For the past 28 years—read: my whole life—I haven’t been in many committed relationships. Recently, I realized that I am indeed committed to the barbell. The barbell and I have been together for almost two years. Things aren’t always pretty, and often I feel like it’s a one-way street, but things are getting serious.
As with any relationship, the barbell and I went through different stages. We’ve had some fights (mind you I was the only one kicking). And we’ve had some ups and downs (or rather me getting stuck in the whole and never coming up.)
Therefore, today I’m sharing with you eight things I wish I’d known before marriage I started powerlifting.
#1. Newbie gains are both a good and a bad thing.
It’s easy for a beginner to add insane numbers on a bar within very short time frame. Your ego and confidence grow like a yeast-based dough. Such quick success can be intoxicating. That’s where the trouble begins. When the numbers stop changing so quickly, it can feel like Lord Voldemort possessed all of your power. And your ego will take a hit. Don’t sweat it too much; take all the sweet gains you can. Just remember – quick gains will slow eventually. And that is normal.
In order to move “big girl plates,” be ready to do work that is physically uncomfortable and mentally challenging. For the past 19 months, I’ve ripped bloody calluses on my hands. After every failed attempt to to deadlift 300lbs I cried. I thought I wouldn’t survive the next set. I wanted to quit countless numbers of times. But I didn’t and today, I’m where I wanted to be a year ago. Powerlifting taught me that
being patient and doing the work often is more than enough to succeed.
In other words, listen to your mother.
#3. Focus on the journey, not the destination.
When I squatted 250lbs, I found myself thinking, “But what’s next?” I got scared I’d do what I’d always do after reaching my goals: go back to my old habits. This time around, I didn’t. I realized I wanted to continue powerlifting not because there was another goal to reach, but because of its impact on me as a person. I want to see what else I’ll discover about myself and what else is there for me to learn. I’m in this game first because of the process, and only second to chase the number. (And because I already paid my coach for another month.)
#4. You will hate bench pressing until you start loving it.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from fellow powerlifters and trainees alike that the bench press was their least favorite lift. I used to hate it myself. Sure, there are women who are built for this lift, or strong in it from their athletic backgrounds, but for most of us regular folks, who used to enjoy track and field and work on shaping our legs and tushy, bench press is hard. I won’t tell you the exact time the shift happens, but it does. Even though I still belong to the team #povertybench, I love working on my upper body and mastering the lift. Because now I know, sooner or later, the gains will come.
#5. Hiring a coach won’t immediately make you a record breaker.
When I hired Tony Bonvechio as a coach, I thought, “This is it. Now, I’m unstoppable. I will become a record holder in no time.” How naïve of me. It’s been 19 months and I still haven’t broken anything but nails. Sure, I added about 180lbs total since I started working with him. But that’s not the reason I’m glad I have a coach. Besides obvious things like taking away the headache of writing my own program, he also pushes me beyond what I think my limits are. He supports me when I feel down, and he deals with my meltdowns. He also powerlifts himself, and he knows how hard the sport can be sometimes. This brings me to the next point.
#6. Hire a coach who powerlifts, or who has done it in the past.
No one will understand your whining about a lift better than the person who’s done it herself. She’ll also tell you to shut up and keep grinding—because she knows:
#7. Powerlifting is a lonely sport.
Even though the sport is gaining its popularity in the fitness world, only a small percentage of women do it. Most likely, your friends and family won’t be on board with you and won’t understand your love to picking heavy objects. You will hear things such as “Don’t lift so heavy! You’ll hurt yourself!” Or “Be careful, don’t get bulky!” Or “Powerlifting is a sport for men. Women shouldn’t be doing it.” Or “Do you want to look like those fat powerlifters!?” I can tell you to stop paying attention to their opinions, but it’s not so simple. No matter how hard you try to stop giving a flying fart, these things will get under your skin. Therefore, teaming up with fellow female powerlifter is the best thing you can do for your own sanity. The best place to find them is to follow Girls Gone Strong, Girls Who Powerlift, or join my Facebook group.
#8. Behind every nine seconds of fame, there are hours and hours of hard work.
Although Instagram might tell you a different story. Every day we get bombarded with fitness success stories and lifting triumphs. But how often do you see IG stories about failed attempts and struggles? It’s easy to get caught up on the idea that you’re not strong enough, that you fail more often than they do, that it’s so much easier for them. It’s not. They just don’t tell the whole story. It’s great to get inspired by someone else’s victories, but know that as long as you keep working hard, you will get there. So put down the phone and go lift some heavy-ass weights.