Name: Lorin Blake

Hometown: Buffalo Grove, IL

Age: 42

Occupation: Licensed social worker and vice president for a nonprofit organization that provides housing and social services to people coming out of the shelter system

Have you always been active?
I was a gymnast for 13 years — I competed as a child and in high school. Then, in my junior year of high school, I had a really bad ankle injury and had to have reconstructive surgery, which kind of ended my career. After that, I honestly had no regular exercise regimen. I did some rollerblading and biking and sometimes went to classes at the gym, but it was hard sometimes, especially as I got older. I was having some difficulties maintaining a good weight, and when I went to the gym I would tend to compare myself to the others around me. I hated that feeling.

How did you begin doing CrossFit?
Maillard and I have been friends for a very long time, since before he opened the gym. He always used to tell me I would love CrossFit, and that he thought having the gymnastics background meant I would be really good at it, but I felt intimidated. I decided to give it a try and he agreed to come with me to a free class at another CrossFit gym. I actually liked it, but didn’t really like the coach, and I let it fall to the side. Then, when Maillard opened the gym, I decided it was time to start giving it a real try and going regularly.

When did you start powerlifting, and how did that come about?
I’d been doing CrossFit for about six months when this competition came up in Long Island City. Maillard wanted me to give it a try. We didn’t train or prepare at all; we just went to see how it went. I did really well and loved it, and I think the first thing that kind of sold me on powerlifting was the competition piece of it. I’m a very competitive person, and I don’t mean that in a negative way — it’s not about wanting someone else to look bad, but it’s just what drives me. If we sit down to play a game of Scrabble I’ll be talking shit! That’s how I’ve always been.

So after that first competition, I did the Iron Maidens Raw Open and also did really well. I loved it, so Maillard just started doing my programming. My first USAPL competition was August 2015, and after that is when I realized I really wanted to be a competitive powerlifter.

What have your proudest moments been so far as a powerlifter?
At my first competition, I came in first place, and from there, I’ve just kind of stayed at that level. I usually come in first place in my category. The best was when I used all these competitions to qualify for the USAPL Raw Nationals for the first time in 2016 in Atlanta. I came in third, so having that in my head — I’m third in the entire United States — those kinds of things have just had me chasing for it and keep me wanting more.

Why do you think you’ve been so successful?
I never lifted weights in my entire life until I walked into that first CrossFit gym — never bench pressed, never touched a barbell. And at my first USAPL competition, I was 39 years old, and you become a master at 40 in powerlifting. So I was surrounded by people in their 20s who are all getting a huge head start on where I was. But I think one of the reasons Maillard wanted to put me into this pool is because I was a gymnast for so long, and never lost a lot of my strength — there’s just some natural ability for it.

A huge piece of it has been my coaching. Maillard has been with me from the beginning, never missed a beat. He’s my rock, the one who pushes me. And at the same time, when I get frustrated or need a break, he’s there for me. James has also been really helpful with the technicality and helped both Maillard and me as far as things I may need technically.

What’s the hardest lift for you?
My hardest lift is my bench. My strength is really my legs: That’s where I’m a powerhouse. My arms aren’t as strong as my legs. But I don’t get stuck on it because in powerlifting when you’re competing, you have the three lifts, so if my back squat and deadlift are strong, as long as I get a lift in the bench, I’m ok.

Do you still WOD?
No, I don’t. I miss being in the classes and having that camaraderie. And sometimes I do miss that feeling of getting a good sweat — it’s just a different type of workout. But this is the path that I’ve chosen, and because I’m very serious about competing, I have to stay focused on the programming and it doesn’t really allow for me to do that. I do try to do a handful of hot yoga classes each month, though.

What music do you like to exercise to?
I listen to reggae.

How would you compare CrossFit/CFPH to prior gyms?
I was so intimidated by CrossFit, but then I started and realized, not everybody was going to be this stellar athlete, not everybody was going to be able to do everything, and it was ok. You could still make it through the workout and it felt good and everybody was right there with you. At a regular gym, you don’t have that kind of support. Maillard and James are constantly trying to build the community, and it’s a really good group of people. There’s a certain comfort level: You can be vulnerable and it’s ok. You can just be you. Your strong may not be the same as someone else’s strong, but your strong is strong for you. People sometimes say to me, “I want to be strong like you,” but everybody has a different kind of strong. It’s about perspective: You have to think about where you were when you started, the first time you tried it.

For a while after I switched from CrossFit to powerlifting, I missed having people to push me and to work out with. I was the lone wolf on the platform up until maybe a year ago. But then I finally had others doing the programming with me, and it felt awesome to have a little squad.

What’s your advice for those who are interested in trying powerlifting?
This may sound corny, but it’s all about believing in the program. Believing in yourself, believing in your coach. Even if you don’t want to compete, if you want to become better at it, it’s about having patience. And just allowing yourself to try things. It’s hard work, and it takes time to become better. But if you’re thinking about trying it, [CFPH] is such a safe space, it’s a great setting to give something new a shot.

When’s your next competition?
It’s April 29th, the South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club Spring Classic. I did it in 2016, and it was the worst competition I ever had — I didn’t even get a total because I couldn’t get a squat. I’m coming back to redeem myself!