“It’s the story you tell yourself in your head,” Iron Culture Podcast Ep. #126–Competing At The Highest Level In Powerlifting (ft. Bryce Lewis & Ashton Rouska)

Are you a competitive person? Do you compete as a lifter? What motivates and activates an athlete to compete in a way that can be sustained through the wins and losses?

This week Iron Culture brings us a rare glimpse into the minds of two lifters who have faced each other and placed first and second in the highest levels of competition. We get to hear the mental work Bryce and Ashton did to get to the platform, to push through their training, and to manage their emotions when it was time to perform their lifts.

This was a great conversation, but I have to say, by the end I was more convinced than ever that I’m NOT programmed for competitive lifting! I worked with a coach for a while, and early on she asked me if I would be interested in stepping onto the platform, and my answer was an emphatic “No!” And then I asked her, “Would I be any good?” And that’s really the crux of it for me–I don’t believe I have that inner confidence in my lifting or in myself to ride the losses–and I feel very confident that I would mostly have losses! Let’s be real. I’ve been lifting for 7 or 8 years at this point. My strength levels are far from impressive given that level of time. I write this blog as a true and avid fan, but I am not an impressive athlete.(1)

The story I tell myself about that is that my strength, and anyone’s really, is not simply a function of the time, energy, and commitment I put into the sport. It also reflects my genetic potential, a long and complex health history, varying levels of personal privilege (such as having–or not–the financial resources to access equipment, information, a trainer, and to delegate some tasks to others so I have the time to do my lifting), and many other complex factors. I have not had an easy road at all times. I am not gifted in all ways. I have more than some, less than others. Maybe folks with a different personal narrative would be energized by this sort of underdogish mindset, but for me, I find myself ok with pushing just enough to keep progressing. I don’t feel compelled to add external pressures to succeed and to measure my success against.

However, I’m certain there are some real gems and practical take-aways in this episode for those of you who are drawn to compete. I enjoyed the conversation, and I appreciated the intelligent self-reflection.

Did you listen to the podcast? What are your thoughts on being competitive and having a competitive mindset in your lifting? I’d love to hear from you! (Please keep in mind, we do have a comment policy.)

(1) I’m sort of torn about putting my numbers out there. Part of me says–tell the people! Give them something tangible to sink their teeth into! And part of me says–comparison is a fool’s endeavor, and why does it matter what I can lift, anyway? But hey, you get to decide what the numbers mean to you, and you decide the story in your head that you’re telling yourself. So, here they are: the last time I tested my maxes was several months ago, but at that time my conventional deadlift was right around 200lbs, my max squat was 165lb and my bench was maybe 110 or 115lb. I like to think I’m strong for a “normal” person, even though no one would mistake me for a powerlifter.

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