Representing England in the Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships

Laura Shea works at Stokewood Leisure Centre as a Health & Fitness Advisor and Personal Trainer – with specialities being Health Referral, Exercise and Disability, Obesity and Diabetes, Sports Specific Conditioning and Powerlifting

She has been selected to represent England in the forthcoming Commonwealth Powerlifting Championships taking place in Vancouver Canada 30th November – 6th December, based on her first place performance as a senior lifter in the recent All England Championships held in Northampton in August.

She is among 70 lifters invited from across the country. 6 of which are also from Bournemouth and train along with Laura at Bournemouth Barbell.

Q/ What got you into powerlifting in the first place?

A/ I fell into Powerlifting completely by accident really! When I was studying to become a Personal Trainer I was offered courses to do about Power and Olympic Lifting, and Strength and Conditioning, but they never appealed to me – I was totally living up to the stereotype of ‘Men lift heavy weights – women do cardio’. I thought when would I ever want to be lifting heavy things, sweating loads, and pulling funny faces in the mirror? – No thank you!

Then one day at the end of summer last year, I got asked in the gym by a couple of members if I wanted to join in on a leg press challenge, and as I wasn’t on shift and doing some training myself, I joined in. They offered to drop the weight down from what they were using to make it easier for me, but I wanted to feel the weight that they were using… even if I could only move the weight a little, or maybe manage 1 repetition I just wanted to feel how heavy the weight was… Long story short, the first guy did 10 repetitions, the second guy just about managed 3, and I did 12. The weight was 210 kilograms – around 33 stone.

No one, including myself, could believe that I had just done what I had done; jaws were literally on the floor! Also I had never actually used this machine before. So I was very much a novice but obviously had some hidden strength.

From that moment forward they all wanted to help me get into serious heavy weight training to test my strength out as I was potentially harbouring a lot of strength. One member in particular would always come and train when I was training just to support me and guide me in the different lifts, kind of like a personal coach – so I always had someone there to spot me in case I would struggle or not be able to complete the lift and of course to cheer me on. (The main lifts being Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift) I started slow and light, but soon showed some promising signs of improvement and he (my new ‘coach’) recommended that I look into Powerlifting clubs in or around Bournemouth to get some comments and advice on what I had done, how I was doing, and if I had any potential moving forward.

This is when I discovered Bournemouth Barbell, and an amazing man called Paul Rees. A few emails were exchanged; then at the beginning of this year, I went along to one of the Bournemouth Barbell training sessions and I fell in love with it all! I knew this is where I wanted to be – who cares about the stereotype – I am a woman and I want to lift! At the end of that first session Paul had judged my lifts and worked out where I was at, welcomed me as a new member of Bournemouth Barbell and recommended I compete for the South West in less than a month in my first divisional competition!

At my first competition in February I came 3rd and broke the South West record, I then competed in April, again representing the South West where I came 2nd and broke my own record again, then in May I competed once again representing the South West and I came 2nd breaking my own record again! Then in August I competed in the All England Championships coming 1st, and getting some personal bests but sadly not breaking my record. This then led me to receive the invitation to represent England in the Commonwealth, in November in Canada.

Q/ What has inspired you?

A/ I don’t necessarily have an inspiration as such, but getting women in the gym into lifting or pushing their boundaries and trying something new, just seeing a woman picking up a dumbbell or a barbell rather than heading straight to the treadmills/cardio is my inspiration. The more views about lifting that I can change, the better. And obviously all the support and encouragement I’ve had; especially from my ‘coach’ has inspired me to carry on and keep working and training harder to keep reaching higher goals.

Q/ Where do you train?

A/ Stokewood for general training – or also at Littledown as it has everything I need, Squat Racks, lots of benches, and 2 Deadlift platforms – but otherwise at Bournemouth Barbell.

Q/ What training do you do?

A/ I mainly do Squats, Bench Press and Deadlifts as they are the 3 lifts that Powerlifting consists of – but I have to do a lot of assistance exercises which support those lifts to enable me to get better and stronger. For example if someone wanted to run a marathon you wouldn’t tell them to run and keep on running; you would analyse their gait, their weight shift patterns, foot placement and how they run, then recommend other exercises, classes or swimming to do, to help their cardio fitness and general strength etc. I still do a bit of cardio just to keep my heart healthy – I’ve got a secret love for spinning!

Q/ What advice do you have for others who are interested in Powerlifting?

A/ Go for it – In less than a year I have gone from a complete novice to breaking records and representing my country – if I can do it so can you! As long as you have a fitness professional to guide you on how to get your technique right; how low to go with your squats, how long to hold your bench press for, and how to correctly lift and lock out on a deadlift then you’ll be on the right track. So many times I have seen a squat that’s not low enough, a bench press that doesn’t even touch the chest or a deadlift that is creating an arched back… All quite detrimental to training, and to having a successful gym session – If you’ve not got your technique right you wont be training right, which means you wont see those results you’ve been working for!

Also don’t be afraid of how you might be viewed – More and more men are putting their strength to good use rather than posing in the mirror and working on those bicep curls; and more and more women are getting into lifting of some kind these days, because strong is becoming the new sexy! It’s so empowering when you realise what you’re capable of, and if it’s not for you – at least you’ve given it a try!

Here’s just some statistics just to give you an idea of what I have achieved in the past 11 months:

My current personal bests;

Squat – 132.5 kilograms (20.8 stone) Bench Press – 75 kilograms (11.8 stone) Deadlift – 142.5 kilograms (22.4 stone)


Notes to the editor

Stokewood Leisure Centre is managed by BH Live in partnership with Bournemouth Borough Council

About BH Live

BH Live is the South Coast’s leading operator of leisure and event venues – a social enterprise that designs and builds engaging experiences to inspire people and enrich lives. With over 2.5 million visits a year and over £31 million turnover, the organisation is changing lives – placing it at the heart of the UK’s growing social economy.

In 2013/14, BH Live hosted 423 shows, sold over half a million cultural, sporting and entertainment tickets, clocked up 1.8 million leisure centre visits and welcomed 88,000 conference and exhibition delegates which contributed over £45 million to the local economy.

For further press information:

Elizabeth Symmons PR & Corporate Communications Executive, BH Live 01202 451866