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!

European Powerlifting Championship – Me against myself!

The European Powerlifting Championship took place in Dublin, from 21 to 23 September. It was a fantastic event, with over one hundred athletes from all over Europe competing in squat, bench press and deadlift. The age categories ranged from 14 to 74 years of age.

I competed in four categories, squat and deadlift both raw and equipped and I came first in all in my categories. I achieved two new world records in the equipped categories of squat (100kg) and deadlift (125 kg). It wasn’t easy to compete in four categories, two each day, as I had to conserve energy over a long day, and do my maximum best twice a day for the same lift. I had to stay calm but focused, relaxed, but watch what’s going on around me, be mindful of my fluid and nutrition intake. I did not beat my personal best and was a tiny bit disappointed. No matter what I achieve, the real competition goes on in my own head – it’s me against myself, hoping to do better every time I go out on that platform. The present me trying to do better than the past me.
Needless to say that I enjoyed breaking records. But as at every competition the highlight was meeting my fellow powerlifters, sharing stories of struggles and successes, what it took to get here and compete on European level. It was a great weekend overall.At the competition, I learned what I could do to get stronger. But for now I’m looking forward to a week of rest, indulging and eating all the chocolate I want 🙂

How did I get into Powerlifting?

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 a good diet. Read more