Cover image for Powerlifting has made me a better developer. (Part 1: Interpersonally)

Powerlifting has made me a better developer. (Part 1: Interpersonally)

kaylasween profile image Kayla Sween ・3 min read
Powerlifting may not be your thing, but you can always find ways to take what you've learned from your hobbies and apply them to your work as a developer. These are just some of the things powerlifting has taught me that helped me become a better developer.

Without getting too deep, powerlifting is a competitive sport comprised of the squat, the bench press, and the deadlift. On competition day, your goal is to lift as much weight as possible across those three movements. I started powerlifting to give me a non-body-image-focused goal to work towards in the gym. Two years later, I'm still loving every second of it and have learned that it has helped my career as a front-end developer as well.

It taught me to stop comparing myself to others.

As a powerlifting newbie, I had to learn not to compare myself to other competitors. In powerlifting, there are a lot of people who compete who have done so for a long time. The total weight you lift across the three main lifts is highly dependent on a variety of factors. Your weight, your experience level in competition, and how long you've been lifting all play a factor in how you perform on competition day.

Powerlifting, like programming, is a highly individual sport. In competition (assuming you're not an elite athlete), the main goal is to do better than you did last time. It's really easy to get caught up in seeing the cool things others are doing on Twitter and get discouraged thinking you may never get to that level. It's important to think about where you are in your coding journey. Programming is hard, and we all had to start somewhere.

It taught me to lift up others rather than feel threatened.

In powerlifting meets, it's easy for me to feel the comradery with other competitors, regardless of whether they are a direct competitor or not. We've all worked hard for weeks, months, or even years to prepare for this meet. I always want to see my fellow competitors succeed. I understand the joy felt when stepping off of that platform after making a lift that you weren't sure you would.

As developers, it's also important to encourage each other. At work, I try to make sure I'm encouraging newer developers and congratulating them when they push out a new feature to our applications. In my spare time, I like to give back to the developer community by speaking at conferences and meetups and writing blog posts like this one. It honestly makes me feel amazing knowing that someone has learned something from a talk I gave or a post I wrote, even if it's only one person.

If you learned something from someone, tell them! They'll appreciate it so much. If you see a code newbie struggling, offer advice or encouraging words.

Next week, I'll be discussing how powerlifting helped me from an intrapersonal perspective.

A few days before posting this, Lewis Kori posted about a topic similar to this one. If your interested in someone else’s perspective about fitness and development, I recommend going and checking his post out as well!

📣 What hobbies do you have that have improved your skills as a developer? And how did they help?

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Kayla Sween


I'm a front-end engineer, who is very passionate about UX.


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"What hobbies do you have that have improved your skills as a developer?"

Playing Guitar

I am just starting to learn JavaScript and still working on my HTML & CSS skills so maybe I am not exactly a developer yet, but I wouldn't have even thought of the possibility of me learning web development had I not picked up and succeeded guitar.

Before that I saw things in binary, you either could or could not. I didn't really believe I could learn guitar but I was reading books on self development and started to tell myself let me work on it.

If you have played guitar, you know that it comes with frustration, sore fingers, and painful wrists but somehow I kept going and learnt through YouTube. There wasn't much progress until there was, and it took me 4 months to be a bit comfortable playing or so months and I have continued to play till now.

Now I can play guitar quite well (not a pro ofcourse) and the patience I had to have during learning guitar, is what I use now to endure days of frustration and when I want to give up. I know if I stick with anything, it will pay off.

Since then I have learnt to sing a bit and I nolonger sound too bad. I learnt to touch type and now I can, I have learnt french and now I read and watch french tv. I also blog about my progress on Medium (Charles Machakwa is the name) and I feel like I have a new software installed in my brain.

Its not like I think about it consciously, it's just that I believe in myself a little bit more and that has made all the difference. So there. I believe guitar started the snowball and I am very grateful.


I'd say that means you're a developer! 😊

This is such an awesome observation. Yeah, it's definitely a mind over matter issue. A lot of new skills may take a lot of work to acquire, but you can do it! Consistently working at it and honing those skills definitely pay off!

Thanks for reading and sharing, Charles!!


"What hobbies do you have that have improved your skills as a developer?"

Rock climbing:

When you're on a wall, you zone everything else out and are just focused on the next step. Not only is that a great metaphor for what "flow" feels like when developing - but it's a great meditative activity which helps relieve stress, and lets you make better programming decisions later.

Try it out!


Hiking and backpacking for me when you have 50 miles to do sometimes the one foot in front of the other is a great thing to be "OK" with. As a creative, forced creativity can be a good thing. It get you through the times when you just don't feel like creating. It also is meditative in a weird way, you get up you eat, you walk, you eat, you walk some more, you eat and then you sleep. Then you get up and do it again, it is simple so that time away where that is all I have to worry about is restful and I come back ramped up and ready to go.


That’s a good one! I love bouldering, but we only have one place near us that offers it near us. It gets pretty tight if there’s more than 3 people there, so we go when we can while traveling.


I draw.
Drawing is very similar to programming. You are following a process, but creativity is always there. It's a mixture of objective observation and subjective analysis of what would work best.
When drawing you have to deconstruct your subject in simple interconnected shapes (just drawing what you see is prone to errors) then replicate those shape as perfectly as you want to. The relationships between these shapes are as important as the shapes themselves. That's the logical part of the drawing. It requires good eyes and analytical thinking.
The subjective part is choosing how to alter what you see. You choose how much details to render in each part and also how to alter the realistic measurements for a better overall visual impact.
How does that help me? In programming, you often only have just a big problem. You need the capability to break it down to simpler ones that you can solve easily. And the solving part requires a lot of subjectivity because you need to be mindful about the bigger picture so that you can choose the best way to implement it.


That’s a great way of thinking about it! I approach programming like that, but never thought about how that same kind of thinking would relate to drawing. Thanks for sharing!


"What hobbies do you have that have improved your skills as a developer?"

Jiu Jitsu, music, and working out have been my vices. It helps me really think through things and think about other ways to accomplish a task. When something doesn't work one way, I really sit and think about how I can accomplish this using a different approach.

"It's really easy to get caught up in seeing the cool things others are doing on Twitter and get discouraged thinking you may never get to that level"

I can't hear that enough. I see everyone with these dope tutorials and crazy in depth discussions and I'm just like ummm... ok so I suck. But you're so right, this is our own individual journey and we just really need to focus on where we are and what we need to do to get to the next checkpoint.

Thanks so much for sharing!


I've only started learning swimming at 22 and I can say it has helped me so much, especially mentally. I also like what you said about lifting each other up. Seeing people who have worked hard reach a milestone is so satisfying.


Definitely! Thanks for sharing!


I used to run a lot, it was great, got out of the rhythm when I smashed my heel in two pieces.

Just started with a trainer, I’m benching 18kg like a baws.

At least I have room for improvement... :D

When I was freelancing I used running as a way to relax and destress. Me, the road, my breath, it’s awesome.


True that Kayla.
Photography has helped me in a similar way. Whenever I go on the streets photographing, it makes me feel that no matter what we do, how hard we work, there will always be someone who is a great deal better than you in some way, you are just one from the millions. Thinking too much about this race to always stay ahead takes you away from your goal, takes your focus away from working on your own self and what you are doing instead is worrying about all the things you have absolutely no control over. Working on my hobbies has taught me how to love what you do without worrying about the external factors I have no control over.


Absolutely! We’re all different and are at different places in life. It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking there are people better at you, but it’s important to take a step back and try to look at it from the outside.


"What hobbies do you have that have improved your skills as a developer?"

A few months ago I started doing calisthenics, mostly to get in shape. As a hobby I have learned that as you work your way towards a certain body figure goals, the results might not be immediately evident. Same as in developing software, as you work through the multiple lines of code, the product might not be as per your expectations but keep at it diligently and soon you will reap your rewards.


And then I got hurt, torn ACL.... :(


I had knee surgery about 3 months ago. I feel you! Do your physical therapy. Do everything the doctor says and you’ll be back at it in no time!


Good article,powerlifting is great.I had been training lifting for more than 3 years before I started learning front-end dev ( I took part in competition once).


Very cool! Thanks for reading! 😊


This is a beautiful post.


Thank you, Ernesto! 😊


Such a cool subject, totally with you on this one! 👌


Great article Kayla!
Very inspiring and informative.
Maybe I should try powerlifting


Thanks, Lewis! I highly recommend it. I love getting people into the sport. 😊


Fellow Powerlifter + Developer here!
My PR in an event is 400kg for all three. I started only 8 months ago. What's yours?


Nice!!! My current meet PR is 355kg. I'm excited to compete again, but currently going through rehab after knee surgery so it'll be late next year when I do a full meet again! 💪