2015 European Classic Powerlifting Championships

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the first ever European Classic Powerlifting Championships held in Pilsen, Czech Republic and no words will be able to do the experience justice! Training in the run up to the championships was far from ideal; I’d had a nasty sickness bug and had been spending endless hours in the library doing uni work. A combination of these two things meant my weight dropped quite considerably, and I wasn’t able to gain any strength on my squat or bench, which both actually went down for a few weeks. Fortunately I had managed to maintain and slightly improve my deadlift strength.

Anyway, this meant that I wasn’t peaking as anticipated in the final few weeks and each training session varied in success. In a way this was a good thing, as I went into the competition having no idea how my body was going to react on the day and therefore not having too high expectations for myself, which took the pressure off a little. From the nominations I also wasn’t expecting to place very highly. There were times where I felt like I wanted to get it over and done with so that I could start a new training cycle and make some real gains, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Competition day came after a few days away in Crewe for a work function, so I had been eating well in my rest week. So to my surprise I weighed in at 54.8kg, having been trying to maintain over 55kg for the previous week. This is a new low as a 57kg lifter. 11088267_10155384515225387_1147207446070201974_n Warm-up for squats felt better than I expected, so I didn’t need to change my opener of 90kg which I feared I would. On the platform this felt harder than anticipated as I lost my line and fell forward a little. Feeling disgruntled, I needed to have a little pep talk with myself about hitting my second lift and managed this easily, hitting an equal comp PB of 95kg. As this felt so easy I decided to go for 100kg. As you are probably aware it’s been a goal of mine for some time to hit  100kg in competition so I think I over psyched myself a little and didn’t go in with as much composure as I would have needed to get the lift. It was also really heavy! So this was a no lift. 11092710_10205618611638276_1728230939_n I don’t feel I have much to report on the bench. I decided to play it safe and go 52.5kg, 55kg and finish on 57.5kg, another equal comp PB. If training had been going well I would have hoped to hit 60kg for a third lift, but I felt like I would prefer to get 3 good lifts in than potentially fail 60kg. Watching some of the younger and lighter lifters has inspired me to work even more on my arch, particularly on bringing my feet behind me to get even more of a shape, which will hopefully help me to hit 60kg again sometimes soon. I swear some of those girls were contortionists though!

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I was most looking forward to deadlifts as it was the only lift that had remained consistent through my stress. These went exactly as I had hoped, despite feeling a little tough in the warm up. Deadlift is the lift that I find it easiest to get psyched up for, and that’s exactly what I did. I opened on a comfortable 115kg, went for a second of 120kg and then finished on the easiest 125kg I’ve ever done. Having struggled for quite some time with the first part of the lift I’m delighted with the speed of the bar off the floor (video below). I’m just glad I didn’t notice the song that was playing, as this might have ruined my pump.

I finished with a 277.5kg total, a 5kg PB and annoyingly close to my long-term goal of 280kg. This placed me in 7th out of 9. I was pleased with how the competition went, exactly what I could have reasonably expected on a good day considering the circumstances. ceremony

Possibly the most enjoyable part of the whole experience was the wonderful company I had while out there. It was so great to support and be supported by friends both new and old. The GB team was by far the loudest in terms of cheering and supporting our lifters, which got us some odd looks at times… (definitely not because of our fashion choices)

crowd The top-notch cheering apparently did us well as the female Junior team placed 3rd overall and the male Junior team placed 1st, giving the Junior team 1st overall. Some of us are still very new to the sport,and this was the first international for many. Also Sion managed to win gold on one leg. So a fantastic result for our team. team I’m now super excited for the coming weeks of training, there’s so much I want to work on to be able to excel at international level. My experience at my first raw international wouldn’t have been possible without the continued support from my coach, Paul, and the impeccable coaching from Lawrence and Pete while in Pilsen. And not to forget the European Powerlifting Federation. As you can hopefully tell from the photos and videos, the venue was fantastic and the competition was smoothly run. As ever, being in my final year of university I’m unlikely to be able to post as regularly as I’d like, so feel free to follow me on instagram for more regular updates; @susiebboo

Peace and Love

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Goals

January has been a busy month. With assignments, my dissertation, and exam and ongoing training, I’ve had very little time to myself. I learnt from my experience of this time last year that it definitely wasn’t time to find comfort in food, as last year I managed to put on so much weight that I really struggled to make weight for competitions in Spring. This definitely won’t be the case this year, as I have been finding my way back into my weight class through Kiefer’s Carbnite protocol, which I will post an update on at a later date. Let’s just say that sticking to a structured eating pattern has definitely helped in terms of focusing on Uni work, but may have not been the best for my training. However, I’m a lot more comfortable in my skin and don’t need to worry about my weight at all, which is nice!

Despite lacking motivation at times towards the end of last year, I certainly haven’t been lacking in motivation the last few weeks. I think I struggle when I don’t have competitions in the near future to work towards, but this month I’ve been working hard for the GB squad day and the GBPF South Midlands this weekend. Training has actually been a very welcome break from Uni work; I’ve been arriving stressed and foggy headed and leaving having forgotten I even attend Uni and feeling great from the exercise. I’ll need to keep this in mind in the next few months as my workload is sure to increase and I will need to stay sane somehow!

I’ve bought a few new bits of kit; an SBD singlet which will make an appearance this weekend, an Inzer Forever lever belt and a pair of SBD knee sleeves. Purchases made partly due to changes in IPF equipment rules and partly to treat myself!

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My training has definitely benefited from the addition of these bits, particularly my squat. I had forgotten how springy knee sleeves are! In my first training session using my knee sleeves and belt I shocked myself by achieving a 100kg squat, which was a 10kg PB! As you may remember I set myself some goals a little while back of 100 squat, 60 bench and 120 deadlift. In the last 8 weeks I’ve slowly but surely managed all of them, starting with deadlift, then bench and finally my long-awaited triple figure squat.

As far as I’m concerned, I still haven’t fully achieved my goal as I am yet to lift these weights in competition, however this seems like an achievable goal for this weekend and I look forward to seeing what I can do. This would give me a 280kg total, a 15kg PB. It would also mean I would have added over 30kg to my raw total since moving up a weight class, which would be a big success! Obviously competition days don’t always go to plan, but I have every confidence that I will be able to lift some big numbers this weekend, so watch this space!

It would appear that my ongoing journey on the gain train has served me well, as after attending the GB squad day in London, I was lucky enough to be selected to represent GB at the European Powerlifting Championships in Pilsen. The squad day itself was a mixed experience, as despite not needing to I decided I would try maximal lifts. Having slept on two sofas pushed together, and not had the best experience travelling the day before it is no wonder that I wasn’t able to hit most of the numbers I had previously done in training. This left me frustrated, but it helped me to realise that going big is not always best. Lesson learned!

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As I mentioned before, I will be competing this weekend at the GBPF South Midlands, which I am very much looking forward to. I am in a novel and nice predicament of needing to keep my weight UP before the competition, and make sure I don’t lose anymore weight. It’ll be great to be able to have a nice big dinner the day before, and drink and eat at will in the morning before weigh in. Hopefully this will give me an edge that I won’t have had at other competitions, and will allow me to lift some big numbers.

After this weekend, I will be in full training mode for the Europeans in March. It is such an exciting opportunity, and will be my first raw international. If I stay on the same trajectory I actually might not do too badly! I am still yet to work out any specific goals, I am waiting to see how this competition goes and then how I progress in training in the coming weeks.

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I’ve got some nice low carb high fat recipes to post in the next few weeks, and I will work on a review of Carbnite too. But now it’s back to work for me, this dissertation won’t write itself!

Debut

So today was my final training session before my debut international powerlifting competition; the Western European Powerlifting Championships, held in Turin, Italy. I will be competing on Thursday at 11:30am. I’m not quite sure what I’m feeling at the moment. Could be nerves, could be excitement, who knows! 

My training in the last few weeks has been going really well, I have no major issues with any of my lifts and my squats and deadlifts are feeling stronger than ever. I feel comfortable with all of my openers, and feel confident that I’ll be happy with whatever I end up with, so long as I don’t bomb! I am in capable hands though, so am sure this won’t be the case. In my penultimate squat session I managed a comfortable 130kg (and went on to do a grinding 135kg) so big numbers are definitely achievable in competition!

As I haven’t posted in quite a while, this is more of an update post than anything else. My next few days will consist of writing and rewriting lists, packing and praying that I have everything I need! Thankfully a number of family and friends have been helping out with the costs of the trip, via my fundraising page, and I’m also delighted to announce that my employer Holland and Barrett have kindly agreed to provide my supplements for the next year. I am so grateful for all the support and well wishes I have received over the last few weeks and hope to do you all proud. Watch this space!  

Adventures in Carb Backloading: a Review

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 22.34.59If you’ve been reading my blog you will know that for the last month or so I have been trialling John Kiefer’s diet plan ‘carb backloading’. The plan essentially entails manipulating the body’s normal hormonal rhythm to create a favourable fat burning environment during the day time and promoting muscle growth in the evening after training with some very careful carb timing. Put simply, the program is high-fat ultra low-carb during the daytime and high-carb low-fat at night time, with high GI carbs favoured for the night time backload. Moderate-high protein intake is maintained throughout, and meals are shifted to later in the day, which can mean fasting in the morning. 

Prep-phase

Before backloading can begin, there is a preparation phase which involves 10 days of ultra-low carb intake (ideally less than 30g a day) in order to ’empty’ the muscles of glycogen stores prior to backloading. This in turn causes weight loss (mostly water weight) which can then be used to gauge the amount of carbs which you will need to consume during the backloading phase.

I found the prep-phase to be quite enjoyable, and didn’t feel it affected my performance at training at all really. As I had followed keto-esque diets previously I was quite well versed with severely limiting carb intake, but for those less initiated it is worth looking into keto recipe sites and books to keep you on track. It’s always surprising how many hidden carbs there are in things! A more in-depth write up of my prep-phase can be found here

According to the book, based on the weight I dropped after the prep-phase, if I was a male doing quite high volume training (which the book assumes you are) I would have needed around 360g carbs every night in order to replenish glycogen stores. However the book suggests that women would not need this amount, and a friend of mine who’d previously followed the plan had said that the kind of training we do really doesn’t warrant the kind of backload that Kiefer suggests. So I settled on 200-250g carbs to start off with so I could tailor it accordingly. 

Backloading

I’d be lying if I said I got it right straight away. The day time part of backloading is easy enough; coffee, whey isolate and coconut oil (with optional double cream) throughout the morning to stave off hunger pangs, then ultra-low carbohydrate until training time. The tricky part is getting the right amount of carbs post-training. For the first week or so I got a little excited and didn’t necessarily heed Kiefer’s warnings that women really didn’t need as much, and worked with about 250g after training. I ended up feeling soft and watery, and frankly a little fat compared with how I felt after the prep-phase. However, I didn’t really limit my fats, which I think is definitely where I went wrong. Cake and steak for dinner has a nice ring to it, but cake wasn’t necessarily the right choice! The book does say to favour high GI carbs, which generally means lower fat levels, however it also suggests donuts and milkshakes for backloads. I found once I had got the carb levels right, the lower I kept my fats in the evening the better I felt in the morning. 

In the following two weeks I definitely hit the nail on the head with carb amounts. I dropped my intake right down to ~100g on bench and light assistance days and ~150g on squat, deadlift and HIIT days. I spread my carb intake out throughout the evening right up until bed time, and found I could pretty much rely on my body to tell me when I next needed carbs. High GI carbs such as cereal, low fat flavoured milk, frozen yoghurt, honey and low-fat baked goods all worked really well for me, and  just as it said in the book I could adjust the level of carbs I ate based on how I felt in the morning. With backloading, and also being on creatine it was a nice change to sit at around 51.6kg, which is within my weight class.

Example food day

8am: Coffee, Whey Isolate, Coconut Oil, Double Cream, 2x Omega 3, Multivit

10am: Coffee, Whey Isolate, Double Cream, Creatine

11:30am: Beef burger, 1/2 avocado, salad, 2x Omega 3, 2x L-Carnitine (not in the plan)

2:30pm: Satay chicken, garlic aubergine

5:30pm: Gluten free sausages, courgettes, small piece of cheese, 2x Omega 3

7:30pm: (post-training) 1/2 scoop casein, 1/2 scoop whey, Creatine, BCAA’s, low-fat strawberry milk

8:30pm: Chicken breast with high-carb curry sauce

9:30pm: Cereal with honey and low fat yoghurt

(10pm: melba toast and lemon curd)

As you can see I am eating the majority of my meals later on in the day. These portions are all pretty small but still fill me up. 

Results

The picture on the left was taken the day before the prep-phase, and the picture on the right was taken around 3 and a half weeks later, so just a few weeks into the backloading. I don’t think I need to say much; the results are pretty clear. As a fat-loss tool, carb backloading works. (Also I have a droopy shoulder?!)

I will say though that I don’t think you can see that clearly in the picture the amount of muscle I’ve put on. I’ve had several people comment on the size of my traps and shoulders in the last few weeks, and I can definitely feel a difference. 

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Performance

Often with weight loss programs the fear is that strength will be lost along with the fat. This is absolutely not the case with backloading. Despite having no carbs before training, which felt really odd for a little while, I’ve felt full of energy and my squat and deadlift have been soaring in the last few weeks. My bench has stalled a little though I feel that is probably due to having reached the limitations of my bench shirt more than anything else.

Even at times where I’ve had quite a small meal before training and subsequently felt a little peckish during the session, I haven’t experienced any of the light-headed weak feeling that I would normally have on an empty stomach. This is also the case during the fasted mornings, where normally I would be ravenous and shaky by 11am, I am finding myself to be clear headed and well-functioning. Being fuelled by the previous evening’s meals definitely feels a little weird and takes some getting used to, but it’s definitely worth it.

Competing

I suppose the best way of gauging how carb backloading has affected my performance would be to assess how I fared in competition, and I think it would be fair to say I did quite well. I achieved a new British record for squat, and got my PB deadlift of 130kg which I have been chasing for quite a while. 

The main thing to mention in terms of competition is how backloading affects you psychologically in preparation for a competition. Having had the prep-phase of the plan, I was confident that I would be able to drop enough to be safely in my weight class for a day-time weigh in, which took away a lot of the stress involved in preparing for the comp. Additionally, it was a great confidence booster to go into a competition feeling almost… big. Ok, maybe not big, but definitely ‘fuller’ than I normally feel going into a comp. I normally will have had at least 5 days of full keto in order to drop in which can leave you feeling almost skinny. This time round however, I had my last backload on the wednesday evening, then another Saturday night before the competition on the Sunday. Knowing my glycogen stores would be full, and that there was no reason I would be any weaker than normal was awesome.

Overall 

Overall I’d say carb backloading is definitely worth a try for any committed athlete looking to boost their performance, gain muscle and shed some fat. I’d say it’s not for everyone, as you need to be very strict with nutrient timings, and the plan definitely works best when you train in the evening which obviously doesn’t suit everyone. 

The book is easy to understand and follow, and it’s good to be able to understand the science behind a diet as it really helps you to stick to it. No daytime insulin spikes thank you very much! 

 I think the book could maybe have had more information for women. There are obviously so many variables for training types and dietary needs that can’t be covered in just one e-book, but as we make up pretty much half the population I thought there might have been more detail on how to adjust the plan for that one particularly important variable, gender. It took me some tweaking to get it right and some time to get used to, so perseverance is key.

Thankfully my competition this last weekend was in the evening so my carb intake was around the same time as normal, and I’ve not had to go through the whole prep-phase again. I’ll be continuing to follow the plan until at least after my Turin competition, but I do feel this isn’t something I’ll be doing forever. Although I’ve had favourable performance and appearance results from the plan in the short term, I do wonder how the human body would cope in the long-term (which Kiefer does mention as a negative of the plan). 

Watch this space for any more updates about carb backloading, and do let me know if there’s anything you think I might have missed off, or any questions you might have, I’d be happy to answer 🙂 

Squat Progression

I haven’t been posting much over the last few weeks as I have been moving house! A couple weeks without proper internet and lots to be getting on with has left me very little time for updates, but I should be back posting a bit more regularly now.  My new house is lovely and I’m all settled in to a much bigger room, where I have room to foam roll and do my rehab exercises so I’m very happy 🙂

I will be posting a much more in-depth review of the carb-backloading (CBL) diet I have been following within the next fortnight, but for now I’m just going to say that I’m loving it. It took a bit of getting used to and I didn’t get it right first time round, but I seem to have got the hang of it now. I look and feel great, and I feel my performance in the gym has greatly benefited from it.  I would like to see how I fare in my competition next weekend having followed the plan for a month or so (including prep-phase) so as well as my competition write up you can expect a CBL review then too.

Training in the last few weeks has been a strange mixture between strength training and competition prep, as although I am competing at the GBPF All England next weekend, I am ‘training through’ and my focus is on the Western European Cup mid-September. I’ve been working up near max attempts, with emphasis on competition rehearsal but also working on technique and having a little more volume in sessions than I normally would pre-comp.

I’ve made the tough decision to have a few months off from MMA, leaving me more time to do assistance work for powerlifting and allowing my body some respite from the consistent minor injuries. My penultimate MMA session was amazing, I had the luxury of a one-on-one session with the trainer which made me anxious to come back after a few months. However, with the weeks I’ve had off I am starting to realise it may be impossible to chase both hobbies. I had a very enjoyable private session today with a mate which I will be doing occasionally in the coming months to keep things ticking along, should I decide to go back to training a few times a week, but for now my focus is on becoming a better lifter.

One thing I have particularly been working on in the last month or so is my squat technique; working on sitting back into my new suit and keeping my chest up so I don’t ‘crumple’ as much under the weight of the bar. I’ve seen massive improvements in my squat form which may be down to any number of things; new suit, new belt, new wraps, new CBL diet, new hand position on the bar, more core work or any combination of all these things.

 

I’ve made a video showing my squat progression. The first squat is my 117.5kg squat at the Welsh champs back in April, and the second one is a 120kg squat from training a few weeks ago. I came out of the 120kg grinning as I could feel such an improvement in my core stability. In the video you can see my walk-out is a lot stronger, my knees don’t go forwards as much and I don’t look so much like quasimodo on the way up out of the squat. I’m delighted with my progress, but there is always more work to do.

I’m looking forward to the competition next weekend as it will be good practice for the Turin competition, and I also have the chance to set yet more British records. I am very likely to break my squat record, have a chance of breaking my bench record (though I am not holding out too much hope) and I plan to set the deadlift record (130kg), which I recently hit in training. It’s something I’ve been striving for for a few months now and it’s well within my grasp now!

Just a quick reminder of my fundraising page where I am hoping to raise a bit of money towards the costs of my Italy trip, as it will be entirely self-funded. I have already raised enough to cover the cost of my flights which is fantastic, but anything else people can spare would be so useful!

GBPF British Senior and Junior Powerlifting Championships

The evening before and morning of the competition were relatively stress-free for me. Despite the pressure that I’d put on myself to perform I knew I’d make weight, I knew I’d done as much preparation as I could and I was in good company.

The morning of the competition came and we arrived literally about a minute after I’d been called for weigh-in so I had to wait around for half an hour before I could be weighed in, which was not too bad as I’d been able to drink a little, but I did start to get quite hungry! Although I didn’t feel nervous in myself, I did notice that I was a little shaky and breathing a little more quickly than normal so I tried my best to calm myself down. I weighed in at 51.55kg, the lightest I’ve ever been, and sat down for a short while to refuel and rehydrate.

Warm up for squats went entirely to plan, just hitting depth on my last warm-up of 110kg. Again, I didn’t necessarily feel nervous but I must have been quite nervous as I was sweating so much more than everyone else in the warm-up room! I hit my opener of 115kg with ease, though this was unfortunately my only good lift of the squats. My next lift of 122.5kg was not to the referees’ satisfaction depth-wise, and I rounded my back more than usual on the way up, tiring out my core. I re-took the same weight but it was again not deep enough. This upset me quite a lot, as hitting depth had been my main concern for squats, rather than having the strength to do the lifts.

10501676_1501249470109963_6698146270993292179_nAlthough I had previously managed to hit 130kg in training doing my own wraps, I think I possibly didn’t have enough confidence in my own wrapping on the day of the competition as there was a lot of time pressure, and my hands had been shaking (leading to a small sliver of my finger being removed at some point during the wrapping process!). I have invested in some tougher wraps, and in future I will either hopefully have someone there with me to wrap, or have built on my own wrapping skills. I have kept the videos of my failed 122.5kg lifts, as in the next few weeks I really want to work on my squatting technique, and will be able to use them for comparison purposes.

After a short break to gather my thoughts and calm down a bit, we moved onto bench warm-up. This went really well, as the warm-up weights felt light, particularly a 50kg paused raw press which is usually a bit of a struggle! My shirt went on and felt nice and tight, and I hit 60kg twice to prepare for my opener of 62.5kg. This went up nice and easy, so I went on to do 67.5kg for my next lift, beating my own British record (though this was not mentioned by the commentators despite my telling them). This also went up a treat, so after some consultation with my coach I went on to do 70kg for my next lift, as I knew I would definitely get it and wanted to beat my own record again! This was definitely the right choice of number as there was a little struggle on the way up, and any heavier might have made for a failed lift.

Although I have done a little heavier in previous competitions, I am still happy with my bench performance as I managed to beat my own British record and somehow stay composed after being quite upset about my squats. I think it is time to move onto a slightly tighter bench shirt, as while my current shirt has served me well, I think I have possibly reached its limits.

Warm-up for deadlifts were not as I had planned, but I had anticipated some difficulty after tiring out my core from the squats. After reaching 110kg in the warm-up room and finding it quite a challenge my coach and I made the decision to move my opener down to 115kg (we had previously planned 120kg). Although I knew this would make my coveted 130kg a little out of reach, based on how my body felt I knew it was the right decision. I got my opener easily enough, but knew my body positioning wasn’t quite right, so really concentrated on setting my scapula back for my second lift of 120kg. This went up with a little struggle near the top, so went for 125kg for my third lift as I was never realistically going to get 130kg. I think by this point I was just ready to stop so didn’t go into the lift with as much composure as normal, and got it half way up before failing. I didn’t mind though, as I had hit an equal comp PB for deadlift and had at least one good attempt for each lift.

After my final deadlift I was completely drained, struggling to even put food in my mouth! I was glad the competition was over, and although a little disappointed with my performance, excited for the coming months of training having pinpointed lots of areas to work on. In the few hours after my last lift it was nice to sit with my family and watch the rest of the competition and have a much-needed catch-up session. In this time my coach informed me that along with my nomination for the Junior Worlds, I’ve also been nominated for the Western European championships, which is the following week! I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend due to University commitments, but it is still very exciting news, especially as I have been nominated as a senior!

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In the prize-giving I placed first in the Junior 52kg category, placing above a girl who lifted raw. She managed to achieve (and smash!) the records that I was hoping to set at the All England in August, so I have decided to do that competition equipped, to give me more experience and have another chance at some records! An experienced equipped lifter won the Senior category, and it was lovely to finally meet her as we had only ever spoken online. I have had the privilege of being handed down one of her old squat suits, which is tiny compared to my current suit, and I just can’t wait to use it!

As ever with GBPF the competition was smoothly run, with fantastic referees, spotters and loaders making for a fantastic day. Now to get back in the gym and make some more gains!