Exactly one year ago I signed up for my first ever Olympic weightlifting meet, having NEVER done anything beyond traditional lifts. I learned the basics in three weeks and at the meet, successfully completed both the snatch and the clean & jerk. I lifted the lightest weights at the meet, but I was hooked. I documented that whole process last year in a four part series, starting here: The Strength to be Strong.
Since then, I’ve continued training both Olympic lifts and in general strength and conditioning. I’ve now competed in two unsanctioned Oly meets, and one sanctioned one, where I proudly sported our team singlet. Let me tell you, I would have NEVER expected that to happen in my life– owning a singlet OR posting pictures of me wearing one online OR lifting weights in front of a crowd while wearing one.
If it isn’t obvious by now, I love weightlifting. I seriously appreciated it before this year, but it has now become such a mainstay in my life (4 days a week on average), which meant a lot during a fairly crazy year. A busy new work schedule (including one 33-days-of-work-in-a-row stint, and domestic and international work trips) would have normally deterred me from maintaining a regimen, but it honestly kept me sane. Focusing on physical work allowed me to take a mental break from everything else more times than I can count this year, and I am so, so thankful for that. Also? I swear that lifting weights in the hotel gym after flying to China erased my jet lag. That and I super impressed the Chinese businessmen by being the only female in there, and the only one throwing around any significant amount of weight.
Not only did I gain sanity and mental peace through weightlifting, but the community that I’ve joined at Industrial Strength Gym has made working out a social appointment I am more than happy to keep. The support, the camaraderie, the friendly competition, and just a giant room full of smiling faces make it one of my favorite places in the world right now. I see these people more than any of my other friends or any of our families, so liking them makes an hour in the gym a breeze.
As a result of this love and commitment, I am the strongest and most confident and comfortable with my body and myself than I have ever been. The large thighs I used to loathe are something I am proud to sport now. Nothing but slimming black yoga pants? Fuck that, give me a crazy ass pattern and let’s get wild. My ass is actually gaining a good curve, rather than just being a wide and flat white girl’s ass. And I have guns! With shadows of triceps! Some shirts don’t fit them anymore! What?! And I’m so okay with this!
No longer am I concerned with getting smaller. I just want to get stronger. As women we’ve had the messages of “take up less space,” “be smaller,” “shrink yourself,” and “don’t be an inconvenience” drilled into our brains from an early age. To shirk that and gladly acknowledge my strength and appear muscular is one of the most refreshing and liberating things I’ve experienced as an adult. Plus that feeling of denying someone’s help when they’re concerned your bag of groceries or that box you’re moving is too heavy, and showing them you’re more than capable of doing it yourself is, admittedly, amazing. I blew my grandparents’ minds when I moved a massive old TV for them on my own.
So, on the year anniversary of signing up for my first Olympic weightlifting meet, I signed up for my first powerlifting competition. Squat, deadlift, and overhead push press are the three lifts I’m competing in. Again, I know I’m not the strongest person out there. Not by a long shot. But having that goal to work toward is incredibly inspiring and I am more than stoked. Plus I’ve learned that it’s not about who lifts the most out of everyone, but just out of the people that had the guts to sign up that day. I could place last in my division, I could place first, I could place somewhere in the middle. I’m totally cool with any of those outcomes. To me, it’s all about the journey and seeing how far I come by the end of that day.
My husband and I are beginning our annual Whole30 on Monday the 5th (after some seriously fun food and drink indulgences over the holidays), and I plan on extending that until the powerlifting meet near the end of February. Not only that, I recently took a GEMS test to determine what foods work best with me on a lifelong genetic level (learn more about that here). Beyond the normal Whole30 guidelines I’ll be cutting out bacon, sausage, fermented foods, shellfish, dried fruit, and a few others. I’ve heard from people who’ve taken the test and eliminated their respectively appropriate foods that their health, well being, and even gym performance have improved significantly, so now it the perfect time to test that out. I signed up for a weight class that is right around where I usually hover, so this will be the first time I’ll have to monitor my weight, which should be interesting. The big takeaway from that though is not associating that number with an emotion, which I’ve gotten much better about during 2014. After all, it’s just a damn number.
I received a lot of great feedback from people regarding last year’s Strength series posts, as I’ve previously mentioned. I don’t plan on fully continuing that again this time around, but keep an eye out for updates on my training process and how the competition turns out. I’m so excited for it. 🙂