Take What The Day Gives You

By Dain Soppelsa-Friends of PRS

Something I’ve learned and continue to learn every day, is that you can’t always will yourself to be as strong as you planned to be on a given day. Sometimes you’ll need to suck it up and just put the weight on the bar. Other times you’ll need to know when to work with what’s in your strength tank on that particular day, even if it’s less than what you planned to do. I believe this applies both in the gym and on the platform on meet day.    

We’ve all had a plan and high aspirations going into a training session, only to walk in and realize as soon as you start warming up that it’s not going to be the day you had planned. It’s unfortunate, but if you lift weights long enough it’s bound to happen. Things come up, some you can control and some you can’t. You may be able to put your finger on what caused you to have an off day or you may have no clue what went wrong, but what matters is how you react to it when it happens. 

Most people will want to stick with their plan and try to push through to get to that number they had in their head at the start of the day. I have made that choice more than once. It’s the wrong one, trust me. Every set will feel heavy and you just keep adding weight because anything less than that specific number you have in your head is a failure in your book. You get one or two sets from where you want to be and you barely squeak out a lift or even miss. The only thing that will hurt more than your pride is your body in the days following if you go this route. Always listen to your body. If you have a doubt on whether you should go up in weight, you probably shouldn’t. You can always make up for that day by pushing a little harder on your accessories. With that being said, I have shut down sessions completely, based on my body feeling terrible. In the long run, it will hurt your strength and body less to cut a session short or at least to lower the intensity, than it will to force the issue and miss or squeak something out and maybe injure yourself.

XPC squat

Now as much as it sucks to have a bad training session, it sucks exponentially more to have a bad day on competition day. This is all but guaranteed to happen at some point if you do enough competitions. It just part of the game. In my experience, it’s even harder to make good decisions when it’s meet day. Tensions are high, you’ve trained hard for many weeks, and you probably have goals in mind for your lifts and total. Your training is complete and you feel strong leading into the meet. You start warming up, you get to your last warm-up, and it just feels off and heavier than it should. You go out to take your opener and you grind it out or even miss…where will you go from here?

I’ve been in this spot several times and the first thing that will more than likely go through your head is, “there goes my plan”. You’ll think about what your planned second attempt was and how far back it will set your total to repeat your opener. More often than not, I’ll admit it, I have chosen to go up and stick with my planned second attempt, even if my opener felt awful. Next, you’ll take your second attempt and you get stapled. Now you really have a problem. I know this feeling well. If you participate in this sport long enough, this will almost definitely happen at some point. As we all know, you can’t go down in weight in between attempts in a competition. You have to take what was on the bar for the previous attempt. You talk yourself up and try to get your mind right to keep yourself in the meet. You take your third attempt and it’s a no go. Well, now you’ve bombed. I know this feeling. It’s terrible. You re-think your entire training cycle. What could have gone wrong? Geared lifters talk about going raw next meet and raw lifters talk about going equipped next meet. You’ll look for any little thing that could have caused this to happen.

The most important thing at this point is how you react in the face of adversity. I’ve made it through these situations and there’s no better feeling in the powerlifting arena than hitting a third attempt that you needed to stay in the meet. However, if you miss, it’s going to be exactly the opposite. No matter how many times I’ve bombed, it always feels like it’s the first time and you’ll probably want to smash something or cry. I hear people say that they would rather bomb with a PR attempt than make it through a meet without making PR’s across the board. I’ve said it, I won’t lie. Having been in this situation, I can tell you that it’s not true. There’s simply no feeling like a bomb. You’ll feel like your whole training cycle was a waste and you won’t get to see the fruits of your labor in your other lifts because you were set on a definite plan.

Of course, you should have a plan, but you have to be flexible and ready to change it at the drop of a hat, due to any number of things that can and will happen on meet day. You have to do the best you can do on that day. Everybody wants to lift the most they’ve ever lifted every time they step on the platform, but sometimes it’s not going to happen. There are things out of your control and there are things in your control and you have to focus on the things that are in your control. Be honest with yourself and make sure your handler isn’t scared, to be honest with you either. You don’t want to be bashed or talked out of an attempt you’re capable of, but if your guy knows that what you planned on may be too heavy on that day, they have to speak up and you have to be receptive. Your handler probably knows more about you than you do yourself, especially if they train with you or see you compete often. They know when something is off. Trust your gut and trust your help. So if you take an opener and you miss and it wasn’t just because of technique. You need to be realistic. If you had planned on making a 100-pound jump to a PR, that may not be in the cards on this day. Take what’s there. A 25 or 30-pound jump is extra weight on your total and keeps you in the game, which is the most important thing in this sport.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you should always be conservative because that’s not true. You just need to know when you’re firing on all cylinders and you’re going to have one of those days where everything feels light. When it feels like this, you can and should take big jumps and be aggressive. You just have to know when to pump the brakes and when to gas it. Everything has its time and place. Those days of going 9 for 9 with PR’s in every lift can’t happen every time. Sometimes it’s a win to just get a total. As in anything, everyone is entitled to their opinion and some will say all or nothing. I’m not saying I know everything, but I do know if you look at the big meets that you have to qualify for, where there is money to be won, the guys who are consistent and make it through meets, even when they don’t PR are the guys who make it to the biggest stages in powerlifting. Of course, personal records are nice, but there’s something really satisfying about getting a total after all your hard work, especially if there’s adversity on meet day.

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