Isabel Lahane grew up in El Granada, playing basketball, volleyball and softball, so it’s no surprise that she would remain active into her young adulthood. This thing about hoisting barbells bearing more than her own body weight is relatively new, however.
Now, her dedication to Olympic-style weightlifting, a sport that is not often associated with diminutive women like Lahane, is taking her to Memphis, Tenn., and the USA Weightlifting National Championships, May 9 through 12.
“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” she says with a chuckle. “I’m so new to the sport and I have a lot to learn.”
Lahane traces her interest in serious weightlifting to a lunch with her mother in 2015. A relatively new fitness craze called CrossFit came up in conversation. The high-intensity workouts combine elements of interval training, gymnastics and Olympic weightlifting, among other things, for a full-body workout that tests mind and spirit.
The 22-year-old Lahane was up to the challenge. In fact, it was challenging enough to keep her interested and bring her peace of mind.
“I have (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) so my brain is going nonstop,” Lahane said. She added that other workouts bored her, but that there was something about competing in weightlifting — first with herself and later against others — that filled a void.
“It was a peaceful, nice thing,” she added. “It was the one time I was able to be at peace.”
CrossFit provided an introduction into the Olympic disciplines of snatch, and clean and jerk. In the first, a weightlifter grabs the bar with a wide grip well beyond the shoulders, then snatches the bar up overhead and stands straight until judges say the lifter has control of the bar. In the latter, a lifter grabs the bar at about shoulder width, then simultaneously yanks it up and stands until the bar rests on the shoulders. Then she presses it up overhead, using the power of her legs for much of the work.
She credits Steve Hayman, a fellow CrossFit gym member, with stoking her competitive fires. He showed her that she was only 18 pounds from a national qualifying total, and together they theorized she could get there within one year of beginning training. Today, she trains at California Strength in San Ramon.
“The people that I train with are all national-level lifters,” Lahane wrote in an email, “and it’s fun to see them throw some heavy weights around.”
Lahane competes in the 140-pound class. She is snatching 180.4 pounds and can clean and jerk 224.4 pounds. Those weights are combined for a total of 402.6 pounds that are used to differentiate competitors.
Her performance in Memphis will propel her forward. There is another competition in Daytona Beach, Fla., this summer and she has her eye on lofty goals like the Pan Am Games and the Olympics. For now, it’s one lift at a time.
“I’m trying to find that happy medium between having fun with the training and being serious,” she said in an email. “Some days are better than others, but I think that just comes with time and experience up there under the lights.”