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Nick Manders: The Challenges of Competition

Nick Manders: The Challenges of Competition

Our Junior Athlete Nick Manders is the future of Canadian powerlifting. Nick Manders is mostly known for his monstrous deadlift being one of the few people in Canada to deadlift over 700+ pounds in comp and doing it at lighter bodyweight compared to his fellow peers who deadlift over 700+ pounds. Nick is a gamer who executes come meet day. He has battled through tough circumstances and has broken several records in competition. Nick has gone through the worse and he details it in this interview the trials and tribulations that he had to face 2020 Nationals. Nick is looking to take the crown and win in the 2022 CPU Nationals at whatever class he chooses to compete in. Take a look into the mindset of one of the hardest working lifters in this interview.

1.Who is Nick Manders? Give us a brief background on yourself, what weight class do you compete in, etc: 

I am a 21 year old 83kg Junior lifter that has been competing from the APU since I was 16 in both the 83kg and 74kg weight classes. This may be a little too sparse, but it’s difficult to give background within a powerlifting context that’s genuinely relevant. As for who I am past that, who am I to say? Identity is a finicky subject; X interpretation of me as a person could vary vastly from Y interpretation while both remain valid, so it isn’t up to me to describe myself.

2. Please expand on how preparations for NAPF have been going for you. 

NAPF’s prep has been very challenging, both mentally and physically. Firstly, I have issues with every meet prep regarding expectations and anxiety surrounding those and it’s likely the main hurdle I need to overcome in my powerlifting career to really elevate myself into the upper echelon. This is likely a stressor that adds into unnecessary fatigue, which then leads to little tweaks and injuries that only add to the mental fire that rages more and more in my head as the days tick down. As of about 3 weeks out, my back has tweaked in different, unique ways about four different times in this prep. My hip aches harder than it has in years, and even when things were starting to look up the 2nd dose of vaccine kicked my ass just as I was about to try and regain some smidgen of momentum. Needless to say, it has been extremely hard to continue to pick myself up and rally these last couple weeks; saying I have felt defeated more often than not is only being honest and transparent. 

 Ultimately though I can find solace in time and passion. Chance Mitchell pointed out in a story a couple weeks back that you cannot approach every meet like it is your last. NAPF’s is hardly my swan song, and so I cannot have the expectations of a magnum opus when I’m not even done being a junior. There is still one more year left of me running from the open and so this is hardly my last hurrah, but more importantly than that my passion for the sport is far from gone. I will treat this meet as an international learning experience, and I will get better from it and do it all again later. Just hopefully healthier in both mind and body. 

3. I looked over your meet from March of last year as a 74kg lifter and you had to battle unfortunate circumstances. What mentality do you bring into these situations such as you having a tough night before CPU 2020 Nationals? Can you expand on what happened? 

 Right, so let’s first look at what happened: I nearly died because I’m stupid. Or rather, I cut weight quite poorly while also contracting what I can only assume was food poisoning (I refused to go to the hospital at any point of any of this). What this resulted in was an inability to retain water and calories well beyond my cut, as well as causing some issues during the cut as well. 

It started the night of the meet with the pivotal moment of me waking up on the bathroom floor covered in cold sweat. I’ve had some more educated friends tell me that I could have had a seizure, and this was the result, but I cannot confirm past that speculation. Obviously, I felt like a walking corpse, but I figured it would just be a tough cut and I could rebound after making weight. This wasn’t entirely the case, as after weighing in at 73.8kg I proceeded to projectile vomit everything I had consumed in the warm-up room and was warned by some high-class coaches that they felt it would be the best move to pull out of the meet given my current physical condition. Being a headstrong asshole, I did not and instead tried my damndest to do what I came there to do and win gold. The rest of that meet is more or less a blur of passing out due to my ailments and struggling to lift what I needed, and ultimately, I failed to clutch it out and received* a silver for my noble efforts. 

Mentally, there’s nothing to really do but give up or grit your teeth. Athletics are a strange thing because you dedicate so many hours and so much effort that seemingly culminates in a single, pivotal moment. Giving up in that moment disregards everything before it and makes it all moot; it’s obviously an overtly final perspective that isn’t entirely realistic, but to me it would feel like every hour put in before that moment of throwing in the towel were wasted. Showing up healthy, both mentally and physically, is part of sport. There is no coping out, giving up on game day simply isn’t an option.  

*I did not actually receive the medal, Quentin Chan did in my place because I passed out in a hallway after the final deadlift.

4. Everyone in the world had to go through lockdowns or difficult situations where they were not able to train. How has your training been during these difficult times? 

I’ve been very fortunate to have my training more or less undisturbed by lockdowns. The first go around, I had the foresight to set up a rental and space in my basement if things locked down, and when they did I was able to get an entire comp setup with adequate weight the same day. I also had access to the Bowflex that got me started in resistance training when I was but a small little lad that had just discovered Zyzz, and a pullup bar that I ended up snapping mid lockdown. 

The second and third lockdowns utilized a friend’s garage, and that had to be a little more secretive due to any repercussions from the gathering that took place there. Regardless, I have not missed a single session due to the government restrictions that have been so prevalent in recent years, and for that I am eternally grateful to those that made it possible. 

5. What is your height? In ft and in cm(rest of the world might look at this interview) 

 I’m 5’9, roughly 180cm. 

6. You have recently moved up from 74 kgs to 83 kgs weight class. How has moving up a weight class been for you? If you were to give your 2019-2020 self advice or anyone in general looking to do this, what advice would you give them? 

 Being so tall (for 74) made it quite easy to move up to 83; I started eating three times a day instead of only twice. It’s been harder mentally than anything else due to body image issues. I still much prefer the way my body and face looked at 74 than I do at 83 and I feel very… fluffy. Sometimes eating is tough as well, but I just have a bad appetite and shitty schedule for getting calories in. As for advice, just track what you eat and don’t fall for the dirty bulk meme. Do it slow and gradual and try to remain as lean as possible throughout. But above all else: eat more than you did when you weighed less. What an insane concept, amirite? 

7. How is Nick Manders during meets? Are you often expressive or do you like to keep to yourself during competitions? 

 Focused, in my own way. I’d say I’m more expressive at meets than I am at the gym when I’m confident and can let out some of that energy and anxiety I normally keep pent in, but otherwise the focus is very much on myself and doing what I need to do. Whereas with every other day I look forward and think about how to approach possibilities in the future, the perception at the meet is much more limited. Execute, do what you have to do, and forget about literally everything else for the few hours you compete. I love it, and it’s my one little bit of catharsis I experience in powerlifting. 

8. What is your favorite recomp meal post weigh ins? 

 Liquid carbs. Gatorade, coconut water that’s been diluted. If I can stomach it, some leaner carbs in the form of bread or oats (I have tried rice and noodles, but I enjoy my western breakfast foods). But there is no true comfort meal or favourite. It’s what I can handle, what I have, and what will be the most beneficial for performance.

9. Given that you can possibly fill out the 93 kg weight class do you ever see yourself moving up? 

 I want to say yes, but given how much I hate my body at 83 I can’t see myself filling out 93 truly. Competing at 93, absolutely, and given my height 93 would probably be my most competitive class and should be my future. But oh my god I cannot fathom the food I would need to eat.

10. In the 83 kg class in the CPU, can you name a few names to look out for? 

The two above me at the moment, Guillaume LeBlanc and Adam Ramzy, are obviously the names I strive to beat. More so Guillaume, as to my knowledge Ramzy has little intention of competing raw again anytime soon. As for names that could surprise these two and therefore myself, I’ll keep an eye on Kafui Hotsonyame and Adam Jansson. They’ll both be competing at Worlds in Sweden so we can take another look at the leaderboards after that and see how everyone stacks up. 

11. Who is your gameday handler? 

For any meet that he’s there I can trust that Graeme Gerlach has my back and my numbers. He’s someone that I consider a close friend, but also a bastard that holds me accountable. Graeme is a knowledgeable bastard though, so I’d be hard pressed to ask for a better person by my side during the most stressful competitions.

 Local competitions in Alberta means that I’ll call upon my childhood friend Austin Bercier. What he lacks in actual powerlifting knowledge he makes up for in handling experience, just because he’s handled so many meets in the APU since our first competition together. While I wouldn’t exactly trust him to go to the jury, he understands the flow and mechanics of a meet like any seasoned powerlifter. Plus he’s an engineer, so he can do math really fast.

12. Favorite snack? 

 I don’t snack.

13. How is mow? 

Mow is great! For those that don’t know, Mow is a garage gym cat that accompanied the lockdown crew for a good portion of 2020 and 2021. At the moment, he’s likely just rolling in dirt or headbutting whoever he thinks might give him a pet. Or he’s gone feral again and is running mach one into wooden structures. Who knows, Schrödinger’s cat.

14. What is your occupation? 

 With my turbulent history in school and difficult relationship with academics, I think the easiest and most comfortable answer I have is “student”. Although I put “NEET” on my NAPF’s athlete card, so whatever floats your boat. 

15. How many times have you been drug tested? 

 I have lost track at this point. More than 10, easily. Blood tested once at 2019 Nats. I am part of the out of meet testing pool for the CCES, so it’s to be expected. I signed up for this lack of privacy.

16. Last Question, What do you think of the USAPL potentially leaving the IPF?

It’s a chilling omen of what the future could hold. I don’t see much of a point in competing in a federation that excludes the most competitive athletes; the IPF loses it’s main appeal if the US is driven out. Within a contextually vacuum, I don’t personally care who shows up and who doesn’t due to the plethora of databases at our disposal. There’s no longer a need to limit your competition to whoever you share a flight with when OpenIPF has such an accessible and fleshed out leaderboard. That’s my competition; not whoever shows up the day of, but whoever has showed up before me and ranks above my current position.

Nick is able to bring in a mindset that a lot of people would shy away from and that is what separates his performances from the rest. Nick is able to challenge himself and his fellow competitors by giving his absolute best through his work ethic and gameday experience. Nick is also a human who experiences challenges like the rest of us. Injuries and pains have taught Nick to always look forward to the next as not every meet will be his last meet. Nick will be back to do a follow up interview after NAPF. Wish him the best through his instagram: @n.manders

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