Powerlifting powers Steamboat woman past eating disorder
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cameron Rasmussen has been powerlifting for five years but had yet to put her skills to the test in a competition. On Oct. 12, she did so for the first time ever at the Natural Athlete Strength Association Colorado Regional Meet in Greeley. And she won.
Rasmussen earned a first-place finish in retro weight lifting in the intermediate, novice and peer divisions.
“It was very intense and a totally different feeling to lift in a meet than to just be lifting in training,” she said. “High energy, kind of, for me, performance anxiety. You’re lifting in front of a whole crowd.”
Despite the nerves she felt at the time, as soon as the event was over, Rasmussen knew she wanted to compete again.
Rasmussen started powerlifting in 2014 when she returned to Steamboat Springs. She met Charlie Chase, a trainer, who encouraged her to turn her weight lifting into powerlifting.
“He heard how much I could leg press and was like, ‘Woah, you need to lift with free weight and get squatting.’ He got me started with that,” Rasmussen said.
While Chase put the competitive bug in her ear not long after that, she just never got around to it. Rasmussen left Steamboat again for a couple years and returned with her husband last year. When she ran into Chase again, she finally decided to compete.
Through high school at Steamboat Springs, Rasmussen ran cross country, was a nordic skier and a swimmer. She even continued cross country for a semester in college.
“I was always very mediocre in the middle, endurance wise. I think I just hadn’t found what I was made to do,” Rasmussen said. “When I started lifting, there was this epiphany of like, ‘Wow, this is what my body was born to do. I’m a power athlete.’”
Rasmussen was one of just a few women at the regional competition. She said she talks to all her friends about it because she loves it so much and also because she wants to see more women in the sport.
“Just building strength in your body feels amazing, the benefit of feeling strong that you carry with you every day,” she said. “You can apply that to any other sport, as well. It’s a good base line. There’s a lot of mental strengthening that happens. You overcome fear, like the fear of moving heavy weight. When you realize that you can, it’s a huge breakthrough.”
For Rasmussen, strength training brought a bit more than that.
‘It’s brought me so much joy’
Powerlifting, and the weekend victories are more than a testament to her physical strength. It’s a major benchmark in her recovery from an eating disorder she suffered while going into college.
While she was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, Rasmussen, a self-described Type-A perfectionist, said she was consuming about 800 calories a day while at Rhode Island College.
“I hadn’t been eating enough for a while. I was not feeling well, gaining weight,” Rasmussen said. “My metabolism plummeted into the basement, even though I was exercising all the time and eating how I considered to be healthy.”
According to a New York Times article from 2018, “the prevalence of eating disorders is higher among athletes, especially in sports that emphasize lean bodies, such as running.”
Rasmussen had a friend at the local rec center who was a nutritionist. She helped Rasmussen realize she wasn’t healthy. The nutritionist required Rasmussen to start lifting, so she familiarized herself with the weight machines at the gym. Thus began Rasmussen’s love of the sport that, over the last five years, transformed her into a confident, strong woman.
“I reflected on that a lot as I was going into this meet,” Rasmussen said. “I’m so thankful for the gift that lifting has been in my life. It’s brought me so much joy and health and healing in my body.”
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