What I wish I knew when I started powerlifting

I've been powerlifting for only 2 years but here are 5 things I wish I knew before my very first meet.

Stevie Johnson

5/4/20235 min read

I got started in powerlifting when one of my clients told me she wanted to try it. My client Sara started as a weight loss client, but then she lost the weight and wanted to focus on getting stronger. She didn't know how she wanted to gauge her progress though. I told her we could do pull-ups or squats or deadlifts. Or she could do some research on her own and see what she wanted to try.

She came back to me and said "I want to try powerlifting, but I'll only do it if you try it with me. " Now, I knew next to nothing about powerlifting. I knew you did three lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. Other than that, I knew nothing. I had a friend who was a competitive powerlifter and I contacted him for more help. I ended up hiring him as my trainer and he helped me coach my clients and prepare myself for my first meet.

While preparing for my first meet, I wish I knew that it can be pricey to get started. There were a lot of material things that I needed to get to be prepared: registration fee, membership fee, singlet, new belt, long socks for deadlifts, etc. It was A LOT of little things that added up. Some things were definitely more expensive than others, and I chose the more affordable option most of the time. As time went on, I bought more expensive options because I plan on doing this for a while and I know that quality is definitely better.

Another thing I wish I would have known is the mental struggle that comes with competing and preparing for your first meet. I can't even count the number of times that I wanted to give up. There were so many times that I thought to myself "I'm doing this for Sara and after this meet, I'm never competing again. I'm doing this for her." It was so hard. I honestly don't even remember WHAT made it so hard for me personally, I just remember that it was. The workouts were the easy part, I remember that because I love to lift heavy. But the mentality of preparing was really hard. At the time of writing this, I'm actually preparing for APF Nationals and the mental struggle is there again. The hardest part for me this time is the nutrition. It's a struggle getting everything in every single day. I can find every excuse from "I'm too busy with my kids" or "Today is a check-in day for clients and I just got so caught up in that that I forgot to eat". It was definitely easier in the beginning when everything was new and exciting, but now that I'm 8 weeks out, it's a struggle for me personally.

Keeping it simple and sticking to the basics is something else I wish I knew about preparing for my first powerlifting meet. I overthink way too much when it comes to creating my program for myself. Analysis paralysis is definitely a problem for me. I know there are so many exercises that can do the same thing and help me out but the question is WHICH ONE DO I PICK?? The answer really didn't matter in the beginning, I just needed to pick ONE and go with it. Keep it simple. Stick to squat, bench, deadlift, and accessories of those lifts. Don't overthink it or complicate it.

Singlets. I was NOT prepared for singlets. I knew you had to wear one, I didn't know what it was. So I looked online, found one I liked, made sure it fit the rules, and bought it. It was more expensive than I thought they were, I think I paid $100 for mine. I'm sure there are cheaper ones out there, but I went to a company that I follow on Instagram (Girls Who Powerlift) and bought one of theirs. When I tried it on, I seriously had never felt less comfortable in my body! The material is incredibly thin, not form-flattering at all, and just felt weird. BUT! I'm definitely not alone. The only comfort I had was knowing that every other woman I was competing with would feel or had felt the same way. (I read tons of blogs on this) After my first competition, I don't even care. It's the uniform and I'll wear it with pride at Nationals.

The last thing I wish I knew before my first meet is how long a meet goes. They are literally all-day events. As an athlete, you're there an hour before it actually starts for the rules briefing (8:00 am) and if you're in the first flight, for the warm-up. And then, if you're doing a full power meet, you're not done sometimes till 5:00 or later depending on how big the meet is and if it runs smoothly. I wish that I had gone to a meet before so I could experience it before I actually competed.

One bonus thing that I wish I knew while preparing for my meet was to invite my friends and family to come watch. I was so afraid of sucking at the meet that I didn't invite hardly anyone to come. I didn't want to have people see me fail if I did. (I didn't, and that made me wish that I invited more people to celebrate with me.) The only person I invited was my husband and I'm so thankful he was there to support me. My good friend Kaitlyn ended up coming too and I was glad she was there for me and our other friends.

There's probably a lot more that I wish I knew or that I could redo about my first meet but these are probably the most pressing on my own mind. I made sure to read other blogs like this one to help me prepare and that helped. In the end, me, and my two clients Sara and Bobbie, competed and loved it so much we signed up for our second meet the day after our first one ended. (I'll write on why it wasn't the best idea)

If you're nervous about your first meet, that's totally okay. Just do it and have fun. The powerlifting community is one of the very best. Probably the biggest thing I remember from that first meet is how SUPPORTIVE everyone is. Every single person there wants you to succeed. Your friends and family and other supporters obviously, but the judges, meet directors, spotters, loaders, and literally everyone wants you to succeed on your lifts. It's the best feeling having all that support.

First time trying on the uniform. You need to wear a t-shirt under your singlet for squat and bench.