You surfed over here to get some intel right? Well get some tea and enjoy I’d say because for everybody who did not see the GWPL interview we did last year or doesn’t understand Dutch and can’t read some of the online articles that were published about our powerlifting journey recently, I did a lil’ searching, some updating and mashing up and turned it in to this post right here full of things about me myself & my sister Iris. Voila!
BOTH: We are sisters who happen to have set out their goal to become the strongest sisters in the world. We hope we are able to inform and inspire as many people as possible to keep pushing and work towards their own goals in lifting and in life!
ILRISH: I am a theatremaker & professional by day, a soy-no-water-chai-tea-latte – addict by night and a certified powerlifting fanatic all day, every day. But first things first #inmyJayzvoice: please allow me to reintroduce myself. The name is ILY, that’s short for Ilrish and an anagram for I love You : –) I’m 31, hail from Utrecht, The Netherlands and have a bloodline that goes all the way back to the borders of Senegal & Gambia, as both of my parents are of Creole – Native American – Surinamese descent and the Dutch and the Surinamese share a long history between one another.
Theatre is my middle name and when I am not making it, teaching theatre class or directing theatrical plays you can be sure to find me either in your nearest Starbucks, shopping mall or if you are lucky, at the gym where I’m likely bending some bars. London & Jamaica are my favorite places in the world, I love me some hiphop, gangsta rap and poetry and I have made it into an art to workout anywhere, whenever I can so do not be surprised if you see me and my sister Iris getting a workout in anywhere outside of our hometown.
IRIS: My name is Iris, I’m 34 and I’m from Utrecht, the Netherlands just like Ily. I am a dreamchaser by day and a vampire by night who eats kryptonite for breakfast :-). Although I consider myself as being strong there is one thing I can’t conquer or overcome and that is sleep!
Besides my love for powerlifting I’m also into dancing, especially Latin-American styles. The sounds of bachata, merengue and samba music always make me want to get up and move as listening to such tunes, and being able to dance just gives me life. Even when I should be acting all civil and business appropriate I always feel the need to take out my 15 seconds of fame and bust a move on-the-spot, even after completing a heavy lift.
I think I got it from my momma :-
ILY : I’d love to tell you I have been a sports fanatic my whole life and have always had a lot of role models, but I would be flat out lying to you so let me be real. I grew up being the fat kid. I use the word fat on purpose because that is the best way for me to describe how I felt back then. Since the age of six I had always been obese and when I turned 16 this spiraled into the morbid version of that disease. Call it genes, call it nutrition, call it a combination of both but weight, body image and depression (because of it) controlled a big part of my childhood and adolescence. When I was in my last year before graduating high school and got my class picture, a picture where I was sitting on a chair, looking more like one of my class mates mothers or aunts, I died a little inside. I looked at the picture and saw a person I didn’t want to be anymore. From that day on I made a promise to myself to change my habits and be the best possible version of me, I possibly could be. This promise to myself did come at a price, though. I had setbacks, lost tons of weight being a ‘ cardio bunny’ for ages, gained all of it back, lost it again, developed an eating disorder, went to therapy, trained with a personal trainer, lost the weight again, gained some of it back and at one point almost gave up. I say almost and I say it proudly because during these years of struggle there was one person who kept me going and never gave up on me; my big sister Iris.
During all of these years, Iris supported me. She therefore was and still is my biggest inspiration. Even when I was at my lowest point, emotionally not stable, tipping the scale at almost 120 kilo’s and barely hanging in there, she was there. When I was down she always picked me up, made sure I worked out, worked out with me, drove me to my appointments, sat on my couch, made me eat food; even when I didn’t want to and above all, she never, ever judged me.
As of December 2014, I can proudly say that I have been able to maintain a stable and healthy lifestyle that allows me to live, enjoy life and be successful in all endeavors I take on. And this only got better when both of us decided to take on powerlifting in January 2016 and put all of the strength we gained over the years to work. For the first time in my life, I enjoy being active, feeling soar, putting my body to work, eating healthy, being competitive at sports and taking responsibility for my health all by myself. I take just as much pride in my work accomplishments as I do to the one regarding my athletic accomplishments and have come to the conclusion that I feel more comfortable being ‘strong’ than I have ever felt while I was trying to be ‘slim & normal’. I approach powerlifting as taking care of myself and see my training sessions as appointments I’m in control over, just like a boss. And you know this thing about bosses, they never cancel on themselves.
IRIS: For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in various kinds of sports. I ran track, played basketball and took on kickboxing for a while. Doing the exact same thing over and over again though has become something I’m allergic to. That is why in the beginning of 2016 I was in an everlasting searching for a sport or activity that could keep me entertained and challenged for a longer period of time. I found what I was looking for when I decided to join Ily when she approached me and said she wanted to take on powerlifting seriously and started to train for it specifically. We went and jumped in to the adventure together, – then coached by Floris van Melis (@nursefloor) from whom we learned a whole lot- and quickly realized ; Being a powerlifter is one thing, being a competitive athlete another. We learned it was going to be hard and we weren’t at the gym anymore to ‘play’ or to chat but that we were there to #WORK.’
What are the benefits of having a lifting partner & how do we help each other through tough training sessions?
ILY: Having my sister as a lifting partner has benefited my athletic ability and has enabled me to grow into the level of fitness where I am now. Working out together stimulates me to make a bigger EFFORT every training, makes me hang in just a little longer and pushes me to put in those few extra reps. Iris’ background in martial arts and track equipped her with a sports mentality and luckily for me, it was a contagious one which has become something I now live by; winners aren’t people who never fail, winners are people who never give up. At the gym where we train; Golds Gym in Nieuwegein – @goldsgymnl- , just like in life I can be found mostly doing that, not giving up.
IRIS: Sharing is caring and this also applies to my powerlifting work ethic.
I love to work out on my own but get inspired and get serious damage done with that special someone that motivates me to be the best version of myself. For me, that’s Ily my sister, partner in crime and workout buddy.
I have mad respect for her. Knowing that what she has accomplished on her personal athletic journey didn’t come easy. Seeing how she picked herself up and made big changes, makes me proud and the fact that she allowed me to reach out to her and be a part of all of that and make some serious steps in powerlifting together, even more.
IlY: When things get really tough in training we often refer to and remind each other of our training sessions with our – now – trainer & coach, who happens to be former IPF international powerlifter -120 Wim Wamsteeker (@wimwam1). Wim has been around in the powerlifting scene as long the both of us are alive, has coached many great strength athletes long before we ever picked up a barbell and has been working with us on our strengths and weaknesses. The no-nonsense approach he uses to get us to work through difficult training sessions most of the time is all we need to get our minds and bodies back into the game. Wim also advises us when it comes to making long-term plans regarding lifting and provides us with the best lifting gear from Titan (@titannetherlands), making sure we only use the best material out there.
ILY: We have come to love powerlifting very much and in these past 2 years it has brought us a lot of good. When we started lifting our first goals besides becoming good technical and strong lifters individually, was to compete.
IRIS: In September 2016 we competed in our first meet, SBD Cup 2016 where Ily placed first in the +84 class, breaking the national deadlift classic record for her weight class with an 185kg deadlift.
ILY: Iris placed second in her weight class -84 and we both qualified for Dutch Nationals all at the same time.
IRIS: After this meet, Ily set her eyes on deadlifting 200kg or more at those Nationals and on December 10th 2016 she became the first woman in the Netherlands to deadlift more than 200kg in an official classic powerlifting meet. Ily took the national deadlift classic record for the entire open (and her weight class) lifting 201kg with room for more and couldn’t be happier.
In 2017 she topped that performance with 210kg, first at the DRC Cup 2017 and later in Hamm, Luxembourg where she became Western European Champion.
In December 2017 she managed to pull 212,5kg at Dutch Nationals, taking home the silver again. Doing all of this at a bodyweight just shy over 84 kilo’s. At the moment she is preparing for Dutch Nationals 2018 were we both will be lifting and are excited for.
ILY: Iris did absolutely amazing at her first nationals, taking home the silver in the -84, putting 17,5 kilo on her total in less than 10 weeks and squatting a fabulous 147,5 kilo in contrary to her 60kg (yes sixty) 1rm of January 2016.
After that it went fast. In 2017 she deadlifted 210kg when she also became Western European Champion in Luxembourg and later that year she managed to squat 165 kg and pull 220kg at Dutch Nationals 2017 at a bw of 79,04.
In 2018 she started to lift equipped as well, put the equipped Dutch deadlift record in her name with 230,5 kg. Currently she is preparing for IPF Worlds 2018 in Calgary where she will be lifting and the European Equipped championships 2018 in Pilsen were she will be lifting as well.
IRIS: We aren’t fortune tellers but do of course have goals for the future of our lifting careers. Besides staying healthy, strong and injury- free, a few of them are exploring equipped lifting even more, a deadlift with at least four reds on each side to be the standard, a bigger bench (make that two 🙂 #prayingtothebenchgods, a 200kg classic squat for the both of us, qualifying for Europeans and Worlds as sisters and a 500 point wilks 🙂
Why do you think it’s important for women to continue to uplift each other, especially through powerlifting.
IRIS: We both love powerlifting dearly and think a lot of people are doing amazing work in creating platforms and brands catering to the strength community and giving women a voice to be empowering and uplift each other. All while lifting heavy ass weights, juggling careers, and everything else life throws at them.
We also believe that by uplifting each other, especially through powerlifting we as women show ourselves and others that we are capable of absolutely anything and everything. We get up, move and get things done. Life shows us all the time that being healthy and strong isn’t something we should take for granted and as long as we can (slightly) control that part of life we see it as an obligation to put everything in our power into it.
ILY: Coming from a family where we were thought to be a strong individual mentally, must also have something to do with this, but in fact becoming it physically and spreading the ‘ word’ is just as important.
We love to see the growing community of women who go from picking up heavy stuff a.k.a. lifting weights like it’s nobody’s business, believing in themselves and following their dreams. In our eyes they are the future, they are great examples for young people growing up, for their environments and this ever changing world altogether.