Whenever I mention that I’ve competed in weightlifting competitions, I always get the same list of questions: “You must be strong, huh?” “Do you do CrossFit then?” “How much can you lift?”
When many people hear the term weightlifter, they conjure up a mental image of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, tan and flexing his muscles in a bathing suit. They associate weightlifting with the physical appeal of gaining muscle mass and losing weight to become an object of desire. Some people think of weightlifting and CrossFit as interchangeable; if you lift weights, then you’ve obviously done CrossFit too. Others just want to compare their numbers with mine to see who is superior in strength.
People often have shallow thoughts when it comes to weightlifting, and honestly, it’s irritating. Yeah, nobody is perfect or knows everything, and I’m no exception. Initially, I joined the weightlifting club in high school to drop some pounds and pass time. I knew nothing about the sport other than what my older brother, James, told me.
At one point, I was hesitant to continue training because I believed I could never do anything like the professionals who could lift 200 pounds into the air as if it was nothing. But people convinced me to stick to perfecting my technique before trying to get into heavier sets.
I’ve trained and competed in weightlifting competitions for five years now. It’s become much more than just another sport or exercise to lose weight. Weightlifting has improved all aspects of my life. When I was younger, I had several medical issues — asthma, a mild case of scoliosis and I was on the brink of obesity. Doctors and nurses always kept track of my health, suggesting courses of action to my mom.
I never liked hearing what issues I had. Each diagnosis made my differences from others more apparent; I felt like an outcast. In turn, I was timid and more nervous than other kids. I found myself doubting everything I did. Even if what I did was right, it didn’t feel that way.
Then, I entered high school and joined the newly created weightlifting club. After a year of training, my doctor told me that my spine straightened out and I had lost 25 pounds since my last visit. I tossed out my inhaler because I wasn’t wheezing anymore. The medical issues that worried others disappeared without a trace.
I was free. Through my training, I progressed and my confidence grew. I started competing in competitions in Massachusetts, landing myself in either first or second place. It seemed as if I could accomplish anything.
As I continued, however, I realized that weightlifting offered more benefits than losing weight and winning medals. My confidence transformed into self-leadership. My doubts and fears became obstacles to overcome. If I couldn’t do something, I tried to figure out why and what I should do to improve. It forced me to learn proper technique, shift my eating habits and follow a regular sleep schedule. Sometimes, I found myself rewatching YouTube videos of previous competitions to analyze my technique. I continuously practiced over and over to try and perfect my skills.
Improving yourself starts with change. Trying to change isn’t always an easy process, believe me. But it isn’t impossible either. It takes patience and the desire to be better — to exceed your own expectations. You must be willing and dedicated. Take your mistakes with a grain of salt. Everyone makes them from time to time, but don’t let them dictate who you are.
I’ve become a completely different person because of weightlifting. It’s helped me overcome my ongoing medical issues while also improving my mentality. I’m confident and accepting of who I am, despite all the flaws I can point out. I’ve taken control of my life to become a better version of myself.