'Sky is the limit' for motivated competitor
Nancy Marshall looks like most women her age. She exercises regularly and eats healthy. She takes care of herself, as any 50-year-old woman should. But there's more to it than that.
She's polite and nice to a fault. She's a proud mother and grandmother. Her eyes light up when she talks about her husband, Richard, and three kids, Kevin, Leah and Neil, as well as Kevin's wife, Jeni, their daughter Bryleigh, and Jeni's son, Dylan. Pictures of her family adorn the walls of her home, a home that has been in the family for generations.
Still, Nancy possesses a strength that comes from more than just raising a family and keeping a home. Her mindset and unassuming figure are incredibly solid - they have to be if she wants to compete. Compete with whom? Oh, just the other powerlifters at next year's national competition.
Yes, Nancy Marshall is a female powerlifter. She's been training with Jenny Wiebers and Troy Henrich at BVRMC Health and Fitness Center for nearly a year-and-a-half.
Her first competition was in May of this year and she can't wait to compete again. Luckily, she doesn't have long to wait; her next competition is on Sept. 15 in Little Canada, Minn., where she plans to compete in the open division and the master's division. After that, there is a competition in December before she hits nationals next February.
Surprisingly, it wasn't that long ago that Nancy had no idea what powerlifting was, let alone that it would become something about which she would be so passionate.
Nancy first contacted Wiebers in March of last year to work on basic muscle endurance, toning and definition. She also expressed an interest in competing in the bench press eventually, even though she had no idea if there were even competitions available.
After about six months she had reached her training goals, and her max-outs on the bench over the next six months dramatically increased, almost doubled. She was getting more confident about competing against other women.
It was at this time that Wiebers left on maternity leave and Henrich took over a large part of Nancy's training. He was intrigued by her work ethic and potential and sparked her interest in the sport of powerlifting, which included not only the bench press, but also the deadlift and squat.
Nancy suddenly had a new goal in mind. She was going to compete in powerlifting. She planned to train in the new lifts and be ready to compete this summer.
"Her goals are our goals, and we're not afraid to push Nancy," said Wiebers.
They did push her hard, and Nancy progressed quickly, working out up to five times a week for a period of time.
"I always look forward to going," said Nancy, "There are very few days I don't want to work out. I like to work hard. I feel better when I've left and I've worked hard."
Her hard work shows in her max-outs and improved form.
"Her numbers have just skyrocketed," said Henrich.
Nancy is currently maxing out at about 110 pounds on the bench press, 225 pounds in the deadlift, and nearly 250 pounds in the squat.
"I think many members of the Fitness Center have taken an interest in Nancy and her numbers," said Wiebers, "It's not odd to hear hoots and hollers from Nancy, Troy and I, as well as other members at the Fitness Center when Nancy maxes out."
Hoots and hollers are in order. These numbers are well over what she could handle when she first started, and she credits Jenny's and Troy's hard work and motivation.
"Troy and Jenny have been so great," she said, "They're so good at what they do. They always find a positive thing and keep me positive. They're great motivators. They have done a wonderful job preparing me for what I want to achieve."
In addition to working with personal trainers to help with her form and personalized workout program, Nancy wanted to make sure she was doing everything else she could to stay healthy and train properly when she took up this sport. She read up on everything from nutrition to lifting gear to competition rules, and she ran with what she learned.
She contacted a trainer in Omaha, Dan Barton, to discuss proper nutrition to go along with her workout regime. The nutrition plan focuses a lot on a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates in your diet, and suggests she eat 5-6 small meals a day instead of three bigger meals. Nancy admits her diet is the hardest thing to maintain because it requires changing old habits and sometimes requires her to cook different food for herself and her family.
The nutrition plan requires more time and effort than she sometimes has to put into it, but she sticks to it as much as she can because she has noticed a difference in how she feels when she is on it.
"I feel good, like I'm as healthy as I can be right now," she said.
Once she started lifting heavier weights, she also ordered lifting gear online from Inzer, including her lift belt, squat suit and shoes, singlet and bench shirt. All of these except the squat shoes are required to be worn at a competition. They are designed to allow a lifter to lift more weight and do so without hurting herself. She even had custom arch supports made for her squat shoes by her chiropractor, Dr. Brian Walsh to help with stability and balance. Dr. Walsh also suggested she take more calcium and B vitamins to keep her bones strong.
In addition to time spent lifting weights, she spent plenty of time outside the gym preparing for her first competition. She read up on the rules applied to each lift and figured out what specifically was expected of her. She didn't want to end up going and being disqualified for something as insignificant as not completing the lift properly according to the rules of the competition. She found out that she had to wait for visual and verbal commands during each lift and she needed to squat lower than she had been doing in training, so she changed her routine to include these new elements.
"I wasn't nervous about the weights," she said, "I knew I could handle that. I was worried about the rules and little things. I didn't want to get disqualified for the details."
By the time she got to the competition in May, Nancy was eating healthy, working out at least three times a week with Troy or Jenny, and ready to put on her suit and show everyone what she had accomplished.
Before the competition, she was concerned that the noise of the crowd might distract her, but then her characteristic toughness came through.
"I was so focused I didn't hear anything except the judge," she said explaining that her stubbornness also kicked in when she stepped up to the bar. "I thought, 'I'm not going to let them think I can't do this."
And she didn't fail. In fact, she came home with a first place trophy in the Open Division and a second place trophy in the Masters Division. Now, she admits rather sheepishly that she won the first place trophy mostly because there was no one competing against her in that particular division. There was another woman, from Minneapolis, competing in the Masters Division, however.
"I want a challenge," she said. "I don't want to win because no one went against me, I want to win because I did the best."
And that is one of the few downsides to female powerlifting, there just aren't as many competitors as Nancy would like.
"I wish some more gals would try it. It's fun," said Nancy, who believes that anyone can be a powerlifter with the proper training and a drive to achieve.
"There's so much more to powerlifting than the weights," she said, explaining that it also involves nutrition, concentration, patience, discipline, hard work and a sense of mind over matter.
"I don't let the bar intimidate me," she said, "I have to be able to block out how heavy it is. I just do what I need to do."
Nancy plans to continue powerlifting until she reaches her goals and her full potential. Neither of her trainers are satisfied that she has reached her full potential just yet.
"The sky really is the limit with Nancy because of all the hard work and dedication she has put forth," said Wiebers.
Nancy knows she wants to keep competing, and she plans to keep lifting even after she decides to stop competing.
"I've decided I'll always do some type of weightlifting for health and toning," she said.
Looking back, she surprises even herself with how far she's come in such a short time. Powerlifting is never something she imagined herself doing, but now she can't imagine her life without it.
"It's a part of me now, it's a part of my life and part of my day. I enjoy it so much," she said.