It’s hard to write this because it’s not the post I wanted to write after my first power lifting meet yesterday. I wanted to get in my car at the end of the day and blast Heavy’s How You Like Me Now? after the meet then come home and write about how this lightest of the lightweights kicked ass all day. Instead I consoled myself with Kanye West’s Stronger (that that don’t kill me/can only make me stronger) and pondered the lessons I’d learned in a day of bitter disappointments and one triumph.
Ben reminded me recently of the need for patience and humility when it comes to heavy weights, and that they will often beat us. I got a super-sized dose of humility yesterday when I failed 5 of my 9 attempts and didn’t meet any of my goals for the day.
I can make excuses all day, but my failure (mainly at the squat here) came down to three things: I freaked out from the pressure of trying my heaviest squat ever in front of friends, family and a gym full of spectators; it was fricking heavy; and I came into the meet broken down from working myself so hard beforehand. Still, I could have, and should have made it, but on both attempts at 160 my chest caved the moment I tried to come up.
To say it was disappointing, humiliating, and frustrating is an understatement. Especially since Ben worked so hard and spent so much time with me on squats, and expected more of me. He knew how freaked out I was, and tried to help me focus, telling me to listen only to him — and I wanted so much to do well, to make his efforts with me worth it, and to prove to myself that I could do it. I’m trying hard to look for what I can be proud of though, and I can say it took guts to go up for a second attempt after failing in front of everyone. And I did get my first lift, 145 pounds, which is no small feat at almost 1.4 times my body weight. And I went on to the other lifts, not letting the defeat drag me down.
I was less nervous to a small degree on bench, though still amped up, and didn’t even remember to listen for “press” to come back up, but I made my first attempt, 80 pounds, which I feel good about. The bench is a bitch and a beast, and it took more of us down than any lift did yesterday. My next two attempts at 85 may as well have been 185 — that bar was just not going to get all the way up. But after feeling uncertain about my form and how to really do a bench right — I just started doing it at the beginning of January — I feel good in my approach now. I just need to get stronger.
I knew I had to really accomplish something with my deadlift — I couldn’t let the whole day be a bust with no PRs. So when Ben said to jump to 155 after my opening lift at 135 (which was already a record for me at five pounds more than I’d done before), I put everything I had into getting that bar off the floor. I’ve never competed in an athletic event so to hear the whole gym cheering for me as I struggled with every ounce to lift that bar was an amazing feeling. My legs shook and I didn’t know if it would happen, but I stood up with that weight and felt like I could fly with the euphoria. That feeling made the whole day, the weeks of training, worth it. Trying something that hard and making it happen with nothing but my own body and will was such a powerful feeling. For the first time all day I smiled ear to ear, and high-fived everyone in sight, starting with Ben,elated that I’d shown his work had paid off after all.
I finished the event with the lowest total on the board at 380. I had to choose to not let that get me down — I was also the lightest-weight competitor. I realized, in a brutally painful way, that I had some unrealistic expectations — some that were unfair to the other contenders. Women who have worked out for months or even years longer than I have should of course do better than I did. It’s disrespectful of their work to think I can walk in with nothing and in five months (and far less than that of heavy lifting) out-do them. I also learned that we all face the same struggles. I worked as hard to get my 155 pounds off the floor as some guys twice my size did to get hundreds of pounds up. I watched incredibly strong and determined men and women miss attempts, sometimes several times, and it had to have battered their pride as much as my misses did mine.
Despite my losses, at the end of the day I came away with something far more important than any numbers I’d attained. I’d wondered when I signed on for this event if I would even be taken seriously. A fear lurked that I’d even be laughed at, made fun of. But in sharing this experience with the other members, with new friends, I finally felt that I belonged. Spending the day together, feeling each other’s pains and triumphs, supporting one another, chilling after with beers and going out to eat, I realized I don’t think of “them” and me anymore. I think of “us.” I’m not a “project,” I’m as much a part of the gym family as anyone else. And as amazing as it felt to pick that heavy weight up, that feels even better. Oh, and yeah, what doesn’t kill me *will* make me stronger for next time.