Third time’s a charm! On Saturday June 28, I participated in my 3rd powerlifting meet at the 2nd Annual Powerlifting for Pink hosted by CrossFit Chattahoochee to benefit Paint Georgia Pink. Powerlifting is is a strength sport that consists of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts: back squat, bench press, and deadlift. This is my third meet and by far my most successful. It was a good day. A very, very good day. I successfully completed 8 out of 9 lifts and hit three personal records: 115kg (253#) squat, 70kg (154#) bench press, 145kg (319#) deadlift for a total of 330kg (726#) earning me two medals and the Best Master Female Lifter of the meet.
But this story begins one day back in the summer of 2009. One day, I got off my couch and decided I was no longer going to be just a fan of the Atlanta Rollergirls, I was going to skate. Mind you, I had done zero exercise in about 15 years and was well into clinically obese numbers on the scale. Guess what? I got injured just days before try outs. So while Kelly, Lea, Gara, Alison and Emily (now Slamborghini, Lez Dispenser, Bruze Orman, Ruby Chaos, and Evil Olive, respectively) all made it into a Fresh Meat class, I went to physical therapy. For the first time in my life I complied with a doctor and went to every session because “Damn it, I am going to be a derby girl.”
I got better and decided to try again, this time with another league where I felt I could grow and develop at a pace that would work for me. Once I started playing, I learned that while I was strong and the fans really liked seeing me lay out skaters coming out of turn two, I was not a very effective player. I was slow, unstable, and not very agile. So I walked into Knockout Crossfit and started my journey from Derby Girl to Athlete.
What I discovered there is that I am strong, very strong, but I am not very fast or graceful. I was putting up numbers at my box to which most of the other women could not even come close. By the end of summer 2013, I was ready to transfer to the Atlanta Rollergirls AND participate in my first powerlifting meet. It just so happened that Pearl Reckless was also training for this meet. She introduced me to her coach, Josh Rohr. When I got to the meet, lo and behold our ARG medic, Heather, was there in the crowd cheering us on. I won a medal, and I was hooked.
It’s not easy being a slave to two masters, Atlanta Rollergirls and Team Rohr. I am always choosing which workout will take priority in my week. My powerlifting coach, Josh Rohr, spends half of our time together working me just as hard on agility, speed, and explosive power as he does on my squat, bench, and deadlift. I am asleep earlier than everyone in my house and wake up when it is still dark. Three days a week to get to the gym to lift before the start of my workday, I hit CrossFit three to five days a week so that I can keep up my endurance, and I skate at night and on the weekends. My car smells like a gym locker. The only clothes that fit me right have Nike or Under Armour labels and the sleeves cut off, but I would not change a thing.
I cannot even begin to explain how much strength and power training begins to help me with derby. Am I fancy, squeezing through any hole like Trouble Makeher? Nope. Can I jump an apex like Wild Cherri? Um, my feet were meant to be on the ground, heels planted, toes up. I am strong. I hit hard. Trying to move me out of position in a scrum is like trying to move a 200-pound boulder. I am stable and can power through a wall like a locomotive. I can take a hit from some of the best and stay on my feet, ready to move on and pass the next set of hips to score another point. Every time I compete in a powerlifting meet, I show back up at practice completely reinvigorated, feeling strong, confident and ready to take on anything that the track presents. It reminds me that, despite my age, hefty weight, and lack of finesse on my skates, I am strong. I work hard and have many strengths on which the Apocalypstix and Jukes of Hazzard rely.
As a woman, it is empowering to know that I rarely have to ask anyone to help me do anything that requires physical strength. I move things on my own and carry things from place to place. I know I can do whatever I set my mind to and I am learning how to get out of my head and overcome fear and self-doubt through the use of big heavy things. It can be scary to say to yourself, “Hmm, I am about to put 250 pounds on my back, squat down to the floor and get back up.” but I can do it. So, I am pretty sure I can do most anything if I just clear my head and have some confidence in myself.
Powerlifting is the sport I will carry on well into my old age. I compete as a Master and can keep competing for as long as my body will let me. I am fighting off my family history of obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. I am taking care of myself by moving big weight. I chose it not only because I am pretty good at it but also because there is a sense of community similar to roller derby. We may be competing against each other, but we are also there pushing each other in the gym at every training session. We support each other through injuries and cheer each other on. Even when that other girl’s successful lift just knocked me off the awards podium, I am proud of her accomplishment and can feel her joy. It is very much like roller derby, and I am so grateful to have it in my life.
One of my biggest fears when I came to Atlanta Rollergirls was knowing the time will come when I can no longer compete in roller derby at this advanced level. I am 41. How many years can I possibly have in me? I am no longer scared of that day. I have a new sport which will keep me grounded mentally, focused on my fitness level, and involved in a community that is positive and empowering. Much like derby, as I improve it will take me all over the country and possibly to other continents if I stay focused and train hard.
So what is the point of this story? You can do it! If this old, overweight, non-athletic person can make a life-changing decision about her fitness, so can you. Just take it one step at a time. If you are local, check out some of the places I mentioned up above. If not, check out http://www.usapowerlifting.com and find your state chapter for coaches in your area.