Emily Gaines (23) makes a memorable first impression. But it may not be the one you would expect from someone noted for raw physical strength. She is striking with a sort of classic French beauty and style, and has an aura of genuine goodness. Upon meeting her, you experience a lifting – the same feeling brought about by an unseasonably warm Georgia day. You never forget these days, and you wish they would come around more often. Indeed, just like the earliest days of spring, you are delighted Gaines has arrived, and you smile, hoping your time with her will last a bit, and that your first meeting with her will not be your last.
A Georgia Powerlifting Record Holder
Just weeks ago, on March 23, the USA Powerlifting Battle on the Border VII (with weightlifters from Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) took place in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Snellville native and lifelong resident Emily Gaines participated as a “full lifter” (one lifting in all events – squat, bench press, and deadlift). At the meet’s close, she felt disappointed in her performance, feeling she had not had her best day. But on the bus ride back to Georgia, her trainer (Josh Rohr of Duluth’s Quest Gym) gave her some great news – Gaines had in fact performed very well, setting a new Georgia record for the bench press (121 pounds) for her age and weight class. Incredibly, she had been lifting weights for just ten months.
Modest Beginnings And Rapid Progress
Gaines began lifting weights in May 2012 at the urging of her boyfriend. At the time, she had been hoping to find a sport in which to get involved. On her first visit to the gym, she felt drawn to the free weights area and, as she puts it, “immediately fell in love.” After researching different types of weightlifting, she started looking for a trainer. “I stumbled upon powerlifting and by the grace of God found [Josh Rohr and] Quest Gym. He has been the most wonderful coach and I wouldn’t be able to do this without his guidance.”
Gaines’ passion was ignited quickly. After battling bouts of anxiety and depression her whole life, she says, “that ended when I began lifting.” She started easy (literally benching only a broom stick at first), gradually adding weight. But in no time, she became a serious powerlifter. She entered her first competition in August 2012, only three months after beginning the sport.
Gaines’ progress is most assuredly attributable to her pure love for the sport. At a loss for the words to explain, she notes, “it’s something about digging down deep into yourself – to really power through. It’s seeing what you’re made of. There’s a love there – emotional in a sense.”
Josh Rohr, Gaines’ trainer/coach, sees special qualities in Gaines. “Usually, I have to convince my female clients to give it a try, but she came to me full speed with the desire to do it. She is always at least 30 minutes early to training and most times is the last one to leave when we’re done. Emily is a great role model and representative of the sport of powerlifting. She is soft spoken and very unassuming, and because of that, she is able to approach other women and invite them to try competing without [their] being intimidated. It has been a pleasure to watch Emily progress over the last year, and I am excited to see what is in store, not only for her, but for the other people whom she influences in this sport.”
Future As Trainer
Gaines plans to lift as long as she’s able and sets no limits. “I want to lift as much as I possibly can.” (Her next competition is the 5th Annual USA National Powerlifting Championships on July 19 – 21 in Orlando.) She currently is a licensed massage therapist, specializing in sports massage. She also plans to study exercise science at Life University, and hopes to become a personal trainer. She aspires to work with teenagers noting, “they are the future of the sport of powerlifting.”
The future is bright for Gaines. Who knows where powerlifting will take her – or where she will take it. With her passion, courage, and desire to show others the way, she is a natural ambassador for the sport. And Gaines knows her sport is about much more than physical strength, providing valuable life lessons. “[Powerlifting] has taught me that you might not always reach your goals on your first attempt, but you make adjustments and try again.”
Written by Reg L. Carver
Reg L. Carver is a writer and designer from Johns Creek, Georgia. You may find him at www.reglcarver.com.
photograph by KAT GODUCO