Keeping It Real – Comp Fatigue

Comp Fatigue

In my desperate fight to find a way to get my head right again, I realised how much social media doesn’t promote who we are as athletes – it promotes how we want others to
perceive us. It is not a place for motivation, it’s a place for comparisons. It’s a place where we can be whoever we want to be.   Sure, it can show you what is achievable and this can be used as ‘inspiration’, but ultimately people aren’t showing you what is Real.

Recently – 3 weeks ago to be exact – 4 weeks out from competing in two top level strength competitions, I was fried. I was so fatigued. I was that tired, I couldn’t sleep, my body was so sore and beat up that for the first time I started a deload at the 3 weeks out mark. For those who know me, that’s just unheard of. Most the time I dread the deload because I feel lazy.

This level of fatigue is not a great place to be and I found myself feeling depressed. My lifts felt slow and hard. I started to question my worth, whether or not I ever deserved to be sharing the powerlifting platform and the strongman arena with some of Australia’s strongest.  My mind was swirling with negative thoughts and I knew if I was going to get through these comps I needed to break out of the thinking patterns I was creating.

In my fight to get my head out of this negative space, I started searching for others going IMG_1517through the same thing. I looked up the other girls I was competing against. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see. I know what I was hoping for though. I was hoping to see that others were going through the same things as me. I wanted to find someone to relate to. I know I really needed to be inspired. Inspired by someone going through what I was but
sharing how they were coming out the other side. I just needed something.

Do you think that’s what I found though? No. Social media was flooded with everyone smashing lifts.  Comments like ‘just a warm up’ or ‘an easy double’.  Clearly this was not going to help and left me feeling like the tastiest little fish trying to survive in a tank full of starving sharks.

I had to ground myself.  I had to stop letting this escalate.  I had to fix this and come out the other side.  Not only for myself but if I was feeling like this – surely someone else was too. I wanted to learn from this and possibly help others too.  I had to step the fuck up and lead by example.

I don’t want to be that one on Facebook and Instagram saying ‘just a warm up’ or an ‘an easy double’. I want to be the one keeping it real, because at the end of the day – the platform is a full stop at the end of a long journey. It’s one day, one lift – but it’s not where I grow. It’s the journey the defines me as a person. It’s our journey that can and should inspire.

This experience lead me to developing an idea for a series of blogs/articles that I will be posting on Strongwoman Australia for a long time to come called. “Keeping it Real.”

Chatting to other women, listening to podcasts on mindset(The Barbell Life) from my coach,  Travis Mash reading articles on mind set and writing this article helped me to get my head right. In fact I’m more confident and happy with where I’m at now then what I have ever been.

I took this opportunity to interview some of the competitors at the Arnold Classic Australia 2017. I sent it out to a lot of people and I appreciate the truthfulness of the women that replied and I thank them for helping me pave the way for not only women but all competitors out there who go through down times or self-doubt like I do.

Kate Mitchell-Parker, Natasha Refridgo-Raptor, Jessica Sharpe and myself Joanne Greagen.

What is your sport? What are your best Lifts in comp? What is your greatest achievement?

Kate: I am currently competing in powerlifting and strongwomen, althougkate mitchelh my background is in bodybuilding, crossfit and triathlon. My best powerlifting lifts are currently 205 squat, 142.5 bench press and 212.5 deadlift (under 82.5kg, comp lifts). My greatest achievement to date is probably holding a couple of GPC World records in my weight class, although I am most proud of the fact that I am still training hard and improving on my powerlifting total and overall strength every prep. I am also very proud to be a PhD student and a happily married wife, as learning to have this balance in life has not come easy.

Natasha: Powerlifting. I started specific powerlifting programming and training last year in February, 2016.  My current max lifts finished with a 200kg squat, 87.5kg bench and a 195kg deadlift in Sydney Cup Sept/October 2016 which gave me my first sanctioned total of 482.5kgs at 76kg bodyweight.
Personally, to me, nothing will ever be good enough. No number will be heavy enough. No total will be big enough. So I’m not sure if I can give you my greatest achievement nothing I do is good enough. But let’s start with stepping on stage.
I think that a lot of competitors not only in powerlifting, but various other sports too, have this mindset where nothing is ever good enough. Sure, you may have put in all the hard work and bought the best you could to stage, but you are hungry for more.

Jessica: I am currently competing in strongwoman again after spending a couple of years trying powerlifting. My greatest lifts are: 145 wrapped squat, 130 raw squat, 75kg bench, 157.5 kg deadlift in powerlifting. This was done at 75kg and a teen. As for strongwoman I’ve walked a 230kg yoke for 15 metres, done a 70kg 8&10 in log, 70kg axel c+j, 35kg one arm DB for reps, deadlifted 170kg off a 13 in axel and 160kg off a stiff bar, I’ve also loaded a 95kg stone to 1.2m

Joanne (Me): Powerlifting/Strongwoman are the two sports I choose to compete in. My best lift to date are 192.5kg back squat/105kg Bench Press/205kg deadlift @67.5kg  – Log 73kg , stone 100kg to 1.1/yoke 270kg for 10m all those at roughly 70kg BW. My biggest achievement or the things I’m proudest of in my training is my ability to somehow keep going. Not so much my lifts or any particular comp that I have done but the fact that I’m still training hard and moving forward despite everything that I have had to work around. The experiences that have come from my lift are rewarding.

How long is your comp prep? How many days are week do you train?

Kate: As in peaking… I train all year round but start “comp prep” 10-12 weeks out. I comp prep 12 weeks out, any longer than that and I get too run down. The offseason involves hypertrophy work with some basic powerlifting included.  I train 7 days a week, although only 5 days are lifting and 2 days are active recovery days (cardio and core).

Natasha:  My comp preps are normally 12 weeks out. I train 3 days Powerlifting and 2-3 days bodybuilding accessory routines. I also take my dog for a long walk every day.Natasha

JessicaI train all year round but start “comp prep” 10-12 weeks out. This Comp prep has been 12 weeks, this is also the time if usually take to peak for powerlifting. I’ve had to prep for comps in as short as 4 weeks time as well! It’s always good to stay in good condition year round. 4-5 during off season 5-6 in a peaking cycle.

Joanne: Really I train all year round. For me a better question is, when does your focus change and that is about 12 weeks out. I usually sit down and say ok – 12 weeks. Game time. I train 6 days and depending on what Im training for depends on the duration and style of sessions. At the moment my sessions have been a mixture of both SM and PL and have taken anywhere from 2-3 hours or sometimes I split my sessions up so that I do my assistance later in the day.

At what point do you start to feel things are coming together?

Kate: I always feel like I could be doing better – lifting more, training more often, recovering faster etc. I only feel like it’s come together right after a competition (i.e., after the last deadlift!) when I get the lifts I wanted (or close to it). That is when the pressure comes off and I can actually be happy with the performance.

Natasha: Personally, this prep hasn’t been the best prep for me. In fact.. I’d say this prep has been my worst one to date. I don’t feel as if it has ever came together. Everything feels heavier than what it should be. I’ve hit no PB’s in this prep so far. Most of the time I’m struggling to hit my working set weights. My bench has gotten worse. I haven’t had anything heavier than 77.5kgs in my hands and that’s struggling for two reps.  It’s hit me hard, big time. Mentally, physically and emotionally.
I have had a massive program change from my last competition to prepping for ProRaw9.
I don’t feel one bit confident stepping on the stage in two weeks which is effecting me more than I show.. mainly because I am always so positive when it comes to lifting weights. I feel like I’m going to let myself down and it’s the worst feeling in the world.

Joanne: This prep has been really hard for me. I am training for two very big comps and I have come in to them behind where I was 6 months ago.  Even though I have had some very tough mental barriers I have definitely risen to the challenge. I can’t say that I am at my best but I can say that I am in the best position I could get myself in. I don’t think I will know if it has all worked out until after my comps.

3-4 weeks out is when I start to feel a little excited/deflated/ happy/sad/angry fuck sometimes I don’t know how I feel. Does this happen to you? If so how do you deal with this?

Kate: I tend to feel my worst on deload… I start to doubt myself, feel like I “should” still be training. I get more depressed, anxious and snappy… so I keep myself as busy as possible to get through those weeks as best I can. I tend to work more hours and try to keep to myself busy so I don’t be grumpy at anyone!

Natasha: Last week was one of my toughest weeks (3weeksout). I had squats on Monday. I was programmed for 2 reps, 3 sets at 190kgs. I mentioned to you that I did a really slow, really terrible 190kg squat, remember? It was so slow that I pause squatted it on the way back up. It felt so hard. I didn’t even attempt the second rep. I racked the weight. Sat down and cried. I cried so much because I was so upset and disappointed in myself that I packed my things and left. So many things were going through my mind. I was (and still am) nearly giving up on this prep.
Thankfully, though, I have a small circle of people who you may know, which give me endless support. Andy, Amanda, Haidar, Gawain and my beautiful boyfriend, Gregory. These people have been my backbone through this prep and I would give my life for them. Plus, I idolise their strength immensely, as I do yours.
I feel, the best way to deal with a roller coaster of emotions, is to talk about it with your friends who understand. And to remember.. you do this sport because you love it. Don’t lose the love for the sport because of a weight you can’t lift, or a prep which isn’t turning out how you want it. There are plenty of other competitions, plenty of other opportunities. The squat rack will always be there, as will the bench press, as will the Texas bars.

Jessica: 10 weeks out I felt like crap because I had to take 3 days off in my first week due to
being sick, and 3 days in the second week because I aggravated my SI joint. About 3 weeks out I felt/usually feel indestructible. It’s when I start hitting new PB’s, I feel like the hard work is all coming together. Now, being one week out feel excited but also ready for a deload!jessica sharpe

Joanne:  EEKKK – bad question for me. This prep has been an exception.  Usually I feel a little ran down and start to question if I have done enough. Usually this doesn’t last long and I go with it a I’m good to go a couple of days later. This prep – holy shit. I was stuffed. I wasn’t missing lifts as I just wasn’t going heavier enough to miss. I was beat up. Oh so beat up. Everything hurt, my head was in a bad space and I struggled to break through. Hence the motivation for this article.

How does your body feel Just prior to the deload and how do you find a deload helps you?

Kate: Before a deload I am shattered, especially my nervous system. I can barely stay awake during the day and my muscles are so tired and heavy. The deload helps me physically, it is so important. Mentally I struggle to back off training but I know the deload is vital for a good competition day.

Natasha:  In my previous competitions, I’ve never had an issue with fatigue prior to deload.
Buuuuuut… this prep is a different story.  I’ve felt fatigued and drained since 5 weeks ago. So I’m really looking forward to deload and I’ll be praying my lifts reflect a good deload.

Jessica: I feel pretty wrecked! My body has been pushed pretty hard! All the hard work has been done now it’s just about keeping the body mobile and letting it rest. I have an amazing massage therapist, Lisa, and a stretch therapist, BJ, who i see weekly to keep my body in check!

Joanne: BROKEN. My body needs the rest and so does my mind. I also enjoy having the time free from training to spend more time with my kids.  I always lift better in comp after a deload.

Social mIMG_1511edia seems to paint a picture of only positives. What’s your thoughts on this? I like to make sure every now and then I post a fail so people know Im not a robot. Would you ever do this and why or why not?

Kate: I wish more people posted their “bad” days to paint a more realistic picture of an athlete’s life. I find it encouraging to know I am not alone in my struggles, especially in the lead up to a competition. However, I find that many people prefer to hear about the good parts of your life (in general as well as in training) than your bad parts, so we tend to keep the bad days to ourselves.  Whenever I have posted something about a “bad” day people tend not to interact with the post as much, likely because they don’t know what to say… it’s easier to give a Like to a positive post than comment on a more negative one. I do post negative things (i.e., the feeling of being tired) but try to make a positive comment about it as well (e.g., fatigue shows I’ve been training hard). I want to encourage people to lift heavy weights BUT I don’t want them to think that every day is super fun and easy. There are many challenges, and overcoming the challenges is what makes us mentally and physically stronger.

Natasha: For sure. We are only human. I hate the expectations social media gives to people and I find myself unfollowing so many lifters because of this.
You can live another life through social media. You can live a perfect life, with no mistakes.
You can live a life that you want to make people believe you have. You can live a life which isn’t your reality, and I feel like most people forget it is ONLY the Internet.

Jessica:  I absolutely post about both the good and the bad! I absolutely believe in flaunting your achievements but keep things real! I made a post the other day about feeling like utter crap! These days happen, and it’s just as important to acknowledge them. My partner and coach, Jack, keeps my head in a good space!

Joanne: I think I have already kind of put my view forward on this earlier.  I don’t often post missed lifts. Not because I don’t want others to see them but usually if I miss something I have usually hit something else that I am proud of so I guess I like to post and remember this firstly. I definitely write how I feel though and I let people know if I have had a bad day good day etc.

Training for strength sports is as much of a mental game as it is a physical one.  I’ve just purchase Performance Zone by Travis Mash and Nathan Hansen Article. This rut that I found myself in this training block really set me back and I intend to not let this happen again.

Moving forward with my own social media post – I intend on ‘Keeping it Real.’
cropped-swa-heading-pic.jpgby Joanne Greagen


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