Powerlifting Rookie to American Record Holder

Hi….I’m Payal


I like to deadlift…and I’m kind of good at it.  I managed to pull an all-time open American record and break a USAPL American record last year.  Yes, I’m built to deadlift.  And yes, I worked really hard to achieve what I have.  But, I know I wouldn’t be writing to you now or doing any of this were it not for a series of very fortunate events.

Fortunate event #1: My road to powerlifting started with a bang…I mean a literal “got hit by a car while on my bike, and broke my pelvis (I know everyone blames the biker, but I swear it wasn’t my fault!)” kind of bang. At the time, I thought it was one of the worst things that could happen to me.  Two weeks out from my first triathlon, I went from swimming, biking, and running all over town to being stuck in a bed.  Let’s just say I didn’t handle being so sedentary very well. Not to mention, it was the first time I ever broke a bone, so after 24 years of thinking I was “invincible,” I learned that I, in fact, was not (double downer).  However years later, I realized that that accident was one of those pivotal moments that, I think, ultimately changed my life for the best.  It would be too complicated to explain the nuances of how.  But suffice it to say, had that accident not happened, I most likely would have gone to UNC for a MPH in something nutrition-related, rather than going to UF where I got my PhD in Exercise Physiology (I couldn’t be the “Dr” in Dr. Deadlift)…and met the person who got me into powerlifting (I wouldn’t be Dr. Deadlift, period!).

Fortunate event #2: I was stuck in a class my first semester of grad school with Jared Skinner.  Of course, Jared being Jared, he had to let everyone know how he could squat 1000lbs (what this had to do with research methods…who knows).  Though I slept through class most days (yes, I was awful), I was awake for that comment, sized him up real quick from across the room, and called bullshit.  If you can’t tell already, I like giving Jared a hard time.  True to form, the jabs started the moment I met him.  Not long after his little “boast,” we were seated next to each other at an awards banquet, where I decided to start the conversation with: “Hey we have a class together…I don’t think you can squat 1000lbs.”  And so was the start of our great, abusive friendship, which eventually led to him convincing me to join his powerlifting group and coaching me (the physical abuse!).

Fortunate event #3: Around when I joined the group, there was another girl who had also started training with Jared.  She had decided to do a powerlifting comp 3 months later.  Why is this fortunate?  Jared had been trying to get me to lift with his group for months.  In all honesty, I was intimidated by the thought of little ol’ (weak!) me lifting with these strong-ass men who knew what they were doing.  I know better now.  We all have to start somewhere.  And if you don’t start, you don’t stand a chance of ever reaching the level of those already at that level you think you can’t reach (haha, hope that makes sense).  But so, I hemmed and hawed over joining the group for a looooong while.  If I had started lifting any later than I did, or the other girl wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have done that meet…THE meet that got me hooked to powerlifting.  Originally, Jared and I had talked about me joining him in the context of learning to deadlift properly, with no intention of competing.  But being uber competitive, if she was doing a meet, I had to also (though, granted, I did it deadlift only).  There, I hit a huge 40lb PR with 265, which was 10lbs off from the state record at the time. Whaaaat?!?! I was kinda good at something?!?!  Well shoot, I needed to keep training so I could do another meet where I could break that record!  So, I kept with it.  I really don’t know how long I would’ve continued lifting had it not been for the other female lifter, her wish to compete, and the timing of our meet.  It wasn’t until after a few more months that I finally squatted and benched too. Under Jared’s guidance, I trained, did more meets, and trained some more.  Somewhere in there, I found that I not only liked competing but loved training as a powerlifter (as opposed to in other sports I’ve done [which ironically up until then were all endurance sports, yuck] where I was driven by competition, but didn’t actually love the sport itself).  It’s always been important to me to stay active in some way, so that I can maintain my physical independence as I get old.  Barr any tragedy (knock on wood), I had the mode with which I’d do it.  

Fortunate event #4: Sometime in the middle of my last year of grad school, Jared called to tell me he met some guy and we were going to train at his home gym that day.  For the 2+ years I had been powerlifting at that time, we trained first at the school gym and then at Powerhouse.  They’re great gyms for getting in shape…but not so great for powerlifters.  No chalk, smooth AF bars, hex plates…I didn’t know any better then to know how bad we had it…but we had it bad.  But this guy Jared met (or I think actually just heard about through other lifters he met at Powerhouse) was planning to open a powerlifting gym in the near future and had already amassed a good deal of powerlifting equipment in his home gym and welcomed us to use it.  Haha, I still remember talking to Jared about this and thinking something was off.  Who in their right mind invites complete strangers to their home to use their precious equipment????  And what was the catch??? There had to be a catch!  Well, the gym to be was American Barbell Club.  The guy was John (who, I was right, isn’t normal, cause a normal guy couldn’t make ABC what it is).  And the catch was “don’t fuck up.”  Even though I had to move before John officially opened ABC, ABC (the gym) is “bae”, and ABC (the entity) is my family.

Haha, I know this is a super cheesy post but fuck it.  I think I earned one cheesy post (and might as well have it be the first one!).  Pretty sure that if any one of these things didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be here and able to say that I’m doing the sport I love, with the people I love, representing the gym I love.  I hope I do you all proud!