Powerlifting Power Woman
I wrote about Melissa last year. Her training and drive have always been inspiring but since she got into weights, her levels of awesome have skyrocketed. I’m lucky enough to call her a friend and it’s been great to see how her sharing her journey so honestly has helped so many others. She recently made the decision to take her love of weights to the next level and compete in power lifting, so I figured it was time for a catch up. If you were in search of a little motivation today, here it is…
What made you want to go from just lifting to actually competing as a powerlifter?
When I originally started lifting seriously, it was purely to create a look aesthetically. I wanted to look like wonder woman; a strong and lean physique. Lifting was purely a vanity thing. However, the more I lifted, the more I gained mentally and emotionally and the further I moved the focus away from looking like an athlete to actually just being one. Last year, I had planned on competing in physique based competitions but a lot has changed for me since then. As women, we spend our lives being judged by how we look, before how we perform and who we are. I believe my self worth to be so much more than my six pack…or lack there of. I am a strong and powerful woman and wanted to push that existence, not one that exists only in the mirror. Competing is just a natural progression for me to challenge myself, I also believe it is a great way to promote strength training for women, which is a huge passion of mine.
You wrote recently about your journey with adhering to a strict diet when you first got into weights. It was a really powerful piece. What lessons did you take away from that experience?
Yes, that was a pretty hard piece for me to write. Last year, when on my “look like wonder woman” fat loss journey, I dieted very intensely and strictly for nine months. It’s taken me about twelve months to be able to see what I learned from it, retrospect is a wonderful thing! I learnt that the “all or nothing” or “go hard, or go home” approach to fitness is actually pretty damaging in a lot of respects. I am a very hard worker, I am committed 100% to my end goals, however, we need balance in our lives in order to sustain and feel good. My “commitment” to my goal turned from commitment into a borderline eating disorder and body dismorphia. I will never diet like that again and I would urge others to learn from my mistake. Find a lifestyle that works for you and fit it into your life rather than turning your whole life upside down. Also, I know its easy for me to say, but a six pack isn’t all that exciting!
How has your training changed now that you have your eye on competing?
At the moment it hasn’t at all. I train heavy three times a week and I do two conditioning sessions, which is what I was doing prior to signing up. My first few meets are all about experience rather than winning, although wouldn’t that be nice! There is nothing I can do now, three weeks out, to prepare myself to compete except be consistent and practice form. Nothing can prepare me more for competing than actually competing, so I will be learning a lot about myself and how I react to meet conditions with the view to bagging myself some trophies in 2015!
What is your toughest training session of the week?
Without a doubt it’s Thursday, my final session of the week! My sessions are pretty repetitive; I squat, bench and deadlift every session but by Thursday I am pretty tired. I reluctantly get up at 6am on my day off and get on with it. The bonus is, I get a sports massage on Thursdays, so that always softens the blow!
What’s been the hardest obstacle you’ve had to overcome on this journey so far?
By far, it been self discipline in training and technique. I have so much still to learn and get past but training isn’t about just showing up and going through the motions. Squatting with 95kg on your back while maintaining perfect form and technique is mentally exhausting. Your body doesn’t want to do it the right way, because its freaking hard and then you need to co-ordinate the raw need to get the weight up and racked with technical perfection. Its tough and some days I just want to give it all up but its worth it, so so worth it.
You train hard with the weights and you teach spin numerous times a week – how have you learned to adjust to your schedule and get enough rest?
This is very much a work in progress. One month I taught 35 classes, on top of training four times a week. Never again! I now limit myself to six classes a week and have adjusted my teaching schedule so that I only train and teach on the same day once a week. Sleep is a big issue for me, I start work at 7am a lot, so I try to be in bed by 9.30/10pm so that I can get six hours a night which works for me. I eat a lot of food, as its essential for recovery and I religiously have a sports massage on a Thursday to ease off my muscles! I can’t say I have totally nailed it but I’m getting there!
What do you think the biggest misconception is about weight training?
Without a doubt, that it makes women get big and bulky. Without getting into too much technical jargon, women do not have enough naturally occurring testosterone to put on a ton of muscle. Yes, we can gain some muscle but you need the right diet to support that, and when I say the right, I mean lots and LOTS of food. I am have a higher amount of muscle mass than the average woman, and I eat on average 3000 calories a day to maintain that, which at 60kg and 5ft3, is no mean feat! With the average woman eating 1200 calories a day (thank you unnamed women’s magazine)…putting on any significant muscle is near enough impossible.
What advice would you give to women looking to get into weight training?
Keep it simple and hire a professional, and this isn’t a plug for my PT business. Walking in to a weights area, in a busy, man filled gym is intimidating – I would find it intimidating and I know what I’m doing. Invest some time and money in a good trainer who will set you a program and ensure that you can do the lifts safely and effectively. It will increase your knowledge, your confidence and minimise risk of injury, which in my opinion is priceless.
What’s your next move after you compete this month?
Training and more training. My plan for the next few months is to show up at as many meets as possible to increase my experience. There are so many unknown factors to competing that I just need to feel out. In 2015, I would love to compete to win some trophies. I’ll have to look at moving into a lower weight class to increase my competitiveness which will be an interesting experience. Its very common for athletes to diet down for powerlifting competitions, I am interested to see how I handle that process. I am pretty strong at such an early stage of lifting and have a lot of potential to do well in the sport so I would love to see how far I can take that!