By Ken Whetham

The Mental Tug Of War
The Mental Tug of War

Every time you get ready for a competition, there’s always a roller coaster of positives and negatives that accompany you along your meet prep journey.

Lifting the weights is the natural part.  It’s all the other pieces of the puzzle that need to fit together correctly to put together your best package on the platform.

  • Sleep
  • Recovery
  • Nutrition
  • Supplementation
  • Prehab
  • Rehab
  • Program Outline
  • Meet Strategy
  • Coaching
  • Mental Toughness


If any of these factors aren’t aligned leading up to your competition, your results will probably be less than optimal.

We always seem to talk about what training programs we’re using, how much weight we’re lifting, what we’re hoping to accomplish at our competition but not a lot of people talk about the mental side of lifting and competing.

Everyone sees the finished product of your meet preparation in a few seconds while you’re on the platform, but nobody knows how much effort, both physical and mental “blood, sweat and tears” goes into getting ready.  This applies to any competitive sport.

Personally, I’ve always been a “Type A” personality that puts both feet forward and pushes to accomplish whatever I set out to achieve.  I’m usually successful at whatever I put my energy into. However it doesn’t mean that everything is always sunshine and rainbows.

Ken Whetham Powerlifting Team PRS Mental Strength for Powerlifting and competative sports

I am always wrestling with myself inside my head about all the variables that can go right, or go wrong.  I’ll use the analogy of the Angel sitting on one side of your shoulder and the Devil sitting on the other side while you’re stuck in the middle.  It’s a constant mental “Tug of War”.

Not every training session is excellent.  Not every lift is great.  Sometimes I feel like there’s a lot more that can go wrong during meet prep than right.  It’s a constant struggle to stay positive and brush aside the continually emerging “self-doubt” that wants to show up once in a while and try to talk you out of pushing forward, using your weaknesses against you.

  • “Why do you need to keep competing, you’ve accomplished enough, and nobody cares what you do except you.”
  • “You just rehabbed your back, why do you want to risk injuring it again” You’re too old, it’s time to hang up the briefs.”
  • “This training session didn’t go well; you’re running out of time, you’re not going to be ready.”


Ken Whetham Team PRS Mental Motivation for Powerlifting an Competative Sports

These are a small example of some of the things that good old self-doubt likes to remind me of several times during a meet prep.

I always liked the referral that 90% of your success is in your head; the other 10% is between your ears.  The above applies to me.

How do we stay positive and forge forward?

A few things that I rely on;

  • Having a solid training plan and commit to making every effort to execute that plan.
  • Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people (Training Partners).
  • Train with a team in an energetic, positive environment,
  • Have a network of people you can use as a soundboard to talk to when you feel “off”.
  • Listen to your body.
  • Commit to getting the best sleep, recovery & nutrition to support your goals.


Having the proper mental mindset is just as relevant, if not more important than merely lifting weights progressively while preparing for a competition.  Make sure you have a great support system and do your best to put all the pieces in place, and you’ll have the best opportunity at showcasing all your efforts and hard work.

Ken Whetham has worked with Dr. Stu McGill to become back pain-free by following the protocols outlined in GOI, co-authored by Dr. McGill and Brian Carroll, and now on track to squat 1000lbs.  Back pain is not a life sentence.  Pick up a copy of GOI and learn how to live pain-free.

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Ken Whetham

Ken is a full-time Firefighter and Rescue Technician with the Oshawa Fire Department and is a certified Kettlebell Coach and WKC Master Trainer. Ken competed in Kettlebell Sport and won several championships across North America. In 2012, Ken competed in the Firefighter Combat Challenge where he won the Canadian National Championship. Ken trains at his home “Outlaw Powerlifting” gym outside Toronto, Ontario with a team of lifters that train and compete together. Ken is an Elite powerlifter in the 275 and 308 lb weight class and his current best lifts are 940/550/705 and his current goal is to squat 1000 lbs to become one of the few lifters to achieve that goal in their early 50’s.

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