October 13-16 more than 1,000 athletes, family, and friends will flock to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in the 2016 USA Powerlifting (USAPL) Raw Nationals Championship. Millions more will watch or stream the event online via social media platforms.

When registration for this event closed, there were more than 1,100 lifters registered for the event. USAPL offers roughly 12 National-level meets per year, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the 200 (or so) meets a year hosted by independent meet directors around the country. This meet—excluding The Arnold Sports Festival and the Mr. Olympia—is one of the biggest athletic showcases of the year (last years’ Raw Nationals hosted 990 lifters from 48 states). So what is it like to train for a meet, contest, or show of this magnitude?

John Haack, Kim Walford, Jesse Norris, Layne Norton, and Ray Williams are just a few of the personalities that come to mind when I think of who could be in attendance at a meet such as USAPL Raw Nationals.

How is someone supposed to prepare for a meet when there is zero chance of winning when these individuals are on the roster?

Screenshot 2016-10-06 12.23.23

The answer: you train with the same ferocity and intensity as if you were the featured lifter and it was your last chance to be part of something epic. You must train with passion each and every day, especially during those final days leading up the meet. You should train as if this is your last opportunity to do anything this great. From the moment you enter the gym, believe that you belong there. You earned your spot just as everyone else had to. You must also understand that there is always someone else fighting for the chance to perform on the same stage or at the same level as you. Therefore, you must give everything and leave no room for doubt.

RELATED: Becoming You

The moment you begin your cool-down or even as you exit the gym, you need to think about the training session you just performed. If you begin to wonder whether you could have done one more rep, you start to doubt if your training was effective. Of course, this is not a universal rule that should be applied to each and every session. Many variables must be considered such as previous training days, upcoming sessions, as well as how far from your meet you actually are. Nevertheless, when the day is done and you are left wondering if you could have done more—one more rep or one extra pound—you have allowed doubt to creep into your head. Do not allow this five letter word to give a false perception of “what could have been." Go for it all. Hit every number and every rep. Make yourself a believer in who you are — even when no one else believes that you can move mountains. Confidence in the gym most definitely translates to confidence on the platform.

Winning a powerlifting meet can be tough. National-level meets are seemingly impossible for some after viewing the roster of registered lifters, a la LS McClain. However, for a lifter who has a qualifying total that sits somewhere in the middle-of-the-pack (speaking specifically of those like myself), you should not worry yourself with the idea of winning or losing. You zero-in on your own greatness instead of competing with someone else’s.

Being afforded the opportunity to compete at such a high level speaks volumes of your performance already. Many lifters do not have the total (or resources) required to be vectored to the National level, albeit qualifying totals (QTs) for USAPL could use a bump to become more competitive. Perhaps another look at the next Raw Committee meeting could raise the QTs once more. This could certainly bring some delight to various social media “lawyers."

With the topic of QTs being debatable, why would you permit your thoughts to be degraded by worrying over winning or losing? The interesting thing about powerlifting meets is that you are in competition with yourself. Sure, there are other lifters who are qualified and have worked hard to be there, not to mention all those other people who have dieted to enter your weight class. However, this is a mere check and balance as a means to compare apples to apples.

I mean, who really wants to see a show of ONE? At the end of the performance, there has to be someone who was able to heralded as the top lifter or winner. If this top person happens to not be you, it does not mean you have lost, per se. As long as you were able to be a better version of you and were able to reach or exceed all perceived limitations, then you have indeed “won” the meet.

Gold medals are cool. Just the same, american records are amazing and world records are simply phenomenal. I recently had a conversation with a three-time IPF World Champion and a two-time National Champion where they mentioned how all the titles and medals begin to seem mundane. They mentioned how many of their medals are suspended from a hanger in the closet while some were gifted to close relatives.

Screenshot 2016-10-06 12.24.48

There was no loss of passion or excitement for the sport. More, the joy of lifting and just being on the platform, at any level, had significantly more worth to them than any medal or title. Of course, this is one man’s opinion. However, the plethora of legends I have had the opportunity to talk to have implied similar beliefs.

MORE: Mental Characteristics of Successful Powerlifters

The aforementioned list of athletes train with the expectation of moving the bar better than their last performance, among other, more personal reasons. Therefore, middle-of-the-road lifters should approach the meet with the exact same mindset of being better. Be a better version of yourself than you were the hour, day, month, or year before. Progress pictures, videos, and bathroom selfies help with this comparison. Hiring the right coach is important as well as surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals. If the team environment is what you require, you must ensure that you are certainly not the strongest in the group. Surround yourself with people who cover the whole gamut of performance. This will help to assure that everyone pushes everyone — no one is left behind.

Personally, I am driven by my own goals. I am not one to shy away from any spotlight, nor do I enter a competition expecting to lose. I am, however, a real person with a realistic view of the world. I understand that others are better than me. Just as I understand I am better than other people. This understanding steers my humility so I am able to continue to fight each and every day. Too often people get wrapped up in what others are doing and lose sight of their own destiny.

Getting motivated is tough and maintaining motivation during an uphill journey is seemingly impossible. Focus on your goals and never lose sight of the bigger picture. We often find ourselves swimming in a sea of excellence chasing the purple dragon of someone else’s achievements. Meet day is unlike anything you could ever experience; every sport has its Super Bowl. At powerlifting meets there’s the camaraderie, the spirit, the feeling of determination, mixed with some anxiety. The scent of liniment and protein are all the elements that fill the air at high-level meets. Being a part of that environment is what steers me to each and every one. Medals and accolades are only a small part of any meet. Certainly, much recognition comes from being the top guy or girl in your class and/or division. However, a champion isn’t the one with all the medals; it’s the one who has overcome the things that would kill or destroy a weaker person. A champion is the one who never quits or gives up no matter what obstacles appear in front of him or her. Harness your inner champion and go kick some ass!

I am a powerlifter. I compete majority with USA Powerlifting in the Open 93 kg weight class. I am currently coached by Steve Goggins and also a member of U.S. Air Force Powerlifting. My current meet bests are 245 kg/540 lbs. squat, 152.5 kg/336 lbs. bench press, and 275 kg/606 lbs. deadlift with a bodyweight of 86 kg/189 lbs. Finally, I am also a certified state referee for USAPL.