Friday 20th March 2020 was a day I’ll never forget. In a late afternoon press conference, Boris Johnson announced that gyms, pubs and restaurants would close in an effort to limit the spread of Coronavirus. When the announcement was made, I was in the gym – surprise, surprise. I drove home in disbelief, anxious thoughts swirling around my head. This unprecedented action wouldn’t just affect my favourite pastime, it would affect my livelihood too.


For the majority of the next year, I was restricted to training clients online and outdoors. I kept going, but business understandably slowed. I needed to set myself goals that would focus my mind and stop me lapsing into apathy. I signed up for two nutrition courses and vowed to continue my training. I live in a first floor flat, so I had fewer options than those lucky enough to have a garage gym. I invested in some 30kg dumbbells and did daily stretch sessions to improve my flexibility. At times I felt unmotivated, but reminded myself that lockdown wouldn’t last forever. I shouldn’t waste this time.


When gyms finally reopened, I was surprised by how strong I felt. Despite limited equipment, I had managed to improve my strength and a few extra pounds of bodyweight had definitely helped. The English Bench Press Championships were two months away, so I decided to enter.


My preparation went like clockwork. I hit all the numbers in my programme and felt confident coming up to the competition. My coach and I agreed that my lift attempts would be 67.5kg, 72.5kg, then 75kg. Considering the weights I’d been lifting in the gym, 75kg should’ve been a comfortable PB.


My opener was easy, then disaster struck. For a good lift, you have to obey the commands of ‘start, press and rack.’ A shout from the crowd which I mistook for a command meant I started my second lift too early. The judge heard it too and queried whether I should’ve failed the lift, but the organiser over ruled her. I wouldn’t be allowed to retake the lift.


By now stressed and upset, I declared 72.5kg as my final attempt. I should’ve tried 75kg anyway as I almost certainly had it. Problem was, my coach was stuck outside the venue due to Covid restrictions on spectators. If he’d been allowed to advise me as usual this wouldn’t have happened.


So, there we go – a win, but an unsatisfying one. I’ve lifted 72kgs for three reps in the gym, so the result didn’t reflect what I can do. This is another lesson that I must stop sabotaging myself with a lack of self-belief. If I am going to compete I can’t avoid risk in the hope of also avoiding failure. On to the next comp.