A few months ago, I invited some of Canada’s best female powerlifters to come kick it with me in Montreal for the weekend. Steph Puddicome, Joanna Rieber, Sarah Kolbuc, Sarah Leighton, Jessica Benedetto, and Meana Franco all hopped in their cars and on planes to come train, eat, and hang together for a mere 24 hours. The fact that any of them were willing to do this is proof of how great the powerlifting community in Canada is…and how easily they can be lured by the promise of bagels and shopping.
After training and sharing a meal together, we settled in on a (partially inflated) blow-up mattress in my otherwise empty new apartment to enjoy a few glasses of vino and good conversation. We talked about training, business, life, love, food, family – all the important stuff.
I was far from being the best lifter in the room but having been involved in powerlifting since 2003 makes me somewhat of a veteran in the sport. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, seen a lot of lifters come and go, learned some things, and enjoyed a little bit of success. With wine glass in hand, I said something about what I wished I had known when I started lifting over 12 years ago. The youngest lifter in the room asked me what that was and what I was doing, if anything, to share that information with the next generation of lifters who might benefit from it. Good question.
Epicentre Training is the strength & conditioning facility that I’ve owned in Montreal since 2008. In that time, I’ve introduced countless novices to the sport of powerlifting and coached high-level athletes alike. Working with lifters every day for the last 8 years has been my main channel for passing on what I’ve learned. Some of it has been thrown out into the social media universe via blog posts, Facebook, podcast/radio interviews, and a few newspaper articles over the years. But maybe that’s not enough – maybe I should be doing more to pass on what I’ve learned.
So, in no particular order, here are a few things I’ve learned since I started competing back in 2003. Some of it is about powerlifting, some of it is about life, but most of it is about both:
Have fun. Chances are you started lifting because it made you feel good so never lose sight of that.
Remember there’s a 99.9% chance that powerlifting is your hobby and it will only ever be that. It might be very important to you but it should never be more important than relationships with people. Last time I checked, it ain’t gonna be your squat rack who rescues you when your car breaks down at 1am or brings you chicken soup when you’re sick.
Listen to people who’ve been training and competing longer than you; they usually know what they are talking about. Spend less time online reading about the 7000 different ways to improve your squat and just go to the gym and spend more time under the bar instead.
A great lifter does not necessarily make a great coach. Sometimes it is the person who has failed multiple times in multiple ways who has the most to teach you.
Understand that nothing you can do will change what your competitors will do. You are ultimately competing with yourself.
Be gracious, be humble, and know there’s always someone better than you out there. Always.
Share. Share everything you have – your squat shoes, your belt, snacks, stories, knowledge. You were that annoying newbie lifter once upon a time. Maybe you were lucky enough to have someone show you the ropes or maybe you weren’t but this still doesn’t mean you should treat novice lifters like garbage. Encouraging and helping them takes nothing away from you, I promise.
Don’t blame judges and spotters for bad calls or missed lifts. Most of the people working at meets are volunteers who are just doing their best, have had a long day sitting in an uncomfortable chair and are likely not going to get home in time for supper. If you lose your shit over a few red lights at a local meet in a high-school gymnasium where you’re the only lifter in your class, you need to check yourself.
Write down your goals and be very specific. Set some simple goals and also be sure to set some big, juicy, delicious ones. Then get to work on them. Ask yourself if the choices you make daily either move you closer or farther from your goal. As soon as you answer that question, decisions are easy to make.
Believe that you can do anything, because you pretty much can. It might take a while in some cases but in the words of the great Iggy Azalea, “Impossible Is Nothing”.
Enjoy your success. I’m still working on this one, to be honest. Too many times, I’ve won medals and then walked off the podium telling myself “I only won because I got lucky” or “I only won because so-and-so wasn’t here today”. Don’t rob yourself of the joy. You worked hard for it so allow yourself a little bit of time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Then get back to work.
It’s highly unlikely you will overtrain yourself. Train smart, but put in the hard yards.
Your 20’s are not for aimlessly wandering around and acting like your life choices “don’t count”. Those jobs/relationships/pursuits that you think don’t matter, actually DO matter. Your 20’s are laying the groundwork for your future career, opportunities, meaningful relationships, and family life. Save your money, invest, study, engage with positive people, work toward your dreams in real, concrete ways. Build things. Understand that ALL of it counts.
Remember that you cannot do it alone. You can be the one who carries the vision but somewhere along the way you are going to need help, and quite likely a lot of it. Accept it, be grateful for it, and make sure you give back in kind.
Do not think for a second that you are the only person dealing with hardship, injury, bad training, a bad night’s sleep, etc. That’s part of the sport and part of life. Everyone has a story. Yours is no more important or heartbreaking than anyone else’s so quit crying. Nobody cares except your mom. You can call her later and tell her all about it.
Be a class-act on & off the platform. You are setting an example whether you know it or not.
Stretch more and for god’s sake, don’t do plyometric jumps on a concrete floor. Your knees are gonna hate you in 10 years.
So, there you have it: some of life’s lessons I’ve picked up spending the last 13 years hanging out in the gym, on the platform, and on blow-up mattresses over glasses of wine. Perhaps this is just the first instalment – I’m still learning after all.