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My Journey To Strength: How Lifting Heavy Changed My Life

by Alexandra Parren
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Emma Ludlow Ambassador Powerlifter British Champsionships

Sundried ambassador Emma Ludlow is a powerlifter and tells us how that has changed her life.

When I tell people I’m a powerlifter, I’m met with a mixed response.

Some think it’s amazing but others are confused. "But you’re not big" they might say. Or "that’s a bit scary."

Unfortunately, the myth persists that lifting heavy turns women into hulks. At 56kg, I’m proof that strength training will not make you look like the cover model on a bodybuilding magazine.

I started weight training about eight years ago. I’d done some kettlebell training at my local gym and was impressed with the tone and strength it gave me in a short space of time. Training with a barbell seemed a natural progression. I was the only woman in the weights room, so I relied on blogs and online tutorials to teach me the basics of lifting, as well as a few personal training sessions. This started an obsession that led to me becoming a personal trainer.

I’d always been too scared to enter powerlifting competitions, although the weights I was lifting in the gym attracted attention. Other lifters encouraged me to compete, but I worried I’d let myself down. Then, about a year ago, I decided to go for it. I needed a new training goal and decided it was time to show everyone what I could do.

Related: The Benefits Of Weight Training

My first competition was a South East regional. I was nervous and made some mistakes, but came away with a bronze. However, after dropping a weight category and getting to grips with the powerlifting rules, I started winning gold. I placed 4th in the British Championships last year and I’m currently preparing for the same regional competition where I made my debut. I’m hoping I can top last year’s performance.

Training in powerlifting requires time and dedication. I hit the gym four times a week and, when I’m preparing for a competition, I’m constantly pushing for better numbers. My diet isn’t restrictive, but I need plenty of protein for muscle growth and repair and natural carbohydrates for energy. I watch my weight around competition time as I’m at the upper end for my weight category.

However, every effort I’ve made in powerlifting has brought many rewards. Strength training and following a healthy lifestyle has not only transformed my appearance, it has changed my life. It has helped me adopt a determined and positive attitude, which permeates everything I do.

When my only goal was to stay slim, exercise was simply about working off that pizza or biscuit I shouldn’t have eaten. I’d spend hours on the cross trainer and wouldn’t leave until I’d burned enough of that day’s food. For all that work, I saw little change in my body shape. My weight didn’t budge and my body fat percentage was average.

Don’t get me wrong, cardio has its place in any fitness routine, but my fixation on burning calories turned me into a hamster on a wheel. There was zero enjoyment in those lonely hours on the cross trainer. Exercise was a punishment for overeating.

Since discovering weight training, the gym is a place where I feel empowered. Although my weight is still 56kg, my body fat percentage has halved from 26% to 13%. I have watched my boyish physique transform into a feminine hourglass figure, building shoulders and legs an athlete would be proud of.

I have also achieved feats I never thought possible. A few years ago I was working towards my first pull up, now I can do 15. When I started working on my deadlift technique with an empty barbell, I never imagined I’d be able to lift over twice my body weight. These achievements are proof that hard work pays and focus and consistency brings rewards. In a stressful, fast-paced world where I sometimes feel I am pulling against the tide, it’s easy to lose sight of that.

Weight training has completely changed how I feel about myself too. I used to waste so much energy hating my body, comparing myself to other women and feeling inadequate. I had a mini internal battle every time I put something in my mouth. Now I no longer look at other women’s bodies with envy. When I see an athletic woman, I am inspired by her commitment. When I prepare a meal, I am eating to nourish, repair and fuel my body. The guilt has gone.

Lifting weights has made me feel empowered, positive and energetic. Benefits that extend far beyond looking good. The basics of weight training are simple and it’s an activity anyone can do, regardless of age, skill or fitness level. All you need is a willingness to learn and a commitment to achieving your health and fitness goals. Being consistent is the key to life-changing results.

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