Meet Mayar & Rana: Egypt’s Up & Coming Powerlifters Who Gave Us A Special Look Into The Sport
Across the region, Arabs have been proving to be true powerhouses when it comes to sports that require tremendous amounts of strength. In the case of weightlifting and powerlifting, powerful women have been climbing up the ranks, proving to be dynamic forces within those sporting communities. Many names of prominent powerlifters and weightlifters come to mind including the likes of Dina Saad, the first female Egyptian powerlifter to win gold in the 2015 World Powerlifting Championship and Sara Ahmed, the female Egyptian weightlifter who won a bronze medal in the women’s 69 kg event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
With such prominent female figures in the field, we wanted to better understand the art of powerlifting and how women are beginning to make a name for themselves in the sport, so we sat down with two up and coming powerlifters, Mayar Mostafa and Rana Wafiq for an exclusive one-on-one chat.
The Very First Encounter With Powerlifting
The journey for both Mayar and Rana began within the bustling gyms of Cairo where they started off building muscle and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As they spent more time in the gym and their bodies began to grow stronger, they felt like they could do more. They wanted to lift even more weights and that was the spark that drove them towards the sport of powerlifting.
Back in early 2022, Rana had started her very own TikTok account where she would post gym-related and educational videos about physiology and anatomy. Through social media, she was introduced to powerlifters from all around Egypt and the Arab world, “I got introduced more and more to the sport and understood all the common misconceptions that circulate the internet when it comes to powerlifting”. Last May, she made the decision to train officially as a powerlifter with her coach Adriano. When it comes to Mayar, she joined the sport at around the same time, around late October and began practicing powerlifting professionally with the same coach as Rana.
A Typical Day Training As A Powerlifter
When it comes to the sport, an immense amount of dedication and commitment is needed. Rana gave us a better understanding of powerlifting by giving us a run through how she trains for the sport, “there are 3 lifts that need to be practiced in powerlifting; squat, bench press, and deadlift, or more commonly known as SBD. There are days when I would practice all 3 lifts, and those days are called SBD days. During those days, I’d typically make sure I’ve had a good night’s sleep and eaten a good balanced meal before my workout, as these workout sessions tend to be long and exhausting”.
A SBD day is quite intense as Rana would spend an entire 4 hours in the gym performing the 3 lifts and after each SBD, she’d take a 5-minute break and re-fuel by eating fruit and then doing the 3 lifts all over again. Even outside the gym, on rest days, she would go for a walk or do some cardio as she has to keep active to retain her strength.
Crushing Every Obstacle: From Parents To Society
Throughout their journey, Rana and Mayar experienced unique sets of challenges when it came to pursuing the sport. With Mayar, it was about maintaining a balance between medical school and powerlifting, “definitely finding the time to train was the hardest obstacle but also making sure that I’d have the energy to do so after going to clinics, lectures and study sessions. I’d plateau a lot but I’m grateful I did not stop trying”.
Rana faced a whole other kind of challenge, a constant ongoing clash and battle with her parents. From the very start, they were not the biggest fans of the sport because they believed as a medical student, she should not waste her time on anything other than studying, “they didn’t understand that in actuality, regularly going to the gym was the destress I needed in between hours of non-stop studying.”
Parents and school were one thing but society proved to be a whole other kind of challenge. Unlike popular sports like soccor and tennis, powerlifiting is not as known and peopel have many misconceptions about it. Both Mayar and Rana stressed how a lot of people have this belief that powerlifters are overweight and eat a lot which in fact is not true. Mayar told us how she was once on a calorie deficit while simulatenously increasing her weights, so the sport is not about eating a lot and gaining weight. Rana continued on to say that there are powerlifters at every weight category with many of them being leaner than many bodybuilders.
Beyond the misconceptions, another challenge is how the sport is known to be quite male dominated, so entering the field and proving oneself is not an easy feat. Rana recalled how, “being an Arab female powerlifter itself is a challenge, but it’s a title I carry with pride. Despite the cultural strict rules that surround women, lately many women have been breaking their silence and showing the Arab world that strength is not ‘masculine'”. By being one of these women who broke the silence, she was able to accomplish impressive feats and milestones in the sport including squatting 140kg for the first time as well as dead lifting 175kg.
Mayar expressed the same sentiment, saying that lifting weights boosted her confidence and was quite empowering, “I know we are not a lot because of all the misconceptions but I’m so grateful I am one of the few. It’s empowering to prove I am as strong and capable as most men”.
With Mayar, she doesn’t look at the sport through medals and competition but rather through the beauty and strength implied in it. To her, she wants to soak in and live through the entire process as it goes and enjoy every little milestone that she achieves along the way. Its all about getting stronger but doing so in a way that is safe, without compromising her work and social life. As for Rana, she on the other hand has some big plans for the future as she already has set her sights on competing in the IPF World Championships, an annual world championship for powerlifters from all around the world. She doesn’t want to stop there but also hopes to become among the 5 strongest women in the world. We wish both ladies the best of luck.