WHY BE AVERAGE?
By Emmy Louise
I never planned on lifting weights and looking back over my childhood there are no clues that my path would ever lead to where I am today. As a chunky teenager I loved my food and dodged PE as if it was some infectious disease. I truly was useless; I couldn’t run and most definitely couldn’t hit a ball, let alone throw or catch it. I literally had no co-ordination and probably took out more knee caps with my hockey stick than I ever scored goals with it. I had no interest in sport because it was my downfall and was ruining my straight A grades. Instead of trying harder, I gave up and after leaving school, I was to never endure such torment again… or was I?
I can thank my brother, Scott Russel, for introducing me to strength training. An unexpected end to a 6 year relationship took me on an emotional roller coaster ride which only came to an end when I picked up a dumbbell. I had been left feeling worthless; my self-esteem was in tatters and I had lost control. My eating disorder was winning and I was barely 7 stone when I first walked into the gym. I wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t go to work and I wouldn’t see anyone…But would walk into one of the biggest ‘meathead’ gyms in town, by my brother’s side, in the hope of starting my life again and finding ‘something.’
The barbell found me.
There is perhaps no better feeling in the world than the feeling of progression. To be able to lift something one day which you couldn’t before, to see your strength improve by numbers before your very eyes. Suffering from body dysmorphia, I couldn’t see how I was changing and still struggle to this day, but lifting 60kg one week and then 65kg the next is pure, simple mathematics to me and I felt great!
I was soon addicted and often went to the gym twice a day. It didn’t take me long to pluck up the courage and ask to be shown how to squat, bench and deadlift. There’s only so much fun you can have on a cable/pulley assisted machine! I remember being told, ‘Girls like you shouldn’t deadlift,’ and don’t forget the classic, ‘Girls can’t do triceps dips!’ This just fueled my addiction and as my enthusiasm increased, so did the plates on the bar. But it didn’t stop there; I didn’t want to go the gym- I wanted to own one.
I was already running a successful private tuition business and had now settled down, married and was attempting to lead that fairy tale life which begins with ‘Once upon a time…’ I knew the gym I had been a part of was going to close so it was time for Bulks Gym to be born and so it was, literally overnight. Within six weeks we were open and now, six years later, I am pretty proud to say we are a brand name and have stamped our place within the Power and Strength world.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that these six years have been the best of my life though. For as wonderful as the gym was and still is, what it gave me in one hand, it ripped out the other. The creation of Bulks created a stronger Emmy. This Emmy was not going to play ‘dolly bird’ any longer and this Emmy was going to do what she wanted to do for once in her life. This Emmy wanted to be a Powerlifter.
After being told that I would end up ‘looking like a little boy’ if I continued to train, the ‘once upon a time’ ended swiftly in a divorce. I surrounded myself with positive, like-minded people: People who understand that this is a lifestyle, not a hobby. This is what we do and this is who we are. There are no missed training sessions, there will be no excuses and we strive to be the best. This is us: #TeamBulks.
I began my journey under the guidance of powerlifting legend Dave Beattie and one of the best junior powerlifters in the world, Shane Harrison. It all started with an invite from Beattie to the British Championships back in 2012; it was an offer I had to accept. From the moment I received my first 3 white lights and heard,’ Welcome to Powerlifting!’ my life was ‘doomed’…
You see, Powerlifters are metal addicts and we just can’t stop. We give ourselves targets but when we reach them, we change them. We want more. It is never enough and we know we can always do better. It’s like a maze we cannot get out of and a road with no end; but we are all obviously so nutty we don’t realise it because we still do it, year in, year out, one season to another. Trapped, but loving it at the same time.
My journey has led me down roads which enabled me to become a British Record Holder across five weight categories (48, 52, 56, 60 and 67.5kg) and four federations (BPC/BPU/WPC/GPC) alongside two European Records and placing 1st as European Champion in Portugal 2013 before going onto obtain my World Record Bench Press of 70.5kg at 47.3kg and Deadlift Only World Record of 152.5kg in Prague. I ended 2014 with a new PB and British Record deadlift of 165kg which pushed me to ensure that 2015 would be my most successful year to date. Training amongst the UKs best lifters including David Jenkinson, Jack Chambers and Steve ‘Tubby’ Macneil, I couldn’t mess it up!
My warm up began on the 1st March with the BPU and the return to the 56kg category (where I sit quite naturally) With a 120kg no wraps squat, an 80kg bench and a close 167.5kg deadlift, I took best overall female and 2 new PBs and broke all my existing records. But it was my own records I broke and to be honest, I was getting tired of all this. It was time to move on and two weeks later I competed with the GPC for the first time and the knee wraps went back on for the first time in 2 years. This time it was the 140/82.5/162.5 combo which broke the all-time all UK fed records as well as the GPC’s and it won me best overall female lifter- but this time I had people to beat- I do not do second place.
I make no apologies for my competitiveness; powerlifting isn’t a game and I do not partake for the fun of it. I aim to win, aim to succeed and to be the best. If you try to compete without this mindset and think it’s the taking part which counts, don’t be foolish enough to think you are going to get far in this sport. Powerlifting requires complete devotion and dedication of your time. You will have to be selfish and you need to put powerlifting and training first- and that is exactly what I have done this year and my numbers and records speak for themselves:
I returned from the GPC European Championships in June with a 150/80/170 and the following achievements:
1st 60kg class
3rd Overall European Champion
1st 60kg bench only (85kg)
3rd Overall European Bench Champion
1st 60kg Deadlift Only (172.5kg)
1st Overall European Deadlift Champion
You will note my decision to go up a weight class- after three years of ‘yo-yoing’ for no other reason than to claim as many records as possible (it actually gets quite addictive) I decided to just get bigger and stronger and not cut weight anymore. This removed any pressure and meant I didn’t have to do morning cardio! David Jenkinson actually had me doing so much volume work that to be honest the 56kg class was out of reach- I was packing on muscle and taking advantage of it. Core strength had improved and a 150kg squat for a new European record and all time UK fed record still looked relatively easy. There were no hot alcohol salt baths, water loading or dehydration techniques; I could actually enjoy powerlifting for a change! And with #teambulks in full force (with the biggest team of competitors/supporters ever), alongside a truly professional and impressive set up, the Euros was definitely the highlight of my career so far.
July saw an impromptu 67.5kg class entry to the women’s only Nodumbelles to take a few more records and break the 400kg total barrier with a 150/85/172.5. This competition was probably the most important of the year- I travelled to Manchester by myself with no #teambulks, no partner and no coach. It was just something I decided I needed to do, for myself, my independence and my confidence. I have spent the past three years relying on others but I think the results from the Euros finally made me realise I can do this- I am a powerlifter!
My fifth and final competition of 2015 was to be in Las Vegas for the World Championships. I only had 7 weeks to prep and the first 3 were spent saying I was just too busy to go and basically fooling around in the gym and partaking in silly activities which were to pull all sorts of tendons. With 4 weeks left, head back in the game, I booked myself a return flight and I was off on another adventure, by myself, once again. A few years ago I would have laughed at the thought of going to Las Vegas alone…. And then later cry. But this was happening and this is what powerlifting can do – it can provide you with such an immense amount of self-confidence and independence that you become unrecognizable from your once shy, quiet self.
Powerlifting can also cause you to beam with such pride that your happiness can be blinding- with a 155/88/175.5 I took 1st place 60kg female lifter with a 418.5kg total at 58.9kg ranking me Number One UK Female Lifter across all federations, weight and age categories (on formula) and I broke the Top 20 Historical All time Female Powerlifting Ranks, placing 19th within the 60kg class. 3 British records, 3 European records and a World record deadlift, all with the GPC – I guess I ended the year on a high note ;)
It’s not been an easy road and there have been more ups and downs than my weight category choices …but with my partner Jay Hughes by my side, my team surrounding me and a barbell in my hand, I believe at the age of 32 I have found my happily ever after.
I hope my story with help inspire others to take control of their lives, gain independence and self-esteem and be self motivated. Learn to focus, set goals and love yourself. Your days will have a meaning like they never had before.
Try picking up a barbell; it might just change your life.