By: Julianna King
I was introduced to my first meet via my first coach. I mentioned that I wanted to do a meet – and she came back with the suggestion of doing a seminar meet in Chicago. From then on, finding meets solely consisted of me looking at the USAPL Calendar and finding meets in Ohio, Michigan, or Illinois. Not much planning on my part, other than making sure I could feasibly get to the location of the meet and that it made sense in my life.
After many years in the sport, I’ve observed many others follow the same pattern- find a meet that is local, makes sense with training, and sign up. As I’ve entered the coaching world, I’ve realized just how much more *should* go into these decisions.
Here are 5 things I think you should do when planning out your competition schedule.
1. Establish your goals
Figure out what your goals are within the competition scheduling period. This can help you clarify the path you take. Goals do not need to be total based and they may look different for everyone. Some examples may look like: doing a local meet, qualifying for Nationals, going to Worlds (for those who are in that discussion), hitting a squat/bench/deadlift PB at a specific level of competition, etc.
These goals are all valid, but scheduling around them is important. For individuals looking at Nationals and Worlds level competitions, thought towards Qualifying Totals, proximity to the next meet, and several other logistics need to be thought about. Competing within 3 months of a previous competition is not normally a common occurrence – but does it need to happen in order to make your goals happen?
Regardless to whether you have the answers to all these questions right now, it’s important to start with what your goals and intentions are when you’re establishing what meet you will be doing.
2. Evaluate your circumstances.
Goals are great, but what is realistic for you in this moment? We all have different life circumstances, and they all can play a role in impacting training and competition. We talked about travel in last month’s blog, but the reality is that life continues even if you’re on prep or deciding to do a competition. That’s normal and to be expected, but sometimes there are better times to schedule your meet than others.
It’s not uncommon for me to hear college students talk about how their best meet was in the August-October range. For college students, September or October can be a great time to compete as they may be coming off a summer of less stress and more rest. Combine this with the beginning of the school year which may not have built up stress or fatigue, this can lead to greater readiness and potentially better training – often leading to a bump in performance.
On the opposite side, summer is also a time that lends itself to activities, travel, and inconsistency. I have had several clients on trips or study abroad during the summer that impedes training (myself included!), and while these are encouraged and exciting life events, immediately following may not be the best time to do a competition.
In most industries and occupations, there are busy seasons – these seasons can often come with added stress and fatigue, thus lowering readiness. Now, you can’t plan for everything – but if you know quarter 4 is your busiest time of year and you often deal with immense stress during that time, planning a meet on top of it may not be helpful.
I actually share this one from experience. I was planning to do USAPL Collegiate Nationals in 2022 – I signed up and everything. However, as I entered into several new roles, had the most difficult classes of my academic career, and was dealing with a plummeting mental health status, the prospect of adding more intense training on top of it did not make sense for me at the time. It was negatively impacting me, and because I care about myself and my well-being above all, I withdrew from the meet. I still had the opportunity to coach, however, I did not regret my decision not to compete for one moment because I knew it was best for me.
So when you’re thinking about scheduling a meet, think about: finances, health, relationships, work, travel, etc. Taking these things into consideration doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart because you’re playing to as many strengths as you can and not making it harder on yourself than it may need to be. (Note: Nationals and Worlds are set dates each year, obviously there is only so much you can do with that – however, noting potential stressors beforehand may allow you to better cope and address them during the fact.)
3. Evaluate your training.
Evaluating your training means taking inventory of where you are at in relation to your goals. If your goals are to qualify for Nationals but you are currently 15kg under the qualifying total, it may not make sense to schedule your meet for a month from now. You may be better suited for taking additional time to develop your movements, increase strength, and then do a meet a few months later. If your goal is simply to gain more experience in a meet atmosphere and see your numbers increase, you may be able to add a meet to your radar sooner vs. later.
Another thing to evaluate related to training is your body weight. Are you close to the body weight you’d like to compete at? Do you need time to adjust this body weight or are you comfortable coming in as is given your goals? There is plenty more conversation that surrounds this – but if you want to get a 182.5kg deadlift at 75kg but you currently hang out closer to 80kg, you need to think about what makes the most sense for you.
4. Discuss with your support system.
Your support system is there to support you! Making a decision to compete may take a village effort depending on your circumstances. Talking with your coach is an important aspect of this. They will be able to give you an unfiltered view and perspective on your training situation as well as guidance on what would make the most sense. Talking with anyone who may be supporting you throughout the preparatory period may give you a better sense of the situation as well.
When I first started, my parents were covering meet expenses as well as transporting me to all my competitions. This meant that every meet needed to be a family decision. While I’m not saying this needs to occur for everyone, I now see this decision-making process transfer into my own process of meet strategizing now.
I talk with my partner as I know he will play a significant role in supporting me during prep and know that adjustments may need to be made as a result of it. I have now started talking with my therapist as well about upcoming meets because she supports me during that time too. As a coach, I believe talking with your support system will help you have an even better meet-day and meet-prep experience.
5. Don’t overlook the impact of life.
I cannot emphasize this enough. I know everyone jokes about the lifter that posts “not the meet I wanted,” or whatever other variation they joke about, but the reality is, we don’t live to lift. Taking part in life is important, and things cannot always be brushed to the side for the sake of competition (nor should they always be). Your crying newborn cannot be ignored because you need extra rest after a hard training session. You can’t take 6 weeks off of work to prep for a meet. You may laugh, but that’s just not feasible nor how it works.
Powerlifting is great, but it is a part of life, it’s not life. Life and powerlifting can impact one another in positive, negative, and mutual ways. Being real with yourself about what is feasible may help mitigate these impacts, but ultimately looking back after a meet, don’t overlook the way life plays a role. This is not an excuse, but rather a data point.
With all of these things being highlighted, I would also like to mention this point as well.
Don’t be afraid to take a non-competitive period of time to grow.
This is something my coach and mentor, Jason Tremblay, preaches all the time. Far too many athletes today are not taking time to simply grow and improve. Testing strength every day or competing meet after meet may allow you to grow and improve in the short term, but eventually, you’ll be at the top end of your load tolerance and have nowhere to go – which can often lead to injury, burnout, etc.
The Strength Guys emphasizes the use of non-competitive periods to improve performance, build muscle and volume tolerance while working on performance-limiting aspects. This time is what enables better foundational fitness for when you come back into a competition phase.
So when you’re thinking about your next competition, keep all of these things in mind – and if you’re looking for someone else to have in your corner and help determine what meet may be best for you, TSG x FF is a great place to look.