#LiftLoveLaugh – Living with the Lifters of Glen Norah
I am currently in Zimbabwe for 3 weeks conducting research for my Masters thesis looking at how powerlifting can be used within the humanitarian field. Catch my first 2 prior blog posts if you are behind!
For my research, I felt it of utmost importance to truly EXPERIENCE the community context - not only their lifting but also their lives. Their family. Their friends. Their food. Where they work and play, and their true needs right from the source. There is only so much my limited 15 minute interviews can do!
Glen Norah is a high density suburb of the capital city of Harare, and for the past few days I was hosted and toured by a local lifter (and leader!) in the community. It is always a humbling experience staying in areas without running water, limited access to technology, and where you have to use a bucket “bathroom” in your bedroom at night because it could be too dangerous to go outside. Putting myself out there and in these situations is often scary and intimidating! But I have come to understand that beyond our comfort zones is where we reap the most rewards, and where the true learning happens.
On Monday, July, 10th, I had the opportunity to help the Glen Norah gym host their first ever "Learn to Lift" intro to powerlifting session. The free sessions were open to anyone and everyone within the community, and were organized entirely from the grassroots by the lifters from the little gym. I had no idea what to expect, but the response was overwhelming and humbling. Girls, boys, youth, adults, and everyone in-between showed up motivated and eager to witness and try powerlifting for themselves. In fact, so many people came out for the fun that 2 back-to-back sessions had to be run! A meet in the coming week is even in the works.
Girls were squatting in dresses and skirts, many of the children didn’t have shoes, and without running water many hadn't showered in days. But who needs fancy equipment when you can be supported by community. These sessions are going to be held every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons and will include the training of coaches in the coming weeks to ensure sustainability. I feel honoured to be a part of supporting something larger while I do my research, and I truly believe I am working with some future champions.
While living in the community, I also had the opportunity to get some gains in the early mornings with the guys. The majority of them train between 5am and 8am before starting their day, and with no electricity they can only train when there is sun so they can somewhat see. These lifters have been key to guiding lots of my research, and despite being very sleepy training only moments after waking up, I had a blast getting some lifting in amidst the learning. I also hope I taught them a thing or two about powerlifting - yes it is very different than bodybuilding and requires you to squat!
Training in their little gym was humbling to say the least - no lights, an uneven and broken floor, a small space, minimal equipment – and fitting my program in proved to be a bit of a struggle. But I was inspired by their innovation, mentorship, and always getting their own sessions done. The love of lifting can be found in the most unexpected places, and I am all smiles being able to share it with these strong studs. I am looking forward to seeing (and supporting!) everything these lifters continue to do, finding avenues to improve their gym space in the future, and hopefully compete along side them at a meet soon.
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