Three years & gratitude

Don’t look at the woman scraping a good lift out of her third attempt. Look at the man in the background, kneeling and willing it to happen after having pulled her aside and given her a serious pep talk that made the difference between success and failure in that moment.

I don’t do things halfway. Not the important ones. If I decide to do something that has meaning to me, I give to it whatever I can and whatever it needs of me.

This is often a great asset (and occasionally a tremendous liability – I’ve ended up with some tremendous successes and some pretty cataclysmic failures).

Three years ago on May 5, 2013, I walked through the doors of a local gym to begin my first personal training session, having decided to make a change in my life and become more physically fit. I’ve written about it here and here, but as that anniversary approaches again, it has been on my mind a lot.

You can do a lot in three years, with the right help.

In addition to the three-year-mark of my journey, June will mark two years since my first powerlifting meet and I will also be participating in my second IPF World Championships.

June is coming quickly. Astonishingly quickly, now that we’re bringing April to a close. So quickly that I know that once it arrives it will be gone and I will feel like it flew by in the blink of an eye. Training is going well. I’m working on focussing on each workout, on each lift, on each moment of training and not worrying about the next day or the next set or the next rep. When I finish training, I make sure that I do what I need to recover. It’s a form of tunnel vision, but a necessary one to survive the rigours of training and the development of the focus that is needed in competition. But June 20 is coming so quickly now that I’m in awe of the time flying by.

There’s something about looking forward that makes you glance backward, sort of a need to contextualize the future in what has gone past. Maybe also to slow down the passage of time a little? I’m not really sure. After June everything changes and I’m still wrapping my head around what that will look like and how I will make it work.

When I look back at the woman who walked into the gym in May of 2013, I don’t really know her anymore. It feels like a different life and a different time. I was a different person then in so many ways.

I could barely stagger through split squats and planks. I couldn’t do push-ups. In fact, I recall not actually making it through my third session and just running completely out of steam (because I had run a single kilometre before training). I remember sometimes lying on the turf, wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into, but I also remember that there was something inside of me that simply could not admit defeat and give up. I had massive anxiety attacks before going to the gym. I worried about what I looked like to everyone there, how poorly I moved, how my clothes didn’t fit, and what I had allowed my body and mind to become. I fought gravity and inertia for every rep. I sweated buckets. I cried in the gym showers, out of exhaustion, frustration, and self-deprecation for having let myself slip so low. I battled the negative voices (they can be quite a loud chorus) in my head over and over. In short, I did exactly what every other overweight and under-fit woman who walks into the gym does. I fought with and eventually for myself.

But I was luckier than many. I didn’t fight alone.

How do you thank someone for utterly changing your life?

I really don’t have enough words, or the right ones. I’m not sure they even exist.

I’ve had some extraordinarily good teachers through the years, exceptional and gifted people from all walks of life, but I’m not sure any have helped me to change as profoundly and significantly as Nick Roberts has and I will be grateful for that for all of my days.

When I stepped through the doors, I didn’t plan on becoming a powerlifter. What I wanted most at that point was self-respect. I wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror and like who I saw. I wanted the person looking back at me to be someone I could live with.

I didn’t know she could be a powerlifter. In fact, I didn’t really have any inkling of how strong she could be. Some days the happiest thought that flows through me is that I still don’t know, that maybe the possibilities still exceed my imagination. That’s a powerful incentive to train.

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.”

Ara Parasheghian 

After a year of general conditioning, some serious thought, and a few weeks of peaking for a powerlifting meet, I stepped onto the platform and became a powerlifter.

On June 28, 2014, I competed for the first time and put in a 115kg squat, a 65kg bench, and a 140kg deadlift for a 320kg total.

Almost two years later, my best competition lifts are a 145kg squat, an 80kg bench, a 182kg deadlift, and a 402 total.

Somehow this year I am heading to my second world championships and will compete in that less than two years after my first meet.

There’s something a bit miraculous about that, isn’t there? To be able to coach an ordinary person to become something a little wonderful, beyond her own expectations shows a considerable talent and a great gift. To help a woman go from being barely able to hold a plank to a deadlift of over 400lbs in a few short years takes skill, thought, imagination, profound depth of knowledge, creativity, patience (so much patience), and determination. Whatever snags or hiccoughs we bumped into along the way, however much it challenged both of us as athlete-coach, teammates, or friends, what I have learned from and become with the help of Nick Roberts is magnificent and I thank him for it.

There are many lifters out there who lift more than I and possess more raw talent. Plenty have vastly better technique. Most have gobs more experience. Still others have had greater meteoric success, have battled impossible odds, are younger, possess better genetics, and greater strength of character. I’m not being self-deprecating here, it’s the truth. I’m just one person in a sea of people in love with this sport. But none of that really matters to me, not really, because the important part is that my story is unique and wonderful, shaped in large part by a good man who has been my coach. And the best part is that my story isn’t over yet. I’m still not sure what I can be. I am lucky beyond measure.

How do you thank someone for utterly changing your life?

Maybe you say “thank you” and pay it forward as best you can.  That’s my plan for now.


Thank you.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Dianne Rabkin says:

    I’ve been following you for a while now and many others I know. You have this inner girth that spurns us on.
    We are so proud of you!

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