Lifting Sisters Social
By Chelsea Nkwodimmah
Hands bathed in chalk and thighs coated in baby powder, I waited behind the curtains listening for the announcer to call my name, like calling a gladiator to the arena. I went into my final deadlift behind my competitor by 2.5kg. It was a cat and mouse game as our respective coaches adjusted the weight for our final attempts to gain an advantage. My coach told me he had to raise my 3rd attempt to 192.5kg to fight for a first-place win. I never questioned if I could do it. I only wondered how fast I was going to make it move. I had repeatedly envisioned myself pulling this last attempt over the past three months of training, I just never knew what weight would be on the bar. I ran out onto the platform eyes set on the barbell that laid across the floor. Bar over mid-foot. Feet hip-width apart. Lats tucked into back pockets. Pull the slack out of the bar. Weight in my heels and drive through the ground. I opened my eyes and set the bar back on the ground. Too nervous to look at the judge’s table, I turn to my teammates, instead. Encircled by cheers and hugs from my team, I knew it was a successful lift.
When I started powerlifting, I had no real knowledge of what the sport entailed. I just knew the idea of a woman throwing around some heavy weight was the epitome of badassery!
That opinion still holds true, but over the past year powerlifting has become so much more for me.
It has been a means for me to tap back into my competitive roots as a former athlete, to deal with the stressors of a graduate program and applying to medical school, to combat a family history of diabetes and hypertension, and to build a community of like-minded women.
Since July 2016, I have competed in three powerlifting competitions, finding my bearing with the WNPF federation and recently transitioning to USAPL.
I recently competed at USAPL Raw Nationals in October 2017.
I mentioned to my boyfriend almost a year ago that I wanted to organize a meetup for New York and New Jersey female powerlifters. I spent months tugging back and forth between ideas, procrastination, and self-doubt, feeling as though I didn’t have enough experience or authority within powerlifting to do so. Once I decided to let go of every excuse and expectation, Lifting Sisters Social was born.
I wanted Lifting Sisters Social to simply be a positive space for female powerlifters to train together and engage in intentional relationships with one another.
I was fortunate enough to begin my powerlifting journey training with two other amazing women, but realized that not all women have had that luxury. Several women train either primarily with men or by themselves depending only on self-motivation to get through strenuous sessions. Many only encounter other female lifters in more competitive environments such as at official meets.
Above all else, I wanted all who came to Lifting Sisters Social to leave feeling fulfilled—whether that meant meeting a new training partner, gaining tips to perfect their squat form, or just feeling a renewed confidence and hunger toward powerlifting.
Thirteen phenomenal women showed up that day to empower and encourage one another. We shared our raw ups and downs with powerlifting, our love for music and dance, stories about our families, donuts and bagels, but most importantly, we shared so many laughs!
I had contacted Kimberly Walford via Instagram and she showed no hesitation in agreeing to come by to share her advice and wisdom. She is the essence of this sport in strength, passion, and selflessness.
I think I can speak for all women who attended that it was beyond amazing to have her there.
For me, this event exemplified what can happen when you decide to explore the unknown—it leads to growth and welcomes friendships with others who also decided to step out of their comfort zone.
Reflecting on my journey over the past year, I am thankful for the meets where I left the platform in tears and training sessions that ended in ripped calluses and barbell burns. I have also learned the feeling of empowerment that results from working through long training sessions and thriving at high levels of physical stress. I am grateful for the strangers turned friends who have given me invaluable advice and for people who have supported me and yelled out my name on the platform without knowing a single thing about me. Powerlifting has shown me the true meaning of community. I am naturally an introvert but continue to find my voice and stride through powerlifting.