After Rachel Siemens helped Team Taranis to a bronze medal at the 2011 CrossFit Games, she abandoned the sport.
Not because she didn’t love CrossFit. But because there was one part of CrossFit she loved more than anything else: Weightlifting.
For the last few years, Siemens has dedicated herself absolutely and completely to becoming stronger and more powerful in the sport of weightlifting. Training today is much different than it was in 2011, she explained.
“Training for weightlifting is a lot more rigid. The program is strict and I follow it like a drone,” Siemens said. “Obviously, I don’t do much cardio work (now), aside from some jogging, which I actually do enjoy. I also use the term ‘jogging’ very loosely here,” she laughed.
Unlike many CrossFit athletes, who often get bullied into hitting additional workouts outside of their training program with friends, or caught up working on fun new gymnastics skills after training sessions, Siemens never strays from what her coach Rob Macklem programs for her.
“My training is very traditional and purposeful. My exercises are narrowed down carefully to serve a purpose. I don’t bother with playing around very much. Unless it’s bicep curls after my coach leaves the gym. Don’t tell him that,” Siemens joked.
She added: “I live by every word he says. I would jump of a cliff if it were in the program.”
Although many would find the thought of training as a weightlifter to be boring and repetitive, Siemens does not. She’s a perfectionist and thrives on the repetition.
“The endless pursuit of optimal technique and power keeps me motivated. It’s like dance, almost,” Siemens said, adding that she said often even thinks of the lifting platform as a stage.
“I like performing, and the platform is the perfect stage to perform the lifts,” she said.
Some days, her performances are satisfying; other days, they’re disappointing.
“There are ups and down and frustrations and joys. I guess the tumultuous nature of my training keeps me motivated,” she said.
But more than anything, it’s her love that keeps her going—a love that, like her lifting, has evolved over the years.
“Originally, I fell in love with it because it made me feel strong in one area of my life, when I didn’t feel strong in others,” she said. “I think eventually my strength has spilled over to the rest of my life and helped me achieve many things I never thought were possible.”
Now, lifting is as much about clearing her mind as it is about gaining strength.
“I find weightlifting to be a form of meditation. When I touch the bar, nothing else in the world exists. Sights and sounds fall away. It draws me into the moment where I focus on nothing but breathing and the bar,” she said.
Siemens’ dedication is paying off. In the last four years, she has won three bronze medals at the Canadian Championships and has represented Canada at a big international competition in Russia. And her numbers are off the charts compared to where she was in 2011.
Her clean and jerk has jumped from 200 lb. to 242 lb. Separately, Siemens has cleaned 250 lb. and jerked 265 lb. Meanwhile, her snatch has gone from 165 lb. to 194 lb., which she recently hit in competition.
“That was a huge moment for me. I had to focus on not crying with happiness between events,” Siemens said of her recent snatch personal best.
Although Siemens is full steam ahead and has big goals in her sport—to win Canadians and to compete internationally for Canada—she remains connected with the community that introduced her to weightlifting. She coaches at CrossFit Vic City in Victoria, and she even admitted that being around CrossFit athletes sometimes makes her miss CrossFit.
“Especially when I see a well-run competition or a workout that I would excel in. But when I see long chippers, or any sort of running, I definitely do not miss it,” she said. Most of the time, though, she’s having too much fun with weightlifting to miss hitting double unders and muscle-ups.
“I love joking around in training. I’m a huge fan of dancing between sets and laughing through a training session,” Siemens said. “It may not seem like I take it too seriously off the platform, but as soon as I step on it, a distinction is made. Fun between sets, serious on the bar.”