Easterns 2016

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It is perfectly possible to hold two seemingly conflicting ideas in your head at the same time, which is why I can say that I am both extremely pleased and incredibly disappointed with my most recent meet. Sounds silly, I suppose, but in a meet like this one, I don’t compare myself to other people, just to me in previous meets, so what I was looking for from myself was not a win or lose (in this meet – in other meets placement is paramount), but improvements in specific elements.

I should start by saying that this has been a spectacularly craptastic training cycle in many ways and mightily successful in others. After worlds, I weighed about 80kg and knew that even if I chose to remain in the 84kg weight class, I needed (for my own sake) to adjust my body composition. In theory, this would also bring me closer to the 72 weight class and allow me to make decisions more fluidly about where to compete from meet to meet; options would be kept open. I also wanted to be happier with my body shape. I was successful in dropping about 5kg, albeit much more quickly than expected. This affected my lifts (at first bench and then deadlift) in the six weeks leading up to this meet. (Side note: I am actually glad to have done this body comp adjustment, in retrospect. I just wish I had timed it better.)

This sudden weight loss and resultant loss of bench and deadlift strength very much affected my confidence in training those lifts; I could not tell in a given workout what would tank, when or how. It was a crap shoot from day to day whether I would be able to hit even lifts I used to hit for anything from two to five reps and that messed massively with my confidence, self esteem and frankly, my happiness. To be blunt, I more or less threw my hands up in the air and tossed my expectations for each workout to the wind and rolled with whatever a day handed me. Even when I stabilized my weight at 75-76kg by taking two weeks and eating freely, my lifts did not rebound predictably or consistently. In short, the feeling sucked donkey balls and I was worried heading into this meet and wondering if there was even any point in lifting.

My squats, however, were going brilliantly. I have been working like a demon to get those on track and my primary goal for this meet was to hit solid squats with good form and go three for three on that lift.

Six weeks out from this meet I had some goals of hitting decent numbers in all three lifts that would reflect the work I had put in during training. Two weeks out I was torn between pulling out completely and using it as a training exercise in attempt selection when all goes completely to hell. The night before I lay on the couch and decided that the only way to proceed the next day was to go in, warm up, see how I felt, and go from there. Regardless of what I expected, there were always lifts that I could make and the platform experience would be a tremendous asset. I could practice my competition skills, even if the numbers weren’t there that day. By default, I would focus on the one lift that was going consistently well and that had been weakness in my previous competitions, the squat. I would hit some solid squats and do token lifts in the other two if all went to hell.

What went right (in no particular order, both minutiae and major items):

  • the night before the meet I slept like a baby and felt “meh” about the meet. At first I thought this was apathy or not having my heart in it. After, I realized that it means something better; I have learned to shut down meet stress until the time comes to lift. This also means that I don’t have a build up of nerves, which is a great thing. My heart doesn’t need to be in the meet the night before, it needs to be in it during the meet and (possibly) during the training leading up. At night? My heart needs to be asleep.
  • warm ups for all three lifts were good. not too many lifts, nor too few.
  • squat opener was a good choice for the day and gave me confidence to know I can start higher in the future if I need to
  • my squat training focus on form and self-reliance worked. My squat ritual and mental focus is rock-solid now. I always stand up.
  • 3/3 on squats with two meet PRs and successful national record attempts
  • huge amount of confidence built in the squat – reason: I picked my own numbers and was able to push myself rather than feeling pulled. Next time I know I can push harder.
  • fuelling was spot-on. At enough real food after weigh-ins (eggs, back bacon & english muffin with peanut butter) and used pineapple, pre-workouts (Amino Energy and C4) in conjunction with a small amount of candy to keep energy even throughout. Drank the bulk of C4 after second bench and it was well in my system by deads and stayed (no adrenaline dump during deads).
  • passed on my third bench because my second felt off enough and my back was behaving badly enough that I was 90% sure I wasn’t going to make it on my third and missing it twice would have messed with my head in unnecessary ways. This was a good call on that day.
  • used suitcase for my gear – made everything easier to find because I could open it right up and made gear check easier
  • was able to stay relatively focussed and kept my mental calm even when bench went to total shit
  • mental cues for breathing and calm that I practiced for worlds worked brilliantly before squats
  • I didn’t let go of the goddamn bar on that last deadlift regardless of what happened (peeing on the platform I can handle. Missing a lift because of that? NO.)
  • the deads didn’t feel particularly heavy, which is a first since before worlds
  • I only trained up to just below expected second attempts on deads prior to this meet. At the meet it felt like there was a reserve built up that I didn’t tapped into. This was a good feeling.
  • the mistakes I made I am learning from
  • the training that went craptastically has motivated me to get back at it and to work harder and smarter
  • I managed a total PR on a day when 2/3 lifts weren’t “on” either by virtue of ability or bad judgement.

What could be improved:

  • listen to my gut more on bench and remember that on off days, bench is more off than anything else. Either start lower or make minimal jumps to increase the total with a secure third attempt. I might have made 80 if I had done 77.5 second on that particular day.
  • listen to my gut less on deads until I’ve lifted 160kg or over – I underestimated my dead capability that day
  • go to the bathroom before deads start, especially after a fair amount of pre-workout
  • learn to stop beating myself up for things not going as well as they could have. Life is just like that sometimes. For everyone.
  • learn to let go of bad training cycles and regroup.
  • learn to see that sometimes what we do on a suboptimal day can be judged on its own merits and that when you see progress even on those days, it means you’re really getting somewhere
  • remember to get someone to take vids of lifts. Wish I had some of the squats.

I’m pleased because I did what I came to do with the squats and that given my recent training cycle (which was less than optimal), I was able to put together a PR total. I’m honestly delighted with the fact that the quality and type of work I’ve put in on my squats has worked so brilliantly. I watched the live feed after and my third squat moved like an opener and that put the biggest smile on my face. I am also pleased with the fact that I was able to have a decent meet despite my recent training cycle. I’m disappointed because I truly fucked up on my bench selections and could have done a better job of assessing my abilities on the deads also. I think I’m mostly disappointed because what I was able to do on the platform in two lifts doesn’t reflect in my mind the amount of work I put in on those lifts. But everyone has those meets. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more.

The thing I think I learned (or am learning) the most from this meet is about being a little easier on myself, letting go, and moving on. None of the work I did on bench is lost, I just need to put the attention to detail into that lift that I have into the squat over the last while. I need to work on the technique and details of it carefully and consistently to see the strength channelled properly. My deadlift experience this past weekend reminded me that I haven’t lost that strength either, it was just a little misplaced for a while. I need to build that carefully and well and it will be there when next I need it.

All-in-all it was a learning experience and the sum total of what went right amounts to more than that of what didn’t. Important pieces were tested and found to be solid in this meet and that bodes well for future performances.

Time to rest up and start in on another round.

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