Meet YMCA Staff: Mara P., Kara T., and Shane T
For many, powerlifting may invoke images of Arnold Schwarzenegger and strongman competitions. In reality, though, it's so much more than that. Powerlifting has allowed YMCA members Mara Parks, Kara Tuttle, and Shane Tuttle to grow stronger and more confident while developing friendships along the way.
"Powerlifting tests your overall explosive strength," explained Shane. "It's the maximum weight for an exercise for one full repetition."
Shane grew up wrestling and playing football. He rediscovered lifting in his mid-30s and often lifts at the Missoula YMCA five days a week. Kara, his wife, is the Y's health & wellness director. Whereas Shane's main focus is lifting, Kara is all about fitness classes that promote muscle endurance. She teaches a variety of group fitness classes, like BODYPUMP and BODYCOMBAT, and also helps Y members achieve their goals through one-on-one personal training sessions.
Mara, a recent high school graduate, is one of those members. Mara was introduced to the Tuttles in 2021. She'd trained in taekwondo for 11 years before she started lifting.
"I got into lifting in high school when I started throwing shot put," said Mara. "I wanted to make sure I was practicing good form, so I scheduled a couple of personal training sessions with Kara at the Y to make sure I was lifting correctly."
The three of them all agree that good form, proper recovery, and listening to your body are key to lifting.
"For people interested in lifting, the Missoula YMCA is a welcoming and safe place to get started," said Shane. "The Y provides good fundamentals that help people build a powerlifting foundation. It's important to develop the entire body evenly, and to have strong tendons and ligaments."
While all three have been lifting for some time, powerlifting was newer for Mara and Kara.
"I roped them into it," Shane said with a grin.
The three recently competed in their first WABDL-sanctioned event, the Big Sky Montana Classic Bench Press and Deadlift Championship. WABDL (World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters) is a member-based group that draws together lifters of all ages and backgrounds.
"At the event, there was a teenager competing for the very first time as well as someone in their 80s," said Mara. "There were also a lot of first-time female competitors like me and Kara."
"It's a really supportive community with everyone cheering for each other," added Shane.
Their first competition was an incredible success with Kara and Shane setting state records in bench press while Mara walked away with a state record in bench press and state and world records for deadlift.
To prepare, the three worked with coaches at Iron Pile (a strongman/powerlifting-specific gym) on a multi-week program, then supplemented their lifting routine with workouts at the Y.
"I've always been confident and athletic. I felt strong doing taekwondo," said Mara. "Once I started lifting, though, I began feeling strong and confident in a lot of things I do, not just taekwondo."
"Setting state and world records felt amazing," she said. "I'm always going to remember March 27, 2022."
For Shane, the reward was greater than setting the record. For the past 20-something years, Shane has experienced high anxiety around crowds of strangers. The WABDL event, his first-ever powerlifting competition, required him to compete in front of a slew of strangers.
"It felt good to set the record, but I really set a record for someone else to break. For me, powerlifting has given me the courage to make a change," explained Shane. "If I can break through my fears, I hope to inspire someone else who also faces the same anxieties I've faced."
"My 12 years of Y membership also helped," added Shane, who’s also a personal trainer at the Missoula Y. "Everyone at the YMCA is here to support you."
Their first competition now behind them, the Tuttles and Mara have their sights set to the future. Both Shane and Kara have goals to set state records in deadlift and break their current state bench press records, while Mara hopes to compete in the world championship in Reno in Fall 2022. In the meantime, though, they'll continue to train and cheer each other on.
"All three of us have different fitness interests, so it's because of the Y that we're on this journey," said Shane. "The Y brought us together." Mara Parks holds the state and world record in her division in deadlift (391.3 lbs), as well as the state record in bench press (143.3 lbs). Kara Tuttle holds the state record in her division in bench press (121.3 lbs). Shane Tuttle holds the state record in his division in bench press (341.7 lbs). Congrats to Mara, Kara, and Shane! We're so proud of you!