From Barres to Barbells: How Lifting Changed My Life

 

I started powerlifting when I was a senior in college, 2 and a half years ago. My ex-boyfriend got me into it, and immediately I felt like this was what was missing in my life. Before I started lifting, I was a dancer for my whole life. I started dancing when I was 3 years old, and continued until age 22. Dance, and more specifically ballet, was my entire life and it helped shape me into the person I am today. When I was in middle and high school, I spent every day after school and all day Saturday in class and rehearsal. Summers were spent at dance camp, 40 hours a week for 8 weeks. I loved it, but at the same time I hated it. The dance world is very competitive-and not always in a good way. You have to look a certain way, act a certain way, and accept what’s given to you. There are certain standards that all professional dancers must meet-tall, thin, and lean. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet any of those standards. I grew up hearing phrases like 

“you’re too short”

“you won’t fit into the costume”

“you’re too curvy”

“you won’t look good on stage next to so and so”

….repeatedly hearing this definitely had an impact on me. I remember being devastated after audition results came out, every single year. “Why are all the other people in the dance advanced beginners…?” “I’m not in the snow scene? *cue meltdown*” “Why am I the ONLY senior without a solo in Nutcracker this year?!?!?!”….you get the picture. Every year I would swear it was my last, but auditions would roll around again and I’d be there, number pinned to my leotard, just like every other year. I was always stuck with the younger kids because of my size. I never danced a solo-not once. And it wasn’t because of my abilities. I didn’t ‘look’ the part of a soloist, so I never was one. And unfortunately, stuff like this wasn’t uncommon in the dance world. The teachers always told me I would be ‘repaid’ someday, but that day never came (like the year I had to dance with beginners in the summer dance concert because they needed an extra person and I was the only one who would fit into the costume…I was 15, they were all between the ages of 6-9). And my teachers were right-I WAS small. At just 5 feet tall, I weighed less than 100 pounds until I went to college (the freshman 15 is REAL, people). But it wasn’t only me that got picked on. Many of my friends developed eating disorders and had serious psychological issues. I knew amazing dancers who had to give it all up because they couldn’t handle the pressure. I witnessed girls collapse backstage from lack of food after a performance. I listened to girls throw up their lunches before class. And I didn’t do anything about it.

Dance taught me a lot of things, like discipline, time-management, determination, the ability to work hard…but self-confidence and positive body image were not any of these things. I struggled with feeling good about my body for a long time.

That’s where lifting really changed my life. I continued to dance recreationally through college, but when I found powerlifting my life did a complete 180. What I love about lifting is, you don’t have to look a certain way. It’s not about what you look like, it’s about your strength and your abilities. Powerlifters come in all shapes and sizes-and every single one of them is supportive of one another.  It’s such an amazing community and I’m so glad I found it! In the dance community, someone could be your best friend one day, then stab you in the back to get a role they desired the next day. Now, complete strangers look up to me, help me, motivate me, are motivated BY me. There’s no feeling quite like going to a competition, and having people who you don’t know at all encourage you and congratulate you and offer advice.

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Z-Squad, a team from SUNY Cortland who graciously accepted me into their team for this meet! And it was so fun!!

 

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The best feeling in the world.

 

 

Since I started lifting, I’ve gained so much self-confidence and I’ve learned to love my body. I’ve always been a little bit reserved, shy and quiet, but I feel like I’ve come out of my shell. Lifting has made me a better version of myself.

What started out as a hobby, a way for me to bond with my ex-boyfriend, turned into a full-blown lifestyle. Even after our relationship ended, I had no intentions of stopping. When I first started lifting, I never thought I would ever compete. I competed for the first time in October 2012, and after that I was hooked. I wanted to go to a meet every weekend! In the past 3 years, I’ve competed 7 times, finishing in first place 5 times and second place twice. I don’t pretend to be the best-I’m far from it. I still consider myself very new to the sport and I know I have a lot to learn. I’ve met so many amazing people that have helped me along the way, and my coach Jordan Syatt of Syatt Fitness is always there to offer guidance and support! Not to mention my family and friends who have always supported and encouraged me, even though I know they thought I was crazy at first! There are even people I’ve connected with via social media-instagram and facebook-who I’ve never met but are some of my biggest supporters. At first there were a lot of people who told me I couldn’t do it and I’m proud to have proved them wrong. Once I hit my goals I make new ones. I have a board in my room with all my current best numbers and my future goals. This is something I look at every single day to remind myself of how far I’ve come and how much work I still have to do. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied, to be honest! I want to keep improving forever!

I hope to be someone for other women and girls to look up to. I want to encourage women to get out there and chase your dreams. I want to be a motivator for women to be the best versions of themselves. I know what it’s like to be scared of things-I spent most of my life being this small, timid girl. I spent my high school years trying to be as invisible as possible. And I never went to the gym. I was way too scared. Now, I’m often the only girl in the weight room, and let me tell you, its empowering! I want all women to feel that. I want all women to know their strength, because I can guarantee you’re stronger than you think! I want women to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being strong. You won’t get bulky unless that’s what you want-look at me! I tell people I lift and I always get this surprised reaction. I’m still a girl-I’m actually a very girly girl. All my gear is pink, my competition singlet is pink, I love getting dolled up in a dress and heels and dancing the night away with my girlfriends. Going to the gym does not mean you have to give up your femininity…and I want more women to understand that!

I know what it’s like to be scared….I spent most of my life being scared! I want to help women find their true potential-help them come out of THEIR shell, just like I did! Every single woman I’ve ever worked with has told me their self-confidence has increased since they started lifting and working with me. I truly believe that lifting weights can change your life.

**This was originally posted 10/8/14 on my old blog. It has since been updated**

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