Powerlifting taught me what magical potential the human body has – mine, everyone’s. It also taught me what a profoundly meditative experience it is, trying to shift something really bloody heavy.

It started as a thing to share with my boyfriend, and as part of the later stages of recovery from anorexia: making myself stronger not weaker, bigger not smaller, by eating more not less. (You can read more on this here.)

It continued as a competitive thing, taking part in British Drug-Free Powerlifting Association meets in 2013-15, and then as a social thing, with my happily expanding crew of Oxford Platemates.

It gradually became importantly about feminism, about not subscribing to the ideal of female diminishment. And it remains that, however many women and men try to ruin lifting by promoting it as just one more way to lose fat and get ‘toned’.

Some of this is nicely summed up in Oxford University Powerlifting Club’s video Lift Like a Girl:

If you’d like to find out more about how to get started, take a look at this fact sheet I put together for the taster sessions I ran at the 2018 Women’s Festival at St John’s College, Oxford. (A slight female slant, but fairly general-purpose.)

You can also watch a few of my old competition and training lifts here, including this, the squat that won me first place in the women’s 63 kg squat category at the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation Single Lift Championships 2015, in glamorous Telford, England. (Though my crown was wrested from me the morning after, teaching me some slow lessons about what I want this sport to be in my life – and some quicker ones about the merits of reading the rule book. Read more here.)

Here is my winning lift:

But in the end, it’s not about how much you lift, it’s about how much you lift relative to what you could lift last week. Or just about how you feel when you lift however much.