The Value of Early Competition in Weightlifting
I frequently hear newcomers tell me that they will not enter a meet until they can lift a certain amount, say 120 and 150. Quite often, these words are being uttered by someone in his mid-20s or older. I would also be willing to wager that this person has little experience as a competitive athlete or a performing artist.
I can partly understand this because I had the same misconception when I was a young lifter. I had set certain goals to lift in my first meet, and I foolishly believed that I would be able to lift those weights (which would be significant PRs) in my first competition. For some reason that I can’t recall, I gave up on those goal weights and entered a meet anyway and lifted considerably less, but I was overjoyed at getting my results in the books. Looking back, I’m glad that I abandoned my original strategy and went ahead and lifted into a competition. I learned a great deal from that first meet and continued to do so with each meet I entered. Since I didn’t have a great deal of sports background, I had to learn about the competitive experience solely through lifting in meets.
Competing to Unlock Potential
What I learned, and what every addicted athlete understands, is that being in the competitive atmosphere/headspace is to be transported to an alternate state. In that state, you can accomplish feats that are not otherwise possible, and you can become engulfed by the euphoria that accompanies them.
The younger you are, the more frequently you can compete, as you can recover much more quickly from the nervous energy drains that occur during competition. If your sport is not especially draining in terms of that nervous energy, you can compete very often. Every time you compete, you learn more about the process of completing, and you become more adept at using the altered state to maximize your efforts. This is why we see athletes as young as their mid-teens competing with great aplomb in major international events. Figure skaters, gymnasts, and many other child prodigies can use the competitive experience to maximize their potential.
Learning how to compete successfully, however, is a learned skill. While individuals learn it at different rates, one should enter competitions with the idea of mastering the medium. Some people are trepidacious about performing in front of groups, but this cannot be overcome by avoiding it. It must be undertaken with the approach that the trepidation will be conquered and eventually exploited for the athlete’s personal benefit. Having role models to observe and a coach who can isolate one from distractions will help greatly.
Encouraging Participation in Competitions
To get back to the original point, I need to strongly encourage those who want to discover their true abilities in the weightlifting sport to begin competing immediately. If you are 20-something or older and you don’t have an extensive background as a competitive athlete or a performing artist, you must enter a competition as soon and as often as possible. Just as you didn’t expect to clean & jerk 200 kg in your first workout, you cannot expect yourself to be especially adept at lifting in competition the first time. But you must start. You must develop the ability to use the competitive experience to alter yourself so that you can lift much more in a meet than you can even think of doing in training.
Essentially, you will need to learn to deal with two sets of factors. The first is the external occurrences of a competition. The process of weighing in, of dealing with the mechanics of the warm-up process and the physical layout of the venue. The psychic ambiance is also a factor that often will have to be ignored. The second set is made up of the chemical activities that will take place inside your body and brain that will transport you to a state where the previously unthinkable becomes possible. If you cannot learn how to use those events, you may come up far short of your potential.
Lift in a meet. And then another. And then another.
You came into this sport seeking an answer to the question, “How much can I lift?” You must learn to lift in competition to get the best answer.
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