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International Women’s Day: An Interview With Competitive Powerlifter Serena Griswold

This week I had the joy of sitting down with my friend and personal inspiration, Serena Griswold. At 20 years old, Serena is a junior Accounting major at the University of Illinois Chicago. When she’s not in class, working her internship, or playing lacrosse, Serena spends her time in the gym. As part of her school’s powerlifting club, she trains to compete in powerlifting competitions and reach her own personal lifting goals. Recently, she competed in the USA Powerlifting Beast of the Metro East competition in February. I sat down with her to discuss her experience with lifting. 

What made you want to start lifting?

I work at the gym here at UIC and a lot of my friends were powerlifters, and I started working out with them one day and I was like oh I really like this! I kept going from there and now I’m part of the powerlifting club and go to competitions and compete for the top spot. 

What was it like to go to your first competition?

Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. That was my first ever meet, and for my weight group I didn’t place necessarily very high up but it was a good starting point. But I definitely needed experience. It was definitely very nerve-wracking. It was all the way in Missouri, so it wasn’t even like home really… The place that the meet was at was a tiny high school that had a tiny gym so it was fun. I think my favorite part of the entire meet was taking videos of my teammates. When you rewatch all the videos you can hear everybody going “Yeah! Yeah! You put that away!” so it was fun. Definitely a learning experience. 

What was your first time lifting like?

I remember looking back at videos I would take of all my lifts and I would just kind of laugh now knowing all the things I know now about form and tempo and the nitty gritty of everything. But when I first started, it was a lot of trial and error and teaching myself because it was kind of embarrassing having friends who already knew what they were doing… At first I didn’t even know powerlifting was squat, bench, and deadlift so I would only do deadlifts, and maybe squats. First couple times, or the first five months, was me just figuring out what I was even doing.

What's your favorite part of it now?

I think my favorite part of it now is lifting with friends or teammates. Just because you guys hype each other up while you’re lifting, even if it's not that difficult of a lift. You’re still like “Alright you did that! I saw you! Lightweight!” Definitely working out or sharing your progress is very satisfying. 

Who in the community or online inspires you?

On social media, any time I see any woman who's powerlifting or lifting in general I’m like dammit I want to be like that, that's so impressive. I remember when I first started I was like I don't know anybody, any woman who powerlifts like this, am I supposed to? This is a male dominated sport. In person, there's this one woman who works out in the morning with me, her name is Kylie, and she… oh my god. I look up to her so much. She's strong as hell and that is so impressive to me. Definitely look up to Kylie. 

Happy International Women’s Day!

Julia is a freshman English major at Lasell. She enjoys reading, writing, exploring nature, and spending time with her family. Most nights you can find her in bed watching Keira Knightley movies.
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