Weightlifter focuses on positive body image

Tiana Gaines competed earlier this month in the USA Master’s Nationals Championship in Baton Rouge. Gaines’ fitness focus is on what her body is capable of and she loves focusing on nutrition to fuel her goals.
Tiana Gaines recently competed at the USA Master’s Nationals Championships in Baton Rouge, LA where she took bronze in clean and jerk and competition total. She obtained a qualifying total for the Master’s Worlds Championship and will compete in Finland in September.

Tiana Gaines has always been focused on fitness and working out, but her fitness focus has shifted from body image to what her body is capable of, especially since having kids.

“Growing up I feel the message was women were to use exercise to be thin instead of using exercise for strength. I love that there is a movement for women to be strong, have positive body image and focus on nutrition to fuel those goals instead of just on appearance. As my kids start to compete in weight-based sports as well, I try to have these same discussions about nutrition, body image, and fueling for performance and health,” said Gaines. “I hope I am an example to my children to keep developing habits and discipline to chase their goals. Habits that will get you through the times you lack the motivation. And to keep showing up for yourself.”

Gaines, who lives outside of Hillsboro, competed in April in the USA Master’s Nationals Championship in Baton Rouge, LA where she took 4th in snatch, bronze in clean and jerk and competition total. With this win she obtained a qualifying total for the Master’s Worlds Championship in Finland in September where she will compete against women from all over the world.

“I’m old so I’m in the master’s division, which is 35 and older. Your competitions go up by age and weight. I placed third and fourth. In Olympic weight lifting, there’s snatch and clean and jerk. Two lifts. You get three attempts on a platform in front of three judges, and they determine if you have a good lift or not. And so you’re trying to lift the heaviest you can and then you can place the two lifts and then the total amount of weight that you move,” said Gaines.

The weightlifter, an APRN at NMC Health Orthopedics for her day job as well as married and mom to an 11-year-old boy and six-year-old girl, first fell in love with olympic lifts at CrossFit Old 81 in Newton.

But then it closed about six years ago.

“During that time, I was missing doing Olympic lifts but didn’t have any local options. That’s when I found The Strength Agenda about 5 years ago. Then due to COVID-19, I started piecing together a home garage gym which was what I needed to be able to balance family, work and my hobbies,” said Gaines.

Gaines was working out on her own but missed having feedback from others.

“I found this coach out of Chicago that does online programming and remote programming with different strength sports. He has athletes who do Olympic weightlifting all over the US. He encouraged me to start competing so I decided to try it. I first did local small meets in Chicago and then I finally qualified for Nationals. I’ve qualified for Nationals the last three years, but this is the first time I finally placed at Nationals,” said Gaines.

In addition to working out with a coach and in her home gym, Gaines has been doing various fitness activities with her kids.

“My son and I have trained and competed in a Hutchinson Salty Dog/Pup triathlon together last summer. My daughter and I just completed her first 5K at Emma Creek this weekend. It’s so fun to watch them set goals, train, and experience them completing their personal accomplishments with them,” said Gaines.

Gaines said her son is also starting to get into weightlifting.
“I bought him a little trainer barbell. The kids come out and I show them how to do the lifts. Not that they’re super into it yet, but it’s a fun thing that they can join in occasionally,” said Gaines.

She also likes them to see the nutrition and weight aspect of it all from a healthy perspective.

“With the weight class thing, you have to try to maintain weight. You weigh in two hours before you lift, and you have to make weight or you get bumped. My kids both started wrestling and it’s been something teaching them nutrition and maintaining weight and having healthy fuel in our bodies for weightlifting activities and nutrition but in a healthy manner. That’s just so important to me when they start doing these weight-based sports,” said Gaines. “It’s what you’re able to do with your body versus what the scale says, because I’m trying to stay at a weight where I can maintain that but then also perform the best I can.”

Gaines is ready to compete in Finland in September and represent strong women.

“I feel like women were just taught ‘be skinny’ and now there’s a whole new movement of women—strong and muscular and sufficient. There’s a lot more body positivity. And I love it,” said Gaines.

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