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!

What has Powerlifting ever done for me?

The effects of strength training on mental wellbeing and the aging process

For the past three years, I have been balancing my love for powerlifting with my managerial and scholarly role in Trinity College.

Powerlifting is a form of competitive weightlifting in which athletes attempt three types of lift in a set sequence, squat, bench press and deadlift. The goal is to get the highest possible total between the three lifts. Competing in powerlifting requires meticulous planning, training, and body awareness. I have to balance training time with work time and take care of my body by getting proper nutrition and adequate sleep.

Weightlifting can reduce processes related to aging

The benefits of powerlifting reach beyond strength. Weight-bearing exercise can increase bone density, decrease the reduction in muscle mass and resting metabolism associated with aging, reduce fat weight, reduce resting blood pressure, and reduce aging processes in skeletal muscle. Additionally, weight training can decrease symptoms of depression, increase self-esteem, create a positive perception of one’s body, and improve cognitive ability.

Powerlifters have described the relaxation aspect of this sport, the reduction of anger and the emotional wellbeing. I agree with them. No matter how much is going on in my life, 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 weight and how my muscles work together to lift it.

What does it do for me?

I think that powerlifting enables me to manage the other aspects of my life – in particular the combination of practitioner and scholarly work. Thanks to my sport I can completely switch off for a few hours a week.

So I am not only training to get physically stronger and break world records, I am training to take care of myself both now and later. I am now in better shape than ever. I am stronger, feel calmer, the best is really that my training, discipline and determination gives me the ability to face better everything that life might throw at me!

 

 

Der Effekt von Krafttraining auf mentales Wohlbefinden und den Alterungsprozess

In den letzten drei Jahren habe ich meine Liebe zum Powerlifting mit meiner leitenden und wissenschaftlichen Rolle im Trinity College verbunden.

Powerlifting ist eine Form des Wettkampfes, bei der Athleten drei Arten von Gewichtheben in einer bestimmten Reihenfolge durchführen, Kniebeugen, Bankdrücken und Kreuzheben. Ziel ist es, die höchstmögliche Summe zwischen den drei Liften zu erhalten. Um im Powerlifting zu konkurrieren, bedarf es sorgfältiger Planung, Training und Körperbewusstsein. Ich muss die Trainingszeit mit der Arbeitszeit in Einklang bringen und mich um meinen Körper kümmern, indem ich richtige Ernährung und ausreichend Schlaf bekomme.

Gewichtheben kann Alterungsprozesse verlangsamen

Neben dem stärker werden hat Powerlifting hat aber noch andere Vorteile. Krafttraining kann die Knochendichte erhöhen, den Abbau von Muskelmasse und den mit dem Alterungsprozess in Verbindung stehenden Stoffwechsel im Ruhezustand verringern, das Fettgewicht reduzieren, den Blutdruck im Ruhezustand senken und die Alterungsprozesse im Skelettmuskel reduzieren. Darüber hinaus kann das Krafttraining die Symptome einer Depression verringern, das Selbstwertgefühl erhöhen, eine positive Körperwahrnehmung bewirken und die kognitive Leistungsfähigkeit verbessern.

Powerlifters haben den Entspannungsaspekt dieses Sports, die Reduktion von Ärger und das emotionale Wohlbefinden beschrieben. Ich stimme ihnen zu. Egal wie viel in meinem Leben vor sich geht, wenn ich mich auf einen schweren Lift vorbereite, gibt es diese intensive Konzentration mit einem einzigen Ziel – das Gewicht vom Boden zu bekommen. Dies ist ein ruhiger und meditativer Moment. Ich bemerke nichts anderes als das Gewicht und wie meine Muskeln zusammenarbeiten, um das Gewicht zu heben.

Andere Vorteile des Powerliftings

Ich denke, dass Powerlifting es mir ermöglicht, die anderen Aspekte meines Lebens zu bewältigen – insbesondere die Kombination aus praktischer und wissenschaftlicher Arbeit. Dank meines Sports kann ich einige Stunden pro Woche komplett abschalten.

Ich trainiere also nicht nur um körperlich stärker zu werden und Weltrekorde zu brechen, sondern auch um jetzt und in späteren Jahren gesund und fit zu bleiben. Ich bin jetzt in besserer Kondition als je zuvor. Ich bin stärker, fühle mich ruhiger, das Beste ist, dass mein Training, meine Disziplin und meine Entschlossenheit mir ermöglichen, die Herausforderungen des Lebens besser zu bewältigen.

Preparing for the European Powerlifting Championship – Hoping for “Good Lifts” and “3 white lights”

Preparing for the European Powerlifting Championship – Hoping for “Good Lift and 3 white lights”

A big thank you to all wishing me well for the European Single Lifts powerlifting competition in Dublin next week. I hope I won’t disappoint you.

Over the last three months, I’ve been training hard, and now I’m in maintenance   mode. My nutrition is “angelic” the last time I had an alcoholic drink was at a wedding in August, a glass of prosecco. There I also had the last time sugary food – a beautiful dessert selection. From then on I ate lots of protein from different dairy,  plant and animal sources, good fats, lots of vegetables, nuts, fruit, some good carbs, but  no sugary food and no alcohol.

Ethically I would prefer to be completely vegetarian but once a week I have fish and a steak, to get the full spectrum of proteins from natural sources. I am lucky that I like cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir and buttermilk, all good natural sources of protein.

I have to stay at around 67 kg to compete in my usual under 70 kg category. The competition takes place over 3 days, Friday squat, Saturday bench and Sunday deadlift. I have to allow for putting on about 1 kilogram each day, as I will eat a lot to keep my energy up and stress levels down.

The biggest challenge is to sleep well coming up to the competition, and that is harder for me than sticking to good food. However, I’m working on it, with some relaxation exercises,  stretching and no scary movies before going to bed!

Powerlifting competitions are as unpredictably as any other sports competition.  Anything can happen! All the training and preparation has to come together and then each lift is over in less than 10 seconds.  Failure is public, but so is success!

The best image for a powerlifter is seeing the three white lights on the screen, showing that all 3 judges see your lift as successful.

The best sound for a powerlifter is the sound of the head judge announcing “Good lift!”

I’m looking forward to compete with the best powerlifters in Europe, I know what they all have gone through to be where they are now.

So, this is it – I can do no more – you hear from me again after the competition – hopefully in a good mood!

 

 

Keeping fit at all ages – yesterday in Malahide/Gestern in Malahide

Yesterday I took a rest from my powerlifting training and went for a morning walk in Malahide, a small town in North County Dublin, Ireland. Within one hour of walking I was able to visit the Malahide Marina, Malahide Castle and the Malahide Village. I also noticed the many people being active, either jogging, running, walking or cycling. There was a park run on, organised by parkrun.ie and sponsored among others by Healthy Ireland.  About a hundred people participated, young and old. Great to see so many people of all ages being active, and all that at 9.30 in the morning!

Meanwhile my son Christian was playing golf in Malahide Golfclub. To his surprise he noticed number of non-golfers – a family of foxes, as shown in his video!

Gestern nahm ich eine Auszeit von meinem Powerlifting-Training und machte stattdessen einen Morgenspaziergang in Malahide, einer kleinen Stadt in North County Dublin, Irland. Innerhalb einer Stunde konnte ich den Malahide Yachthafen, das Malahide Schloss und das Malahide Village besuchen. Ich bemerkte auch, dass viele Leute aktiv waren, entweder Joggen, Laufen oder Radfahren. Es gab einen Park Run, der von parkrun.ie organisiert und unter anderem von Healthy Ireland gesponsert wurde. Ungefähr hundert Leute nahmen teil, jung und alt. Toll, so viele Menschen jeden Alters aktiv zu sehen, und das alles um 9.30 Uhr morgens!

Inzwischen spielte mein Sohn Christian Golf im Malahide Golfclub. Zu seiner Überraschung bemerkte er einige Nicht-Golfer, eine Familie von Füchsen, wie sein Video zeigt!

 

The Game Plan of a Powerlifting Competition

It has now been a week since the European Championship in King’s Lynn, UK. Since I came back many friends, colleagues and other powerlifters asked me what I did for preparation and also what my game plan was to break two European records (Squat and Deadlift), win a gold medal in my category and achieve three personal bests. So I thought I write a blog about it.

As written in a previous blog, Nutrition – Strong, Simple and Sustainable to get stronger I not only train four times a week, I also eat nutritious food, try to get seven hours of good quality sleep and ensure that I take rest days also.

After having competed in 11 powerlifting competitions, including 5 international ones,  there are 3 rules I follow:

Rule 1: Prepare, prepare, prepare

There are no shortcuts in training – ensure that your technique is spot on, in accordance with the rules of your powerlifting association. Ensure that you regularly practice your main lifts, but also do plenty of auxiliary work, to strengthen the supporting muscles.

Rule 2: Know your personal best (PB)

For me, a PB is has to be achieved in perfect form and in accordance with the rules of  your powerlifting association, not a lift that is grinded out, almost injuring myself in the lifting process.

Rule 3: Pick your competition lifts wisely – don’t let your ego get in the way

Picking your lifts depends on your PB – but also on your form on the day.

1st lift – the opener. This lift gets you in the game. I have learned that I need to calm my nerves first, and show the judges that I know what I’m doing. So my first lift is one that I can to twice in a row, after a late night out or when sick.

2nd lift –getting serious.  Now that you are in the game, you have completed a successful 1st lift,  this is a lift that should be a little challenging, but you should have successfully completed it before it in a previous competition. If you have not competed before, choose a lift that you can do once in perfect form.

3rd lift – push out the boat. Trust in your training. If you have trained regularly, focusing on your main lifts, your technique and auxiliary work, everything should be in place now for your biggest lift.  This is your moment; the reason you came for. But listen to your body when lifting, if something is off, led the weight go.

Overall – don’t get distracted by what other lifters lift. Powerlifting is a sport where you first and foremost compete against yourself. Of course it is nice to win and break records. But my advice is to leave this for your third lift,  when you have already two good lifts under your belt (excuse the pun) and are confident and ready to show them all what for are made of.

In the European Championship I lifted as follows:

  1. Squat: 92.5 kg. 97.5 kg 105.5 kg (ER)
  2. Bench: 42.5 kg, 45.0 kg, 47.5 kg
  3. Deadlift: 122.5 kg, 132.5kg, 137.5 kg (ER) 

 

 

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!