Raise the Bar: Why Competing Will Make You a Better Athlete

 In Dayton Barbell Club, Weightlifting

Editor’s Note: This week’s article is written by Layla Akilan. Layla came to DSC as a CrossFit athlete interested in weightlifting.  She has her USAW-Sports Performance Level 1, and coaches our Dayton Barbell Club. Layla is a Training Think Tank athlete under Adam Rogers and a competitive weightlifter. 

Layla lifting at the 2016 Arnold Weightlifting Championships

Layla lifting at the 2016 Arnold Weightlifting Championships

You might be thinking about entering your first weightlifting competition but you’re not sure if you really have any business out on the platform.  I’m here to explain to you why you should compete and how it’s going to make you a better athlete and maybe even a better person.  

I recently read a study that examined fear and anxiety in relation to extreme sports like skydiving. This study really got me thinking about why I compete in weightlifting.  Participants were asked to describe the occurrence of fear in these sports and how it shaped their experience. Participants revealed that facing one’s fears was ultimately associated with feelings of success, empowerment, and overall well-being(3). Through these extreme sports, they could generate life-changing experiences.

While not all sports fall into this category of extremeness, I think there is a powerful message here – that fear can be used as a tool. Athletic experiences are especially unique because, unlike other fearful situations that may present themselves in our lives, these fearful situations cannot and should not be avoided if we wish to become better athletes.

In weightlifting this fear usually presents itself in competition.  There is nothing quite like stepping onto a stage in front of a crowd of people and being expected to lift 100 plus percent of your best snatch or clean and jerk. Matt Foreman calls it that “instantaneous moment of absolute success or failure.”(2) The pressure is very real and the level of fear can be very intense.

But for me, competing has also been the most rewarding part of my weightlifting career, because every meet is a learning experience and an opportunity to push myself beyond my limits.  This is why sports are so special to us as athletes: they give us an arena in which we can try and try again at things that we aren’t always sure that we are capable of.  

When we achieve our goals we gain a new perspective on our abilities, we readjust our goals to reflect our new accomplishments, and in turn we raise the bar for ourselves. On the flip-side, when we don’t reach our goals, we learn how to dig deeper, we gain grit, and we learn useful coping mechanisms that we can add to our mental toolbox.  These things are especially true in weightlifting. If you are someone who has entered the world of weightlifting and has yet to compete, you might be wondering why you would put yourself in that situation. Actually, nothing bothers me more than when I hear an athlete say that they aren’t good enough to compete.

First of all, we all compete for different reasons. Some of us compete to win, and the odds of winning might even be in our favor as long as we can perform on that given day and in that given moment.  Some of us compete against ourselves. We know we aren’t going to take home any medals but the possibility of a new lifetime PR (personal record) is just as rewarding. It means we are that much better than before. It reminds us that our hard work is paying off.

Competing isn’t always about winning – which I admit, sounds like I’m going to hand out participation trophies at the end of this but I promise, I’m not. The takeaway here is that as an athlete you will always be put in situations that make you uncomfortable and they might even scare you.

My advice to you is exploit that fear. Let that fear change you. Let it empower you. Let it humble you. But don’t let fear stop you from gaining meaningful life experiences. So, face your fears, adjust your singlet, do some excessive hand chalking and get out onto that platform and lift the weight, because it could just change your life.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at competing, there’s still time to sign up for our Dayton Strength Summer Open, June 25. Click here for more information and to register.


  1. Why you should compete in weightlifting – Mike Gray


  1. A response to Mike Gray’s ridiculous crap about competing in weightlifting – Matt Foreman


  1. Extreme sports are good for your health: A phenomenological understanding of fear and anxiety in extreme sport. Brymer and Schweitzer, 2013


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