friends to ask for their input into some of the elements that they believe are impact performance and progress. I'm so excited to watch it all unfold but also so bummed to not be competing myself and not be where I want with my own achievements. When your friends are peaking and nailing everything, It's almost impossible not to compare where you are in your own journey and think about your own goals for the future. You can read more about that here..
There are so many things that go into your success as a strength athlete. Things like consistency in training, effort, coaching, nutrition etc. There are variables too, the things you can't control. Things like injury and real life grown up shit that can interfere too.
If you are not where you want to be right now, what part of your training or life do you need to look at to give yourself the best chance of improving? COACHING & PROGRAMMING Good coaching and programming goes a long way. Aaron Scarborough of Iron Revolution gym in Melbourne is sending a veritable army of his own athletes into competition this weekend. We asked him how important it is to have an annual training plan if you want to qualify and compete at something like the Arnold? "Its very important to have a plan. As they say, "Failing to plan is planning to fail". I start planning our pathways to these big events for my clients as far out as possible. So for some of the crew who I knew had a high chance of qualifying, we were planning for it before their previous competition.
Do you program differently for someone someone depending on their sport specific goals? "It varies more for strongman than powerlifitng due to the variety of events we have in SM. We use a strength training/powerlifting program as a base and specialise out from there based on the events in upcoming competitions. If they don't compete, we keep it fun and have a good variety of events that focus on achieving their individual goals."
CONSISTENCY "Consistency is key", says Aaron. " You can have the best training plan in the world or all the talent one could want but you have to put in the hours to get better and keep improving. That is done over time by consistently being the best you can be. Obviously having a super coach, amazing gym, kick ass training partners and all the free time in world helps but you have to take what you can get".
NUTRITION Strong woman, nutritionist Harriet Walker is also headed into competition this weekend. She recommends that any athlete (recreational or otherwise), "would do well to check in with a professional and make sure their nutrition is meeting their needs. Good nutrition supports good training and aids adequate recovery. Most strength athletes can fuel intuitively once they know what they need to be having to meet their needs. This is important because eating long term from plans can lead to stress and issues with food relationships.
There is a scale on what 'optimal' is for every individual. I would say you can always make improvements to diet, but don't wait for perfect!
Nutrition is important for general health, but for recovery, eating a balanced diet will keep you in the gym with less down time and optimize the results of the training you are doing in the gym."
REAL LIFE SHIZ Venecia Bachee has competed at the Arnold twice, once in 2015 at the inaugural strongwoman comp (branded as strongfit as the weights were not crazy heavy) where she placed 4th. LAst year she competed in Proraw, in the deadlift only comp, where she placed 2nd. Although she was invited to compete again this year it's no dice for 2017. I asked her how difficult it is as a "grown up" to prioritise your lifting goals? Making it a priority hasn't been difficult, rather what I find difficult is that by choosing to make my lifting goals a priority in my life, I've had to say no to other things and also accept that it won't necessarily be an easy journey. I'm conscious as well that sometimes in order for me to carry out my 'responsible adult duties' I have to delay/reshuffle my lifting goals accordingly. For example, I've had weeks where to get work related stuff done, I have to commit days of long hours which will inadvertently affect my lifting recovery and focus. So what I'll do is reshuffle any heavier lifting to days when I know I'm able to get slightly more rest. You're forced then to make the most of those 'rest' periods rather than just slacking off. I do my best to enforce this somewhat disciplined approach as much as I can because I've found it actually does work."
Is it hard to not be involved in competing this year? "Fck yes. I've loved every previous opportunity I've had to compete at Arnold's - the atmosphere is always electric there and every comp I've done there, I've walked away not only with good memories but some decent lifting PBs. This year though other commitments have had to take precedence."
How do you resolve conflicting real life demands with lifting desires? Oh man, I'm still figuring out this one. I'm pretty analytical so what I try to do is assess which part(s) of my life require(s) more TLC, and if so, why does it mean so much to me, and then acknowledge that I might have to say no (at that moment in time) to certain things to obtain the desired resolution/outcome. I think once you know the 'why(s)' behind those not-so-fun big decisions, it's easier to stick like tacky to them. It's not altogether easy though, can be lonely and very often (physically/mentally/emotionally) exhausting. I still struggle sometimes with making the right call and I'm continually learning how to do this 'adulting' thing whilst pursuing my lifting goals. Trying to have some form of organisation and planning definitely helps, as well as seeking advice from more experienced lifters (who have gone down similar paths)."
What are your lifting/ competition goals for the future? I'd love to make it possible to compete at next year's Arnold's. This year I'm training towards potentially qualifying for GPC Nationals (powerlifting) and hopefully compete in couple strongman/strongwoman comps during the year. Ultimately I'm working on building up my lifts in the two sports (strength + technique wise), not aggravate any existing niggles I have and become better at juggling work/life commitments with lifting."
WEIGHT Nutritionist and strongwoman Harriet walker recognises that it is really important to have a long term plan for weight class sports. "Look at current lifts, weight class and then discuss with a coach and/or dietitian, about the reality of going up or down a weight class. I would say first of all, if you are looking at cutting to a lower weight class, do so slowly, in the off season, so as to minimize stress, and interruptions to training.
I would then work to stay just shy of the weight class across the year to avoid drastic dieting measures. However it may be you need to take 12 months to get your numbers up and be competitive in a higher weight class if weight is in between classes!
TRAVEL Arnolds qualifying competitions happen across the country in all states. Sometimes the competition is stacked but sometimes, qualifying could be as simple as travelling out of area. There was a qualifying opportunity left unwanted for an U82.5kg strongwoman in Tamworth as no-one entered the division.
Victorian strength athlete Kay Hodgson feels like she did everything she could to qualify for this year's Arnold competition in Strongman. "I did hope to qualify as for me it was the epitome of competing. Looking back I'm pleased I I tried (to qualify) twice especially flying to Tassie (with the costs of training leading up to both qualifiers and then to the cost of going to Tassie). I know deep down I did everything I could. Training wise, I totally trusted my coach with his programming. The only thing I would have changed is the way I cut the weight for the first qualifier as the second was a lot easier with water loading.
Unfortunately I won't be trying to qualify for next year as I will be 50 by then and I know deep down too old to compete with the younger girls but hey, that's life. If they ever have a masters division then "hell yeah"!
My priority now is to coach 3 of my strongwomen and try to get them qualified for next years. I have loved the journey this year. It sucked balls sometimes, especially the weight cut and feeling like I lost a bit of strength. But overall, I have loved the hard work I have had to put in and not knowing how I would go.
TRAINING AGE This is a big one and it's mostly non negotiable for most people. You cant move from point A to point Z without going through the natural steps of progression. You can't squat 100kg without first moving your body weight. Its also unrealistic to expect that from yourself.
Canberra strongwoman/powerlifter Hayley Love has been training for just over a year. Her ultimate goal is to compete at the Arnolds one day.
"When I started lifting I fell into the stigma of “YOU MUST LIFT ALL THE HEAVY THINGS AND 1RM ALL THE TIME AND IF YOU DON’T YOU FAIL” and I ended up getting frustrated and emotional when I couldn’t. I had to reassess and come to the conclusion that I will feel more fulfilled if I set realistic goals in the short term. Like do a certain amount of push ups, work on my weak areas, form over ego and I feel by doing this I’ll have a better chance of actually reaching my target goal. It’s not going to happen overnight, no matter how badly you want it to. It takes practice, and persistence, and that has to be my approach so I can get to where I want to be. "At the moment I’ve decided to compete in a different weight class for local comps instead of cutting down so my goal is to get stronger for that".
FOCUS ON YOURSELF "comparison is the thief of joy". How do you stay focussed on your own journey rather than comparison? Hayley Love recommends "living in the present as much as I can, diving in to the past is great to see how far I have come. Looking to the future is exciting but then tiring because it’s something I want now and I’m a little impatient at times haha. So ensuring I’m in the present, staying positive, and giving myself time to relax and unplug every now and again is important for me- Mindset is everything. I also have a lot of siblings and I want to show them that you can make life goals and accomplish them if you put your mind to it, that the world is their oyster and they are deserving of every chance and opportunity in it and they are capable of things that they never ever thought they could do.