We all have those moments in our lifting lives, those chats with ourselves in the shower, those conversations on our way to the gym, personal moments that sometimes make us feel like no one understands. And for those moments, I introduce to you the "Getting Personal" blog series, written by guest writers who feel what you might be feeling and know what you might be going through. Hope you enjoy. 

I think best quality has always been my determination. When I set a goal, I will work harder than most people. Ever since I was young, I've always had a passion for trying to get good at things. From age 7-18, I was a competitive horseback rider. In high school, I was captain of the JV Volleyball team. I've competed in Spartan races, gotten three certifications in the same year, the list goes on. Now my passion is powerlifting. I initially started lifting about two years ago and really thought I wanted to compete in bodybuilding. But the stress of dieting and doing hours of cardio every day became too mentally taxing and I began to spiral into old habits. It has been eight years since I got dangerously close to losing my life to anorexia nervosa. When I was fourteen, I was presented with an ultimatum: either go to inpatient rehab or decide to get better without being hospitalized. Since choosing life, I've tried to discover the remedy to the negative self-talk that has filled the space between my ears every day and drained the color from my life. When I came to the conclusion that doing a figure competition was not right for me at the time, I became interested in getting stronger. I wanted to work on improving the technique of something specific. I wanted to move away from people who were interested only in aesthetics and try surrounding myself with those who were focused on being powerful. The reason this was so enticing to me was because I had been spending years trying to take up less space, channeling all my energy into finding new torturous methods to remain small. I guess my powerlifting journey began when I finally got the courage to speak to my now close friend Ramon Orlanes at a New York Sports Club. He looked so young and was squatting well over four plates. He would spend hours squatting, resting over ten minutes in between sets. He had a huge gym bag and two blender bottles with him. Always. We soon became friends and he helped me improve my squat form. He was always very critical and a little bit blunt with me but I appreciated that about him. He didn't sugarcoat anything. Fast forward about a year and I started training at a World Gym in Long Island with some of the best powerlifters in the nation. After a few months of starting to take powerlifting seriously, I decided to compete. The feeling I got when I received silver at my first powerlifting meet was probably the feeling I had been looking for while I was starving myself for years. A feeling of both pure, unbridled happiness but also the greatest peace I've ever touched. After my first meet, I decided it was time to hire a coach. Since working with Stacy Burr for the last 18 weeks, my numbers have skyrocketed and I am now under seven weeks out from my next meet. Words cannot begin to explain the growth that Stacy has helped me to achieve not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well.

My point in writing this piece is to illustrate the way that getting physically stronger has infiltrated the areas of my life outside of the gym where I was once weak. Every time I slide under a barbell, I feel myself separating further from the girl who felt like she had to self-destruct to be good enough. Every time I deadlift (my favorite lift), I am overcome with an indescribable sensation of contentment and pride. Discovering powerlifting has been a key ingredient in my recovery from eating disorders. I have transitioned from a mindset of feeling like my body was a burden to finding a tool that has allowed me to realize that my body is my best friend. I no longer think of my physical self as something that merely carries me through life, I view my body as the most spectacular machine. I am passionate about powerlifting but my mission goes beyond setting PRs. I want to use this sport as a way to reach people who might still be struggling with body image issues or self-harm. Society sets us up to believe from such a young age that we are not enough. That we are fundamentally flawed if we do not fit unrealistic standards based on the oppression of various groups of people. I want people, girls especially, to discover their strength and hopefully in doing so, learn to walk through life feeling beautiful. When you walk through life feeling beautiful, you are beautiful.

Get to know Leah Bamman better


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