Lifter Profile: Allie Feras

Hi Allie! How old are you, and how long have you been training?

I am 28-years-old, and I have been lifting for somewhere between 5 and 8 years, depending on whether you count from when I first touched a barbell or when I started training for powerlifting. My best competition total is 821 in the 138 weight class, with a 297lb squat, 165lb bench, and 358lb deadlift. I’m planning to beat those numbers at the Arnold Sports Fest in 2 weeks!

Wow! What made you first start lifting?

I started lifting because I was really, really weak.

I had just moved into my first off-campus apartment, and I had to start buying groceries for myself. I lived 3 blocks from the store but I had to stop and rest because I couldn’t carry a gallon of milk that far! Growing up, I never played sports, so I had very little muscle or general athleticism. After reading about strength training on the internet and buying a book called “The New Rules of Lifting for Women,” I hit the gym. The first time I unracked an empty barbell I had to immediately put it back, because I almost fell over. I was so sore afterwards I barely got out of bed for 3 days. Over time I became more comfortable, and was able to very slowly add weight. I signed up for a strength training elective, and was lucky enough to end up in the section taught by a powerlifter. He had us set goals for the semester, like lift a certain percentage of our bodyweight or get our first pull-up.

This was the first time I had a concrete lifting goal and it planted the idea of competing in powerlifting in my mind.

That is amazing progress. Sometimes I hear women say they couldn’t possibly start lifting because of how weak they are… I don’t think they realize that literally just the bar was hard for most of us in the beginning!

How has training for strength (vs. aesthetics) affected you mentally and physically?

Training for strength has given me a sense of self-efficacy.

From the start, it was clear that lifting was not going to be something that came naturally to me, and honestly until then I had avoided all things that weren’t easy. I love to read and school was never that hard for me, except math, and I had gamed my high school’s requirements and took fewer, easier math classes. So the fact that I stuck with lifting was surprising, and I still don’t really understand why, but I’m very glad I did! The confidence I gained from lifting has extended into other areas of my life. Strength training makes it very easy to see even small improvements; every extra pound on the bar is positive reinforcement that you’re moving in the right direction. Though life usually doesn’t provide that same instantaneous feedback, I am more successful with the belief that the work I do will have results.

Physically, training for strength has changed me profoundly. When you go from struggling with heavy doors to benching more than your bodyweight, just living in your body feels very different. I move through the world more easily. Even though I don’t train specifically to look better, I am happier with my appearance now because I look powerful.

Right. Similarly, I found that once I saw how strong I could become, I realized my body was more than an ornament for others. It gave me value outside of appearance, something I wish I’d felt more at a younger age.

If you could tell your past self something, related to training or not, what would it be?

Fuel yourself. When I signed up for my first meet, I picked a weight class that was nearly 10 lbs lighter than my weight at the time, and set about losing weight. While part of this was rooted in wanting to be thin, I also felt like I wasn’t strong enough to lift in the higher weight class, that I wouldn’t be competitive there. Truthfully, I wasn’t competitive in the lighter weight class either. Why would I be? It was my first meet! But I had convinced myself that I could only justify being heavier if I was stronger, and I clung to this for a few years.

At the time, I was also playing roller derby (another thing that lifting gave me the confidence to try!). Between lifting and skating, I needed a lot of calories, and I wasn’t getting them. I felt slow and tired at practice, and my numbers stagnated in the gym. Eventually, I lost my period and began to worry about my health. I thought that only happened to very thin women, but I was still a “healthy weight,” so it took me a long time to recognize what was wrong. Only after I let myself gain weight did I finally get stronger, healthier, and happier!

That is so inspiring, and I’m so happy to hear how well you’re doing now.

What’s a personal goal of yours, not related to lifting?

Like many people right now, I am becoming more politically active, or at least less politically lazy. My goal is to give back where I can, and help affect change. I know that I cannot do it all myself, but I need to be a part of something.

Well, thank you for being a part of WSC!

Finally, what is your favorite thing about powerlifting?

Although you are ultimately alone on the platform, the most fun thing about powerlifting is being surrounded by people who care about getting strong as much as you do. Whether it is cheering my friends through their sets in the gym, talking about training with my coach, or eating cookies in the warm-up room with the women I’m competing against, I love the experiences that competing has allowed me to have.

And even when I am alone on the platform, I know they’ve got my back.

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