “make a PR” (although some people do!). It’s to lift 1kg more than the others regardless of if that was a PR for me or not.

I think that’s also why so many other girls also bombed out as well (it wasn’t just me!). The pressure at this type of competition is astounding.

Though in the end, I honestly will tell you I didn’t cry a single tear (Nate can vouch for me). I shot for the toughest target and just ended up missing this time around.


Press Out 92kg Clean & Jerk - American Open 2015 by Weightlifting Woman

Here’s a photo that Lifting Life Photography captured of my 92kg clean and jerk – they caught it right at the moment where my arms “bowed” just enough to qualify it for a press out.

Looking Back – Why Didn’t I Make These Lifts?

I’ve clean & jerked 96kg in training a few times before, and cleaned it twice in two different competitions (Nationals and New England Championships). I’ve also jerked 100kg before.

So why wasn’t I able to make the jerk this time around?

First off, let me tell you how I felt during both the 95kg and 96kg lifts (which were similar): The weight was manageable off the floor, but once I had the bar racked and stood up, I felt slightly dizzy, out of focus, overheated and lacking that “bounce” of energy that I usually get with other clean & jerks.

I probably missed due to all these variables:

  • They gave me two reds on my first clean & jerk due to the slightest amount of “press out” – which was basically bowed arms before I locked out. This put a huge damper into the rest of my clean & jerks. I feared missing the jerk, or “pressing out” the jerk” – and that fear probably contributed to why I missed the jerks at the end.
  • The time change was starting to drag on me. It was about 8:00pm there, which meant about 11:00pm EST. Clearly, I’m not used to working out that late (even at 8:00pm EST) and I think my body began to shut down because well, it’s used to getting ready for bed at that time!
  • My nutrition & fuel probably wasn’t quite right. You know me…I’m a big advocate for habits and minimizing variables the day of – but of course being away on travel without a car or a grocery store nearby and having to rely on the food available at the venue, my nutrition and food wasn’t exactly the same as it always had been. I had a different kind of yogurt, meal, post-weigh-in meal bar and other things. I didn’t have my usual drink mixture with me during the session. Any of these nutritional variables could have contributed to my lack of drive and energy in the jerk.
  • I weighed a little lighter than the other girls in my class, though I feel I was still adequately eating enough for meals (I had a huge omelette and fajitas earlier that day!!). 51.94 isn’t too bad…I’ve weighed much less before, but I still could have used another 2lbs of fluids or fuel in me before weighing in. Have no idea what to expect on the real scale though, as the check scale had me in the 52’s the whole time!
  • I had too much “wait time” between my first attempt and 2nd attempt – one girl missed ALL THREE lifts at 93kg and another decided to jump in and take 94kg so it had been at least 15 minutes since I took my last clean and jerk in the warm up area – and we couldn’t anticipate whether the lifters would make or retake the lifts so I ended up waiting around for 10 minutes longer than I hoped. This probably brought my adrenaline down. It was apparent in my 95kg attempt (was super slow coming out of the squat), whereas the 96kg drove up easier because I had less wait time between lifts and the adrenaline was slightly there from the last attempt.
  • I wasted energy caring too much about the logistics. “How many attempts left until me?” “What place am I currently in?” “What weight should I increase to?” This is the reason why we have coaches – they take care of this logistical stuff so YOU CAN FOCUS ON MAKING THAT FREAKIN LIFT. But me being all Type A and always wanting to know what’s going on and being in charge of stuff got in the way of putting all my energy into the lifting itself.
  • While sitting around and waiting, my focus wasn’t clearly on myself and my own performance, but rather how the other girls were doing. I sat there right behind the platform and saw one girl miss all three lifts (who had snatched way more than me), and another miss her 2nd clean & jerk attempt. I put a lot of energy into focusing on what other people were doing, and not into just making my own lift. Wasted, energy.

So, there’s a lot of factors that came into play. I can’t say that one factor dominated the others in terms of why I didn’t make any of the lifts…but it’s all another learning experience. In the past, I would have a lot of other reasons on why I didn’t make the lifts (I was tired, I wasn’t strong enough, my technique wasn’t consistent enough) – but since then I took care of most of those factors. I think the overall trend though, for this particular American Open competition, was that I cared too much (again) about what others were lifting and how others were doing, and I need to focus and hone in on my own lifting.

With every competition always comes new (and repeating) challenges.

Minimize the variables, focus on my own lifts, let my coach do all the logistical stuff for me…the podium will be there. Next year!

Competition Strategy Preparation and Day Of by Weightlifting Woman @powersofthesnow

Competitions are a test – they are a test of your strength both mentally and physically. They are a test of how far you have developed as an athlete, but also how you deal with pressure, excitement and challenge “in the moment.”

Preparing for a competition takes a lot of work – both in the months and weeks prior to the competition, but also in those few days and hours surrounding the actual competition itself. Perhaps you’re a seasoned athlete who has been to several competitions already, or a novice looking to jump into your first competition (whether it be a crossfit competition, weightlifting competition, obstacle course race, long distance race, or some other awesome feat of fitness).

Here are my thoughts, tips and strategies that I’ve learned and adopted through almost 3-4 years of participating in various types of races, fitness competitions, crossfit competitions and weightlifting competitions (both at the local and at the national level).


 

Determining Frequency of Competition – How Far In Advance Should You Plan?

Since competitions are a “test” of your fitness – consider them equivalent to various types of school exams. There are quizzes, mid-term exams, and FINAL exams. Now, depending on the type of competition you do, your event can fall into any of those three categories.

If this is a competition that is requiring a level of fitness or strength that is currently beyond your capabilities right now (and you have to train for a few weeks to work up to that level) – you’ll probably want to treat it like a “Summative Final Exam”. Now, FINAL exams don’t happen frequently or all the time. No – in fact they probably only happen a couple times a year. This is directly related to how you should train seasonally – our human bodies can probably only peak, in terms of physical fitness performance, a couple times per year.

When I say peak, I mean heavy, strenuous levels of performance that require you to work for an extreme period of time longer than what you’re used to and at a much higher volume or intensity than what you’re used to on a daily level.

These peaks require at least several weeks, or a few months of training beforehand to allow your body to adapt to the intensity and loads it requires. Why does it take several weeks or months to reach a “peak”? Because you have to train in WAVES of intensity and volume, and because developing muscle fiber and losing/gaining mass in a healthy and safe manner takes time and patience.


 

Following a Training Cycle & Program Leading Up to Competition

Sometimes, you know what the test expects and you can adequately prepare for the test to ensure your best performance on the day of. You can’t CRAM for a physical fitness test like you might be able to for a school exam – Good performance the day of requires weeks and months of work…

…Weeks and months of:

  • Developing strong muscle memory, skill and technique in movements you are going to perform
  • Developing adequate muscle fiber and strength
  • Priming and adapting the central nervous system to loads and intensity of weights, coordination, speed and agility
  • Establishing a healthy nutritional routine to fuel your workouts and your body to build the muscle it needs (while minimizing any excessive body fat that’s just “extra dead weight”)
  • Establishing HABITS, rituals and routines that you can take with you to competition day so there is “nothing unexpected” on game day, or you can minimize the variables.

You can’t be expected to perform at the level you hope to perform on Day 1, or even Day 10 or Day 30 – but you have to start somewhere based on your currently level of fitness and work up from there so when that special day comes – you can be at your peak and best performance!

So hopefully, you have (or will find) some type of training program and/or nutritional program that you can use to prime yourself for a good performance.

 

What do you mean by a “training program”?

Well, you’ll need workouts and diet planned out that give you the intensity you need depending on your starting level of fitness, as well as the REST and recovery you need in order for your body to adapt to those fitness stresses. The program overtime should slowly allow your body to adapt to increasing loads of intensity and volume (either distance in mileage or “duration of activity” if you’re running a race, or weight on the barbell if you’re doing a weightlifting competition)

Yet, you can’t always just keep increasing and increasing week after week – your program should also give you a few days of “deloading” and tapering so you can recover and reset your body to take on even more intensity and volume later on.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” program based on your own personal body’s ability to recover, adapt to workouts, nutritional habits, schedule, stress, sleep patterns, and amount of time you have available to you – but you need to at least start by following some program consistently before you really know whether that program is or isn’t working for you.

These precious months and weeks leading up to the competition is the opportune time for you to refine your technique and learn the muscle memory to perform your movements efficiently and correctly the day-of.

We all know that feeling of “fluster”, nervousness and anxiety the day of a huge test or event, right? Well, when we get nervous or flustered, we tend to fall back on what is routine to us and whatever technique, action, or movement pattern is second nature. Well, if we can spend the several weeks repetitively and meticulously working on developing correct movement patterns, we can have a better chance of “defaulting” to that good technique because it’s engrained in our muscle memory!

(See my previous article here about Reinforcing Repeated Movements for more talk on that topic!)


 

Day Of Competition: The “prep” is only half the battle.

Basically, don’t do anything stupid in those few precious days right before your competition.

And especially don’t do anything stupid the day of the competition.

As much as you can prepare for weeks and months beforehand for a fitness-based competition – much of your performance can be highly dependent on the events happening the day of, a few hours before, and just a couple days right beforehand.

The goal here is to minimize any variables and stick to the familiar as much as possible.

Tapering right before the Competition:

Generally, most written programs leading up to a competition will have embedded in it a week or two of “tapering” or deloading – basically, a period of time immediately prior to the competition where the intensity and volume of your workouts decrease to allow your body to fully recover and the muscles to build back up so you can be at your strongest and fittest during the competition.

Do not…I repeat, do NOT ignore the taper period. You might feel antsy and really wanting to MOVE in that day or two before competition day – but don’t give into that feeling – in fact, feeling ANTSY, energetic and anxious about wanting to workout now that means your taper is WORKING and you’ll feel at your strongest the day of.

Keep up with your Sleep & Nutrition

The few days right before a competition is NOT the time to compromise on going out and staying up later than what you need to – because it WILL take away from your competition performance the day of. Be strict and be stringent.

Trust me, it’s worth it if you need to be super picky on your diet for a week or two (and pass on those free cookies at work) to make weight for your weightlifting competition, or to be persistent in getting carbs, protein and fuel right after your intense workouts so you can build your strength back up, or staying hydrated throughout the day.

Have a Nutritional Plan the Day Of

…but don’t plan it only a day before you need it.

In fact, you should have a nutritional plan planned out weeks prior to your competition, because you have “tested out” your nutritional needs during some of your intense workouts in the days and weeks during your training program.

Usually a competition takes you out of routine because it either requires you to do several workouts during the day (instead of doing one), racing for a longer-than-average length of time or distance, or “making weight” and then having to suddenly refuel and carb up right after weigh in – and then sustain energy during a few hours of competition.

You don’t want to eat too little – yet at the same time you don’t want to take in too much which will make your performance “sluggish”, sick to your stomach or just make you hover near the bathroom for half the day.

The best things you can eat are things you are very familiar with eating, and things that will be easily digestible (no tough protein, or huge amounts of fibrous carbs and vegetables) . Don’t be tempted into trying out those fancy nutrition bars that are being handed out at some booth at the competition. You have no idea how your body will actually react or respond to that new type of energy.

Minimize any variables as much as possible, especially with your nutritional intake, to maximize the potential for your best performance.

Harness that Nervous Energy

You’ve put in all the training and conditioning you need to allow you to sustain energy for the whole duration of the event – but something you may have not considered is a different type of energy you might tend to use up and consume during the actual competition.

That is called “nervous energy”  – or mental energy.

Interestingly enough, competitions are not just a test of your physical capabilities, but also the ability to harness your mental capabilities and how you can place most of your mental focus towards performing the physical task rather than towards other things such as:

  • Stressing about logistics (what time do I have to go? where’s my equipment?)
  • Worrying about other competitors’ performance
  • Worrying about your own performance (you are ready, trust me)

In cases like this, it helps to have an outside guide or coach to help manage a lot of the outside stress and logistics for you so you can just focus on what you need to physically perform (whether it be a lift, a short workout, running or cycling in a race, etc).

For example during the American Open – it is complete CHAOS in the warm-up area in the back – or so it can seem if you are trying to focus on warming up for lifts, keeping track of who is lifting what and knowing where you are in the line up so you don’t warm up too quick or too late, or end up having too much down time between lifts so all the adrenaline is lost.

I have a coach (and sometimes an extra helper) to do all of the management for me – they check what weight the bar is at, who lifted what, and take care of all the outside logistics so I can just focus on making my lifts and not on what everyone else is doing.

The more you can place all of your focus on your performance and less towards any other factors that you need to worry about, the less energy you will waste on things that aren’t contributors to your end “physical test”

If you don’t have a coach or helper out, the best thing you can do is have a plan (in terms of how your warm-ups will go, when you will be eating) and spend the minimal amount of time you need figuring out when you need to go. Do NOT get pulled down by checking out how others are doing – because using that energy that will only make you more nervous or heated up about your performance later.

Just go out there for yourself and compete for yourself.

It’s you against yourself.


I wanted to write this up as I just got done competing at the American Open – another post to come out in a couple days reflecting on my competition and how I did, so stay tune for that analysis!

(because analyzing your performance can only help you with future performances, right?)

 

 

Pumpkin Spiced Seasonal Weightlifting by Weightlifting Woman - Snow Charpentier
Really, I just wanted a catchy seasonal title to draw you all in, right?

 

(stay with me here while you drink your pumpkin-spiced latte or eat your pumpkin spiced munchkin…I do have a point)
 

 

Let’s thing about this for a moment: “pumpkin spiced” things are very seasonal.

 

Once fall starts, everyone seems to be obsessed with the flavor for a couple days, because it’s that “special time of the year” and gets everyone in the mood for halloween, cooler weather, and the cinnamon-ginger scent that seems to fill every office environment with 85% of employees’ Starbucks orders.

 

…and then it becomes absolutely overdone with everything in the world taking on pumpkin spiced flavors (coffee, donuts, ice cream, beer, doritos, car fresheners, soap, nail polish, windshield wiper fluid, you name it). Pumpkin spice this and that…it’s overkill and you’re sick of it by the time December hits. And then, enter “eggnog spiced” flavored things.

 

So what does “pumpkin-spiced anything” have to do with weightlifting?

 

Seasonality.

 

Check it out – 4 reasons why “Pumpkin Spiced” has to do with weightlifting.

In fact…you can take all of the “pumpkin spiced” phrases in the headers below and just substitute them with “weightlifting” and you’ll get what I mean.


1. You become crazily obsessed with pumpkin spice for a few weeks, then when you’re deep into the season it starts to become obsessive and overkill. You don’t want to be around it anymore.

 

Weightlifting isn’t a sport where you can train at 100% intensity year round, or even for a few weeks at a time. In fact, a lot of sports are seasonal in this way – us humans can’t sustain always going at maximum effort all the time. We will just burn out.

 

So to cure my potential burnouts, each year I cycle back and forth through two seasons: Competition Season and the Do-Whatever-I-Want “Off Season.”

 

Competition season is stressful. It’s SO stressful. Not the competition itself, but everything I have to do and focus on leading up to those mere 3 chances at a snatch and 3 chances at a clean & jerk. Hours and days and weeks of effort just for those six lifts!

 

In fact, during Competition Season (pumpkin spiced season), I have to:
  • Watch what I’m eating 24/7, or at least feel in constant control of what I weigh and when, but also getting appropriate fuel for my workouts.
  • Hold back on doing fun “Crossfit WODs” because I know I’ll be sore for days and can’t train as effectively.
  • Resist going out or socializing as much, especially on Saturdays when I know Sunday is my “heavy training day”
  • Someone at work brought in cake for someone’s birthday? Nope, can’t have any…gotta make weight this weekend.
  • Reschedule things or decline things because my workout is scheduled for that day.

 

Currently, I’m in pumpkin spiced competition season now.

 

(actually on a side note, funny story. Nate just asked me the other day, “do you want to go to ______’s halloween party?)
First thing that goes through my mind (because I’m in competition season) is, “well, that’s on a Saturday night and we train heavy on Sunday, so I’m not sure…”

 

Then, I actually realized: “wait, last year we went to the halloween party, and then on Sunday I ended up PRing my snatch and clean & jerk, probably because I had some beer and a couple slices of pizza.”

 

So we’re going…but anyways, back to the point of this post:

 

Compared to competition season, the off season (going to halloween party without worrying about if it affects my training) seems so desirable. Eat what I want, train how I want, sleep how I want, etc. etc. because I don’t have to worry about an upcoming competition or making weight anytime soon.

 

During “off season” (no pumpkin spice)…
  • I can eat sort of whatever I want without needing to watch my weight! (sort of, I still feel guilt with being too careless with food)
  • I can train however I want without being “tied down” to a workout plan. Go hiking up a mountain before heavy squat day? Sure thing!
  • I feel less restricted to going out and socializing because it’s not like I need to be perfectly rested for “heavy training day” tomorrow.
  • Someone at work brought in cake for someone’s birthday? Sure, I’ll have a slice!!
  • My schedule is a little more loose and open because I’m not tied down to a “must-train” day.

 

Well, ok…why even go through this pumpkin flavored “competition season” at all when you can just live in the style of  “off season” everyday? Who wants to deal with that much compromise, restriction and discipline at any time at all!?

 


2. After not having it for so long, you start to crave pumpkin spice in the off-season. You can’t wait for it to happen again because you know how awesome the flavor is.

 

Yes, weightlifting as a sport is a constant cycle of “discipline” and “no-discipline” from competition season to off season…but strangely enough when I’m in the off season for long enough, I start to crave being in competition season again. It’s like once pumpkin spice season is over and we’re all sick of it…we move on to other flavors and other seasonal things. Pretty soon by September we’re craving pumpkin again! What gives?

 

Being in competition season and in “pumpkin spice” mode keeps me in my best shape, keeps me motivated, keeps my body looking good (yep, abs!), and keeps me constantly driven to be my best. Yes it takes a lot of damn effort (Watching what I eat, getting enough sleep, not missing out on any training days, compromising with socializing) but it’s those PR lifts and competition wins that makes it all worth in the end.

 

That sweet aromatic ginger-cinnamon-clove slice of 100kg clean & jerk at Nationals is totally worth the hard effort.

 

I do get to the point where it feels totally overdone (like pumpkin spice always feels after its novelty has died off), and I begin to reach the peak of overtraining and wish I was back in “off season” mode. Just the other day, there were a few Crossfit workouts on the board that I really really (no, really) wanted to do because I know I would beast them, but I had to restrain myself because I knew those workouts would reduce my energy towards my current programming. Why do 30 heavy clean and jerks the day before you are going to clean & jerk up to your max?

 

What happens when you start to crave other flavors that aren’t in pumpkin spice season, yet you’re still surrounded with everyone and everything just serving pumpkin?

3. Finding the right balance of how much pumpkin spiced stuff you have CAN maintain novelty and freshness of pumpkin spice during the season. It keeps you from getting “burned out”

Finding moderation within the season keeps us going and keeps us from going on an extreme vacation away from it all. Our central nervous system can get overstimulated too (even though we physically feel capable, our mental energy can burn out).

 

Even within the season of weightlifting, there are intensive periods where training builds up, but also weeks of deloading and “backing off” so you can refresh your CNS and body to jump into more intensity later.

 

Sometimes, you need a break from pumpkin spice in order to revive your excitement for it.  But, what happens when you start to fight the season and just don’t want to deal with it anymore?

 


4. Sometimes, even though the pumpkin-spice season is overkill and everything in the world you encounter or do with your life has to do with pumpkin-spice, you have to deal with it and put up with it until the season is over.

What happens when finally at the “end of the season” I get to the American Open and totally bomb out and don’t perform as well as I anticipated despite all my hard efforts and struggles putting up with the season? Do I still end the season and move onto different flavors?

 

This actually happened to me last year. 0/6 lifts at the American Open. 

 

I was furious.

 

Perhaps I just didn’t put up with the “pumpkin spiced-ness” of the competition season enough to perform well. Nearing the end of the season I was second-guessing if I was competing in the right weight class (53kg) and focused on seeing if I could be a 48kg lifter instead to have an advantage. I ate less, I caught a pretty bad cold, and I lost focus in my original goals because I got tired of the pumpkin and craved novel flavors. Not necessarily the “off-season” flavor, but other alternates to pumpkin that were still seasonal, like apple or turkey.

 

Thing is, I should have put up with the pumpkin til the end (as we all somehow put up with the pumpkin until December hits). If only I had stuck to staying pumpkin spiced 53kg weight class like my original plan rather than veer to apple spiced 48kg class (which I realize totally wasn’t for me anyways at the end) I would have done better.
Yes, the season becomes overkill, just put up with it. It’ll be worth it in the end!

 

Following my poor performance at the American Open last year I wanted to keep training and actually prove to myself I did get stronger and that I could snatch and clean & jerk what I had trained for, so I took a couple weeks off through Christmas, and then got right back into pumpkin spiced competition mode again and competed at local events twice more in January where I ended up making the totals I wanted and setting new records. It wasn’t a “national” accomplishment, but at least gave me the satisfaction I needed after veering away from the true pumpkin flavor.

 

That only worked because I took those few weeks off and didn’t try to jump back into training right away. I gave myself a quick break from the overwhelming sensation of competition so I could come back in slightly refreshed and the taste of pumpkin spiced barbell would feel slightly novel again.

 


So in the end, I don’t really know what the point of this post is. I think I was just trying to find a way to play off of the whole “pumpkin spice” craze and tie it into something I’m passionate about and make it meaningful. How did I do!? Would love your comments below.