An honest and raw blog by Lydia Briars, Fitness enthusiast & Personal Trainer, Oxford, UK.
“There is no better feeling, than being strong!”
So, I’m 12 weeks out from my first ever powerlifting competition. (October 2018), and I couldn’t be more excited!!
I’ve been training for two and a half years this August (Powerbuilding you could say – a mixture of bodybuilding and powerlifting) and for me training and the gym is my safe haven. My happy place, the place I go, to forget my daily stresses and focus on the task at hand – lifting some heavy weights! – just me, the music and the weights. Zoning out from my surroundings and thoughts. Doing something that makes me feel alive!
You’ll find that a lot of dedicated gym goers, choose to train, not just for aesthetics but the challenge we set ourselves, a sense of empowerment it gives us, a goal, to move more weight, to be better than we were yesterday! There is some vanity in it I guess – we all want to look good, but mainly a desire to be better, do better and to push our body and mind to its limits. To endure the pain, in order to make the gains. To grow both body and mind, knowing that you are your only barrier.
You cannot buy your physique (well you can to some extent), but nothing beats the hard work, hours spent in the gym and the dedication that we put into our training. No one can take that away from us. What you put in, is what you get out!
For me training is not a short-term thing, a diet for a show, a holiday, to look good for someone, I do it for me – my health and my life. A long-term investment, sustainable, enjoyable and a way of life! A journey of self discovery. Something to be proud of!
After training for two and a half years, I’ve built a firm foundation – both in terms of knowledge, strength and a fairly decent amount of muscle mass (I hope)! I still have unwanted body fat, but I know if I was stricter with my diet – weighed my food etc, I could get stage lean – but do I want that right now? Simple answer – no!
I was hitting PBs between May and July, this year! 28KGs on dumbbell bench for two and 30KGs for 3-4 with a spot. Two / three weeks back, hitting a deadlift PB of 107.5KG. I’ve not recently tested my squat 1RM but last time I did, without a spot, I hit 85KG. Not great for a squat, I know! Room for improvement but that’s what keeps me motivated! Knowing I can do more.
Feeling strong but not all that happy with how I looked, I needed to make a change or set myself a goal. In my opinion, I felt and looked fairly bulky and not as lean as I wanted to be. The feeling that my hard work in the gym was going to waste – stuck in a physique with some decent-ish muscle mass (not to big myself up too much), it was covered in a layer of unwanted body fat (in my eyes) – I knew I wasn’t doing myself justice! I’d basically been bulking and maintaining for two and a half years!
So, I started to add a bit more cardio in and sprints (interval training) and focused on my diet a bit more – basically being more organised! Prepping lunch and cutting down on those unnecessary calories. When they say the diet is the hardest part, it really is! I still don’t track my macros etc, but I make sure I get enough protein in my diet, to build and repair muscle tissue. This is extremely important, when strength training, 5-6 times a week. I’m not reliant on supplements but occasionally have pre-workout and bcaas during my workout. Eating real food and relatively clean, in my opinion, is the best way.
Did I notice any changes? I started to lean out slightly but after hitting a PB on my deadlift two or so weeks back, after a month off deadlifts, it got me thinking about my goals. What did I actually want to achieve from training?
So, I took action!
It wasn’t the right time for me to start prepping for a bodybuilding comp (which seems the trend now for newbie gym-goers), having only been running my personal training business, Just Strive Fitness for just over half a year, which really is my priority right now – BUT I sure felt ready for getting stronger and seeing where I could take my lifts!
Getting stronger has always been one of my main goals during training – I love training for hypertrophy and for sculpting muscle but I needed more of a focus, something to test myself and to put these two and a half years of training to good use!! As well as my previous sporting background and experience in competing at swimming, athletics – 800m, hockey and cross-country events.
I never did get where I wanted to go with my sports (especially in competitive swimming) – I did well enough but never something I could truly be proud of. I’ve never wanted to settle for average and still don’t!
So why have I chosen to compete in powerliftng now, if I love bodybuilding? I guess in some way I feel I am putting less pressure on myself doing a powerlifting comp, than doing a bodybuilding comp! – you don’t have to look a certain way on show day to do well. Yes, you have to perform on the day and hit your lifts but it won’t mean becoming obsessive with calories during prep, faffing around with the tan, the hair, the make up, the posing, the bikini, whether or not you’re stage lean, abs popping, veins out, but instead, a sole focus on lifting heavy weights – and that’s what a lot of us go to the gym for – testing and improving our strength. Plus I know I can lift fairly heavy and be stronger, so for me, why should I waste this! My motivation, to be stronger than yesterday!
I hope I’ll have my time up on stage one day, at a bodybuilding comp, but right now it’s not what I want to do! I admire everyone who steps on that stage and I’ll keep being inspired by these athletes. But for now, I’ve chosen my sport and I’m going to commit!
I am still just as passionate about bodybuilding but my training needs to take a different focus! I may still include some bodybuilding exercises in my training sessions but this will keep my training fun and varied. Such as today – it was supposed to be a rest day before I start my 12 week powerlifting programme, but one of my gym buddies and besties, wanted to train (chest and tris) and I couldn’t let her down. Plus she had chest day scheduled in (or should I say bench day – powerlifting terms), which is one of my favourite muscle groups to train!
I’ve got a great powerlifting coach by my side. His enthusiasm and energy for the sport inspires me. He has represented Great Britain at various overseas PL competitions and is the strongest junior bencher in England, in his weight class. (He can bench 180KG – can you believe that!). This inspires me and if I could get to nationals or internationals one day, it would mean the world to me! I’ve got high expectations of myself, that’s for sure!
I’ve come from a competitive background, being a county swimmer – the discipline of training never wears off! Hard work and discipline is ingrained in me – I probably have my Dad to thank for that, and the support he has given me, in any sports event I ever took part in! Thanks Dad! (PS. I’ve now got him into lifting, and he loves it)!
Powerlifting is not for women? Hell yes it is! Some people will hear the word powerlifter and think it means bulky, strong, overweight, not a sport for women, but you know what, I couldn’t care less and I know girls in the sport have the same attitude!! Women can still be strong, athletic and look good! We may not be built to be as strong as males, but we sure can train as hard and push our body’s to the max!
As a female lifter, training alongside the guys is great – (yes at first when you’re new to training, you may feel insecure and silly but with time, you’ll gain the confideme to own it! – great tip if you feel on edge when you first start lifting – put your headphones on and block out the surroundings – you’ll be able to focus easier on the lift!) Watching the guys lift heavier than what females may be able to lift, only pushes us to work and train harder!
Train with passion and give it everything you can (not all sessions are amazing though and there are times you have a rubbish session, and that’s OK), but if you are consistent, committed and focused, and willing to make sacrifices and work hard, you will only get stronger! Just as the saying goes, surround yourself with people who are better or stronger than you, is honestly the best thing you can do, if you want to grow – be inspired, be motivated by others, be pushed and you’ll see you are capable of a lot more! (This goes for outside the gym too!). You may not be the strongest person in the gym, but you can be the hardest worker in the gym!
Lifting weights in the female population is growing rapidly and I’m passionate about raising the profile of women in powerlifting and lifting all together – once you start lifting you’ll never look back! I preach this to all my clients and if you know me, you’ll know how much training means to me and how passionate I am about getting people into lifting!! Trust me, if you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out!
Being a personal trainer, I have a good understanding of the lifts but I don’t specialise in powerlifting, and there is always room to improve your technique! So, I’ve invested in a powerlifting coach, someone who’s been there and competed, and he is going to give me the push that I need, and help get me set, ready for the platform.
Competing again in a sport has been a long time coming but I’m ready!
I’m focused, committed, dedicated and will do what it takes to perform the best I can on comp day! But most importantly, I am going to enjoy the process!
Starting stats (5.08.18):
Lets see how much I can get these up!
Any questions about my training or fitness in general and if you’re new to training and just want some advice, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) / message or via the enquiry form on my website and I’d be happy to help!
For anyone that has read this till the end – thank you for reading! (I have rambled a little but have been honest about my training experience – the journey isn’t perfect and it’s about enjoying the process, not always about the end goal).
I hope you’ll follow the rest of my journey to the Platform, as this is only the start!
To all the lifters out there, keep lifting! And to anyone new to lifting, give it a go – you have nothing to lose – but strength and an amazing hobby / sport / lifestyle to gain!
I’ve met some of my closet friends though lifting and have made a career from what I love doing, which I’m very blessed for!
Heres to getting stronger!
Let’s bring it!! 💪🏼
Just Strive Fitness
Educate – Inspire – Motivate
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@juststrivefitness (business account)