Powerlifting World Championship in Germany – New European Record

After 16 weeks of training, I am happy that I set a new European record in Squat at 107.5 kg! That’s the most I ever lifted in Squat, training included! I think I have to go for the 110 kg next.

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Learning in action: Plan – act – reflect – learn – repeat

It was only a matter of time before I would apply my action learning mindset from my research fellow life to my life as a powerlifter. Powerlifting is a form of competitive weightlifting in which athletes attempt three types of lift in a set sequence, squat, bench press and deadlift.

Action Learning Cycle
The Action Learning Cycle

Action Learning in Management Development and Research

Action learning is an approach to problem solving. It involves taking action and reflecting upon the results and then learn from what happened. The new learning then can be used for new action planning, taking action and so on. Action learning is becoming increasingly popular in management development and is applied in both the private and the public sector. Here managers address real-life problems and usually work with a group of co-workers, to plan and then take action and after reflection, learn from what happened. It is an approach to find resolutions to messy issues or wicked problems where issues are complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problem is, or how to tackle it. I am applying action learning in both my academic and my managerial work life.

Action Learning in Athletic Sport

Now I apply the planning – acting – reflecting – learning approach to my powerlifting training and competition also. But let me explain.

I use a training journal and write down what I am planning to lift at my next training session (planning action). Then I carry out the lifts (taking action). I usually video the lifts on my phone to check if the technique is  good, if the speed of the lift is adequate and if my form is OK. I reflect on how the lift felt. Did it feel heavy or light? Was I struggling or am I ready for loading on more weight. What went right what went wrong?

Then I learn by asking “Why”. Why did the lift feel good? Why did the lift feel heavy? For example, what time of the day did I train? How was my nutrition on the previous day? Did I have a good night’s sleep? I write down my observations so that I can compare them to past and future training sessions.

So, one might ask why applying action learning to something as simple as powerlifting, where the athlete just picks up a weight of the ground? Well, as all powerlifting athletes can confirm, lifting may look simple, but in order to set and break records the applied technique is very complex and the preparation quite intense. Also, the human body is one of the most complex systems in the world. We still don’t know enough about the mind-body connection in sport and why we perform well on some days and not so well on other days. So far, I haven’t found any scientific article that explains the complex workings of the human body when carrying out athletic sports. I would be happy to learn more about it from existing knowledge. But in the meantime I will continue to learn from action!

Yes we can! Women over 50 can get stronger!

Yesterday I came home from the European Powerlifting Championship in King’s Lynn, UK.  It was a fabulous weekend! I broke two European records, in squat with 105.5 kg and in deadlift with 137.5 kg. Including  47.5 kg with bench press I achieved three personal best lifts. So all the months of training and looking after my nutrition,  paid off! Even over 50 women can still get stronger!

 

Gestern bin ich von der europäischen Powerlifting-Meisterschaft in King’s Lynn, UK, zurückgekehrt. Es war ein fabelhaftes Wochenende! Ich brach zwei europäische Rekorde, mit 105,5 kg in der Kniebeuge/Squat und mit 137,5 kg im Kreuzheben/Deadlift. Einschließlich 47,5 kg mit Bankdrücken/Bench Press erreichte ich drei persönliche Rekorde. So zahlten sich das monatelange Training und gute Ernährung aus! Selbst über 50 Frauen können stärker werden!

My Powerlifting Journey

Yesterday a colleague asked me how I got into powerlifting – at my age. This is a question I was asked many times before, so I thought I write a blog about it, to describe the beginning of the journey, the painful lessons, the successes, the benefits and what powerlifting does for me.

 

The Beginning of the Journey

I started lifting heavy weights in summer 2015 at the tender age of 54. As I had a month of work I thought it would be nice to get really fit and in shape, see what I achieve with exercise and good nutrition.
I had been a member of a lovely hotel health and fitness club for 20 years. However, none of the fitness routines such as treadmill, stepper and bike aerobics had improved my body, perhaps just kept me in reasonable shape.
I asked one of the fitness staff in the gym to tell me what else I could do “to get rid of the wobbly bits”. I was lucky as the guy I asked was also a strength coach in another gym. He advised me that I should start lifting weights.
I told him that I did not want to get bulky, look like a bodybuilder, but he said that there is “not a chance” as I would not have enough testosterone in my body to build big muscles.
So I thought I’ll give it a try. After a few weeks I saw results, my clothes felt more comfortable, I felt more energetic and lifting heavier and heavier weights made me feel very good. I slowly changed my nutrition, mainly more protein, less sugar, more vegetables. I learned about the importance of sleep, as the whole strength building process happens while sleeping (I’m sure there is a scientific rationale).
Soon I noticed in the gym that I lifted heavier weights than the young guys working out beside me. I looked up the weights I lifted on the web and the world records in my weight/age category were not miles away, in fact, I had already beaten the standing world record in deadlift many times in the gym!

Painful Lessons

So, thinking that I may have a talent for weightlifting I went to get a few lessons in powerlifting. Powerlifting is a form of competitive weightlifting in which contestants attempt three types of lift in a set sequence, squat, bench press and deadlift, which is called “Full Power”. Competitions are also held that include just one of these lifts which are called “Single lifts”, or a competition of two lifts.
In August 2015 I joined the Irish Drug Free Powerlifting Federation and in September I took part in my first competition in Ballina, Co Mayo, a “push – pull” competition, meaning bench press and deadlift.
What a (painful) learning opportunity! Similar to boxing, powerlifters compete in weight category and I thought, and still think, the weigh-in in the early morning is the worst part of the competition. Then I made so many mistakes, wrong shows, wrong belt, wrong technique, nerves….
I was disqualified after not being able to get one successful bench press. I wanted to drive home and cry! What had I been thinking! However after many encouraging words from another female powerlifter, I partook in the deadlift part of the competition, even though none of the lifts would be counted. I achieved three successful lifts, got a lot of applause and again I got a lot of encouraging words. Even though I left Ballina empty-handed, I decided to try again in another competition.

Successes and further goals

By now I took part in four world championships, in Wales, Italy, Belgium and Boston, USA. I broke and set some World and European records. I met other powerlifters from many countries, also passionate about powerlifting. My next goal is to partake in the European full power championship in the UK in May and beat my personal records in all three categories.

Benefits of lifting heavy

So far, I am enjoying the sport. Other powerlifters have described the relaxation aspect of this sport and the reduction of anger, the emotional wellbeing. I agree with them. No matter how much is going on in my life, I can put it out of my head for a few hours every week, without taking drugs. When I am preparing for a big lift there is this intense concentration with one single purpose – to get that weight of the ground. This is a quiet and meditative moment, I notice nothing else but the bar.

What does it do for me?

I think that my competitive sport enables me to manage the other aspects of my life – my hectic personal life, my managerial role in Trinity College as well as my scholarly work. Thanks to my sport I can completely switch off for a few hours a week.
I am now in better shape than ever. I am stronger, feel calmer, the best is really that the training, the discipline and determination gives me the ability to face better everything that life might throw at me!