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All Hail the Queen: How Weightlifting Changed My Life

Photo Credit: Isabella Mendes on

Hands on hips, eyes narrowed, I kick the bar.

I’d love to tell you it’s a show of dominance, but it’s a delaying tactic. I know it. My coach does, too, but he’ll allow me a minute to indulge myself. But only a minute. Clock’s ticking.

Squat snatch. Queen of the Lifts.

I’m shaking.

I take a step back. Slap my thighs. Wipe my nose on my arm. Blink back the tears before they spill down my face.

I’m scared. But at least I’m used to it now and conditioned to act despite it. Three deep breaths before I bend down and hook grip the bar. I deadlift it once, to feel the weight and then it’s go time.

First attempt. Fail. I drop the bar before it clears my knees.

Three more breaths. My coach is shouting at me to get my hands back on the bar. I do.

Second attempt is still as rough, but I muscle the bar up before it all falls apart. I’m in the squat when I catch it but fear takes over and I throw the bar forward before ever feeling its full weight. My ass hits the mat, hard, and I feel my face growing hot as I get to my feet, shaking harder than before.

This isn’t a PB attempt. It’s not even close to what I’ve lifted before. But something about this lift, whether it’s with a loaded bar or a PVC pipe, scares the shit out of me and excites me at the same time. It’s my favourite lift of them all, and the one I will lose sleep over the night before when I see it in my programming.

For a long time, I thought my fear was because it’s technically challenging, requiring a high degree of skill and confidence. It’s a hard lift to dump. I could get hurt.

But that’s not why it fucks me up so much. It’s because it’s emotionally confronting. It requires a level of trust in my body that, at age 40, is near brand spanking new. I’ve never liked my body. Hated it in fact, for most of my life. My body, like my personality, has always been too much of something.

Too big. Too tall. Too wide. Too soft. Too weak.

Strange how a lifetime of being too much of everything leaves one feeling like not enough of anything. I’ve doubted my body for as long as I can remember, not only its capabilities, but whether or not it even has a right to exist. It takes up so much space, you see.

And THAT is why the snatch terrifies and transforms me all at once.

Because snatching requires that I step out of four decades of what I thought to be true, not only about myself but about everything.

Because I am either all in or all out. There is no room for doubt.

Because of that moment when the bar – that heavy iron bar - is somehow floating through the air, defying gravity, and I’m sinking down and I’m holding my breath and…

Pause, please, if you will, for THIS is where it happens, in my third attempt.

It’s literally a split second, that moment between when I reach the bottom of the squat and when I catch the bar over my head but in that instant, I fucking implode. I am reaching, stretched between the woman I was when I threw the bar over my head and the woman I trust will be there to catch the bar at the end.
Because she didn’t exist a few seconds ago. That woman can only be created when I pledge my absolute fucking fidelity to an IDEA, a hope, a possibility.

And then the bar is in my hands, and my coach is screaming- UP! UP! UP!- and I am rising.



All hail the Queen.

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