Without a doubt, one of the PM transformation stories that blows me away the most is Kelly Clark. I’m sure if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting her you will absolutely agree! However, I’m not even referring to her physical transformation, though that is beyond amazing too, but rather the insanely impressive progress she’s made through weightlifting.
You might not believe it after seeing her throw around massive weights in the Performance room now, but Kelly was once skeptical of adding weights to her routine. She had the usual fears many women share of getting too “bulky” or “manly,” but what she actually discovered is that weightlifting completely transformed her life.
At 53-years-old, Kelly has now made the impressive decision to become a Strong Woman and GB Powerlifting competitor. Check out the fabulous story below which covers her journey from MetAttack, to Aphrodite, to Strong Woman!
When did you first start weightlifting? What inspired you to begin?
I started nearly three years ago just before my 50th birthday – I have to say that I wasn’t inspired initially! It was a forced choice from having arthritis and struggling with the high impact on my body from the Met sessions at PM. It was Paul who convinced me to give it a go and signed me up to the pilot Aphrodite Project as a starting point. He told me there would be less impact and that building muscle would support the joints, he also told me it would help with fat loss and that I wouldn’t get bulky (that question we all seem to ask when we think about weightlifting!). After Aphrodite I continued with SIN and Performance sessions and more recently adding in the odd OTM session as these were all possible with my arthritis.
How have you changed physically and mentally as a result of weightlifting?
Everything Paul advised me of at the start of this has been proved. I have gone from a size 16-18 to an 8-10 and in the first 12 months of lifting lost 36 cms off my abs alone. I even got to a point where I thought I was too skinny which I never dreamt would happen but that was just a natural stage of the process moving from overweight to a healthy weight before building more muscle. Now I have the more athletic look which I love but still look feminine too. Paul’s comment at the start of this when I said I still wanted curves was that I would ‘shrink in proportion’ and I have done just that. Mentally, lifting gives me both a focus and a release. I tend to train early in the morning and it sets me up for the rest of that day, even my boss can tell the difference between a training day and a non-training day by my mood. There is nothing better than lifting for getting rid of any stress or just giving you something else to focus on – you can’t think of other things while lifting because the weights won’t come up or even worse you might end up injured. I like to understand technique and why certain things work then focus on that aspect – I love the fact that if you get your technique right you achieve the big numbers – brute strength will only take you so far.
What are your biggest accomplishments when it comes to weightlifting?
I am not the strongest lifter in pure numbers although I am proud of what I have achieved so far, in particular my bench press which has come on really well over the last six months mainly due to the advice and coaching of Dom – my one rep max of 60kg is touching 90% bodyweight whereas six months ago I was struggling at 55%. My focus at the minute is to strengthen my squat, which is my weakest lift because of my arthritic hip, and to get to double body weight deadlift (I need to lift another 20kg to crack it!).
What inspired you to take the leap into Strong Woman?
A moment of madness! I saw an advert for York’s Strongest Woman 5 weeks before the event and thought why not? I planned for it to be my first and last event just so I could say I had done one. My target was not to come last, however I surprised myself by coming 5th (and 3rd in 3 out of 5 events – deadlift, tyre flip and sandbag carry) without any real strongwoman training just some general but very useful tips from Dom and Danny. There were no bodyweight classifications so I was competing lifting the same weights as woman of higher bodyweight so it was tough and I was the oldest there but I loved the adrenalin rush and the camaraderie. The fact that I achieved 27 100kg deadlift reps to competition standard in a minute and that there was only 2 reps between me and the winner made me realise that I am stronger than I think. Dom continually tells me that I am – I often comment that I’m getting strong and he corrects me by saying ‘you are strong’.
Do you plan to compete?
Yes – it sounds quite scary now that I’m saying it out loud but since the strongwoman competition I have realised that Dom is right, I am strong and competing will give me a focus for my training now I have achieved a reasonable level of both technique and weight. Volunteering as a powerlifting volunteer for the Special Olympics recently also opened my eyes to powerlifting to competition standards and gave me the chance to talk to people involved in powerlifting at GB level most of whom asked me why I wasn’t competing so I came away trying to think of an answer and couldn’t come up with one!
What do you hope to achieve over the next year as you start your Strong Woman journey?
I have set myself a target of competing in a least another strongwoman competition next year in addition to joining the GB Powerlifting Federation in November so I am eligible to step onto the platform in a powerlifting competition. I also need to start some serious strongwoman training using the equipment that people may recognise from strength competitions on TV such as atlas stones, log press and yokes. With strongwoman, it’s hard to set a specific target as the competitions vary so much in terms of weight classes and what you have to do at each event so taking part and feeling like I’ve given my best will be an achievement in my mind. With powerlifting I would like to take part in at novice competition early in 2018 and compete at GBPF regional level by the end of the year.
What advice would you give other women who are thinking of weightlifting but feeling hesitant?
In the words of a famous sportswear company – just do it! At PM the atmosphere in the weights sessions is exactly the same as in the rest of the classes – supportive and fun. They are also noisy sessions as everyone encourages each other to get just one more rep or to lock out that heavy lift. The trainers make sure you that you know how to minimize any risks and help you work on your technique, as do the other members. The fear that you will get bulky is unfounded – just take a look at the women coming out of those sessions. I can honestly say that weightlifting and PM have both changed my life. Three years ago I could never have imagined looking or feeling as I do, I have gone from being on daily prescribed medication for my arthritis to not even taking over the counter painkillers for two and half years. I have taken part in numerous obstacle course races and even jumped out of a plane in a tandem skydive – all things I would not have done without the health, fitness and mobility benefits of weightlifting. Finally I have met, trained and competed with an incredible bunch of people inside and outside PM many of whom I know will remains friends for life. Thanks PM – life definitely wouldn’t have been the same without you!
We all wish you the best of luck on your new journey, Kelly! We have no doubt you are going to smash this 🙂
If Kelly’s story has inspired you to kick your training up a notch, maybe it’s time for you to begin your journey via the Aphrodite Project as well! Check all of the information out on this awesome program here: https://primemoverfitness.com/aphrodite-optin