SPEARFISH — Powerlifters do not simply show up at an event to perform bench presses, squats, and deadlifts. It is an all-encompassing endeavor in many respects.

Meade 46-1 School District psychologist Mallory Smith began lifting weights on a recreational basis four years ago. Her efforts culminated with the Grand Champion honor at the Xtreme Powerlifting Coalition (XPC) World Championships at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio, earlier this year. 

She lifted a total of 990 pounds in squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Competitors have three attempts at each of those three disciplines. The top weight from each of the three is added for a grand total.

The Arnold Classic is by invitation only. A person must attend a powerlifting meet and attain a certain total compared to their body weight. Once that total is obtained, it is submitted.

“It’s really challenging to go into powerlifting, I would say, just as much mentally as it is physically,” Smith said.

“The time in the gym is actually small compared to everything else that you need to do,” Smith said. Behind-the-scenes events include icing, stretching, chiropractic visits, and preparing massive amounts of chicken, rice, and other foods.

Charles Gillen coached Smith at Downtown Gym in Spearfish during training for the Arnold Classic. A trainer out of Omaha, Neb., currently coaches Smith.

Training sessions begin at 3:30 a.m. and last for about two hours. She prepares food each night after work.

She emphasizes that powerlifting is so much more than an individual effort. Family and friends also give their full support, according to Smith.

Smith began training for powerlifting competitions about four years ago. She trained for the Arnold Classic and Apeman Elite for about six months before those events.

“Once you’ve picked a competition, then you decide how many weeks you have,” Smith said. She enters the 148-pound weight class, with entrants in that class between 132 and 148.

Athletes gradually work up to heavier weights and back off to help the body recover. They take a break before the competition.

Diet also plays a major role. Smith strictly checks her intake of macronutrients, carbohydrates, and protein thanks to a coach who helps her with those numbers.

She enters those numbers into a fitness panel app named “MyFitnessPal” and weighs everything, every day. 

Smith’s journey to weightlifting actually began in 2009 when she left graduate school. She started running 5-kilometer races to lose weight and increased that activity level to include 10-kilometer races, half marathons, full marathons, and an off-road Iron Man event.

Her running career abruptly ended when she sustained a 50% tear in a calf muscle. She started lifting weights on a recreational basis to stay busy while engaging in a physical activity. 

Some competitions do not check competitors for performance enhancing drugs. Smith said she chooses to train naturally because of her epilepsy and works around the side effects because she truly enjoys what she is doing.

Currently, Smith is not planning a future competition because doctors have had serious discussions with her about her back. It includes two herniated discs setting on the sciatic nerve, which can cause severe pain.

Smith placed second at an 8-main Apeman event, so she was invited to the Kern U.S. Open event. This is essentially the Olympics for powerlifting.

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