I’m happy for you, really

Yesterday I did a thing. I volunteered at the Special Olympics Minnesota 2020 Winter Games State Powerlifting Meet. This is my fourth or fifth year (I lost track) and it is a meet I will continue to volunteer for and support. The athletes who compete and the families and friends who support them are amazing – overcoming stereotypes and just working to be their best. It warms my heart every time. These are people with goals and year over year I get to see some of them achieved.

I have met so many athletes and am in awe of their strength. They face so many obstacles that I have never known and they come out smiling and wanting to to do their best. Sure, they have off days like the rest of us but they come back time and again.

This year, one athlete didn’t hit his deadlift attempts and his coach came up to the platform as we were tearing down after all official attempts had been completed and asked if we would load the bar to a weight he hit in warmups. Irregular? Sure. But to help someone end the day on a positive note was a chance I couldn’t pass up. We loaded the bar to the weight and when he hit that deadlift and I can tell you I cheered just as loudly for him as I did during the official competition, if not more because now he had a win to take home.

That is what I love to do: give you the chance to be the best you and cheer you every step of the way. I am happy for you no matter what you do. If you hit the lift, great! If you don’t hit the lift, great! Either way you tried to do the thing and that’s what I love. Really.

Why did this come up? Well, at the end of the meet I was talking with other volunteers and they said the thing they loved most about watching me on the platform spotting was that I was genuinely excited and happy for each lift. And I realized that I truly am. I am happy for you showing up and doing what you can, no matter what that is. And I will cheer as loud as need.

I’m happy for you, really.

How did you get into powerlifting?

How did you get into powerlifting? This was a question asked on the registration form for the USAPL Raw Nationals. I typed an innocuous answer, something about a coach at my gym (JVB) asking if anyone wanted to try powerlifting and I decided sure, why not? I like lifting heavy things. But as I lay in bed after submitting that I realized it was only part of the answer, the easy part. What was missing was the answer to WHY did you get into powerlifting.

I alluded to my answer for WHY in my very first post but even that didn’t get to the heart of the answer. And maybe the answer is ever-evolving and what I am about to write is just the most current understanding I have of WHY.

I got into powerlifting because I believed that having a strong body would influence my state of mind. Strong body = strong mind = strong person. And at the moment in life when I began powerlifting I did not have a strong mind. Or rather, I didn’t have confidence in my strong mind. I was looking for something of a magic bullet to help me believe in myself again and lift me up from the outside in.

As we are learning more each day, being a woman is really hard. From birth (it seems) we are inundated with images of what girls are, should be, and should aspire to be. I never fit any of those molds – I am a smart, short, brunette with a “solid” frame. My eyes I affectionately (OK, derisively) call “shit brown” and I am sarcastic to a fault. And I have always been strong. And not just for a girl. I was the one people asked to lift heavy things and to literally pick them up when they were down.

What did this do for me, growing up in our society? It marginalized me and instead of learning to live my own life I was trying to live the life that I perceived society expected of me: girls should be delicate and tread lightly, not rock the boat. Girls should not be physically stronger than boys – that intimated boys and you would never get a boyfriend that way. Girls should not be intellectually smarter than boys – boys preferred their girls dumber so they could feel superior.

Did I actually believe those things? On some level I must have believed because they certainly influenced me. I broke up with my high school boyfriend because I thought I was too physically aggressive and not “delicate” enough – I outweighed him and it freaked me out. I didn’t try dating anyone else because I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me. I didn’t believe in myself.

Until I met my husband. And boy did he believe in me. Remember that first post where I mentioned rock climbing and kayaking and everything else that I love? Because he believed in me I was better able to believe in myself and try everything that I wanted – whether it was “normal” for a girl or not. These activities helped me gain strength and confidence. All was good but there was a nagging in the back of my mind, like I was missing something. And then in the midst of dark times in my life I found it: lifting heavy things.

Lifting heavy things was like getting back to my roots, getting back to me. I once again felt strong, like the one people could call when they needed help, when they needed someone to help them out of a jam – emotional or physical. In my search for me I found powerlifting and through powerlifting I was lucky enough to find a tribe of supportive women and men, people I can turn to when I am not strong. People who lift me up and believe in me. It’s kind of like Santa exists only as long as you believe in him – I can be strong mentally and physically only as long as I have a group of supportive people who help ME believe in me.

So, what is my REAL answer to the question: how did you get into powerlifting?

I got into powerlifting to strengthen my body and to use that physical strength to help strengthen my mind and my belief in myself. I got into powerlifting to learn who I am and who I will become.


I am Oni.

My package arrived at the post office on Monday. It was registered mail. I couldn’t WAIT to rip it open. But I had to wait until Saturday – I would never get to the post office before 5pm on a weeknight. Ever.

Saturday mornings are bench day 2 and mean I need to be to the gym by 10am. The post office (in it’s infinite wisdom) does not open until 9am. I live 30 minutes from the gym so this meant I needed to be there soon after they opened or face a long line of people in my situation. I arrived at 9:10 and watched the clock tick away as ONE person worked the line – there were already 10 people ahead of me.

Slowly the clock ticked, slowly the line moved. There was an appearance of a second postal clerk, but she moved slowly with a couple false starts. Finally it was my turn! I handed my slip over and waited some more. She returned with the package, I signed a form and headed to my truck. I would have to wait to open it – it was past 9:30 and I couldn’t miss the gym.

I benched. How much? I don’t know. I was busy thinking about the package waiting for me in the truck. I was giddy and just wanted to finish so I could rip into it – the anticipation was high. As I got into my truck I opened the box and there it was: my new singlet.

When I agreed to lift in the 2016 USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals I didn’t realize I would need to get some new IPF Approved Equipment – specifically a new singlet (the #TeamGreen Adidas singlet isn’t on the list) and a new belt. You may not know this about me, but I am kind of a fashion snob so all of the big players on the approved list disappointed me – their singlets were sooo boring and predictable – black, red and black, blue and black. There was no “wow” factor that made me want to rock one at Nationals. I kept looking at the more obscure brands, brands I had never heard of before and one caught my eye: the Bukiya SAKURA-Oni.

It’s black. It’s pink. it’s ME!

While the singlet does have style (seriously, have you SEEN the Inzer singlet?) it had another selling point for me: while I was playing on the site deciding whether to buy it I saw this in the navigation: WhatIsOni_Button and I had to click on it. What it  lead to was nothing short of AWESOME

What’s Oni? “Oni” means an ogre. The symbol of the strength in Japan. Our products are powerful like Oni!

Ogre. Symbol of strength. I was sold.

On the surface being compared to an ogre may not seem like something to be happy about. I mean, LOTR fans would definitely prefer NOT to be compared to ogres, but I since I am also a SHREK fan all I could thing was: I AM an ogre – just like Princess Fiona and all her bad-assery.

This got me thinking: Fiona definitely had a split personality. She knew what it was like to be the “ideal” woman AND a “monster” who doesn’t fit the mold. At first she was repelled by her ogre side, afraid she would never fit in but she eventually learned to embrace her strength and found that being strong was a gift and she could love herself no matter whether she fit the ideal. And in many respects I AM Fiona.

I have been leaner than I am now but I have never been stronger mentally or physically. I know how to use my strength and how my strength is and always has been an asset. But it has been a journey to fully embrace this version of me. As often happens, life got in the way of the ideal and I made some choices and changed. How I changed led me to The Movement Minneapolis and my coaches and helped me embrace MY ogre side. And I am happy to say I am excited to see what else it can do.

I am Oni.

Next up: my belt.