Wildcat Powerlifting works to end weightlifting stigma


Melanie Matts

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(Durham, NH)- Samantha Greer sets up to deadlift at Hamel Rec. Center’s strength training, performance room on Sunday, Mar. 7, 2021.

There’s been a long-time stigma within the fitness world that women should be doing cardio, and men should be lifting weights. That stigma is being broken day by day, and students at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) are helping make that happen. 

Wildcat Powerlifting is a non-affiliated club within Hamel Recreation Center (HRC).  There are four executive members who run the club, and three out of the four of them are women. 

Samantha Greer, Brianna Cowing, Claire Wardlaw and Brandon Sondrini founded the club just over a year ago. 

“We have created an unaffiliated club within Durham that is a community of UNH, patrons, lifters, anyone wanting to lift or find a community to exercise within,” said Greer. 

Each member of Wildcat Powerlifting has had their own fitness journey. Cowing’s journey with strength training took off officially when she began her time at UNH. 

Cowing said, “I remember being extremely scared to go in [the weight room] my first day. I came here [UNH] and I told myself to not be afraid to do it anymore. I was in a new space, new people, no one knew me, I could be whoever I wanted to.” 

Intimidation of the weight room, and the gym is general, plays a huge role in many students lives. Sophomore Alexandra Colonna said, “Of course I’m going to be intimidated. I can feel the testosterone wafting out of there when I walk by.” 

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(Durham, NH)- Barbells are plated with heavy weights in HRC weight room. 3/7/21. 

Greer, who started powerlifting back in 2018, is now a certified personal trainer working for the HRC and teaches her own beginner weights class. Greer is a mentor, teacher and example to students and patrons at HRC, especially for those who are intimidated by strength training and the weight room. 

“The biggest impact I’ve had on campus rec is having a successful beginner weights program. I am so proud of it, I love teaching it, and I love that women and even some gentlemen have a safe space to be vulnerable and to be newbies,” she said. 

Greer continues to leave her mark around HRC outside of clients and classes she teaches. 

Greer said, “I think the biggest way I’ve had an impact isn’t through my couple of clients but it’s going into the rec center, walking into the back room [weight room] and just knowing that this space is made for all people. Strength training isn’t exclusive to those who identify as male. It is really intimidating and hard, but I think that me being a female in that back room for a couple hours a day, female patrons seeing that has helped so much.” 

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(Durham, NH)- Brianna Cowing bench presses during her workout on Sunday, Mar. 7, 2021 at HRC. 

For those looking to get into strength training, or fitness in general, Greer’s beginner weights class in an excellent place to start. According to the HRC group exercise schedule, beginner weight is held Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. 

“Take a group exercise class, a lot of the time they use equipment found around the gym so you can go into these rooms and know what you’re looking for,” said Cowing. 

“For women trying to get out of the cardio world or into the weight room, reach out to someone that you know has done it before. I promise you, women who have done it before will only want to share and help. Reach out, use your resources, ask questions, and understand it’s about the mindset and getting yourself through the door. Once you are bitten by the bug of strength training and exercising, you’ll realize that your body is capable of so much,” said Greer. 

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(Durham, NH)- Claire Wardlaw prepares to do a set of weighted squats on Sunday, Mar. 7, 2021 at HRC. 

Photos courtesy of Melanie Matts// Cover Photo: Brianna Cowing, (left) Claire Wardlaw, (middle) and Sammy Greer (right) pose as the female executive board members of wildcat powerlifting.