Wright exudes the kind of confidence that really and truly comes from within—and maybe also comes from being able to do stuff like this. The former gymnast fell into weightlifting by chance and decided to compete within a couple weeks of touching a barbell. Now, she shares the love by coaching other aspiring lifters, men, and women. Yes, she’s petite, and yes, she has a pixie vibe going on, but seriously: Don’t call her “the cutest weightlifter." “This idea, that a woman can't reach success in sports without society examining it through sex-tinted glasses, is crushing us,” she wrote last year. She loves the way weightlifting has taught her how to invest time, care, and energy into her own body, and she especially loves it when her clients’ young daughters tell her they want to be strong, too.
How did you get started?
I was a competitive gymnast for years and years. I decided to walk away from the sport at the start of my senior year in high school. I got into CrossFit, but I wasn't even lifting weights, I was just doing a few workouts on my own. Back in 2011, we had a competitive Olympic lifter who just kept his bar and plates in the basement of our gym and one day my old boss was like, “Hey, I'm going to go do this workout if you want to jump in.” So I wandered down there. I did this workout and... I wasn't bad. I mean, I was actually terrible, but two weeks later, there was a local meet, and I qualified for the national championship as well as the American Open championship. After that, I got hooked.
What was that first meet like?
For me, I like being uncomfortable. I love the challenge. I grew up very shy, and I think as I gained more confidence and security in who I was and accepted being this strong woman, I broke down that shell. My first national competition, I talked to as many people as I could. The weightlifting world is a very small world.
Why did you get hooked?
One overlap between gymnastics and weightlifting is that you have to be fully dedicated and passionate and committed to it. When you’re training for something 25 hours a week that's not going to get you any money, it's all self-drive and passion, that's completely it. So I fell in love with it, and then I started competing.
Has it changed the way you think about your body?
Completely. As a gymnast, I wasn't a member of a gym where weight was an issue, but I've struggled with body image issues my entire life. Especially once I ended gymnastics and I started seeing changes to my body. I remember I woke up that first year in college and looked down and I didn't have calluses on my hands, and I cried because I no longer felt like an athlete. When I got into weightlifting, I saw the changes. My arms came back, my back came back, my big ass got bigger. Even then, I think just getting into that training mentality, you start looking at food as fuel. You have to recover. You have to sleep. You have to go to physical therapy. You have to tend to your body more than you've ever tended to anything in your life before—unless you've had a child. You start to just appreciate and love what it's capable of, and you're taking care of your body for that. You're not taking care of it for aesthetics or to look good for someone else. It gets to the point where your body is just a body, not in a detached way, but in a way that invests you in it even more.
Why do you love lifting?
I have a lot of female clients, and every time one of my female clients comes in and says, “Hey, my daughter came up to me and said, ‘Mommy, I want muscles like yours, I want to be strong,’” that's what makes it for me. That's why I do what I do.
What would you say for someone who is interested in lifting but intimidated or not sure where to start?
I've trained a lot of women, and I've heard this time and time again: A woman comes to training and says, "I don't want thick legs or an ass like a shelf." And I say, "Okay, your body is going to react how it will, but what is it that you're looking for? Are you doing this for someone else? Are you doing it for you?" I think that goes for everything in life. When you go to the gym, you're not there for anyone else. You're not there to be judged by anyone else, and you're not there to judge the other people in the gym. The focus should be on embracing your strength. I go into gyms where people don't know me, and I've had men come up and say, "You're going to hurt yourself, why are you doing that, do you want me to spot you from behind?" I would be lying if I said it didn't bother me, but no, I do it for me, not for anyone else. I'm a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman, and I'm going to take care of myself in all of those ways. That's the only reason I'm in the weight room. Just for me.