The Powerlifting Principal (I): the start of something great...

10 May 2023

There are principals and then there are principles. I am the former and I just so happen to love the sport of powerlifting. And this is a story of how the challenges of competitive sport has helped me be a better (principal) engineer.

Ears ringing from the music, body trembling from the caffeine, hands dry and calloused from the chalk. I couldn’t have imagined the way this would feel when I started out on my powerlifting journey five years ago. What I really didn’t see coming though, was how it would make me a better engineer.

The year is 2013, I’d been an engineer for a while and embraced the stereotypical engineer lifestyle, what even is daylight any more? A nudge (read hard kick) in the right direction from some loved ones forced me to go to the gym to try and lose some weight. I went, and the less said about the sneaky McDonald’s on the way home the better! With the support of the right coach, the weight started to shift, and my smile started to become more genuine.

January 2017

January 2017: First time squatting 100kg

A strange turn of events, a supportive coach and a number of beers later, and I had signed up for a powerlifting meet. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a chronic over-thinker and worrier - this gave me so much to worry over! Thankfully, I got a dedicated Powerlifting coach who took most of the worries away from me. Already, being active in a sport made me realise there’s more to life than work.

September 2017

September 2017: First time deadlifting 150kg

A successful first meet led to an invite to Irish Nationals. This is the biggest powerlifting meet for members of both the IPF (Irish Powerlifting Federation) and NIPF (Northern Irish Powerlifting Federation). At the same time, I bagged my first role as a senior engineer - I thought I was the bees knees.

The lights, the cameras, the crowd, the sheer scale of the competition was too much for me and I proceeded to have a very public, very painful panic attack. Nationals 2018 was worst competition I have had, still to this day. Turns out, I was, in fact, not the bee’s knees.

With this failure, came an opportunity my coach relished: to show me the benefit of being part of a team. That is exactly what he did with the next competition, with over 90% of the team competing!

September 2018

September 2018: Strength Militia hosted competition

Wow. What a day! I executed most (8/9) lifts perfectly, and had a great time! With this came a side of frustration; why couldn’t I do this when it mattered at Nationals? A rant to my coach highlighted one of the most important lessons I have learned, We win as a team, and lose as a team. If you are still in a team where individuals take the blame for things, try adopting this approach - you, and your team, will be much happier!

As we often are in work, I too was hard on myself in sport. It’s very easy to say “don’t be so hard on yourself”, but much more difficult to put into practice. This was taken out of my hands when my coach said to me “only one goal for the next competition; to enjoy it”. Taking the pressure off myself, and only focusing on this one, small task was the best thing we could have done!

December 2018

December 2018: First competition pictures smiling

December 2018

December 2018: Post competition, squinty smile with Coach Sean

This competition, and Sean, taught me that not everything in life has to be a competition. All too often, we focus on things like getting promoted to the next level, and forget to actually enjoy the journey! Every time I catch myself thinking “I should be where they are”, or “I’ve been doing this X years, why am I not there yet?”, I think of this day, and how amazing it felt to actually experience it.

And the best bit? An invite to the Commonwealth championships to represent Northern Ireland! Wow!

In the next post, I’ll look at how I levelled up my powerlifting career, and my career as a developer along with it!

Article By
blog author

Hannah McKee

Principal Engineer