I couldn’t wait to be 40. Was it because I was planning a riotous birthday bash or a once in a lifetime holiday? Er, no. It was because I got to be a master powerlifter. Now I’d be a spry 40-year-old in the 40 plus masters category, rather than a slightly weathered 39-year-old battling athletes in their mid 20s for a place on the medal rostrum. Competition would be less intense, but I wouldn’t get a clear run at gold at the British Bench Press Championships. There is an elite core of female powerlifters who are proving it is more than possible to be fit and ferociously strong after 40.

I prepared for the British Bench Press Championships with military precision. I recruited a new coach, signed with a performance nutritionist and worked with a dancer to improve my flexibility. Every day I had a list of targets to hit: calories, macros, reps, sets, measurements, weight lost or gained. With such attention to detail, I was feeling good one week out from the competition.

Unfortunately, my mind was proving more fragile than my body and the nerves were kicking in. My weight, which had been so carefully managed, plummeted by a kilo, and I was plagued by irrational worries about my car breaking down en-route to the competition, phantom injuries or oversleeping on the day. Two days before the competition I woke in the middle of the night and wailed: ‘I’m pulling out of the competition, I can’t do it!’ To which my disgruntled boyfriend told me to ‘for god’s sake go back to sleep.’

I didn’t bottle it. I showed up to weigh in shaking like a leaf and checked in at a less than optimal 55.7kg. I was hoping to be closer to the 57kg weight limit. Adrenaline powered me through the day and I hit my attempts of 65, 70 and 72.5kg, which was a personal best. I expected to feel euphoric when it was all over, but thanks to my hysterics, my overwhelming emotion was relief. Note to self: must try to relax and enjoy these competitions. It’s not the Olympics.

One week later, I’m finally feeling some pride and happiness at my achievement. I’m second in Britain – get me! However, I do need a break from the rigours of competition prep and the crippling pressure I put myself under. I was invited to apply for selection to the World Championships, but I have decided not to compete until later in the year.

I have a lot to look forward to in the next few months. My brother is getting married and I have some belated 40th birthday celebrations planned. I want to enjoy these events without the daily bind of targets which inevitably mean refusing alcohol and certain foods. Who knows, I may even book that holiday.