stay small, lift strong.

Today I competed in my first ever competitive lifting event. If you knew me in high school, you’re probably thinking, “Wait…what?” I wasn’t necessarily the strongest person in high school, and I weighed a whopping eighty-eight pounds. I wasn’t exactly athletic either, with competitive dance being my sport of choice.

So the thought of little Erin Mathews competing in my University’s Mini Arnold was pretty crazy.

I know I’ve written a bit in the past about my diagnosis with fibromyalgia and how that effects my life. It’s an extremely debilitating disease that effects me on a daily basis, with chronic exhaustion and extraordinary pain being just a couple of the things I have to deal with. It’s been a tough fight with fibromyalgia, but I’ve managed to treat it with medicine, muscle relaxers, and weightlifting.

I started lifting around September of last semester, at first just looking to strengthen my body to help with the chronic pain and fatigue. But I fell in love with weightlifting and this semester I began to power lift. And that led me to register for the Mini Arnold.

This morning, I was all sorts of excited and nervous and felt as though I was going to throw up a couple times. I didn’t come to win, but I did come to show myself that I am capable and strong.

At the end of the day, I didn’t place. In fact, I failed at the lift that I was most confident in and didn’t come close to the numbers that some of the other girls were able to reach. And at first, I was mad at myself and frustrated that my body wasn’t cooperating with me and that I wasn’t performing my best.

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But my friend reminded me of why I was there. I was there to show myself how far I’ve come, to beat fibromyalgia, to prove that I am capable and I am strong, and to prove to everyone else that a small 104 pound girl can lift big things.

And although I failed in some respects, I am not a failure.

I beat the girl that I was a year ago, who nearly had to drop out of school because of fibromyalgia. I beat the girl that i was six months ago, who never had touched a barbell before. I beat the girl that I was three months ago, by reaching higher numbers and improving my form. I beat the girl that i was a month ago, who laughed at the idea of herself competing.

And I’ve got a long ways to go. I still have PRs to hit and numbers to crush. I might not have placed this year, or even come close to it. But we’ll see what next year has for me.

My hopes for writing this is that you would be encouraged to try something new, to take on something extremely challenging to you. While there will always be someone who is better than you, you always have the opportunity to be better than the person you were yesterday. So get out there and kick some butt. I believe in you.

And for me? I’m going to, in the words of my good friend Josh, stay small and lift big.

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(shoutout to my homies at Fit University for the swag!)