Speed Power Strength just hosted our third annual Rite of Passage, a weightlifting meet only for athletes who have never before competed in a USA Weightlifting sanctioned event. Leading up to it and day of, there were two conversations I found myself having over and over again:
Do I try to PR my lifts? By how much?
What weight class should I try to lift in?
The question that SHOULD be talked more about is this: how do I make the most of a situation I’ve never been in before?
If you’ve never competed before, going for PR lifts doesn’t matter and you definitely shouldn’t be trying to diet (or, God forbid, water cut) down to a specific weight class. Don’t worry about qualifying for anything. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.
Just make lifts.
You will have NO IDEA how your nerves and focus will be when you start warming up. Some people get nervous the night before. I usually don’t get nervous until I’m in line to weigh in. Some people get nervous when they start warming up and for some people, it doesn’t hit them until they step out to their opening attempt and see the referees staring at them.
Your main goal, if not only goal, for your first meet is learning how your excitement works and how it affects you. How successful are you in focusing despite the nervousness? Are you able to calm yourself down or do you end up rushing your technique? Do old habits take over? Do you get so nervous so early that you’re exhausted by clean and jerks?
You won’t know how your mind and body are going to handle the stress and excitement until you get there and get through it. Adding extra to that by trying to “make weight” and attain PRs will just add more question marks to the overall process.
Think of this like you’re doing a scientific experiment on yourself. The fewer unknowns you have, the more you’ll be able to pinpoint how to make your next competition even better. More constants (weights you know you can do, the body weight you walk around at) and fewer variables (how your mindset will be on competition day).
Now that I’ve been competing for nearly 10 years in Olympic lifting, I know what I need to do, where I get nervous, how it will affect me, and what to do if I get TOO nervous. I can start to think about other aspects like weight class, PRs, and overall placing. But this is after having LOTS of competitions under my belt.
This mindset is important whether we’re talking about your first Olympic lifting meet, powerlifting meet, strongman contest… hell, even your first dance performance. Focus on getting through it, and getting to the other side with aplomb.