If you’re reading this blog right now then chances are you might be thinking about competing in your first Powerlifting competition. Is this you? Yeah? Great! Congratulations! As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing more primitive, more macho, more exhilarating than putting your maximum strength to the test. I used to play in bands and not even being on stage was anywhere near as exciting as feeling the support of several hundred people cheering me on while I was on that platform for the first time just last May…which actually brings me to the first portion of this topic.
Fear Of Failure
Let’s face it; if there’s at least one factor holding anyone back from trying anything new it’s definitely the fear of not getting it right the first time and, in some cases, even being judged for it. It’s not fun, the feeling that everyone’s looking right at you – even if they aren’t. It’s sadly a feeling I know all too well as someone who’s anxious all the time. Well, I am here to tell all of you reading this that you have absolutely nothing to fear.
In fact, if there’s one thing I learned from my initial meet experience last May, it’s that it feels so much more like a family and brother/sisterhood than a competition. I can’t even begin to tell you how many amazing people I met that day. It truly felt like the single biggest support system I’d ever been a part of since I first entered a gym fourteen years ago this month, with lifters allowing me to pic their brains for tips and advice, as well as everyone rooting for each other, regardless of who did or didn’t go home without a trophy. It was all about everyone coming out to bring out the best in one another. It’s truly a beautiful experience.
Also, one of the things that held me back from entering my first competition for years was that I was under the impression that I’d have to be able to lift a particular number per lift in order to even qualify for anything. My mentality? “If you aren’t there to break a record, they don’t want to know you. Period”. And since I was unaware for years that I’m asthmatic, I could only lift so much before my lungs waved the proverbial white flag and I was forced to failure every time. A total confidence downer. I owe a lot to Henri Skiba of Skiba’s Gym in Carteret, NJ for adjusting my mindset completely two summers ago. I contacted him about checking out his gym and as soon as I expressed my concerns he immediately cut me off and told me “What you lift is irrelevant! You can lift anything you want. So why don’t you just enter one? If you don’t do it now you never will.”
If you don’t do it now you never will.
Wow. I’ve been told that so many times in the past and it’s definitely the perfect moto to live by. And he was absolutely right. I was 31, I let the opportunity pass me by in my 20’s and I could not live with myself if I let it go any further. So how did I overcome my fears before even walking into the ballroom of the Ramada Plaza Hotel last May for my long awaited first meet? Believe it or not, all I did was treat it like another day in the gym, only this time everybody was gunning for a PR and we were all there to psyche each other up. Of course, not everyone might be able to do the same. But just know this: if you go ahead and enter in for your first meet you’ll be on track to starting a new journey with many memories and many new friendships made along the way. So what are you waiting for??
How To Choose A Federation
Alright, you’ve made the decision to join the ever growing family. Welcome aboard! So here comes the somewhat difficult part – finding the right fed and meet for you. There are a few ways to go; you can go the way of the gold medal, you can go the way of looking for sponsors, you can go the cash route because some feds do offer cash prizes, or you can just lift for fun and what happens…..happens. Here’s a great website for you to do some research on federations:
If you choose to check the site out, simply scroll down a bit and their federation directory will be on the left side. There are a lot of great federations based on your preferred route including USA Powerlifting (USAPL) – the American affiliate to the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), The United States Powerlifting Association (USPA), Revolution Powerlifting Syndicate (RPS), the fed I’m lifting for next month and was brought to my attention two years ago by my friend and mentor Matt, Southern Powerlifting Federation (SPF), and many more. Make sure you read each federation’s rules and bylaws, especially when it comes to acceptable/unacceptable equipment, and requirements in regards to what is considered a good lift and what can be red lighted, as some feds – especially the IPF (and therefore the USAPL) – are very strict with that.
What’s most important, more than anything else, is that you pick a fed and meet that makes you feel the most comfortable. Believe me when I tell you environment is everything. In fact, in a 2014 interview with Power Magazine, Powerlifter and coach Chris Della Fave stated that the reason he chose not to lift for IPF was because to him just attending one of their meets alone felt like being at a funeral, and most likely because it’s so quiet. No music allowed during those meets. None. And I can totally related because I love Heavy Metal and RPS was mostly blasting that’s music alone and even used Iron Maiden’s Ed Hunter mascot in their banners. It was totally the vibe I needed that day! So, my personal advice is that you pick a meet that’s local and caters to beginning lifters, such as RPS. That way you don’t have to stress so much about travel time and such. Also, with something a little more simple, you’ll have an opportunity to get a feel for the event itself without the pressures that usually go hand in hand with high stakes competition. Take it all in, it’s an incredible experience.
I will address how to prepare for your first meet as well as how to pack for it in Part 2 of this topic to come soon. Thanks for reading and please feel free to message me with any questions or comments.
You can also find me on Instagram and Tumblr.