I think there are a lot of people out there who are unfairly criticised for being competitive when it comes to lifting. I often see powerlifters and strong(wo)men attacked for being cocky or arrogant when they talk about beating someone else.
I think it’s great that more and more people are being encouraged to lift weights, and I am completely in support of that movement. The more people lifting weights, the better, and the more people who want to compete, the better! A few weeks ago I wrote a somewhat controversial post stating that anyone who is serious about lifting weights should consider competing. In that post I mentioned that entering a strongman competition or powerlifting meet ultimately comes down to competing against yourself, but of course there is a external competitive element to the sport.
I don’t think anyone who competes could honestly say that the only reason they compete is to improve their own numbers. Perhaps in a first competition it can simply be about showing up and giving it your best effort while proving that you can do something as intimidating as enter a contest, but I believe that from that point entering subsequent competitions becomes something more.
For my first competition, the only goal I had set myself was not to come last. I didn’t have huge expectations as I had no idea what to expect. I was scared shitless, especially when my competition walked in the door. During my second competition, I set my goals a little higher. While both competitions left me grinning ear to ear, I would be lying if I said that holding a first place trophy in my hands didn’t feel a lot more satisfying.
I had been on the fence about competing in Britain’s Strongest Woman on March 1, as my coach wants me to place top 3 in my next competition and it would have been impossible at that comp. A few people left comments here saying that I should do it anyway just for the experience and to have fun, but to me it’s about more than that. I want to have a lot invested in my next competition, and I want to feel adequately prepared to place well.
Provided that my visa is approved (I find out in two weeks!), the next competition I plan on doing is an England’s Strongest Woman qualifier on April 26. The events for the U75kg division are:
Log press – max reps at 45kg
Deadlift – max reps at weight TBC
Arm over arm sled pull and drag – 60kg
30m farmers walks – 60kg per hand
Loading medley – four objects ranging 30-50kg
The weights are easier than Britain’s Strongest Woman, but not too easy that it won’t be challenging. Plus, it’s closer to the summer time so I actually have a decent chance of practicing the events outside.
I’m the first to admit that I am incredibly competitive. I am proud of it, because I used to be the exact opposite – I used to always tell myself that I couldn’t do it, that I would never beat anyone at anything, and that there was no point in even trying. When I first started strongman training, I had to almost force myself to be competitive in order to improve my mental game. Now it comes a little more naturally.
I am obviously not competitive all the time. In a regular training session, I don’t care how much I lift and I am honestly just competing against myself during these sessions. Occasionally I will out-lift the guy next to me for the sake of my ego, but I generally stick to my regular routine and avoid showing off. I follow a lot of strength athletes on social media and while I admire their numbers, I try not to directly compare myself to them.
Events training is a whole other story. Get me in a group and I will want to beat everyone there, man or woman. Does that make me competitive? Yes. Is that okay? Hell yes. I don’t see how that makes me arrogant or conceited or anything else. I am training for competition, so of course I need to practice succeeding in a competitive environment.
Back when I first started working with my trainer, he quickly picked up on how competitive I was. Right before I attempted a new PR, he would tell me that the strong woman at my gym who I idolised had already done that weight before. He would almost always be tricking me (she had never lifted that weight before) but it absolutely motivated me to get the weight up.
There is something so motivating about going head-to-head with someone and trying to beat them. When I’m up against someone else, even in a friendly environment, the 75kg farmers can feel lighter than 45kg farmers I attempt on my own. What’s funny is that although we are trying to beat each other, we are all still incredibly supportive. During events training, we all cheer each other on and shout encouragement.
I’ve noticed that all the people who tend to criticise competitive strength athletes are those that have never competed themselves. I don’t understand how people can criticise something they’ve never experienced. You don’t see the best athletes in the world apologising for beating their competition and being the best. There is a lot of (mostly friendly!) banter in this sport, and if your head isn’t in the right space you will feel intimidated by it.
All that said, I understand that some people have no desire whatsoever to compete. That’s fine. Just don’t judge those of us that do!
Do you have a competitive side? Do you prefer competing against yourself or other people?