(Photos by LVD Media)
Introduce yourself to the GWPL community and give a description of your background.
Hello GWPL community, my name is Alyssa Smith and I’ve been involved with powerlifting for 10 years. I competed in my first competition back in 2009 when I was 17 years old in the OPA/CPU/IPF before the weight classes changed and “Raw/Classic” was a category.
I started competing in the CPU/IPF initially but changed to the CPF/WPC shortly after since at the time there was a raw/classic division (not because I decided to take drugs... to all the haters). A few years later I switched back to the CPU/IPF when they created the “Classic” division. I also dabbled in other federations such as the RPS while still competing in the CPU/IPF (don’t worry die-hards, I did my homework and didn’t break any rules😋)
Needless to say, I’ve competed in many different federations but more recently I primarily compete in the CPU/IPF
Alyssa currently holds Raw World records in the WPC/CPF and OPA/CPU across a number of weight and age classes.
I currently only compete in the CPU/IPF @ 72kg in the Open Category for personal preferences and competition purposes. My current best lifts at 72kg in the open category are:
190.5 squat (NR)
210 deadlift (NR)
Total 493 (NR)
Wilks 484.96 (PR)
How did you find powerlifting? What attracted you to the sport and made you fall in love with it?
Funny enough I found powerlifting completely by accident. I went to the gym for the first time when I was 16 where I met Elissa Molino, a personal trainer and figure model, she took me under her wing and shortly after my life turned around and I started gaining some direction in my life. I remember doing a crazy circuit of sorts that involved side jump squats, sprints and inchworms and I thought I was going throw up, I was sore for days and could barely walk days and I had gained a liking to this feeling after a while. It made me feel like I was getting somewhere, I felt physically capable and my confidence skyrocketed after losing 30lbs…
Initially, I entertained the idea of training for a figure competition, but that changed when I went through my first “strength phase”. After six months of bodybuilding oriented workouts, with copious amounts of cardio and circuit style training, I was interested to see what the strength phase entailed. This proved to be my first introduction to powerlifting. When I tested the three main lifts (the squat, bench press and deadlift) for the very first time, I squatted 265lbs without a belt, bench pressed 95lbs and deadlifted 295lbs at 16 years old with a body weight of 155lbs. I didn’t think anything of it. I thought those were below average numbers and all I remember asking afterward was “is that good?”. She laughed uncontrollably and replied, “Sweetie, I have someone for you to meet”. That is when I met Jay Nera, one of the top powerlifters in the 220lbs weight class and became hooked on powerlifting.
I was training with Jay at a small garage style gym “Iron Will” based in Ottawa when I entered my very first powerlifting competition in 2009. I remember being so nervous and anxious that I felt like I was going to puke. The feeling that all eyes were on me, and only me, scared me beyond belief. The adrenaline and anxiety were overbearing. The warm-up room was intimidating; there were ladies who had been in the sport for years pumping out their warm-ups like it was their day job, which wasn’t anymore settling. Finally, when it was time to compete I almost vomited I was so nervous. I ended up missing my first two squat attempts but came back and drilled my third attempt. The encouragement from fellow lifters as well as the audience made a world of difference in my confidence and without it, I don’t know that I would have made my last squat. Afterwards, my anxiety was gone and I was able to finish the bench press and deadlift with ease. Though I didn’t have an overly successful day, I got a taste of the sport and what it was about. After getting through all of the nerves, excitement, and anxiety, I was able to reflect on the experience. I met some fantastic people, I began to be a part of what I felt was a community of uplifting people and I was hungry for more, I fell in love with it. The challenge it provided was like no other, and as I pursued the sport I promised myself that one day I would be one of the top lifters in the world.
Can you share one of your most memorable moments?
My most memorable moment in my powerlifting career was @ my most recent competition a few months ago. Leading up to the competition I had injured my shoulder and I ended up having to taper my training according to my injury. I was feeling discouraged and full of anxiety- I thought I might drop out because the pain was so bad. My coach Will Albert convinced me to do it and re-assured me I would do well. I took his advice and did the best that I possibly could.
Before I was injured I was on track to break the National record squat in the 72kg category, 190kg(418lbs) which has been standing for about 4 years now. I didn’t think I’d get to take a crack at it because of my injury but as I was warming up for squats for the first time in months I had zero pain and they were flying. I completed my first two attempts with ease and put 190.5kg(420lbs) on the bar.
I had every emotion possible before going out for this lift. I was excited, nervous and fired up more than you could imagine. I heard “Alyssa Smith the bar is loaded”, I felt like I was going to throw up but I told myself “this is what you’ve worked for, you have this, all you need to do is stand up” I walked up to the platform got under the bar and grinded out the new national record @ 190.5kg(420lbs). I had tears of joy in my eyes and walked off the platform where my coach picked me up, kissed my forehead and said, “Lyss, I told you, you’re the champ”.
This moment made me realize no matter what happens during competition prep anything is possible and there’s never an end to your progression. It was by bar one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had.
What motivates you in life, not just as a powerlifter.
What motivates me is being able to have a positive influence on others, taking risks and experiencing life to the fullest.
I make it my mission each and every day to better myself so I can help others do the same. Before powerlifting, I was lost and heading down a very dark path. If it wasn’t for the influences I had in my life when I started lifting I have no idea where I would be today but it sure as hell isn’t where I am today. They believed in me more than I believed in myself, they taught me persistence and confidence is key to attaining your goals.
I vowed to myself after my life-changing experience that I would go on to pursue a career in the fitness industry, I wanted to impact and change people’s lives the way mine was changed. I did exactly that, I went on to school for fitness and health, continued powerlifting and am now one of the top powerlifters in the world and am a personal trainer, I have the pleasure of changing people’s lives on the daily. To me, there’s no greater feeling than knowing you impacted a life and knowing how much direction it gave someone leaves me feeling accomplished and confident in what I do, the feeling is priceless.
Besides influencing others what drives me is the continuous effort to be better. Besides competing and working I love to travel. I’ve traveled more than most people my age, having backpacked through most of Europe, Central America and soon Asia. Travelling opens up my mind to a whole new world of possibilities. It’s taught me life is too short to work for the sake of working, it’s made me realize I need to take risks whether it’s climbing one of the biggest volcanos in the world, taking a helicopter ride through the Grand Canyon, jumping into the middle of the ocean with thousands of whale sharks you name it and I’ve probably done it. These experiences give me this rush like I’ve never had before and have shaped me into the crazy human being I am today.
Though powerlifting is a big part of my life, it’s not what defines me. I have many goals and aspirations and want to continue to grow and become stronger in every aspect of my life.
Have there been any lows during your career? How do you push past them and stay motivated?
I have had many lows in my powerlifting career. I’ve been injured more times than I can count on my hands and feet, I’ve been accused of taking drugs, I’ve been bullied and there have been times where I’ve wanted to give up the sport altogether.
Over time I’ve come to learn that being injured is a part of the process. When you’re constantly pushing your body beyond its limits something will eventually give and that’s okay. Though it can be frustrating I look at it as an opportunity to strengthen my weaknesses and grow and become better than before.
I’ve also learned the better you become as an athlete the more people begin to judge and throw negative comments your way. I can’t even begin to tell you the comments I’ve gotten, “she’s competed in multiple federations, she’s obviously on drugs”, “it’s not possible for a woman to gain strength that quickly”, “she looks like a man”, the list goes on. These comments used to really bother me but over time I’ve come to learn that these people are behind you for a reason and most of them know absolutely nothing about me nor do they know I’ve been tested over 20 times. I take these negative comments and use them to fuel my fire, they help me continue to become stronger and more confident.
You have competed as an 84+kg, 84kg and 72kg lifter, can you share your journey?
All I used to care about was being as strong as possible- I didn’t care about my weight, I just wanted to be strong. I didn’t pay attention to anyone else’s numbers and I just wanted to increase my own.
As the sport grew, there started to be more and more competition- soon I started paying attention to what others were doing and my goals started to change. Sara Cowan pushed me as an 84kg junior for quite some but as soon as I became an open lifter I had no more competition and it just wasn’t as fun.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the type of person who seeks out competition and wants to compete with the best in order to push myself to be the best that I can. Somewhere along the way, I started to lose interest in the sport and I needed a new challenge. I was feeling crappy about my body and I wanted a change. I made the decision to cut down to the 72kg Open category as there was more competition and I wanted to feel more confident with my body. In 2015 I started my journey to the 72kg weight class where I went from 187lbs to 158lbs in the span of about 6 months.
It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but also one of the most worthwhile. I lost quite a bit of strength in the process but I feel that 2 years later I’m finally adapting to my new weight and the challenge it provided is what kept me going and wanting to be better.
It’s made me feel more confident with my body, my strength, and well-being and I don’t regret the decision whatsoever- it made me fall in love with the sport all over again.
What is one piece of advice you would give a new lifter?
Be patient and the results will follow.
Being strong and figuring out how your body works takes time and effort; it doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t ever think that you don’t compare to others and always remember you’re doing this for yourself and no one else. There’s no end to your progression, enjoy the process and continue to be the best you can be.
What’s next for Alyssa Smith?
I’m currently preparing for CPU National’s 2018 where I’m going head to head with Rhaea Stinn who has yet to be defeated on Canadian soil; along with some other extremely strong women including Sarah Leighton, Steph Asaad, and Christine Castro. I’m looking forward to putting up a fight with these awesome and talented ladies, it’s going to be quite the battle and I cannot wait to put my efforts on the platform.
Depending on how I do at Nationals I would like to go to IPF World’s 2018 in Calgary. If things don’t go as planned I will most likely go on an elongated vacation somewhere in Central/South America. Whether CPU Nationals goes well or not I will be sure to make the most of it either way.
Anything else you want people to know.
Never give up.
There will always be ups and downs to competing- know that each experience will teach you something new about yourself. Good or bad they help you grow and become stronger. Use these experiences to your advantage, don’t ever look at a poor performance as a failure, look at it as an opportunity to grow and never give up. Never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do and always remember the sky is the limit.