Powerlifting for a cause: Brockville women come together to build physical and mental strength

Photo submitted by Meredith Amstrong

Women of all ages and fitness levels are welcome to get their sweat on and learn to power lift for a good cause this summer.

4Life Fitness and St. Lawrence Psychotherapy and Wellness have partnered to put on this fitness event titled “Strong Bodies, Strong Minds: Women’s Powerlifting Meet for Mental Health.”

The inaugural event will take place on Saturday, June 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the 4Life Fitness location at 50 King Street East in Brockville. Ontario. All proceeds gathered will go towards Brockville and District Community Foundation. The meeting will be catered with meals sponsored by Freshii.

Brockvilleist spoke with Meredith Armstrong, who is an MSW, RSW, social worker and psychotherapist. Armstrong is the owner of St. Lawrence Psychotherapy and Wellness, one of the organizers of the event. 

“Depending on how many participants we have, there could be a few different classes (weight class, experience, or age),” she said. “There will be coaches on site to help guide new and beginner lifters. Safety is of most importance for everyone.”

Armstrong said that “the competition is for fun with the goal of learning how to lift, or if you are experienced to have a great time and compete with a supportive community. The environment will be fun, safe and inclusive.”

Meredith Armstrong detailed how this decision to collaborate on a powerlifting event came to fruition.

”I met Zach and Deb a few months ago when I wanted to try and lift some heavy weights. I started attending their women’s program and they noticed strength in me and this meant a lot to me.”

She recounted how introducing weightlifting into her life has positively changed both her mind and body.

“After a long battle over the years with infertility, depression, and addiction, my body was finally doing what I wanted it to and having some vitality return to it. Lifting weights is incredibly beneficial for women for their physical health, bone health, mental health, functionality, resilience, and more. As we talked, we realized we could join forces and put on an event that would both bring attention to women about this really fun sport that is good for our health and raise money for a cause we both feel strongly about.”

Armstrong continued, “Mental health has historically been treated as something separate from our whole health and it has been stigmatized. It is so important to educate our community that mental health is part of and interplays with our whole health.”

Both organizers emphasize the critical connection between mental and physical health when building a well-rounded life of wellness.

“Our mental health plays a significant role in every area of our lives from stress reduction, understanding our emotions, prevention of diseases like depression and dementia, substance use, and more,” Armstrong says. “Having good mental fitness can improve brain function like memory, concentration, calmness, and better sleep.”

The organizers collectively agreed that with the rise in burnout and mental health concerns for healthcare workers – especially during and after COVID – it is imperative to also provide care for the carers. Armstrong shared, “Deb, Zach, and I felt this would be an exceptional cause. We contacted Emily Maskell at the Brockville and District Hospital Foundation and she accepted our request to fundraise for them and helped us get set up with the foundation.”

4Life Fitness founder and trainer Zachary Benson shared his excitement about the meet with Brockvilleist.

“We are going to continue to run this as an annual event regardless of how well this first one goes,” he said.

Benson shared that this event will be a fun and welcoming atmosphere and reiterated that this event is geared towards beginners. He explained that they are not expecting a lot of experienced powerlifters because there are other sanctioned powerlifting events on the same day in Ottawa. 

Benson is considering the idea of running a free learning day to establish basic techniques on the Saturday before the event to prevent injury during the actual event. He explained they are still awaiting registration numbers before making this decision.

“We are trying to reach people who have a basic or generic background with fitness who are looking for another avenue to go down to take it to the next level. My biggest piece of advice for people who are curious about it is to reach out to us directly,” said Benson.

Supporting mental health is a cause near and dear to both Zach’s and Meredith’s hearts. While Meredith contributes to this field on a professional level, Zach has been running a non-profit organization titled “The 4Life Foundation ” over the past 10 years, with an emphasis on raising funds for youth and families affected by mental health struggles.

Benson told Brockvilleist, “Brockville is such an amazing community but it seems all we hear in the community lately is what we’re losing and what we don’t have. We’re trying to offer something different to people with a different scope and vision to put their minds towards. We have basically every youth athlete in Brockville training here but we’re trying to get into the adult community and reach that demographic as well.”

The organizers confirmed that there will be a resources table available on-site with local mental health and addiction information for participants and spectators to browse. 

For questions about registration or to donate to the Brockville and District Hospital Foundation, please email info@4lifefitness.info

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