A few years ago in the days when the heaviest thing I lifted was a pint of Guinness and ‘sport’ of choice was pool I decided that I would enter Race For Life. I did a pitiful amount of preparation for it. I probably started doing a bit of running 4 weeks before the race and when I say run it would have been more a walk-jog-blow out of my arse kind of interval cycle. Still I had sent in my entry, collected money at the pub I was lodging in. The hairy Glass Barrel rocking patrons believed saving tits was a good cause and so generous donations were chucked in a pint pot that was passed around whilst the bands took a piss break on Friday & Saturday nights.
The day came and off I toddled with Mr G and two friends who waited for me at the end with an ice cold can of the black stuff as a reward. The sun was shining as I ran a bit, and walked most of the 5km, with an additional flurry of speed up to and across the finish line. I, along with hundreds of other women, that day took on a challenge as had thousands before us and have thousands after.
I am sure many reading this have done the exact same or similar race. I will also presume that, for some, the preparation was a shit as mine. I can’t even remember how long it took me but I do know I wasn’t in the front ‘serious runner’ group. Nope, I was like most, in the serious plodder group and gave no thought at all to who would be the fastest.
I hadn’t researched what an average time was for 5km and certainly not what the British, World, European records were over that distance…or how fast I would have to be to get on the next British Athletic team for the next Olympics. I just turned up. I plodded round. I finished. Just like everyone else. I enjoyed the atmosphere which was a nice collective of personal achievement, individual survival, elation and sadness.
At no point did I know that Paula Radcliffe could run this distance in 14:29:11. I didn’t know that Tirunesh Dibaba holds the World Record of 14:11:15. Why would I? That would be silly right? Me, a complete novice compare myself to some world class athlete or even the ones in the ‘serious’ runner front group. That would be like telling five year old primary school child to compare their reading abilities to a university graduate. Stupid right? So why then do ‘primary school’ lifters compare their abilities to lifting graduates? It’s just nuts.
There is an amazing buzz at the moment in strength training with ever increasing numbers of women getting bitten by the lifting bug. Not for aesthetics but because they like feeling fucking strong. They enjoy the focus of the training, the grunt & grit that comes with lifting heavy shit. They go to the gym, do all the training, watch all the videos on You Tube, follow and interact with other female lifters on social media.
They do searches for other lifters who they perceive to be at their own level. Searches for women at the same weight, same age and then watch video after video and they will often leave jaws dropping with the weights that some incredible female lifters are doing and then the niggling thought ‘I can never do that!’ rears its’ ugly head. And here in lies the problem.
Why the fuck are you comparing what you are doing in the gym with no or little competition time to lifters who have more experience, training, coaching, AND who have put in thousands of hours of training? Athletes who have tried and tested training methods, some with success and some not so successful, to get to the point in a competition that you are now seeing in a 2 minute clip?
By all means use these great strong women as inspiration, use them to kick the glass ceiling royally in the bollocks so that you can really see what is within the realms of possibilities when it comes to strength. BUT DO NOT compare yourself! DO NOT clip your lifting wings before you have even hatched out of the egg with these unfair comparisons. We all have a starting point so ask these lifters what theirs was, I can guarantee it won’t be anywhere near the numbers they are lifting now.
The amount of times I hear that someone would love to compete but then say they aren’t lifting enough or they will look for a competition when they are strong enough. Compared to whom? Where is this lifting measuring stick? I must have missed that meeting. I can honestly say I had no idea what anyone was lifting when I turned up to my first comp.
What I do know is, as a new lifter everyone took care of me, encouraged me, advised, people shouted my name and cheered when I lifted well. I saw some awesome strong women like Hanne Bingle, Angie McNamara, Monique Newton & Emma James who really opened my eyes to what strong can be. I made some great friends of these women and their support is invaluable as is their brilliant competitive spirit. Best of all I have no idea who won on that day or can recall what my lifts were!
So I guess the whole point of this ramble is if you want to compete the just bloody do it. Don’t wait for the day you are breaking World Records. Just do it. Get a total on platform. Get 27 white lights. That will be YOUR starting point and from there you can only improve. With your own personal results you will have your own lifting measuring stick and not someone else’s.