Diversions

Powerlifter Sets State Record and Breaks Stigma

By Gigi Nally, Diversions Editor

Too many girls have the misconception that lifting will make them bulky. Many women have been fooled into thinking that cardio is the only way to stay fit; that hours on the elliptical is the only way to get lean. Well, ladies, hop off that treadmill and pick up some weights. I have good news: lifting makes you strong, confident and empowered. Just ask Furman powerlifter Melanie Brown.

Brown is a senior at Furman from Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina who found her passion in powerlifting. Although she’s been lifting for the past three years, she’s only been serious about competing for the past eight months. In her very first powerlifting meet, Brown set a S.C. state record. She competed in the World Natural Powerlifting League, deadlifting 235 pounds in a weight class of 148. This feat was a result of Brown’s dedication. She spent over six hours a week in the gym, lifting weights with a focus on the “Big Three Lifts.” The “Big Three” are movements which require the most muscle engagement: benching, deadlifting and squatting. Working to improve these three lifts can spur muscle growth and increase one’s overall strength.

Although lifting is her primary focus, Brown believes that cardiovascular workouts are also important.

“If you can bench three hundred pounds but can’t run a mile, you’re not a well-rounded athlete,” Brown said.

Just last summer, she biked 150 miles in the N.C. mountains over the span of two days.  On the weekends — the two days when she’s not lifting in the PAC — she likes to go on hikes in the mountains.

The majority of time Brown spends working out is in the gym. And she’s proven hard work in the gym yields great results. Alongside her powerful deadlift, Brown can bench 110 pounds and squat 215 pounds.

However, in her first powerlifting meet, she decided to stick to her strengths and compete only in the deadlift segment. 

“So often you spend hours in the gym alone pushing yourself — like you get excited for little personal records but there’s nobody there to see — so that was really a cool thing to share with people,” Brown said. “I got my first chin up a month ago and I was crying in the gym because it was a huge goal of mine.”

In the gym, there’s nobody there to lift you when you’re struggling to get that weight up, unlike the ambiance at a powerlifting meet, when people are cheering and screaming encouragement at you, according to Brown.

Before her meet, Brown had a breakfast of oatmeal, eggs and coffee, which she says helped fuel her performance and kept her blood-sugar levels in check.

“For a long time, I brushed off my diet, but it’s just as important as what you do in the gym,” Brown said.

She prefers to eat Greek yogurt, fruits, vegetables and lean meats like chicken. Eating healthy foods gives Brown energy in the gym and overall makes her body feel good. She has concrete goals to reach before her next powerlifting meet in February, and she makes sure to do everything she can to prepare. Moving forward, she wants to add a pound a week to her maxes in bench, squat and deadlift, which she says is a feasible goal.

Not only does she want to gain strength, Brown also wants to reduce the stigma for women concerning lifting.

“Women in college shouldn’t be afraid of lifting,” she said. “Don’t be afraid of upstairs in the PAC.”

Lifting lowers Brown’s stress levels and has helped her confidence grow not only in her body but in everything she does. Lifting is an empowering exercise for women. So challenge yourself, pick up some weights and show the world what you’ve got.

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