• Chris K

Managing Your Social Life Around Powerlifting Competitions

Updated: Feb 2

My main job as a powerlifting coach is dealing with the craziness that comes with the pressure of competing at any level.




Many powerlifters make poor choices around competition time relating to their social life and the aim of this article is to reduce the frequency of those instances through awareness, planning and direct action.


If you compete, are looking to compete or if you have clients who may want to compete, this article is for you.


As Powerlifting competitions approach, competitors tend to go a bit nuts.


This normally ramps up from 4-6 weeks out.


This varies depending on the person, the level of competition and a million other life things that can get in the way of the decision-making process.


People start to make worse decisions than normal due to the hyperfocus on doing well in training and competition.


It is a form of decision-fatigue caused by the constant pressure of an upcoming competition combined with dealing with all the other stresses life has to offer.


It tends to be worse when training isn't going as an athlete expects. Decision-fatigue is often directly correlated with how much a competition means to someone too.


This is worth keeping in mind if you qualify for a higher level competition for the first time.


High decision fatigue can result in impulsive decisions, decision avoidance and cause a more stressful environment which may affect recovery negatively.


This might take the form of buying a ultra-rare breed cat on a whim or deciding to test your 1rm log press the week before competition.


Some people decide they are no longer going to socialise, while others might go out of their way to help their friend move house 2 days before the British Championships they have worked for years to prepare for.


Are their decisions wrong?

Who is right?

Who is sacrificing their performance the most?


We'll use today's article to explore the idea.


Why stopping socialising close to competition might be a good idea


- You hate people (*cough* Sumi Singh *cough*)

- Meeting people drains you/negatively affects your mental health

- It always turns your eating and drinking to shit

- Talking through with your friends leaves you with unnecessary doubts

- Competitions turn you into a horrible person

- Mental health considerations


Why stopping socialising might be a bad idea


- Socialising is how you relax

- To help take your mind off powerlifting for a while

- Stave off emotional burnout

- You are able to meet in a way that doesnt result in weight gain/loss if you are cutting or on the edge of a weight class

- You can meet with friends in a way that doesnt result in missed training or low quality training

- Talking through things with friends puts you at ease

- You like people

- While competitions are stressful, you don't turn into a horrible person

- Mental health considerations

- When you'd regret not meeting up with someone


Potential Benefits To Pre-Competition Socialising





- Less loneliness/isolation/depression

- More things to look forward to (for some)

- Endorphins/fun

- Less liklihood of burnout post-competition

- Greater relaxation = better decision making. To quote the BIG BM Bill Murray:

"The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself."


Your decisions



How can you trust yourself to make the right call when I've said that decision-making gets worse the closer to competition you are?


This is where planning comes into it's own.


Decide on the amount of socialising you want to do when you are far away from competition and barring some needed rearrangements, the fact you have your socialising (or lack of) pre-planned you are more likely to stick to your initial plans.


Other Considerations


Telling your friends about the competition and explaining you might get a little weird/stressy/different as the competition approaches can help your friends support you, do remember you chose to do this though, sympathy will be limited.


Making plans for post-competition can be great for reconnecting with people.


Weight cut or weight classes considerations have to be taken into account when you are planning your social calendar. This is especially the case if you have to drop a lot of weight to hit your weight class.


If you usually smash a 3 course meal (and the bottle of wine each) with friends every Friday and often skip your weekend gym session, you will have to change how you socialise as the competition approaches.


Maybe you could meet up for coffee so they can mock you for only being able to have an Americano with artificial sweetener while 4 of your friends savour a pumpkin spice latte.


If you are anything like me, company and perspectives other than my own help me get my head in a good place so I can handle the pumpkin spice based banter and relax as competition approaches.


Some people stop seeing friends under the guise of focussing on the competition and end up a mess in a multitude of ways.


When you are making decisions regarding your social life around competition times remember that you probably aren't a professional athlete and at the end of the day, this sport should add to your life.


Don't force yourself to stop socialising unnecessarily.


If during all of this you've been shouting I HATE PEOPLE ANYWAY, your decision around this topic may be much simpler.


When considering your social life around competitions, remember we never know what could happen tomorrow.

Don't skip out on seeing your beloved grandma because of a lifting hobby.


Life is too short for regrets. Make sure you aren't sacrificing too much for your hobby.


Conclusion


When deciding what approach is correct for your best performance and your mental health we have to conclude your route will depend on a multitude of factors.


The person who sacrifices the most performance is probably the person who forces themself to do what they are most uncomfortable with as the competition approaches.


For most people, powerlifting is a hobby. You probably don't want to sacrifice your personal relationships because you have a competition coming up.


Many powerlifters are emotionally burnt out when they finish a competition prep.


I believe these affects can be negated substantially by keeping to a routine.


For those who see friends as part of their routine I think you should keep seeing friends all the way up to competition week.


Those that don't do a lot of socialising don't have to socialise.


Powerlifting is a very individual sport where near isolation is possible. Isolate if you want to isolate.


The powerlifting community is incredible. It accepts loners, socialites and everything in-between.


Make your competition preps as relaxed as possible away from training and your chances of success are higher.


If socialising relaxes you, keep doing it.

If it stresses you out, keep that diary clear, escape the people and enjoy the battle of wills between you ane the barbell.


Further Notes


Many people suffer from loneliness, mental health issues and a whole plethora of other things that can make you feel shitty.


Powerlifters are exactly the same.


Competitions can and often do trigger a decline in mental health. This can improve, but it is totally something you should look out for.


Please don't suffer in silence.


Here are a few links which could help you out in a crisis if your mental health takes a dive at any point.


Samaritans

Urgent Help In Leeds/York

MIND Leeds NEED HELP NOW


By Chris Kershaw

The Heavy Metal Strength Coach




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