Kara King is a 45 year old mum of 2, who works full time a running a student support project at Charles Sturt University, and who up until recently hadn’t exercised since leaving high school. She's been lifting for two years and competed twice where she managed to take out first place in her weight division both times - She's a little beast! We talked with her recently about her lifting and her experience setting up a fully equipped powerlifting gym in her home.
TBC Can you tell us a little bit about your journey with strength training? In August 2014 a 24 hour gym opened up in town offering no lock in contracts and I joined, not expecting to really go often or to get much out of it. I had only ever had one other gym membership and after buying a new pair of joggers I never actually went, so my exercise track record wasn’t great. As I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, I reluctantly signed up for the three free PT sessions. Luckily, I got lumped with Dean Storm (Storm Strength and Conditioning) as a PT, and we hit it off – and he has been training me ever since.
Dean insisted that I do strength training and after around 6 months we realised that maybe I had some potential to compete and we started looking into powerlifting. We sussed out competition results in the Powerlifting Australia website, started stalking powerlifters on social media, and went to a couple of comps to watch. We chose the Australian Masters Games as a comp that looked like a nice one to try out the sport, once I’d made the decision to compete, training really kicked in, and now I’m hooked.
I’ve only entered 2 comps. My first comp was the Australian Masters Games in Adelaide in October 2015. My goal was to make sure I nailed all of my openers and to have fun and see if I liked it. I ended up with a total of 282.5 and a Wilks of 363.18 placing me first of all the women, and giving me an Elite 1 grading.
My second comp was the GymQuip Power Challenge in Canberra - I ended up with a total of 307.5 (S107.5, b 60 and d 135) adding 20kg to my total and a 386.84 Wilks so I’m stoked!
Although it’s early in the year I’m also a bit excited to have ranked in the Australian top 20 women’s raw rankings and in the top 10 for my weight class (52kg). Hopefully I can still be there at the end of the year.
"Serious powerlifting takes serious time and when you work full time, have kids a family and pets to fit it in around it... It can be hard. So we started setting up down stairs."
When I started powerlifting as far as I knew I was the only person involved in the sport in Bathurst. Training at the commercial gym had been great and I still train there as well, but there is nowhere in town with a powerlifting bar or calibrated plates, or even a bench the right height to train on. Also serious powerlifting takes serious time – sometimes 3 hours a day, and when you work full time, and have kids and a family and pets to fit it in around it can be hard. So we started setting up down stairs.
I still train at the local Snap when I have accessory training that I can’t do at home, or also if I need the motivation that training with others around provides which you don’t have when you train at home alone. I do find that sometimes I push myself harder if I think someone might be watching me.
TBC Can you tell us a bit about why and how you set up so you could lift at home? Setting up the home gym has kind of happened over time. We had a great room under the house that wasn’t being used except to house a treadmill and an exercise bike that mostly got used to air clothing on.
We started by covering the floor with rubber tiles the same as in commercial gyms and buying a squat rack. Then I purchased an IPF approved Titex bar and plates (they are the most beautiful and expensive things I’ve ever bought myself!) and a flat bench.
My coach Dean designed and built me a deadlift platform out of plywood and playground rubber matting - it’s fantastic. It’s a giant platform that pulls apart into 2 platforms if we want. That’s about it really. Then I just fitted it out with stuff I already owned like bands, foam rollers, shelving that wasn’t being used, even a broom stick. We hung up an old TV, and a blue tooth speaker and voila! It was fantastic to have it set up to prep for the last comp in and it was great to have a space offer the boys to train in too.
Although it's not yet great for us all to train in together, we are looking at buying a couple more bars and some more plates so we can all lift at the same time. Training takes a long time with others if you are unloading and reloading the one bar between sets. I’ll just keep adding as I can afford it and as the gaps in the gear make themselves known.
The best thing about setting up at home is that I can fit training in with home life a bit easier. I can come home from work and put dinner in the oven and train and keep an eye on the kids, and it allows my kids to see what I’m up to and to be involved in my sport.
It also means I can train on gear that is the same as I will be competing with, and I’m not joking that stiff bar and those super dense weights make a big difference when you’re used to using cheap oly bars and bumper plates. There is also the little stuff like playing your own music really loud, going crazy spreading chalk everywhere guilt free and I can also train in my PJ’s on the weekends!
Having the space set up at home also brings some fantastic people into my home to train, having role models like Keiren Rodwell, Jack Sargent and Dean Storm in my house is great for my kids. It’s heaps fun too!
Kara, Dean, Liz Craven and a very well photoshopped in Megan Hinchley @ Build Fitness recently
TBC Do you have any problems with motivation? So far I haven’t really struggled with motivation. I’m having so much fun, and I have been blown away by what has happened in such a small time period, especially for someone at my age, that I just want to hit the gym and compete and see what happens. It’s super exciting. I love having the feeling that I am in control of my body, that it can do things that I never thought possible. I find motivation in that, in seeing how far I can take it. I’ve found Powerlifting to be a super empowering sport.
The key is to just keep turning up and doing it. It sounds clichéd but Dean writes it down and I do it, no questions, just following a well-designed program and watching the results happen motivates me too. (so does lifting more than the boys at the gym).
I tend to want to always train – learning to rest is important too. Take the programmed down times and let your body recover. TBCHow do you stay connected with the lifting community? I’m really just finding the powerlifting community. Up until recently my lifting community has consisted of me, my coach and training with some of the boys at the gym. I was really lucky to meet Keiren Rodwell who has competed as a powerlifter before who moved to Bathurst to study and now one of the boys from the gym Jack Sargent has started to compete as well. So the three of us train together when we can and push each other along.
Competing at the GymQuip Power Challenge in Canberra recently has changed that and I was lucky enough to meet a lot of the people who I’ve been quietly watching on Instagram. I was blown away by the generosity of Megan Hinchley, Liz Craven and others who helped Jack and myself out at our first and second comps. It was also really exciting to meet other women who lift as I’m a bit of a novelty in Bathurst and the only girl. I really look forward to becoming a part of the community as I continue to compete.
TBC Any tips you could pass on? Just keep turning up. And trust your body, it’s amazing what it will do if you ask it and trust it. As far as setting up the gym, so far it’s been fantastic, I guess if you have the space and can afford it go for it, I love having it. Maybe don’t expect it to replace everything that a commercial gym can offer – if you rely on others for motivation or support it might not be the best decision if you can’t afford to have both.
TBC Would you change anything about how you set up at home? I would probably have looked into squat racks more and purchased a different one – but otherwise not really.
TBC What’s next for you Kara? I’ll do a comp in June or early July and then I hope to compete at the Australian Junior and Masters games in August. I would love to have the opportunity to maybe represent Australia one day and travel with powerlifting. I reckon it would be a great way to see the world.
* If you can’t answer this question, my advice is that you should leave the gym immediately, get a coffee, sit in front of a mirror and have a good hard look at yourself