Almost a month ago, my friend went to the national powerlifting championships in Regina. Her partner had shared the live stream link and I was able to tune in and watch her flight along with a couple of other sets.
My friend did well, in both equipped and unequipped events, and brought home medals. Other women and men from my home province also did well, and the sport got a nicely deserved uptick in interest and huzzahs for these achievements.
There was some pretty impressive weight lifted in that competition room, but more than anything, what struck me as I watched, was how different each lifter’s body was.
There were tall lifters and short ones, lean and stocky types, older and younger athletes. Along with diversity of body types, there was diversity of ethnicity and location.
Everywhere across Canada, all kinds of women are taking on powerlifting. Quite a number of them are doing it competitively and it’s a beautiful thing.
The fact is many athletic competitions featuring women offer a big dose of glamour. Take figure skating. Despite the amount of power and strength needed for the sport, figure skating commentary about women most often focuses on grace, physical beauty, and the cute tights and flippy skirts.
I can’t honestly tell you what the amazing women in Saskatoon wore. I do remember their lifts.
I remember the ones that had to return the bar to the rack without completing their lifts.
I remember the ones that powered through their lifts, some of them raising loaded bars the way I lift a piece of toast for a bite — effortlessly.
I remember the ones who struggled fiercely, with even the commentators joining in with encouraging words and murmurs until at last the bar was raised, pressed or deadlifted to success.
It didn’t matter what the athletes looked like unless it was to explain about a point of form that lost them the pass to the next lift. It didn’t matter what they wore except when it came to explaining the difference between equipped and unequipped lifting.
What mattered was that they worked hard, that they focused, that they picked up the heavy things and then put them down again.
These women were inspiring and they were marvelous. I wish more people had a chance to see these achievements on the platform, but I most especially wish our kids in schools could see more women who are as strong and as physically fit as these women were.
It is really important that we see female strength in action. I think it can have a profound effect on your own perception of what you can or cannot do when you actually see different kinds of bodies performing at top capacity.
Too often we let all those negative stereotypes of how women should look and be as athletes dictate the boundaries of our own engagement with fitness. Watching those women in Regina reminded me how better we all would be if we let go of those old limiting ideas and instead embraced a new definition of what it means to be a strong, fit woman.
— Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant living in St. John’s who has recently turned to weights as a way to get her fit on.