Anxiously approaching her 40th birthday, Rehana Maniar decided to try something new. Four years after picking up powerlifting she now holds 12 World Records, as Áilín Quinlan discovers.
Rehana Maniar was not looking forward to her 40th birthday — in fact, she confesses, the mere thought of moving into her fifth decade left her glum.
In a bid to cheer herself up, the restaurant manager from Glasnevin decided to try something she’d never done before:
“I wanted to do something exciting and new,” she recalls.
“First, I tried a class in Swing Dancing, but I was like a robot! I had two left feet! I found it really difficult!” Then she spotted an advertisement by a local gym on Facebook — the gym was looking for female powerlifters to compete in a competition.
Although Rehana has always enjoyed exercising — she has boxed and participated in regular spinning classes — she didn’t know much about powerlifting:
“I didn’t even know what powerlifting was,” she confesses.
All the same, she decided to give it a go.
Feeling a bit apprehensive — she certainly didn’t want to ‘bulk up’ to such an extent that she could be taken for a male, she recalls - she signed up for a class.
However, when she arrived at the gym for her very first powerlifting session, Rehana was pleasantly surprised to see that, far from looking like a group of formidable muscled-up, body-builder-types, the women in the room were all very normal:
“I was very impressed,” she recalls now.
“When the class finished, I decided this was something I wanted to do.” Something about the powerlifting session had really clicked with her, she felt — and, as it turned out, she was right.
Rehana turned out to be a natural at the sport — only eight months after that first session, the Dubliner came third in an International Powerlifting Federation competition.
At the time she was pleased by her achievement, she recalls, but what she really wanted was to win first prize:
“My lifts were good and it was an impressive achievement. But I wanted to win.” Rehana worked with a number of different coaches, before, two years ago, deciding to begin training with Ger McNamara in Limerick.
McNamara is acknowledged as one of the world’s top powerlifters and coaches, and Rehana decided that if she really wanted to achieve in the sport, she needed McNamara by her side.
“I felt that if I wanted to be the best I needed to be trained by the best,” says Rehana, who now makes the journey to Limerick to train with McNamara once a week on top of her two to three weekly training sessions in Dublin.
Looking back, she says, McNamara’s involvement with her training regime was crucial to her success as a powerlifter — only four years after beginning, Rehana holds a dazzling 12 World Records.
On top of that she is utterly passionate about the sport and, says that on a personal level, she now feels absolutely fabulous:
“I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. At 44, my physique is better than it ever was. Powerlifting is also great for the head. You get a natural high from the training. The exercise is great for your mental health; it’s invigorating,” says the 44-year old who flies to Poland on November 27th to compete in a competition at Siedlce near Warsaw:
“Here I will hopefully qualify for the Arnolds Classic, which is a competition for elite powerlifters from all over the world,” says Rhena, who recently made history as the first ever female president of the Southern Powerlifting Federation.
Last month she and two other award-winning powerlifters had tea with the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House in Dublin to celebrate their successes at the GPC World Championships in Hungary from which Rehana came back with three golds and a world record — 185kg deadweight — and placed in three Best Lifter Awards.
The contest begins in Ohio, USA, on February 28th, 2019 and she’s hoping to meet movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is closely involved with the event:
“I’d like to meet him there — he’s a legend!” says Maniar, who in recent years has also qualified as a personal trainer and is currently working with a 68-year-old female powerlifter who has a number of prestigious awards under her belt:
“She recently won two world records in Powerlifting in the Southern Powerlifting Federation!” Powerlifting is becoming an increasingly popular form of exercise for women, says Maniar:
There are more and more women doing powerlifting, because the myth that powerlifting makes you very bulky is gone now.
She recommends powerlifting as an excellent sport for mind and body, she says:
“A lot of doctors will recommend that you lift weights as you age — not necessarily the very heavy weights used in powerlifting — but it is very good for everyone to lift weights.
“Powerlifting as changed my life!
“ I never thought I’d be a world champion in a million years! And now here I am!”