Meredith Hodder: Calling in the Heavy Weights

By Sophie Baldwin

COMFORT ZONE is a great place to be, but nothing changes if you stay there.

Just ask Rochester’s Meredith Hodder, a nurse unit manager at Echuca’s hospital.

If she hadn't of taken a deep breath and forced herself to enter her first ever weightlifting competition she would never have become the Victorian Masters champion for weightlifting in the 40-44 category.

Not to mention in her first ever competition.

Mez laughs as she said she just decided to go straight to the top.

“I hadn't even been to see a competition before, so I really had no idea,” she laughed

“It was in February and I decided in December to have a go. The thought just came into my head and after talking with my coach, I knew I was lifting around the right weights to be competitive,”

Having said that, Mez said the whole idea scared her, especially standing on a platform all by herself in a weightlifting suit.

“I used to be pretty self-conscious about my body so to stand on a platform in front of everyone in what felt like a bikini to me was pretty huge, it was so far out of my comfort zone I just can’t describe it.”

But despite the self-doubt, the worry and the fact she had no idea what she was doing, Mez took a deep breath and decided to give it a crack.

“I had to find out how to even enter because there is no weightlifting club in Echuca to go to for advice. I had to travel down to Melbourne by myself, nominate a weight division and maintain that weight to lift.

“I am not a fan of scales, mine haven't been working for years on purpose because to me it's all about what your body can do and not a number, but all of a sudden I had to dust them off and carry them around with me to ensure I made the weight.”

She said you can change weight divisions in the lead up but once you pick a final weight you must be under it at the time of competition or you don't get to lift at all.

“You weigh in two hours before you compete and then you have 10 minutes to warm up and be lift ready before it’s your turn.”

Mez said she is very much a lift on feel person and she knows if it is going to be a good or bad day by how the bar feels in her hands, there was none of that on competition day.

“I just had to nominate a weight and go for it. I nominated on the conservative side because I am definitely a newbie to the sport and I was really just there for the experience.”

She said walking out to the platform she was simply terrified.

“I completely fluffed my first lift. I wasn't warmed up properly and I didn't feel comfortable at all. I walked away thinking I had stuffed it all and the old  self -doubt kicked in- why are you here, you don't deserve to be out here etc, but I had two minutes to get it together and try again.”

Thankfully she made her second snatch because she missed her third.

It was then on to the clean and jerk and she knew she had to warm herself up better.

“I had three really good lifts,” she said.

The judges take the best snatch and clean and jerk weight and combine the total.

Mez said she couldn't believe it when she won.

“It was all such a whirlwind because it all moves so quickly.”

She said the win became a defining moment for her.

“I had nobody in my corner on that day, there was no-one there to hold my hand, I did it all by myself and it was just so empowering.”

She is returning for another comp in June, but this time there are a couple of other girls along with her for the ride.

“I am not sure whether it’s because I know what to expect and I can share my experience, or whether it's the girls thinking she can do it, so can I, but either way it's exciting to be returning and exciting to be doing it with some of my lifting mates.”

Mez said she found her way into weightlifting through her love of cross fit.

“All I wanted to do was improve and it just sort of morphed into weight lifting when I found out I actually wasn't too bad at it.”

Of course it takes hard work to be competitive and Mez trains 5-6 sessions a week which includes a mixture of PT sessions, cross fit classes and lifting practice.

“I walked back into the gym on Valentine’s Day in 2017 and I am so bloody glad I did. Weightlifting is not an age thing, it’s all about getting the technique right and putting the hard work in. A snatch is a very honest movement and if you haven't got the technique right, once it starts to get heavy it will just spit you out.”

Diet plays a role and while Mez is conscious about what she eats, she will be looking to better fuel her body into the lead up to her next comp.

She would say to any woman out there thinking of doing something different, 'What's stopping you?'.

“Don’t worry about what other people think and don't sit in the crowd when you can be out on the stage, feel the fear and just do it anyway,” she laughed.