Today I am going to do something I haven’t done before with my blog… I will have my first guest blog post! This guest blog post was written by a remarkable man (and a Red Point Fitness nutrition client of mine) Chris Bartl. If you don’t know Chris or his story, it would behoove you to learn a little more about him, as his story is absolutely incredible. You can read it here.
A couple of weekends ago Bartl competed in a Powerlifting meet where he was hoping to break some major records, but unfortunately, the day didn’t go as planned. He wrote about his experience and what he learned from it, and posted it for all of us to read on Red Point. I felt like his lessons were very important and needed to be shared with more than just the RP community, so I asked if I could re-post it here and he obliged. Without further ado, here are the extremely wise lessons Bartl learned from his last meet.
NOTE: This guest blog post contains strong language. If you are easily offended by this, you may want to skip this post. Bartl’s writing is very raw and honest and I did not want to censor him or change his story in any way.
“After having one of the worst powerlifting competitions of my brief career this past Saturday, Sunday was good day of reflection for me. I really had to come to terms with what went wrong and what I need to fix for my next meet. Looking back there were many things that went wrong that day but instead of focusing on everything that went wrong, I decided to really focus and break it down to what I feel were the most impactful yet easily fixable issues from that day. Taking a page out of Molly’s blog a couple weeks back, here are Chris’s top three lessons learned from my meet:
1. Dropping that much weight that close to a meet is not very conducive to keeping my strength levels up.
Yes I realize that I can lose weight quickly and I can do it pretty much whenever I really focus on it, but to try and drop over 20 pounds in around 4 weeks leading up to a competition does not do well for strength levels. Technically I lost 23.7 pounds in 27 days but what’s more important is that I lost a huge percentage of my strength during the process. When I really sat down to think about it, I should have seen the writing on the wall during my de-load week as movements and easy weights actually felt heavy and slow. Another aspect of the weight loss is the fact that by training for this meet at a heavier weight my gear fit and acted in a particular way. Dropping that much weight altered the way all of my gear felt and changed the way it worked. My squat suit was so loose it really gave me no support or pop at the bottom of my squat and I had to use an extra suit I have for the deadlift. I also have extra bench shirts so while I was able to use a smaller shirt it had been used to the point where it was stretched and I don’t think gave me the pop I needed.
2. No matter how mentally strong you think you are, you can always be stronger.
While warming up for my squat I nearly missed my last warm up attempt with a weight that I normally don’t have to think about. It’s a weight that I crush in practice and have smoked in competition in the past. Since I struggled with it, my coach and I decided to lower my first attempt which I have never had to do and honestly it was tough mentally to stay focused (will go into more depth about this on #3). After not even getting out of the hole on my first attempt, my head went to a dark place and as a powerlifter, once your mind goes there you are all but dead in the water. It took everything I had to try and stay positive for my second attempt but with such a bad first lift, I just knew I wasn’t going to have a good second attempt. Despite all the positive remarks from friends and other competitors, I bombed the squat. After some major ass kissing to allow me to stay in the competition but in the push/pull category, things did get a little better mentally when I benched as I got my first attempt but my f***ing arch nemesis of 501 got me for the third meet in a row. That all but crushed the remaining positive energy I had for the deadlift.
3. My ego is my own worst enemy.
I preach to my younger athletes that there is no place for ego in a gym, that everyone is equal under the iron and all ego’s need to be left at the door. For this meet I did not take my own advice. This is a hard pill for me to swallow as I don’t think I have much of an ego to begin with. But as I trained for this meet, I let the vision of setting a state record and getting my first elite total cloud the fact that I should have just kept lifting at in a higher weight class. See, when I look around at other lifters, I try and find someone who is better than me so that I can work on catching and beating them. Once I do catch and beat them, I keep repeating this process. When my totals starting getting higher and higher, I started looking at the record books. The one thing I kept noticing was that I was really close to breaking a lot of state records in the 220 class but still have some work to do in the 242’s. So I got my brain fixated on breaking records. Why? Because I wanted people to take notice of this former fat kid out in Santa Barbara. I wanted people to see that I was doing something special out here, that I was strong and could be a major force in competitive powerlifting. Funny thing is, I don’t need records or the recognition from people to realize all those things. I am a strong lifter and these past 5 years have been special, I just don’t think I fully realized all those things until this competition. One lifter I really look up to and can’t wait to meet at the end of the month at EliteFTS’s LTT Seminar is Jeremy Frey. His lifting and his attitude have been nothing short of inspirational for me. I recently read in his training blog about his first meet back from a major injury. He talked about how he doesn’t give a shit about any records or whom he’s competing against because he is doing it for only one person: himself.
Records and accolades don’t matter in this sport. It’s about you and only you versus a bar full of weight and it doesn’t care about medals or records. It wants to hurt you and you are the only one who can kick its ass. While training for this meet, I totally lost the meaning of why I am doing this and it’s not because of records. It’s because I fucking love lifting weights and competing. LOVE it. The gym is my idea of what heaven should be like. It’s a place where nobody is hated and everyone is loved because we are all in there for the same reason: to get bigger, faster and most definitely stronger.
While I’m sure there are a thousand other things that went wrong on Saturday, those are my big 3. Now I have to try and heal my ego and my pride by the end of the month so I can lift while in Ohio at Elite FTS and try and get better. I’m not sure when my next meet will be. I’m thinking the San Jose Fit Expo in early August or something in late August/early September. I’m also thinking about hiring a new coach to help with my programming but I am shopping around to try and find someone whose training philosophy matches mine.
There are people out there who think of powerlifters as a bunch of meatheads lifting ungodly amounts of weight, sniffing ammonia and blasting death metal so loud it makes their ears bleed. While this maybe true (speaking from experience here) what they don’t realize is how much they can learn from spending some time under the bar. It’s one of the few places on this Earth where you can realize how big your balls really are, and one of the special places that can make you understand how mortal you can be and how much a person can still learn about themselves.”
I really hope you found Bartl’s story as informative and inspirational as I did (especially if you read his background story). I want to thank him so much for being so raw and so real and for letting me share his story with my readers. Thank you Bartl!
If you have any stories to share that you have learned from competing in any sport, please share them below. I truly believe that on the field, on the court, and under the bar you have the opportunity to learn lessons you might miss out on otherwise.