Western European Cup – Borgaro Torinese

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Last Thursday I competed in my first ever international powerlifting competition and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. In terms of preparation and the competition itself I fear I won’t actually have that much to write about as everything went to plan and it was actually the most successful competition I’ve had to date.

In the run up to the competition I hardly suffered from nerves – feeling mostly excited at the fact that I was going to Italy. Thankfully I had nothing to really be nervous about – I was confident with all of my openers, my weight was in check and knew there was no reason I’d be any weaker than normal. I’d also been frequently told that people often don’t perform as well as normal at their first international, so didn’t feel that any pressure to perform. I was just glad to have been offered the chance to compete for my country on an international stage, and hoped to do the best that I could.

Sadly having to avoid delicious Italian food on the first night to be on the safe side – I weighed in at 51.7kg the following morning. A little heavier than I’d expected, and the heaviest in my weight class, but I think travelling affected this. I had still been able to eat some carbs the night before and drink some water before weigh in so I was in good shape to perform.

Squat warm-ups went as well as I would have hoped, and I hit 110kg as my final warm-up and first lift in wraps. Thankfully I had a coach to do my wraps, as although I have hit some big lifts doing my own wraps, it always helps to have one less stress to deal with. He was a fantastic wrapper and did it exactly how I liked it – and tight! I went onto the platform to do an easy 117.5kg, then followed this with 122.5kg. Both went up without a problem and I was so happy to have equalled what I had recently got at the All England I had nothing to lose with my 3rd squat. I went out to do 127.5kg which was a little slow and grinding, and I hunched over a little on the way up; but it went up! To finish on a new comp PB was fantastic and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

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I didn’t have very high hopes for the bench press as this lift has been stalling for some months now, but I am definitely pleased with what I managed. In the warm up I did 55kg and 60kg as my only two lifts in a shirt, before stepping onto the platform to do an easy opener of 62.5kg. I really focused on my set up as I find this really affects my bench performance. I also kept a particular focus on the ‘second hit’; where the aid of the bench shirt comes off half way, to anticipate this and drive the bar up! This definitely helped me as both my second attempt of 67.5kg and third of 70kg were quite comfortable. I opted to go for 70kg rather than 72.5kg on my third lift as I was more interested in getting my lifts in than increasing my total. The big contributions to my total came from my squat and deadlift anyway!

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Deadlifts went well but not entirely how I had hoped. I knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t likely to achieve as much in competition as I had in training, as in the gym you haven’t just maxed out on squat and bench! I was a little surprised when my opener of 125kg felt harder than anticipated but took it in my stride and lowered my expectations a little. My second lift of 130kg felt a bit better as I think I went into it with a bit more conviction, knowing that my body was a little tired. Although it is what I ultimately had been striving for, I think going for 140kg on my third lift would have been unwise. So I finished off with 135kg which was slow but steady, and the largest deadlift in my group.

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I finished with a massive PB total of 332.kg – a whopping 12.5kg higher than anything I had previously achieved. To manage this and get all of my 9 lifts in was the best feeling- especially in an international competition. Perhaps even better though was that I managed to win a gold medal! My achievements surpassed all of my expectations and I am thrilled that all my hard work has paid off.

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Not only did I win my weight category, but a few other medals and great totals from the other GB women meant that the ladies team actually won the team event! This is an amazing achievement as there were some seriously strong ladies competing.

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Perhaps the best part of the trip was the fantastic company. Our coaches were brilliant and helped immeasurably in competition. They also happen to be really nice guys! I made some wonderful new friends and spent some quality time with some old friends. A fantastic and supportive group of people to lift and socialise with and I can’t wait to share more lifting experiences with them.

Overall I had an amazing time in Italy. The competition was smoothly and professionally run, the crowd was supportive, the weights went up and much fun was had!

I’m very much looking forward to the next few months of training – I’m craving a 12 rep set after so many months of preparing for competitions. Also, I have decided to move up a weight class. The British Classic will be my last competition as a 52kg lifter, then I plan to get jacked and seriously strong! As I am sitting just outside the 52kg class now, this seems like a logical choice as it allows me some growing room. I’m also looking forward to the amount of food I will be able to eat – as the people who came away with me know; I can put away a serious amount!

A massive thank you to the Italian Powerlifting Federation for such a fantastic and well-run competition and of course to our coaches, for helping me achieve all I did.


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!  

All England Powerlifting Championships

The run up to the All England was quite smooth; I’d recently hit a PB deadlift, felt confident with all my openers and didn’t have weight as an issue. I also found out it wasn’t going to be my last chance for my 130kg deadlift as I had thought, so this took some stress off (although this was in some ways mistaken – will come onto this later!). However, the week prior was full of travelling, life-sorting and trying to find someone to wrap my knees on the Sunday. All of this along with the stress of managing my mum at her 2nd competition on the Saturday meant I didn’t have much time to feel nervous, which I guess is a good thing! 

I’m still not sure whether the distraction of coaching my mum the day before the competition was a help or a hindrance to me in the long run; all I know is that it was stressful, exciting and a completely new experience! I’ve never fully appreciated the amount of energy that goes into managing a lifter at a competition, and it has made me all the more grateful for the support we receive as a club. Keeping a close eye on the clock, carefully selecting next lifts and making sure the lifter has everything they want and need is definitely not an easy job. Thankfully the stress paid off and my mum had a great competition, she managed 7/9 lifts and finished with a 200kg total (10kg above her aim) with a 75kg squat, 37.5kg bench and PB 87.5kg deadlift. I’m a very proud daughter. The whole experience completely drained me, but I used this to my advantage to get a solid 9 hour sleep the night before my competition, quite the feat as I’m sure many lifters will agree!

Another new experience for me was a 3pm weigh-in; I’ve only ever had an 8 or 9am weigh-in which makes it easier to restrict food and drink beforehand in order to make weight. Thankfully due to the success of carb-backloading making weight wasn’t going to be an issue. Hovering at around 51.7kg while still backloading, I was able to drop to around 51kg after dropping carbs for my rest days, allowing me a backload the night before the competition and to eat and drink as normal before weigh in. I weighed in at 51.3kg, the lightest I’ve ever weighed in a competition, in the middle of the day, and on creatine which can make you hold water. Result!

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Lifting was delayed due to the groups before us going on longer than intended, so we were unsure as to when we would actually start lifting. Although a minor hindrance, this meant that our final warm-up lifts for squats were a little rushed! Unfortunately our coach couldn’t be with us on the day so were relying on another coach (who will be coaching when I go to Italy) to help us out with timings and warm-ups. I was very grateful and reassured to be introduced to him the day before, as it meant I had someone to do my wraps for me, and also gave me experience being managed by him before my first international in Turin. 

The warm-up itself wasn’t the smoothest, as I think I had forgotten how to squat with my new technique a bit, and wasn’t taking as much time as I maybe should have to set up for the warm-up lifts. However, my final warm-up of 110kg was fine and deep enough which gave me the confidence to open with a very easy 115kg. Comp nerves and feeling a bit out of practice from rest days meant my form was not completely up to scratch, but still miles better than it had previously been. I then went on to do my second lift of 122.5kg which is shown in the video, setting a new u20 British Record. As this was somewhat tough and I had broken my record I made the tactical decision not to do a third lift as I wanted to save my energy for deadlifts. 

10514410_246741888869786_1518619450639784693_o We had the same issue with bench of not knowing the exact lift-off time until part-way through the warm-up. This meant I actually only did one lift in my bench shirt before stepping out onto the platform to do my opener of 62.5kg which absolutely flew up. My second lift was 67.5kg which was tougher than I had liked as I think I had my belt on a little high making it harder for the bar to come down to my chest which threw me a bit. Still got it up. Decided on 71kg for my 3rd lift attempt, as the record I hold is 70kg and felt 72.5kg was a little out of reach on the day. Unfortunately I missed this lift; lack of strength, wrong line, shirt on wrong…. who knows. I wasn’t deterred as I already held the record and had two good lifts in. Onto deadlift!

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Deadlift warm-ups ran smoothly, despite feeling a little tiredness in my hips and a minor twinge in my left calf, my suit felt tight and I still had buckets of energy. I was also very excited to try for the 130kg I had been striving for. My final warm-up was 110kg which shot up, so I stepped onto the platform to do an easy 120kg. Next was the lift I had been waiting for; 130kg on the bar. Unfortunately I didn’t get it captured on video but as you can see in the picture above I got it up! It wasn’t easy but it definitely wasn’t a massive fight. Pleased I had got this and with nothing to lose, I tried 135kg but my foot slipped a fraction and I narrowly missed it. Definitely got it in me! This left me with a PB total of 320kg. With the slipped foot and slight twinge before the deadlifts had even began, my left calf is now a little more than twinged so there is a lot of stretching and some rest on the cards for me at the moment. I am still walking and it only feels like a small pull so I should be back training in no time.  

Now is probably the time to mention my slight mishap. For months I have (somehow) mistakenly thought that the British Standard for deadlift is 130kg so have been striving to get it in a national competition for around 2 months. Thinking I had achieved this, I checked the records on the way home to see if I had managed to set a total record too. Turns out the deadlift standard is 140kg so I am actually 10kg off, but the total record is 322.5kg so I was only 2.5kg off which would have been easily achievable in the competition with another squat or a lighter third attempt deadlift. I was surprised at myself in that I’m not upset and am actually pleased I had the (mistaken) motivation to achieve the 130kg in the last few weeks. It also means I now have the 140kg to strive for at the Western Europeans, and having big goals definitely spurs me on. Operation add 10kg to my deadlift in 3 weeks starts now!!

I had great fun at the competition with my family, friends and fellow club members, and really enjoyed meeting some new faces. Some very strong ladies on the powerlifting scene at the moment. For such a massive competition it was run incredibly smoothly and as ever the referees, spotters and commentators were fantastic. My thanks in particular go to Arun who helped me in a time of coachlessness (although we did stay in contact throughout the competition) and without him I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did and maintain my composure. I’m very much looking forward to being coached by him at the Western European Cup in September and am very excited for the coming weeks of training! 

Another reminder of my fundraising page where I am hoping to raise a bit of money towards my upcoming international debut in Italy! Anything you can spare would be a big help 🙂 

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!

Change of Plan

It is with disappointment that I am posting this, as I have unfortunately not been selected for the World Junior Championships in Hungary for which I had been nominated. I’m not sure why I was not selected but perhaps that is a question for another time.

Of course I am upset, I’ve worked my butt off in the last few months and was so excited to even be nominated, but as with other aspects of the whole training process sometimes being able to adapt to any situation, however positive or negative is key.

In this particular situation the prevailing positive is that although I was not selected for the World Championships, following my recent nomination I have been selected for the Western European Women’s Championships held in Torino, Italy in September.

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Although I’m sure there are still some nominations to come in, and the lifters in my category will have improved come competition time (as I hope to), I seem to be in good stead to make my mark in this particular competition.

I am still getting my head round this whole situation, but one thing I know for sure is this doesn’t change anything apart from the date of the competition I am training for! Feeling a little lacklustre at the moment, but in the next few days I’m sure I’ll be able to throw myself back into my training with my usual enthusiasm… bring on Italy!

 

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!