TRAINING FOR AND DEALING WITH FAILURE IN COMPETITION
Sometimes, competitions do not go according to plan. In weightlifting and powerlifting, we have a finite number of attempts before our competition is finished. It’s not like Rugby or Basketball, where athletes can make one bad decision and make up for it for the full length of the game. In weightlifting and powerlifting, one missed lift means you’ve used a chance. A chance to to total, a chance to qualify for a higher level event, or chance to establish a new personal best. Think of it as kind of like space invaders – you’ve got ‘x’ amount of lives to accomplish a goal. In weightlifting we have 6 lives. In powerlifting, 9. Each one counts.
Having said that, if you do miss a lift, how should you deal with it? In this post, I share how I approach failure on the competition platform and how I believe it is directly related to how you train.
There are few things I’d like to touch on, and by no means is it the RIGHT way. I am simply sharing you my way. There are three things I abide by:
Train mindlessly. Not in the sense that you have no structure or routine to your training, but rather that when it becomes time to execute a lift (ie. the moment you get off your seat to approach the chalk bowl. Yes, at that moment you are already executing the lift). When I am approaching the chalk bowl there is absolutely nothing going through my mind (but how do you ever have NOTHING going on in your mind? I don’t know, I just can. I daydream, like a lot). Why does this work for me? Early on in my career, I used to think furiously before each lift – I must finish the pull, come onto my toes, turn my elbows around quick, catch the bounce etc. What I found was by doing so, I would actually perform worse. The more attention I gave to what I thought, the less attention I would give the actual lift. So now in training, when it comes time to perform, I switch off my mind. I chalk up. I put my wrist wraps on. I walk to the bar. I set up, back tight and go! Don’t believe me? Have you ever had a conversation while walking? At any point in that conversation were you thinking ‘heel strike, swing my leg through, push off my toes, swing my arms at the same time, control the speed of the swing through…’ Try walking and thinking about what movements you make – you’ll most likely slow down and find it confusing.
Second. Enjoy your training. Everyone loves a good, crisp, snappy lift. But not everyone loves their failed lifts. In fact, I’m sure many of us have yelled in frustration when we miss a lift. I know I have. Now however, I see failure as an opportunity. Along with my coach, we analyse the mistake I made and the corrections needed to complete the next lift. Analysis and corrections are made during rest time through mental imagery – when I begin to execute the lift I still aim to be mindless. For me now, there is nothing more satisfying reattempting a lift and nailing it. Enjoy your successful lifts, but more importantly enjoy the failed ones too. The failed lifts are the lifts that get you better. So next time you fail a lift, keep your head up. Have a laugh, smile, do whatever it is you do when you are enjoying yourself. Make it a positive experience.
Also, try not to give the weight too much mental gravity. What do I mean? Although this next lift means you qualify for the World Championships or National Championships, does thinking that help? What purpose can you hope to accomplish by giving yourself that much mental pressure? Is it going to make your pull higher, your catch more solid, or your jerk more crisp? No. Only if you imagine yourself pull higher, catch more solid or jerk more crisply will you achieve that lift. Despite the consequences that may accompany any lift – in my humble opinion it does NOT help you lift any better. It is actually more of a distraction away from the task at hand. Focus on the task. Be mindless. Execute.
Third. Be confident. Being confident is a mindset that is developed through practice. Rep after rep after rep. Put in the time, put in the work and you will become more confident. Why? Because you know you can do it. If you’ve snatched 80kg 5 times versus 50 times, are you going to be confident nailing 80kg? Of course. It’s just like when you first learnt how to drive, as a learner driver turning at a roundabout versus having driven for 5 years. You’ve turned that roundabout thousands of times – you know you can do it. I draw my confidence from vigorous preparation. You can too.
Having said all that above, does anything change during a competition setting?
In the warm up room I still warm up the exact same way I do in training. I don’t do less, I don’t do extra. Essentially in my mind, it is simply another day at training, it’s just another max out day. Because… well nothing is different. It’s the same weight, similar bar, I’ve got the same shoes on, socks, singlet. Why do anything out of the ordinary now? In my opinion, sometimes this is where things can go wrong. Taking extra pre workout, or coffee or carbing up are all useful… IF it is what you normally do. Also, having high mental arousal is only useful if you lift in that state normally. If you are feeling DIFFERENT on competition day… in my opinion this is not necessarily a good thing, even if you feel ‘good’ different. Because that is not how you trained. And what happens in the next comp if you don’t feel the same way?
Approach your competition lifts mindlessly. Just like in training. Remember there is absolutely nothing different. When your name is called and the clock starts ticking, chalk up, wrap up and go out there. Execute like you do in training.
Enjoy the moment. You’re at a competition! Admire the intensity of the athletes around you. Admire yourself for having made it this far and having the guts to compete alongside these people.
Be confident. Trust your training and all the hard work you put in. You deserve the lift. You’ve also hit it many times before (especially if it’s your opener).
So what happens if you do miss a lift out there on the platform? Focus on the mistake you made during your rest time just like in
training. Use your mind to rehearse the movement, just like in training. Be confident in your training and preparation. Enjoy your moment on the platform. When your name is called again – get out there and get it done, just like in training.
moment on the platform. When your name is called again – get out there and get it done, just like in training.