There really isn't much that I can say about Leanna Carr that you don't already know. She's been an inspiration for many new powerlifters and we're excited to have her at Camp Uplift Chicago! Get to know her a little bit better below!
First, what are your lift PRs?
Squat 305, Bench 170, Deadlift 360 in the 63Kg class
That's pretty impressive if you ask me! So you compete in both powerlifting and figure competitions, which did you do first?
I started working out to lose weight initially. At that time, all of my motivation stemmed from fitness models and bikini competitors who I looked up to. After losing 25lbs, I decided to prep for my first figure show. It was a 25-week long prep where I lost an additional 20lbs. I finally stepped on stage at my first figure show and won my class.
What made you want to try powerlifting?
After winning my first show and getting into the “best shape of my life”, I found myself lost and confused just a few weeks after. I had invested so much time and energy into that prep and as soon as it had passed, I no longer felt worth in any goals that I set. The things that used to motivate me no longer did. I had gained “healthy” weight back after my show because I knew it was necessary. Ironically enough, I was still in the best shape I had ever been in my entire life, but it was when I felt the worst about my body. I was infatuated with staying a certain number on the scale or looking a certain way and I began hating the body that gave me the confidence that I’d felt from lifting weights to begin with. I started lifting in the student rec center and somebody from the UGA Club powerlifting team approached me. He told me that I should consider joining. I went to one practice and I was hooked. Instead of focusing on restricting food to look a certain way, I was using it as energy to get stronger. Instead of focusing on a number on the scale, I was focused on hitting a number on the platform. I fell in love with the way lifting heavy weights made me feel and I felt empowered when I acknowledged and appreciated what my body was capable of when I wasn’t solely focused on making it smaller. I’ve learned to love and appreciate both sports, but I will always give credit to Powerlifting for making me realize my body’s true worth.
Which of the three main lifts is your favorite?
Deadlift has always been my favorite because it’s the lift that I’m the best at but lately I’ve been loving bench. I used to hate it because I wasn’t naturally good at it, now I’m learning to appreciate it because of that very reason. I’ve put in a lot of work to make it better and it is showing.
Since you go between figure and powerlifting, what’s your approach to nutrition?
It depends on what “season” I’m in. If I’m in a contest prep (for figure) or trying to stay within my weight class for a meet, it’s pretty disciplined. I track my macros/calories and I’m pretty consistent with my food choices. I love eating micronutrient dense foods because of the way they make me feel, so most of my meals include a lean protein source with a serving or two of fruits/veggies. The rest of my calories are planned solely to hit my daily macronutrient target. When I’m not preparing for a meet or a show, I pretty much just eat what I want in moderation with my only goal to keep protein high (1g per lb bodyweight). Even then, I follow a pretty similar approach to my offseason with a lot of fruits/veggies! I’ve gone through stages in the past of having a bad relationship with food where having the ability to do this wasn’t possible. If I wasn’t tracking, I was going over board. If I wasn’t restricting, I was binging. If I wasn’t eating “clean”, I was eating junk. If I wasn’t purposefully trying to lose weight, I was gaining weight. At a point in my life, my body only knew extremes. I realized that this wasn’t a way to live and I knew I had to change the way that I viewed food. I’ve taken the past two years off of strictly tracking macros/dieting and my only weight goal has been to maintain. Sure I fluctuated here and there, but for the most part, taking the time off dieting made me see how much merit there was in “not dieting”. Our society has normalized dieting to a point where we are taught at a young age that we need to eat to become smaller. Over the past couple of years, my priorities have shifted and I now eat in a way to put on muscle mass, fuel my workouts, and most importantly… to feel healthy. Food is a huge part of our culture and a big component in the hobbies that we partake in. However, I’ve learned to not put it on some almighty pedestal. I eat for my goals and I will never let food make me feel guilty again.
Even at your young age, you've been around powerlifting for a while now, how have you seen it change as respects to women in the sport?
I remember in 2013 I was at NPC Nationals in Atlanta. I had already begun toying around with powerlifting and I had mentioned in a conversation with a woman (an IFBB Figure Competitor who happened to be someone that I looked up to) that I was planning on competing. I will never forget her response. She told me that I was “too pretty to powerlift” and that the women who did that were “scary and manly”. She told me I needed to stick to figure because it was a beautiful sport where I could show off my feminity, hard work, and “perfect physique”. I only knew a couple women who were into powerlifting back then and they were ANYTHING but “manly and scary”. And at a time where I was already having a hard time loving my body and seeing worth in myself beyond my physique, her comment hit hard. How dare this woman say such terrible things about a sport that had been nothing but a positive light for me. And how dare her insult the strong women that I looked up to who helped show me that our bodies were capable of more than just looking good. I never admitted it to anyone, but I signed up for my first meet that very next day.
Looking at how far powerlifting has evolved in just the few years that I’ve been involved has been insane. Now women of all shapes, sizes, and colors are dominating the sport. It is growing and it is now just as much of a woman’s sport as it is for the men. I love it! I do think that there is a need for more female leaders and contributors in the strength and fitness industry, but I think we are well on our way. You guys (GWPL) have done an incredible job spreading the word and I’m on a mission every single day to do the same.
What does your family think about your powerlifting?
They love it. At first, my mom had her concerns… but she’s now my biggest fan. She comes to both my shows and my meets and will not hesitate to wear a “Leanna’s Mom” shirt to either! ☺ My twin brother is jealous because I am stronger than he is… hehe. But I’m currently coaching him and it’s been INSANELY AWESOME to see him find a love in lifting weights as well! We used to fight all the time growing up and now we bond over protein shakes and weight dates! My family is truly the best and most supportive family I could ask for and it’s only because they see how passionate this makes me.
Who’s your biggest inspiration? (whether lifting related or not)
-Natural Pro Bodybuilder, USAPL Powerlifter and 3DMJ Coach Alberto Nunez. Not only is he my stud-ly buff boyfriend (giggle) but his contribution within our industry cannot go unnoticed or unappreciated. Pretty much everything that I know about training, nutrition, dieting, recovery, etc. has come out of his mouth. He coached all of my coaches before I even knew what a barbell was and he is now an incredible mentor to me. He’s works so incredibly hard and is amazing at what he does, yet he makes it all look so effortless. And I have never seen anyone genuinely love training as much as he does. Having dealt with a few injuries as well, he’s taught me that you don’t need a show or a meet to continue doing what you love. And you don’t need the approval of 100k followers, The support is amazing and I will never take it for granted, but at the end of the day…. You have to stay true to yourself and continue doing what you love to do… FOR YOURSELF. And I have Bert to thank for teaching me that :)
What are your future goals?
Be 100% healthy. I’ve been dealing with poor knee health the past two years that have kept me off the platform. As discouraging as it has been, the patience and consistency with rehab has been worth it as I am feeling almost 100% ☺ I will not rush back to the platform but trust me… I am working on my recovery back every single day! I plan on coming back stronger than ever, when the time is right! I feel that I am in a completely stable and healthy mental state in order to go through with a figure prep, so that will be my main goal for the next year. I start prep the 1st of the year and I plan on taking a very healthy approach and making it as transparent as possible. I also plan on doing some damage in the Natural Pro Circuit ☺ On top of continuing to grow my online coaching business, I will be completing my Masters program and becoming accredited in Sports Psychology. Our mental health and the psychological aspect of any sport (especially ours) is so huge and I would truly like to help people realize that is it just as important to prioritize and take care of. I look at the next year and sometimes think that I am in way over my head with everything I would like to accomplish, but it excites me too because I know that I am capable of so much more than I realize. I know I can do it and I have powerlifting to thank for that ☺
Best advice for female powerlifters.
A few things ☺ 1) Appreciate every opportunity to get better and don’t ever stop doing this for yourself. There’s something blissful about the innocence of being a beginner and hitting a PR every other week. Once the newbie gains are gone and you start becoming competitive, everything changes. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it will change. Don’t ever forget the reason why you started lifting weights in the first place. 2) Next time you’re having a bad body image day, remember how you felt when you hit that squat PR a couple months back. That same body that you’re hating today made you feel like wonder woman not too long ago. It’s deserving of being loved every single day, not just when it’s capable of producing a massive squat PR for you. 3) You’ll never be as strong as you want to be because the truth is, there will always be somebody stronger than you. But that’s the beauty of this. As long as we stay in it with a positive outlook, we can constantly pursue a better and stronger version of ourselves. 4) Lastly, don’t ever take your body for granted. It’s better to skip out on that last bench set if it means saving your shoulder from an unbearable amount of pain later that night, or worse. Slower progress is much better than having to back track after an injury. Be smart about your training and always listen to your body. It’s the only one that you’ve got and nobody has guaranteed you your health.