Powerlifting is a Marathon Not a Sprint

Only 6 days until I compete at the 2017 Women’s Pro Am in Cincinnati, OH. I could go on for days about just how amazing and how much this particular meet means to me but this isn’t what this post is about. I plan on posting a meet recap that I will touch more on that subject and share some photos and videos in case anyone’s interested in that.

I touched on this a little on my social media pages about my back injury but wanted to get a little more in depth with that and my experience with competing in powerlifting. This will be the first time I have competed since March of last year (2016) at XPC Finals (Arnold) in Columbus. I usually try to compete a couple times a year to test my progress, but I wanted to take some time off for multiple of reasons – but mainly because of an on-going injury. At XPC Finals when I was warming up for deadlifts I felt a tweak in my back again. It wasn’t horrible that day and only minorly bothered me after for about a month. I didn’t really re-injure myself but it definitely irritated a previous injury that I thought was healed, but obviously wasn’t.

Let me take you back to the injury itself. I’m sure there were a lot of little things leading up to it from years of incorrect form, bending wrong, and a weak lower back with poor firing glutes. But I remember the exact moment that really pushed it over the edge for me. I was warming up for squats in the back room at the 2014 SPF North of the Border meet and on my last squat warmup, I fell a little forward in the hole and felt pain immediately afterwards. I tried to just shake it off and did my squat opener but knew that it was something more than just a little tweak. Something wasn’t right at all. Looking back, in all honesty I probably should’ve just called it a day and pulled out of the meet but of course being a stubborn powerliter I pushed myself to keep going.

Any motion caused an extreme sharp pain in my lower back that brought tears to my eyes. It was BAD.

I thought maybe it was just a bad knot, so I tried using a lacrosse ball and foam roller to roll my back out and get blood flow there. I took a bunch of Aleve. I put on Kinesio Tape and ointment on my lower back. I even got a massage from a therapist there. Nothing helped. I was scared but trying not to show it.

I was sitting on the floor with my legs stretched out in front of me resting and waiting for bench warm-ups to begin, and I couldn’t even put my own shoes on. I remember thinking in that moment – how the hell am I going to deadlift when I can’t even bend over to put my shoe on?

When deadlifts came around it only confirmed my fear. Normally, I look forward to deadlift the most in competition. But when 135lbs feels like 300lbs, that is not a good sign. I usually have speed off the floor and it was slower than ever. I had drop my opener slightly but I still decided to pull. I still ended up pulling 2 PRs that day but that 425lb last attempt was UGLY and SLOW. It looked nothing like how I normally deadlift and probably just made my injury worse than it already was.

Even though at the time I was pretty proud to push through the pain and PR on my total, it was NOT worth it.

The next day I literally couldn’t sit up. I had to roll out of bed. It was excruciating. Every step hurt walking. This went on for days. I couldn’t do what I loved… powerlifting. I had to rehab my back for months. It took me almost half a year to be able to deadlift again from the floor and I was scared as fuck to do it. Even at XPC Finals, about a half year later from the injury, it still was in the back of my mind.

Even though I’m really lucky it wasn’t more serious, it was probably the worst lifting injury I’ve ever personally dealt with. I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes for months. I didn’t know if I seriously fucked something up for the rest of my life. I was lucky it healed up with time and lots of rehab but it definitely was some scary shit.

Some people may have pride in that. At the time, I too probably thought I was pretty bad-ass. But really I was a dumb-ass.

I know there are so many lifters out there that might not agree with me… they have the “go hard” always mentality esp during a meet. But sorry, it’s not smart. In the moment it may be hard to not think about the short-term, but you are going to set yourself so much further back. Stick to a plan and play it smart, not just on your emotions. I obviously know there’s always a chance of something unplanned happening, and I’m not saying to not push yourself and give it your all… but pushing through my back injury was NOT a smart decision.

After Arnold I took over a year off to work on my form and heal up – hopefully completely this time. And FINALLY this is my first meet in the last couple years that I don’t have my back injury in the back of my mind, worrying that it might flare up or happen again.

Sometimes you have to take a step back to be able to move further in the long run. When I started working with Swede (my coach) last fall our main priority was getting my back healthy and stronger than ever. I’m so glad that I starting working with him, because he is smart and plays things smart during competition. So many coaches out there think about the short term at the expense of their clients health and longevity in the sport.

I have bigger goals and numbers I want to hit down the road, but I’m not going to get there without staying healthy and being smart on this journey. That’s the plan and that’s what I’m sticking to.

Powerlifting is a marathon not a sprint.