Irish Powerlifter Dee Fenlon prepares for the World Championships

I’d heard that kayaker Dee Fenlon was getting into powerlifting but only realised how serious this leap was when I saw her lift 211kg at the Irish championships. So of course, I had to track her down for a chat before she heads to the Worlds in June. 

Lots of women in sport lift weights as a an add-on to their training, Dee’s life has taken a different turn. 

For years her sports were running and top-level kayking, she says: “I’d put on a lot of weight so I started running. I dropped 5 stone (31kg) and ran the Cork Half Marathon. I was going to a personal trainer and they said you’re very strong, you should try powerlifting.”

That might have been that, but a few years later while working in Wales she spotted weights in the gym and something clicked.

Laughing, she says: ‘I looked at the bar and said to the trainer ‘Teach me how to do that’. It was a small place, a shed really up in the hills so no-one was watching me there. I suppose, I was so focused then on losing body weight that I needed something else to think about.”

Her first competition was not a glamorous experience; making weight for the first time, driving there alone. But the tournament organiser noticed this newbie and took the time to say Well Done, hope we see you again.

She says: “He said I should keep going, and that gave me the push I needed. I just decided then that I’d keep it up.”

The learning curve moving from casual lifting to powerlifting was steep. She talks about where she places her left and right feet, getting the depth into her squats, the Pause and how to use the bench. She talks about how each lift varies and require different muscles, a new thought process.

Just before we spoke, she’d spent a week doing the Max 5 – pushing into lifts over four days to see how far she could go. A powerlifting contest includes three tries at each of the squat, bench press, and deadlift.