On June 10th 2015, I competed at the Classic World Powerlifting Championship in Salo, Finland. I came back home with PRs, a bronze medal and an unforgettable experience. Here are four things I learned from competing at Worlds for the first time.
1. It’s not all about the competition
The competition itself is around three hours long. You are only on the platform for around nine minutes. All your hard work gets rewarded by only nine minutes on the platform.
My training for Worlds 2015 started in June 2014. I still remember telling my family and my boyfriend that I wanted to compete in Finland the next year to represent Canada. At first they all thought I was pretty crazy, because going to Worlds meant a lot of hours in the gym, sacrifices and money. When September came around they realized I was very determined.
I wrote down a plan for the year to make sure I would qualify for Worlds: The first step was competing at provincials. I placed first in my weight class, hit some provincial records, and went back to training for the next step: Nationals. A few months later, I had to travel to Newfoundland to compete at Nationals and win first place in my category. There were some tough competitors, but my training paid off and I took the 72kg gold medal. After Nationals, I only had eight weeks to peak for Worlds.
During that time, I was studying for my final exams, I had started a new job, I was renovating my house and I was searching for sponsors. This made me realize I needed to make training a priority.
It’s not just about those nine minutes on the platform or your PRs, but about the hard work, the dedication and the perseverance you’re willing to put in. It’s a long road but worth all the effort.
2. Eliminate the stress of travel
With Worlds being in Finland this past year, travelling was a big part of the competition. We decided to fly to Finland four days before the competition – that way I would have enough time to adjust myself to the new time zone. We also had to consider the midnight sun. For a few weeks in June, the sun only sets at around 11:00 pm and rises around 3:30 am. This was a big change from Canada, but luckily the hotel had great blinds and I was able to sleep well. As most lifter know, sleeping well before a competition is very important. I brought some earplugs, a sleeping mask (to cover any light) and some relaxing music.
I also had to think about how I would travel with all my powerlifting gear. I wanted to make sure everything would get to Finland on time, so I needed to carry all my powerlifting gear in my carry-on luggage. This meant opening up my suitcase every time we had to cross security.
The food was also very different. I was lucky enough to be underweight when I arrived in Finland. (At the Worlds level in powerlifting, you are not allowed to compete if you do not make weight.) I was able to eat with a bit more flexibility, which ended up being very useful. The competition was held in a very small city, which meant finding a good place to eat was a priority. Luckily I found a good place and ate there every night. We also went to a local grocery store to buy any essentials for lunch and breakfast, which included a lot of water bottles. I found having a fridge in the hotel room made my travelling much easier as I could stock up with certain foods. Always request a fridge.
Overall my experience travelling for the competition was great! Being organized, knowledgeable and proactive about my trip helped me stay calm before the competition. Travelling can be a huge burden and stressful in so many ways. Do what you can to minimize the negative effects of travelling so you can focus on the competition. This is a big reason why I had so much success on the international platform.
3. Support is the key
Support during the competition was crucial for me. My parents flew down to Finland to watch me compete. My boyfriend (now fiancé) became an assistant coach for Team Canada to make sure he could be there when I was competing. While not every spot has this luxury, there are other ways to make sure your support system is there when you need them.
My friends back home woke up at 3:00 am just to watch me compete. My entire support system made me believe in myself and that it is possible to achieve your dreams. My family and friends always understood my training came before anything in my life, and they respected me and encouraged me because of it. They understood that I had to miss out on some family gathering or some nights out with my friends in order to see the international platform.
From cheering you on during your competition to bringing you food between your lifts or even just motivating you to train even harder, your support system is everything. I would not have been where I am today without their help and their support.
4. Having a coach is more important than some want to believe
I have been training and competing as a powerlifter for more than four years. Throughout my training I have never had a professional coach. I would follow programs I found online, modify them to my needs with the help of my boyfriend, and listen to advice from different training partners. After qualifying for Worlds, I knew I only had eight weeks to peak for Worlds. I decided to turn to a coach I could trust for the biggest competition of my life.
This was one of the best decisions I ever made.
My coach was mainly in charge of my training program and was always available to answer any questions I had. He would keep track of my progress and modify my training accordingly. About two weeks prior to the competition I got sick and he was very helpful on changing my training to ensure that I would peak for Worlds. Ten days prior to the big day, my coach, my fiancé and I sat down and we wrote down a game plan. We had a plan A and a plan B for attempts, but the main focus was to go 9/9 at the competition. This made me feel ready and confident. I never thought that a coach would make such a big difference in my training and the results speak for themselves.
My experience at Worlds was unforgettable. All the preparation, training, travelling, support and coaching made my competition a fantastic experience. I hope that I will be able to represent Canada at Worlds in the future.
About the author
Carolyne Savage has competed in 13 powerlifting meets since falling in love with the sport in 2011. She placed third at Worlds for her weight class in 2015 and first place in Canada in both 2014 and 2015. She is also a provincial record holder for bench, deadlift, and total in Junior Raw, Junior Equipped, and Open Raw.