I had the immense pleasure of meeting Kim at the 2016 USAPL Raw Nationals, when she yelled across the lobby of our hotel, 'Hey you're Ivy from Girls Who Powerlift!" She gave me a giant hug and all I could do in the moment was admire her traps! Gahhh! We chatted a bit, took some photos and then I watched her lift and kick butt the next day! Little did I know at the time, this stunning, powerhouse of a women was dealing with an illness that should have made it impossible to powerlift. I had the chance to get to know Kim a little bit better and I think you'll understand what I mean when I say, she is truly an inspiration.
Introduce yourself to the GWPL community
My name is Kim Wilson. I am 48. I teach 8th grade Algebra 1 and 8th grade math at Oak Grove Middle School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I am married (Stephen). We have one daughter, Andee. She is a nurse in Alabama. We have one granddaughter, Chandler. She was born Oct. 11, 2016.
When did you get into lifting and why?
My lifting story is a long and winding road. About 8 years ago, my husband decided to start running. He signed up for a 50 k trail race (Stump Jump in Chattanooga) . I loved doing things with him so even though I had never run a mile, I signed up too. I am a big believer in training with a goal in mind. I got this from him. He finished it. I was pulled at mile 19 with a stress fracture. I was so embarrassed to be put in a van with another guy and driven down the mountain. We hadn't made the time cutoff and that is what they do. I knew at some point, I would finish a 50 k after that. After getting off crutches, I went back to running. Since both my husband and I had been plagued with injuries, a running friend suggested we join his gym, Versus Strength and Conditioning, to get our "undercarriage" stronger. It had really helped him. That was my introduction to the barbell. It was 4 1/2 years ago. I couldn't even do an air squat. I think it was a year and a half before Steve McAlister (the head trainer/owner) would let me back squat. I would have to goblet squat while everyone else was back squatting. That is how awful my squat was! I did go on to complete various races: 20 k, 25 k, 1/2 marathon, and a 50 k. I still ended up with occasional stress fractures (including my final 50 k but I beat that time cutoff with time to spare). My coach said why don't you try some crossfit competitions and stop running (3 different orthopedists also told me to stop running). I placed 3rd at my first one. Everyone except for 1 of the others in my category were younger than my daughter but I was hooked. I won some and came in last at one and finished somewhere in between at some. In 2015, the Crossfit Open included a Scaled Category. I tied for first in the South Central Region and 13th in the World. Despite being careful, repetitive movements like box jumps and jump rope caused another stress fracture while focusing on competition training the summer before the Open. After completing the Open uninjured in March, my coach then said I think you need to try powerlifting. In April of 2015 I started including powerlifting training with the competition training. By May, my coach said I needed to decide what I wanted to do and stick with it. I've done powerlifting training exclusively since then (May 2015). I signed up for 3 meets (May-June -July). One was USPA, one was USAPL and one was the State Games of Mississippi. I had no idea you weren't supposed to do a meet every month or so. I had never been to a meet. I guess I went around the world to answer your question...Growing up I was a bookworm. I did not play any sports (unless you count 1 season of rec softball at 11 because my friend's team needed one more player to have enough for a team...I was awful). I love to train but you need a goal. For awhile, it was to get faster as a runner. Later I got hooked on crossfit competitions and wanted to get faster at the various movements. It took me a while to realize I loved to compete. In powerlifting, it is just you against the weight. I LOVE THAT!! I ALWAYS want to get a PR and improve my total. It really is YOU vs. You! What could be better that that?
Best meet total to date?
340kg/749.5 lbs as a 63 kg Masters lifter (48)
On social media, you are very open about your struggles with RA and Osteoporosis. Could you explain what those conditions are and how they have affected your life?
In my twenties, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling and limited motion and function of many joints. It is an auto-immune disease that can affect any joint as well as organs such as the eyes or lungs. Joints can become disfigured. For instance, my left thumb is twice the size of my right. That is the disfigured joint that is most noticeable on me. When diagnosed, everything was so stiff and swollen. The outlook is much better now with the new drugs they have to treat it that weren't around twenty years ago. The doctor thought water aerobics might help. At this point, I had never worked out so I guess water aerobics was my intro into fitness. I would see commercials advertising new drugs on TV but my doctor wouldn't really discuss them with me. When a new rheumatologist moved to town, I switched doctors and it changed my life. He got my RA under control and encouraged me to do some type of exercise everyday. I joined a gym and started doing cardio (bike and elliptical). I also had an under active thyroid that I was on medication for. After going through a divorce, I worked with a trainer once a week and started doing light dumbbell work 3 times per week. I became shredded. When I went back to my endocrinologist for my 6 month checkup for my thyroid, I was told that it was now overactive. When you have an autoimmune disease, you usually end up being diagnosed with at least one other. The RA had caused my thyroid to go haywire (which caused the weight loss). I was given Radioactive Iodine to kill thyroid cells and cause it to become underactive again. I have to take medication for my thyroid for life. Since the drugs for RA could affect bone density, my doctor had me get a bone scan in my mid thirties just so he could monitor it. We were both shocked when it showed I now had Osteoporosis. The drugs I am on have some scary side effects. I was so miserable in my twenties that I think the risk is worth it. I love the quote about not just living the length of your life but living the width of it as well. Since getting the RA under control. I have grown to love hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing, running, and lifting with my husband.
What advice do you have for women who could be enduring similar battles of their own?
Everyone is battling something. Most people had no clue about my conditions until I opened up about it on social media. I was embarrassed that I was different. I didn't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I did not know anyone else that had these conditions. Lately two people that I know have been diagnosed with RA, but have chosen not to take the meds with the scary side effects. It is hard to see them suffer, but I respect their decision. I started speaking out so people could see that there is hope now. Your life isn't over. The doctor showed me pics of people with disfigured hands at my first appointment and I wanted to go home and end it all. I do not take this condition lightly. I could have a flare at any time. A bad flare could keep me from being a powerlifter. One of the scary side effects is cancer. Knowing this, I truly appreciate every training session. I relish every meet I compete in because it could be my last. I just hope someone (with a condition or without) looks at me and says if she can do it, I can too! My thirties and forties have been awesome. I am looking forward to what my fifties will bring.
As a powerlifter, how do manage to balance your roles as a wife, teacher, mother, and grandmother while still keeping powerlifting a priority?
Balance is hard. I could NOT do it without my husband's help. He works with me first at every training session before he does his training(Olympic weightlifting/Strongman now). He is a tremendous help! Know just how to keep my head in the right place. My daughter supports with 100% and that helps so much. My students are funny about it. I think a lot of them like having the "strong" math teacher. They ask about PRs and meets etc. I get to school an hour and 20 minutes early every day in order to get it all done so I can focus only on training after school. I want to be the best at whatever I do (wife, mother/grandmother, teacher, powerlifter, friend) so I have gotten good at compartmentalizing and prioritizing. You have to in order to train 3 + hours five times a week.
What get's you through the tough training sessions?
Music is a good motivator. I love my headphones! I also don't want to let others down. I am the only powerlifter at my gym. I want to represent well and make everyone proud! My coach puts so much time into my programming. The only way I know to pay him back for what he invests in me is to do well. I now have some local and not so local members of the powerlifing community that have helped me so much and I want to do well for them also. When it gets really bad, some type of mantra will repeat over and over in my head...Be A SAVAGE is my favorite (you couldn't print some of the others haha).
What advice do you have for young women getting into powerlifting?
My advice is if you are the least bit curious, give it a try! It is such an awesome sport. One of my proudest moments was when one of last year's 8th graders came back to tell me she had tried out and made the high school powerlifting team. I love the fact that I taught quite a few members of the powerlifting team. I love competing in local meets with them. Find a quality gym and a quality coach. Take nutrition, rest and recovery seriously. Uplift and lift heavy!
What's next for Kim Wilson?
My next meet is January 14th in Hattiesburg. I want to return to Drug-Tested Nationals in Atlanta in May. That was an awesome meet for me last year. Those are both USPA meets. I may do a USAPL meet in April. I definitely want to go to USAPL Raw National in October. I am thinking about retiring after 27 years in May. That sure would help with balance.
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