Most people have seen weightlifting in the Summer Olympic Games. Athletes from all over the world come together on one platform to perform at maximal capacity, lift extraordinary weight overhead, and break world records. It’s an incredible sight to see, but it can come off as intimidating or unapproachable to the aspiring lifter.
If you’ve ever been to a local weightlifting meet, however, the experience is quite different. While the maximal effort and intensity components remain constant, you can often find more beginner and intermediate weightlifters than advanced.
Local competitions offer a welcoming environment for athletes to challenge themselves, both mentally and physically. It is an unmatched experience, and one that offers benefits for both CrossFitters and Weightlifters alike.
Unsure if competing in Olympic Weightlifting is right for you? Keep reading to learn the top 9 reasons to compete and how the benefits translate to everyday life.
1. Gives you something to work towards There are plenty of reasons to train outside of competing: weightlifting gets you in better shape, improves mental health, opens you to a community of like-minded people, teaches you patience and humility, and more. However, training without a goal to work towards often leads to burnout and complacency. Competitions give your training a purpose. They motivate you on the days you don’t want to come in. There’s no, “I’ll just train harder tomorrow to make up for it.” When following a deliberate, periodized training program, it’s critical to follow the plan as prescribed. Competitions keep you on track and give your efforts meaning.
2. Makes you feel alive Have you ever gone skydiving, cliff jumping, or even watched a really scary movie? If so, you know what it feels like to get on a competition stage. The rush of adrenaline in situations your body identifies as a “stressful,” like competing, is the closest you’ll feel to superhuman. The release of adrenaline (also known as epinephrine, the “fight-or-flight” hormone), increases blood flow to the brain and muscles and stimulates the body to create sugar to use for fuel. As a result, you experience improved mental focus, heightened senses, and increased strength. These reactions allow for a performance that’s extremely difficult to replicate in a training session, or even a max out session in your home gym.
3. Teaches you how to control your body’s response in stressful situations Learning how to control your body’s stress response is another benefit that comes with competing. The adrenalin rush is only as effective as you allow it to be. Weightlifting is an extremely technical sport, and adrenaline alone is not enough to perform to your full potential. Learning how to control your body’s stress response is crucial to have a successful performance. Lifting in a high-demand, high-stress setting forces you to identify and utilize methods to calm yourself: deep breathing, shutting out the stimuli around you, focusing on your movement pattern, using your jitters to your advantage. Your personal method is something that must be learned through experience but will carry with you while working through the everyday stresses of life in your personal or professional environment.
4. Gets you out of your comfort zone Unlike team sports, it’s you and only you out there on the competition floor. The experience of standing alone on a platform, with all eyes on you, (in a tight singlet) can be very mentally challenging. However, getting out there, despite your fears or potential discomfort, is an accomplishment on its own. And when the day comes, I promise you, how you feel in a singlet or the amount of eyes watching you lift, is completely drowned out by your inability to focus on anything other than making your lifts. Approaching your fears by looking them in the eye can be life-changing for many. The feeling of knowing that you persisted, regardless of uncertainty and discomfort, can instill a new level of confidence that you may not have unleashed otherwise. Whenever you’re doubting yourself in your work or at home, this is an experience that you can look back on and remember just how badass and unstoppable you are.
5. Makes you resilient As you may already know, weightlifting competitions provide you with 3 attempts in the snatch and 3 attempts in the clean and jerk. In an ideal world, you’ll go 6/6 in your first competition. However, that’s not always the reality. The truest test of mental strength, in my opinion, is successfully coming back from a missed lift. In competition, it’s common to miss a snatch you’ve hit in training a million times (remember those competition jitters we talked about and learning to control them?). However, missing a lift is not the end of the world; it’s an opportunity to come back and prove to yourself that you are more than capable. In doing so, you’re forced to look inward and remind yourself of your power, of your potential, and of your abilities, despite having just experienced a loss. The amount of mental strength and resilience this takes carries with you beyond the competition, and should not go unacknowledged.
6. Allows for healthy rivalry If you’re anything like me, you have a competitive spirit, both with yourself and against others. However, most of us with this personality trait don’t have an outlet to release this energy, and our enthusiasm can sometimes be off-putting to others. Weightlifting competitions offer us a socially acceptable form of rivalry as an adult. A place where you can contest your opponents under the name of sport, and an environment where you can measure your own progress and how you stand, objectively, against others.
7. Serves as an evaluation tool Going off the last point, competitions provide you with an opportunity to measure yourself and your progress. Though there are plenty of ways to measure progress, competitions provide an objective measure at a single moment in time and can serve as a benchmark to see how far you have come over the months or the years. Personally, I keep a spreadsheet of every competition I’ve been in, my attempts in each lift, and my results. I’ve created graphs to serve as visuals of my upward trend, so that on days when I feel frustrated in the gym (or even in my personal life), I look to it as a reminder that my work does pay off, and each day is a new opportunity to move that needle a little bit further.
8. Boosts self esteem There are very few times in a training cycle where you test your true maxes. Instead, the bulk of training is unglamorous and requires a high level of persistence and trust in the process. When you step onto the platform, only you know the time and emotional commitment that weightlifting requires of you. Having a successful meet and seeing your hard work pay off is very rewarding. Knowing that you stuck to a plan and persevered, regardless of any obstacles that stood in your way or how monotonous the training had felt, will improve your confidence in your own self worth and your capabilities.
9. Brings you closer to your training partners As I mentioned above, you are the only person who knows the amount of effort it takes to prepare for a competition. However, there is one exception to this: your teammates/training partners. They’re the ones who are with you, working towards the same goals, day in and day out. They share the same values as you, want the same things in the sport, and understand the sacrifices made to get to competition and perform to your greatest potential. They share in the highs (and sometimes lows) of competition, and are there to navigate through the experience with you. These experiences are difficult to explain to friends or family outside of the weightlifting realm, and create a meaningful bond with your teammates that’s unmatched.
You may say to yourself, “Okay this sounds great, but I’m not there yet. I’ve only been lifting for ‘x’ months” or “I’m not good enough to compete yet.” Believe me, you’re never going to feel “ready” to compete. It’s best to gain exposure to competing when the pressure is low, and you have little expectations of yourself outside of making a few lifts and having a good time with friends. I encourage everyone reading this post, CrossFitters and Weightlifters alike, to find a competition running near you, and just sign up. Just do it. You never know the impact competing will have on your training and how you view yourself as an athlete and person until you get out there.