An acquaintance at work at one of those forced social gatherings over muffins (which I feel awkward foregoing so I bring tea to keep myself occupied) said to me last week, “So Dana, I hear you’re a powerlifter. What can you bench? About 200?” I don’t know if he was serious or sarcastic or just didn’t know. I suspect the latter. But I almost spit out my tea in mirth. “Of course I can’t bench 200 pounds. I’m just trying to get to my bodyweight,” I said. To be honest, I find it unlikely that he can bench 200 pounds but that’s neither here nor there.
Bench is kind of a sore subject with me. Not making excuses, just acknowledging my gender and size, I will never have a number that sounds impressive. I’m closing in on a 200 lb squat, I crushed a 205 lb deadlift last week, but my bench barbell will always be loaded with an assortment of the tiny plates, and the number will never sound like anything. I don’t want to postscript anytime I say what I bench with “but that’s really good for a girl and for my size.” It’s frustrating, but I’m just going to do the best I can. And I was more than ready to get to a milestone last week. I got 100 in June but I didn’t pause competition style. I tried 105 on my birthday coudn’t do it, even without a pause. The goal I had set in February for the year was 100. I wanted to get that — with a pause — before I leave for Paris.
Friday was the day. I was lucky to have a group to cheer me on in the garage. Dawn and Anna and Diana were there to yell for me. I like to not know what’s on the bar, but when Ben told me to unload the bar and put the big yellow 25s on I knew I was at 95. I’d never used the big plates, so that was an exciting moment. No problem. I stepped out in the alley while he added the next weights, and tried to slow my heart rate. Trying something new I stomped my feet before I got set up. Grip hard, keep my abs tight, squeeze my arse and dig my feet in. Pull the bar into place using my lats like Ben has shown me. Down, hold it tight while I wait for the press command, and then push! Up it went without a fight. It felt good. I wasn’t done.
I went back to the alley, hoping he would put more than a couple pounds on. if I’d made 100 that easily I wanted 105. Back to the bench, the girls yelling for me, same thing as before. This time as I locked it in place I ran through a checklist in my head of what all I needed to get this. I held the bar too long. Down, press command, and … it wasn’t going to come up, not even an inch.
Disappointed, I sat up. “How much is that?” I asked Ben as he was unloading. “109, he said. “109!? How much did I do on the last one?” “105,” he replied. “And you should have gotten this one. You waited too long.” My glee at making the bodyweight bench with relative ease temporarily outweighed my disappointment in missing 109 as I got high fives from the girls. “Bodyweight bench!” I kept exclaiming.
Then I started thinking about the miss. 105 was almost too easy. Ben didn’t even seem excited that I’d made it. 100 was obviously too modest of a goal. My disappointment grew that I’d missed 109. If I’d had to fight for 105 I would have been happy with it, but I hadn’t even had to dig in with my heels. Part of me was disappointed not to get any fist bumps or high fives from my coach. But if I wanted a coach who would coddle me and blow smoke up my arse and tell me what I just did was good for a girl, I’d be working out somewhere a lot different. I want a coach who will take me seriously as a lifter and make me only want to work harder, and that’s what I’ve got, so now I’m twice as determined to get 109 next time. And after adding 20 pounds to my bench in the past nine months I want to do it again, for a new goal of 125 next summer. And I know I can do it.