A little less than two years ago, baby 19 year old (barely 115 lb.) Danielle skipped into a local CrossFit gym and chirped, “This looks cool and I wanna do it” to the owner. As my ponytail and I bounced out of the room, armed with a few brochures, the owner saw I was wearing a huge red hair bow. He didn’t think I’d last a week.
A few days later, I tried pressing a 35 lb bar. I was shocked at how heavy it felt, and could barely press it overhead. I ditched the red bow for some chalk, calluses, and hard work.
About a year later, I saw a friend qualify for university nationals. I looked at the qualifying totals, my own numbers, and my own progress… and I set a goal. With that goal in mind, I buckled down at the gym, squeezing in sessions alone before class (before the sun was even up), even biking to the gym if necessary.
Less than two years after I bounced into the gym with a red bow, I skipped onto the platform at my first weightlifting meet (donned in a red singlet and red bow) and hit my qualifying total! My first meet was a wonderful experience, and I hope my story encourages you to try competing:
Training – When I’m not dancing, I’m in the gym five days a week, with olympic weightlifting classes three of those days, and strength cycle work scattered throughout. I do yoga weekly to stay bendy and devote lots of time to mobility/body care.
Food – To maintain my strength while leaning out for Miss Michigan, I have a nutrition coach working with me and my macros. I eat donuts daily.
Misc. – I learn movements by watching them, so I spent a good amount of time watching national meets and videos online. I also tried to start weighing myself in kilograms and converting my training percentages to kilos in my head.
If you’ve met me, you know that I CANNOT lift without snacks. The night before I left, I packed a big bag of my favorite quick carb and protein sources, as well as some cold steeped iced tea. Then, after a light mobility session, I was off to bed.
Sleepy, hungry, grumpy Danielle showed up at the gym 20 minutes prior to weigh it to claim a spot and get situated. I introduced myself to as many volunteers and officials as possible, letting them know it was my first meet. They were all nice, made sure I felt welcome, and answered all of my newbie questions.
I weighed in way lighter than expected, but still in my anticipated 63 kg weight class. After weigh in, I happily stuffed my face and sipped tea and water.
With my coaches advice in mind, and the help of a few coaches who took me under their wing for the day, I settled into the warm up area, going through my normal barbell progressions and building up to my opener
I stepped up to the platform, looked down, and saw the bar was not what I was used to training with. It was a different brand, so I didn’t have my usual landmarks for hand placement. Nervous, I rushed my first lift, caught it too far forward, and missed. Missed my first lift at my first meet. Grumpy Danielle sulked off the platform. After some angry self talk (“Get it together because that is literally only 90% of your 1RM CHRIST Danielle what are you doing”) , I took a deep breath, changed the voice in my head (” You’ve made this lift a million times before. Rely on your technique and you’ll be fine”), and stepped back onto the platform.
I took my time, settled into my usual ritual, and pictured myself at my gym back home (breathe okay I’m staring forward at the 9 on the clock above the door breathe Ingrid is behind me and Joelle is to my left and Jeff is in the center of the room and Traci just picked up her green water bottle breathe). 55 kg went up easily, as did 59, putting my back on my game plan.
After a short break, clean and jerks began. 67 was a breeze, as was 71 (as I dropped the bar after my second lift, I mentally sent my coach a million hugs for teaching me to be consistent at 90-95%). Up next was 75, and I knew I had to hit it (per my game plan, hitting 75 would get me to the qualifying total I was aiming for).
Then, things got weird. People started changing their declared lifts, and before I knew what was going on, I was sitting in a chair for 15 minutes as several other lifts came before mine. I realized I was getting cold, which is not a good thing for someone who lifts best warm/semi-fatigued. I jogged over to the warm up area, did some more progressions with an empty barbell, and finally, it was my turn to lift again.
Ritual time: check hair. Tighten wrist wraps. Chalk chalk chalk (no really, I say that in my head at the chalk bucket). Walk to bar. Breathe. Tighten belt. Tighten it again. Breathe. Adjust bar setup with foot. Look up, find a target to spot. Breathe. Set hands, set back, go.
75 felt crazy light, and I got all white lights (despite my little elbow bobble due to my crazy hyperextended elbows. After I got the down cue, I looked anxiously at the judges until I saw all three white cards. Then I happily skipped off, thrilled with hitting my goal and excited for future meets.
What I learned:
- Trust – trust the process, trust your coach, trust your body, trust your training, trust yourself
- It is okay to wear hair bows (as long as they don’t fall out during your lift like mine did during my second c&j attempt
- It is okay to skip on and off the platform. Again, rituals. You do you.
- Don’t rush
- Pretend you’re at your home gym
- Snack time is the best time
- Be friendly, ask for help if you need it