First, the basics! Your name, age, and where you live.
Melanie Ash, 34, Columbus, Ohio (We’re still in a fun-hangover after the recent Arnold Sports Festival!)
I am also a certified personal trainer and owner of Melanie Ash Fitness. “Building strong women” is a header on the main page of my website and I help clients find the right path to reach their goals, based 100% on their body, resources, and needs.
JVB: Let’s dig right into it: what does becoming Unapologetically Powerful mean to you?
It means training the way I want, to look and feel the way I want, without worrying about what other people think or how society feels about how I should train or look. It means not being ashamed to be strong, speak my mind, or do what’s best for me.
JVB: Everyone’s entry to powerlifting is a bit different: how did you find yours?
I’m a personal trainer and I started working at a gym where other trainers were into powerlifting. I also started seeing women lifting heavy on social media. It looked hard but also incredibly satisfying to attempt something really hard and conquer it. I thought: I want to do that!
JVB: Think about where you started and where you are now: what did you find most helpful when learning how to powerlift?
Definitely bracing. Without the tightness throughout my core creating stability for the whole body, my lifts will just fall apart.
JVB: Let’s talk about challenges. What was your biggest hurdle when you first started powerlifting? How did you overcome it?
It was a total mental roadblock: I was afraid of being crushed. Seriously! I was scared to bench or squat because I was afraid that I would not be able to get out from under the bar. I overcame it with the help of good coaching and practice; staying consistent with my training and experiencing success after success helped me get excited to keep going back and trying again. (Squatting and benching with safety bars helps, too!)
JVB: In just three words, describe how you feel after a powerlifting workout?
Strong, confident, and motivated.
JVB: All three are awesome, but if you must pick from squat, bench, or deadlift, which one is your favorite? What do you love about it?
Omigish, it has to be deadlift. Picking up heavy sh*t just make me feel like I can conquer the world if I want to!
But I find all the powerlifts so empowering. Standing up from a squat with a bar loaded up with plates, and pushing a heavy (to me) bar off my chest is incredibly satisfying! Heck yeah it’s challenging and it can look intimidating, but: watch me do it. I can do this.
JVB: Time to get your PR pants on! Tell us about your most memorable personal record.
The day I deadlifted 200 pounds I texted my husband, “I just deadlifted 200 pounds!” And he texted back, “And same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states!!” (It was the day the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015.)
On a cultural level those two events don’t equally compare, of course, but for me it left a huge impact. I remember feeling incredibly happy, proud, and full of hope that day.
JVB: OK, now a biggie: What is the biggest impact becoming UP has had on your life?
I finally feel confident in my skin and I’m proud of my body, not only about what it looks like but what it can do.
JVB: You’ve come a long way, baby! What has been the biggest contributor to your powerlifting success so far?
Definitely UP Online Coaching! The pointers and feedback from JVB on my lifts every week has helped me make more progress in 7 weeks than I did in 7 months on my own.
Left: Melanie, squatting her 1RM at the beginning of UP Coaching. Right: Squatting the same weight—much more confidently—7 weeks into UP Coaching.
JVB: We know that improving your physical strength has a way of bleeding into every aspect of your life. In what ways are you Unapologetically Powerful outside of the gym?
I run my own business and that means putting myself out there, taking risks, and being vulnerable. I’ve learned to not be afraid to go for what I want and to continue to work hard to get it. I believe in myself and what I can accomplish if I keep trying and put in the work.
I have competed in bodybuilding so I also love training for hypertrophy and I’m a huge fan of interval training. I love playing with all the gym toys like the prowler, punching bag, tire, battle ropes, and rower. I also am a former dancer and still love to take a class every now and then, and I do a dance-fitness class every Sunday.
I also love yoga, the hotter the better, and try to make it to one class a week. There are very few things I don’t like when it comes to working out and moving!
JVB: Talk to the reader: What’s your best piece of advice for them if they’re interested in training for powerlifting?
My best piece of advice for anyone training for powerlifting is to get the support and guidance of a good coach. Powerlifting is very rewarding but, if you’re new, you will want to learn how to lift and progress safely.
Also: be patient and respect the process. Getting good at powerlifting is an endeavor that ebbs and flows but you will continue to improve with consistent practice. Don’t let your mind talk you out of it because if your mindset doesn’t believe you can do it, well, you won’t. Listen to your body and follow it’s cues. You can do this too!
Do you love to lift and are interested in joining a community of like-minded lifters for a week of strength-oriented fun? The fourth #UPowerful virtual powerlifting meet kicks off Monday, March 20th! Everyone of all strength levels is invited to compete, and no, you do not have to already be on a powerlifting program to participate. Once you join the team, the (free!) Unapologetically Powerful Ecourse will deliver everything you need to know about how to execute the big three safely and strongly, right to your inbox.
You can participate in this meet even while lifting in your own gym. That is the beauty of the #UPowerful meet: you’re able to participate from anywhere on the globe! (And you don’t even have to wear a singlet.) Join the team now!