How it All Began

In 2016 I was introduced to the barbell; we were acquainted very quickly. At first, I had been going and doing your basic cookie cutter gym routine: arms and shoulders, legs (booty right?), chest and back, LOTS of cardio. I started lifting with my brother, doing bench and squats mostly, I noticed I was getting stronger and stronger; I craved that feeling from then on.

When I was first introduced to “powerlifting”, to me it was just something fun to get to do with my brother. He has been through so much in his past, anything that happened to him affected me and I learned so much through what he went through. When I was younger though, we weren’t that close and now he’s my best friend, we’re each other’s outlet quite often when I know I need a good reality check. It’s definitely your typical brother and sister relationship but I’m grateful to have such a deeper relationship with him than some may have with their siblings, and I owe that to the iron.

I’m not going to have a pity party about how I was dumped and then “found myself” and then got into a really messy relationship where I was almost married at 20 (blah blah blah). But, I will say I’ve been through some rough patches and over the years I’ve done a pretty good job at blocking it all out, let’s just say I substituted. I’m on the go a lot, especially with training 5 times a week, working, being in school, etc. So, it’s always been super easy for me to just stay busy, it helped me stay numb, and when things slowed down, and I was left to sit in my thoughts… that’s when it would all come crashing down (long story short of course). I am a huge supporter of mental health and anyone who deals with it, has been affected by it, or may have a family member or significant other who struggles with it.

When I Realized

Eventually I realized I had developed some anxiety, which led to depression, especially when I was home from school, and many instances of fight or flight. Later on, I had developed an eating disorder, bingeing specifically. I knew about eating disorders and how detrimental they were to someone’s life. But now I’ve had first-hand experience at what it can do to your mind and especially your body. It’s been a year now since I was laying on my floor in my apartment in excruciating pain. No one knew where I was, no one knew what I had been doing to my body.

I would cancel on friends or tell someone no to hanging out if it didn’t line up well with my routine for the day, I would start crying or freak out on my parents if I wasn’t busy enough, and I would always eat alone or cancel on plans to go eat because I had so many problems with watching people eat or vice versa. Once I would go back to school after a break I would be “ok”, just ignoring my problems again. But most times it wasn’t so easy anymore, and especially when it would start to affect my training. Most days I would go in and try to use my struggles as my fire, when ultimately it ended up me getting so in my head and upset over my current situation that I had no motivation to be in the gym and I had a very toxic energy about myself, I drug everyone else around me down, and I definitely didn’t care about powerlifting anymore.

So, lets fast forward to 4 years down the road from when I first held a barbell in my hands. No longer do I deal with BED, my anxiety isn’t quite as severe, and I still have bad days of course but a lot less frequently. I’ve done 4 meets, 2 push-pulls, met my amazing powerlifting family, moved states, graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, and started a Master’s degree. Mentally more than physically, I believe I have gotten so much stronger. Although I have increased my squat by about 70, bench by 40, and deadlift by 60 from my first meet in 2016, its nowhere near where I want to be, but that’s what makes it all so fun, we are never satisfied.

Where I used to try to use powerlifting as my outlet, it’s more of my job now, my passion, the single thing I want to work as hard or more as I do at school, it is who I am, it is how I found the love of my life. Without powerlifting I would not be Ariel, I would not be the athlete I know I can be, and I would not be the future coach I know I’m going to be without submerging myself into this sport.

Powerlifting is more than technique, its more than using the next best gear, its more than what federation you lift for, its more than the diet plan you’re on, and its way more than how many likes you can get on all your PR videos.

The Relationship

This sport is every relationship made behind the curtains in a warm-up room, all the hours of blood, sweat, and tears in training sessions, all the “you really motivated me to start lifting weights”, the many meals shared with fellow lifters, but to me the most important, my family. When I say my family, I do not mean blood, this goes way beyond that. When I was in the depths of my darkness these people were there, they texted and called, sent funny videos just because they knew they hadn’t heard from me in a while and I probably needed some love, got my butt in the gym when I didn’t want to lift ever again, and yelled in my face when I wanted to give up during a session. They are the bread and butter of why I stayed in this lifestyle long after my brother got me started. They are the reason why I am so much stronger than I could have ever imagined myself being.

I’ve grown to understand that the gym is not my therapy, it is indeed my happy place, but it is not somewhere I want to bring my problems to. Does it help? Well of course, but that is MY time, my time to have that bliss moment enjoying what I do best, just lifting weight. When I go in for a training session, my stress, my anger, my sadness, they all have to take a seat at the door. If I let all these emotions and problems in, then I’m just doing my training progress a disservice.

So, thank you to all of you in the powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, etc. communities. We all share something so precious and dear to our hearts. And a huge thank you to my boyfriend Henry, my parents, my brother, my powerlifting family (BS crew), and all the people who have continually pushed me and been in my corner every step of the way.

Keep on lifting lions, onward we go.

Ariel McGinnis

Ariel McGinnis

My name is Ariel McGinnis, I am from a small town in Kentucky born and raised by two wonderful parents and an older brother. I’m 22, and am currently a student at Lipscomb University pursuing a Master’s degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science.