Start considering. Virtual meets are ready for you.
Virtualmeet.net runs virtual meets – “geographically dispersed” raw, steroid-free meets that take place wherever the lifters and judges are, and play out online.
I’m the first female to successfully complete a virtual powerlifting meet, and the first one to come back for more. I just finished a deadlift meet, and Scott asked me to talk about my experience. I’m so excited about the project that I’m happy to talk about it to anyone who’ll listen.
Virtualmeet.net is a grassroots project founded by Kristoffer Lindqvist in Finland and run with love by his volunteer team, warmly welcoming lifters at any level of skill or experience. Participants have been in Iceland, Austria, Finland, Puerto Rico, Canada, the U.S. (this particularly attracts Americans, for whatever reason) and more, and the list continues to grow.
Let me start with a couple of disclaimers. I’m not a powerlifter, and I’ve never done a live meet. I’ve attended them, and I brag on my world champion sister. My competition history up ’til now has been bodybuilding. Since my training evolved into strength training and Olympic-style weightlifting, the idea of dabbling with powerlifting as cross-training appealed to me. Doing a virtual meet isn’t as intimidating as doing a live meet, and you just can’t beat the convenience. New adventures help keep me fresh and nimble. Finally, the idea of a truly grassroots project run on passion and brains really nailed it.
Virtual Meet is just beginning to gain momentum. Next month is the pilot weightlifting meet. Eventually, VM strives to be a home of both powerlifting and weightlifting virtual meets, run parallel, throughout the year.
It’s terrific fun and burgeoning with good sportsmanship spirit, but make no mistake: It’s no joke. Judging is strict. At this writing, just 57 percent of attempts have passed. So although this doesn’t count as a sanctioned meet, in many respects, this feels very real.
The technical architecture for the Virtual Meet web site blows me away. It seems as if Kristoffer Lindqvist (Yes, that Kris – founder of Under the Bar, the oldest powerlifting site on the web) has thought of everything. There are the conventional online community things you’d expect – discussion forums, profile pages – but everything has nifty little extras. Like the profile pages house widgets displaying your best lifts – one in pounds, one in kilos – that you can paste wherever you want, and they’re automatically updated to reflect your current stats.
There are tons of tiny ingenius conveniences when it comes to viewing meets, too. View by meet, by flight, by lifter, by lift. Hover over a score and the judging specifics drop down. Tell at a glance what the attempts were for each lifter and which ones scratched.
The rules are detailed and assist you in delivering quality recordings of your lifts. I’ve benefited as a videographer just by following all the suggestions for framing, angle, timing. Uploading clips is done via FTP, so the judges get to them easily.
I’ve had a few glitches in the tech stuff – Gmail banishing meet emails to spam, the pesky business of adhering to a new FTP server’s quirks – but overall, it’s worked well, and Kris has always been there in a heartbeat to guide me through email, despite a major time difference (when does this guy SLEEP?).
Chalk and Adrenaline
Okay, what you really want to know – the meet itself. Was it a rush? You better believe it. Just like a live competition, the meet was a great training motivator, you can feel your competitors, and, like a live competition, it’s tough to predict how you’ll respond when the time comes to perform.
Watch the deadlift meet here.
I figured I’d be relaxed lifting in the comfort of my studio, and if anything, I feared it might be a little too laid back to get me in performance mode. But as the meet approached, I found myself getting more and more excited about it, and the night before the meet, felt those familiar tinges of electricity. When I woke up, my head was completely in the meet. I weighed in immediately, and started eating. That’s a fun part of being at home – you have access to your own kitchen. Cook, raid leftovers, hey – fire up the grill. Brew more caffeine. Drink maple syrup. It’s all at your fingertips.
You have to produce the morning’s newspaper. Going to get the paper was the first big shoedrop in this being “real.” I have to go to the store to get the paper. I can’t get hurt in the process.
My trusty cameraman/spotter/husband and I had taped out the camera angles on the cement floor the day before and set up the tripod. We moved the squat rack to get the best angle for taping, and I wiped down all the equipment (because the world would be watching). So just going into my studio, it felt like the stage was set for something special.
I warmed up, getting jittery, watching the clock, keeping a feel for how warm the sun was getting and how long it would be until the meet was over if I started in five minutes, in ten, in thirty.
The warm-ups get me into my groove and then I’m starting to move some significant weight. I’m feeling good, training plan is paying off. Check the clock, the camera, chalk up again, and … let’s get this meet started.
Man! I might as well have been in a packed gym. My adrenaline was running hard. The first lift – get the first in the bag – no problem.
The second – ah, feeling so good, maybe do more than I’d (carefully) planned? Sure, this is easy, I’m at home, let’s go for it!
Silly silly me. Always stick to the competition plan.
I lucked out. On my first meet, I made my lifts as planned and failed only on my rookie-inflated third attempts. My spotter saved me and got it all on camera.
On my second meet, the deadlift meet, I stuck to the plan but nearly freaked out with a math emergency. My advice is plan out exactly what plates you’ll use, because the last thing you can focus on in the heat of the moment between lifts is that kind of thinking. Everything should be planned and ready, and stick to the plan.
It threw me off and I failed on my second attempt. That threw me off more than I can say. In the next 20 minutes, I managed to get my state of mind restored, and then just before it was time, my loud, good-natured neighbor pulled into the drive. I hollered out the window, “I need your big mouth! Get over here!”
That did the trick. It surprised me – I’m a person who drives herself to work out, season after season, without company. I’m okay on my own. But as I got that bar off the floor and slowly approached the sticking point, I heard my neighbor, her kid and my husband screaming for me – and pushed me over the edge. I passed the hard part and knew I had it. The bar went right up. I felt like I could hold it there all day. I lowered it smooth and slow, no problem at all. And we all screamed some more! I set a Personal Record.
The Hard Part
The hardest part of the whole process, for me, is waiting for the judging results. It can take up to a week. That can leave you feeling loose-ended at the end of the meet, because you can’t really celebrate until things are official. (and like I wrote above, judging is strict!) Although again, there is a cool feature built into the system – you can watch how many judges have voted and what percentage of scoring is done, in a constantly updating ticker. I just keep in mind that the judges are also volunteers, doing this for the love of it, during their regular lives. And once it’s done, it’s done.
The Vid Perk
Because you’re competing for film, you end up with great clips of your lifts from a virtual meet, better than you might get from a hired guy taping everyone or a friend with a camera. So these meets can really live after the fact. I still don’t have any real good videos of my bodybuilding shows, so I really appreciate that here.
And Virtual Meet does a beautiful job of packaging them and making them presentable, and keeps them alive for … well, forever.
It’s a unique thrill to watch the whole meet once it’s all put together, to actually watch the lifters who were with you in the meet. The forums are all set for meet and training discussion, and cheering each other on. It’s also just too cool to be able to let others watch your meet from wherever they are, whenever they want.
How It Works
Here’s how it works: you register for a meet, accept the rules (There are rules on lifts, clothing, gear, etc., like in any real-life meet.), confirm you’re drug-free. (Both full and single lift events are scheduled). When the big day comes, perform the scheduled meet, film it, produce the morning newspaper to prove you’re lifting on schedule, and submit clips for judging.
The individual lift attempts are edited together, three judges weigh in, pass/no pass lights are represented to show validity of attempts. There are no weight classes. Scoring is based on relative strength formulas – Schwartz for men, Malone for women – so competition is truly with oneself. The project relies heavily on the honor system and thrives on good sportsmanship.
“Sound serious? Well, it’s not. No one will claim that our results are “official” or “true meet results“. This is all done for the fun of it, for the fire of a clear goal to shoot for, for the novel challenge.” –Virtualmeet.net.
I’m proud to be part of Virtual Meet, and would encourage anyone with an inkling to try it to dive in.