Shortly after crossing the finish line at Vancouver’s 2016 Rock and Roll Marathon, a frustrated inner voice entered Sharon Chahal’s thoughts.
Why am I doing this?
A few weeks earlier Chahal had injured her ankle during a training run and had to bow out of the Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna. And while she’d been able to rally to complete this half marathon, her legs and heart felt heavy as her feet clocked those final kilometres.
Should I even keep running? Why doesn’t this feel fun anymore?
Headstrong and determined, quitting running wasn’t the answer for the B.C.-based Chahal – getting stronger was. And so she hired a personal trainer to help build up her strength and overpower her injuries.
“We always want to get faster, go farther. But that all comes from having the muscle power to do it,” says Chahal. “If your hamstrings hurt, quads hurt, you’re constantly getting injured, you’re fatigued…everything is connected to your fitness. You need to strengthen and stretch those muscles, because if you’re not doing it, you’re making yourself weaker. And that’s what was happening to me.”
Her trainer introduced her to weightlifting, eventually sparking a love for a new sport: today Chahal is a competitive powerlifter.
“When I started, my deadlift goal was 300lbs. And there’s this really cool photo at a competition where I’ve got 300lbs in my hands. I came in second in that competition, and then in another. Like, wow, I can do this,” she says. “The powerlifting community is very strong (no pun intended!) – and very supportive. There’s been a growth in powerlifting gyms since I started and there are now four or five in my area. There are still more guys, but increasingly more women too. It’s very empowering.”
Chahal’s next goal is to beat the B.C. provincial record for women’s deadlift – 368lbs. It’s a goal she’s approaching with confidence and drive.
“What’s surprised me is how much I’d underestimated myself as a runner when I was first thinking about picking up those heavier weights. Imposter syndrome can eat you up, and you have to get over it. For me, I had to actually just start. And then the numbers slowly increased and one day I was lifting over 200lbs…and I found it wasn’t scary at all,” says Chahal, who also has a renewed passion for running and even helps to lead local run clinics in South Surrey.
“I love being able to lift more than the men. But it’s not just about the lifts. It’s about everything else that goes into it: mindset, physical strength, commitment, healthy habits, and drive.”
MAKE ROOM FOR CROSS TRAINING IN YOUR RUN SCHEDULE WITH THESE 4 TIPS FROM CHAHAL:
1. You don’t need a gym to strength train: “If the gym just isn’t your thing, you can simply use your body weight. It doesn’t need to be a massive weight. All you really need is a yoga mat.”
2. Not sure what strength workouts you’ll like? Test drive some on YouTube. “There are so many free videos online that you can try out to see what you like doing and how you like to move your body. Because if you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stick to it.”
3. Consistency over quantity: “Fifteen to 20 minutes a day is enough to see results. You may hate hills and track training, but when you add strength training in, you’ll start noticing improvements and it’ll motivate you to keep going – and maybe even want to do more.”
4. Little goals are good. “Start small. Think ok, this week I’ll do strength training twice a week for 20 minutes. You’ll start to build those atomic habits – those little things you can do for yourself to make sure you’re in a good physical and mental state to meet your goals. So, you want to run faster. What are the things you can do? Well, you can rest, eat properly, strength train, and stretch. Set small, consistent goals for these because all those little things will build up to your success.”
Written By RLAG Ambassador - Connie Smart.
Story from RLAG Ambassador - Sharon Chahal