I competed at the RPS Lexen Xtreme Fall Classic in Columbus, Ohio, this past weekend. It was my first full power meet since last year. My last competition was a bench/deadlift event at the Arnold Classic in April.

Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to train with some great coaches and lifters around Ohio, including several from Team elitefts™. I’ve also had the benefit of spending the last six months working with a great group of powerlifters at Duke’s Iron Zoo. I’ve been able to put a considerable amount of weight on to my previous best total and went into this meet with high expectations. Of course, my primary goals were to finish the meet and set meet PRs on my lifts, and my secondary goal was to total elite raw at 220 pounds. Without getting into the details too much, I’ll summarize the day of the meet and discuss some important things that sunk in afterward.

I was extremely fortunate to compete with several of my training partners and good friends and to have the help and support of the rest of our (large) powerlifting family from Dukes. Everyone from our team did very well. Everyone hit meet PRs and almost everyone won their weight classes. I’m incredibly happy and proud of my teammates and I'm thankful to train with them on a weekly basis.

In terms of my meet, I had a rough start to my day, which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve always picked my openers easily and chose to open at 500 pounds for the squat. Right off the bat, I set the wrong tone by sinking my squat way too deep. I tweaked my back and turned my easy opener into a grinder. I got the lift, but I wasn’t able to get either of my other attempts on the squat, which threw out my chances for my goal total. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best start psychologically, and between my back and some cramping from mistakes cutting weight, it made for an interesting day.

Thankfully, I was able to get it together mentally and hit meet PRs on the bench. I also got three for three on my deadlifts despite not going as heavy as I had originally planned. I was still able to finish with a PR meet total and win my weight class. I should have been very pleased with the meet PRs and three good deadlift attempts despite my tweaked back, but as most competitors know, we set high standards for ourselves and are rarely satisfied with our performances as positive as they may be. I was frustrated for making some foolish mistakes and leaving a lot of weight on the platform.

I spent some time after the meet still feeling frustrated, but later that evening, as I sat with two of my training partners smoking our post-meet cigars and recapping the day, I came to some important realizations.

As competitors, it's easy for us to put the blinders on and only see the short-term perspective of one meet, one training cycle, one weight class. However, when you step back and look at the big picture, those individual things are only small components of a powerlifting “career.” For one of my training partners, the Lexen Xtreme meet was his twentieth meet. He has managed to hit small PRs in every single one of those meets. At the time, they may not have seemed like a big deal, but before he knew it, those small PRs added up over the last several years to a very solid total.

A few of my training partners have been training for over twenty years and, if you look at one of those years individually, it isn't anything incredible in terms of progress. However, if you look at the culmination of twenty consistent years of steady progress, it amounts to a couple of their top-ranked totals. These are the types of careers that are built on gradual progress, not individual performances.

Looking forward, I know where I need to improve. I know the hard work that it will continue to take and the high standards that I need to keep for myself. I also know to keep all those things in the long-term perspective that they demand. The common denominator among all the successful competitors I know is steady consistency. At meets, I’ve seen many people who start off making huge gains and then face one small piece of adversity and quit. The top lifters are the ones who stick with it, regardless of the adversity, for ten years or more. Those years need to be spent building momentum, one meet at a time and one PR at a time. When I choose to set aside my frustration and look at my meet with that perspective, I value those small PRs a whole lot more.