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home : readerswrite : yourstory February 5, 2016

125-pound iron chick
Jo Ann Burns and her daughter

"When you feel that you have a strong body, you feel centered and focused in every other facet of living."

by Jo Ann Burns

I spend six days a week in a gym. On my off day, I pine to be there. I lift hundreds of pounds, sport smeary chalk prints on my sweat-soaked clothes and listen to whatever music I'm in the mood for on that specific day-country, rock, easy listening, pop. One thing is for sure-my music is loud. It helps me focus and lift heavy.

I'm a 125-pound mom, warrior of weights, iron chick, strong woman. I am a simple person-quiet, reserved and humble who just happens to be really strong-and I have fallen in love with powerlifting.

I grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin and from an early age I learned how to be strong. I began powerlifting with a coach and a number of other women a few years ago and I discovered that I had a manic drive to do more.

This sport makes my heart pound with excitement, as I try to beat my own records and do my personal best. The sound of heavy weights crashing and knowing that I lifted, locked out and-"bang"-set another record. Wow! Powerlifting is an addictive pursuit for me, showing how far sensibly I can push myself and achieve things I just never knew I could.

As my callouses grew and I learned I could conquer more and more weight, I found myself walking taller, head high, shoulders back-like a peacock. I smile more and am very sure of myself. When you feel that you have a strong body, you feel centered and focused in every other facet of living. The first time I deadlifted 225 pounds I was so proud of myself. Now a few months later I'm at 280 pounds.

Why don't more women do this?


Even in this era of female equality, most women shy away from heavy weights. Many women-and trainers-still believe lifting heavy weights will make them bulky or "too toned."

Bulky, my arse. My workouts rarely include more than five repetitions of any lift. They're also, at least with the squat and deadlift, performed with weights well above my body weight. Does hanging a kettlebell from my foot while I perform unassisted chin-ups and dips, or counting off handstand push-ups make my arms big? In a word: No.

So, what's the issue with powerlifting? That's what I thought-not much. Unless you just don't like the thought of being strong!

Jo Ann Burns is an advanced trainer, healthy lifestyle coach and the owner of DCS Fitness Mankato. www.dcsfitnessmankato.com

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