Our next member spotlight features Sarah Blanton. Sarah has been coming in to train several days per week for about 4 years now. While most of her time is spent with our early evening crew, she will occasionally pop in at 5 or 6 am before school if she has a busy day. Not something you see from a lot of teenage girls.
She began with us to train for athletics but quickly fell in love with lifting, and it did not take much work to convince her to compete in the barbell sports. She holds several county records in powerlifting (this past spring she broke all of her own records), and recently won Best Female Lifter at the 2018 Carroll County High School Powerlifting meet. About a month after that powerlifting meet, she competed in her first USAW-sanctioned weightlifting meet up in York and qualified for USA Weightlifting’s 2018 Youth National meet.
Sarah is the type of athlete that every coach wants to work with. She trusts the process. She shows up every day and gives 100% effort. It’s this type of consistency and dedication that’s helped lead to her success. It’s safe to say that she is an inspiration to the entire gym.
How long have you been coming to WSC? What got you started in the first place?
I have been coming to WSC for four and a half years, since the fall of 8th grade. I started in the midst of my 3rd year playing basketball. I was on the travel team and had sprained my ankle during tryouts, after 6 weeks of rest and crutches I was finally back on the court. My first game back in the first half I sprained my other ankle, which was the end of my basketball career. It was a challenge, making the decision to quit. I only knew about WSC because my mom had started coming about four months before and was explaining my situation to Beau, who encouraged her to have me start. The goal being to gain strength and muscle to decrease my chance of injury.
What are your current pr’s for all your lifts?
Squat – 250lbs
Bench – 145lbs
Deadlift – 245lbs
Clean – 65 kilos
Clean and jerk – 64 kilos
Snatch – 50 kilos
Press – 100lbs
Do you have a favorite lift right now? And why?
A definite favorite of mine is the clean. I like the intensity of it. It’s not a slow pull but a fast one that takes technique and concentration. It took me a while to improve and go up in weight but I enjoy the challenge.
What made you make the switch from team sports to strength sports?
I couldn’t play another season of field hockey and risk another ankle sprain that could result in reconstructive surgery on my ankles. This was an athletic alternative and one benefit of lifting is that I have no pressure from a team or coach. I can lift for my own health and compete on my own terms with no negative feedback. Even though I loved playing field hockey and basketball, lifting is a whole new world that is even better.
You’ve had a couple injuries over the years, especially your ankles. What have you learned about working around/coming back from injury? Do you think there’s a certain mindset you have to have to deal with these things?
It has been difficult to work around my ankle injury but worth it. My coaches were and are still extremely helpful in accommodating and changing my programming according to my injury and it hasn’t been difficult to do. Some people do worry about a past injury interfering with lifting but I have seen in myself and in other people that a lot of times lifting doesn’t necessary hurt your back or knees unless you have poor technique. It’s different than any other sport and some people don’t understand that. Lifting takes a different mindset altogether, especially in dealing with injuries, as getting stronger decreases your chance of injury and can help you heal.
You’ve experienced a little bit of both powerlifting and weightlifting, and even some Crossfit thrown in there. Do you like one more than the other? What are some of your favorite/least favorite parts of the others?
I have only competed in two weightlifting meets but like weightlifting more than powerlifting. I like that weightlifting takes more skill, is personally more challenging and takes a lot of commitment to become better.
You’ve had a couple younger siblings start to come with you to the gym. How does it make you feel knowing you’ve influenced them to exercise?
It’s been really a blessing to have younger siblings that find joy in something that I do. I’m always so proud of them and enjoy being able to spend the time at the gym together.
What are you going to do if any of them get stronger than you?
I’m laughing answering this question. But seriously? I would probably not admit that they are stronger than me.
You’re beginning to help coach some of the younger athletes around here. Do you think your own training helps prepare you to coach others? Have you learned anything specific, having gone through everything yourself?
I think that participating in the same training that you are coaching helps you to understand what a lifter feels physically and any challenges that may come up during training. For example, dealing with injuries, changes in your programming, and technique changes that benefit a lift.
You’re signed up for the Charm City Strongwoman this fall. Are you looking forward to competing alongside your mom? How about competing in a new sport?
I am very excited to do the Strongwoman competition with my mom, she is definitely more nervous than I am but I enjoy CrossFit and using my strength. It’s cool to see how commitment in the gym and in lifts can make other activities easier as well.
Do you think you view nutrition and exercise differently from other girls your age? ie: being mindful of how you fuel your body?
I think that other girls my age are either hypersensitive to what they eat or not sensitive enough. I often notice a lack of balance in a lot of diets and athletes that eat a lot of processed foods. Not that there is anything wrong with processed food but not understanding when your body will need what and how to help your body recover with food is what I see a lot. I have definitely become more aware on how to use food to optimize performance.
What would you say to another girl your age who is hesitant to start strength training?
Don’t worry about getting buff and looking like a guy. Strong women/girls look completely different than strong men. Your body changes in ways you never thought possible and the feeling of strength builds your confidence. I would also say that lifting makes your body look better than any ridiculous diet can at this age and it frees you from a lot of the body image issues that come from a lack of confidence. Also in sports, whatever it may be, being strong can make someone the better athlete. It’s a big commitment but something that leads to a healthier and better life.