Written by: Tessa Yannone
I still remember the first time we met quite vividly. Granted, it wasn’t that long ago but no matter how much time passes I think the first time I walked up to you will be one of those milestone moments like when you graduate, get married or have a baby—something that will never be forgotten.
It was one of those moments where I felt completely out of place yet, at the same time, right where I needed to be. Girls around me looked so comfortable and they walked up to you and showed you who was boss. They approached you and the rack radiating confidence and completed their first squat attempts—all white lights.
Me, on the other hand, I felt like I couldn’t remember how to squat, my stomach felt like it was falling off a cliff, and my head was clouded and fuzzy full of so many different thoughts: “Should I eat more? Maybe drink some water? Should I put different socks on? I wish I had a headband. Is my singlet giving me a wedgie?”
Then the announcer called my name, Tessa Yannone, the bar is loaded.
I looked out at the crowd, my parents sitting right in the middle. I focused on their faces and my coach put his hand on my shoulder, It’s just like any other day, we’re picking heavy things up and setting them back down.
My mind settled and I walked up to you. I placed one foot on your strange, gray carpeted surface, then the other and grasped the black, sharp bar sitting in the rack. Still looking at my parents I got under the bar, my gaze drifted to the ceiling and I walked the weight out three steps.
I lowered the weight and shot back up like there was nothing on my back.
I returned the bar back to the rack. Looked around for a minute. My heart was pounding like a drum inside my chest and I was a little sweaty, not because it was hard but because I knew this first meeting was the start of a very long and very fulfilling relationship with you…platform.
Powerlifting has brought me so many firsts. First time competing, first time lifting weights I couldn’t even imagine I was capable of lifting, first time feeling like an athlete again, first time finding intuitive eating while cutting to make weight, first time traveling to St. Louis and Louisville, and for the first time in my life I have the opportunity to compete at a National Level. I am still in awe by all that powerlifting has brought me in such a short amount of time and the best part is that I feel like this is just the start.
I’m so thankful that I have been exposed to a world where women are smashing stereotypes and not trying to fit into any preconceived societal molds. They’re unapologetically being themselves and encouraging everyone else in the process. At a meet, it’s so little about beating the other girls out and so much about cheering for others when they get stuck in the middle of a lift or when someone is going for a record and even lending a comforting hug when someone walks off the platform with red lights.
As a coach, I am very aware and conscious of the way the fitness industry portrays women and their bodies. It’s a difficult place to be in but a very empowering one and powerlifting have lent me quite the platform (pun intended) to be able to prove to women everywhere that “being toned” doesn’t have to be your only goal every time you walk into the gym.
You have me hooked, dear platform. You push me to work harder, dig deeper, be stronger, and never give up. Ever since hanging up my soccer cleats I have desperately searched for that feeling of being an athlete again. I searched for that feeling as I ran across the finish line of two half marathons and strutted across a bodybuilding competition stage both leaving me not wanting more. You, dear platform leaves me wanting much more than nine attempts.