THATCHER - By Ellen Cook, Headliner Media Specialist, March 15, 2023
Kyla Nelson Hillam of Thatcher knows how to lift her spirits – she just lifts weights. Not just your 5 or 10-pounders, but the heavy duty, grit-your-teeth and use-those-mega-core-muscles kind.
This Thatcher mother of three daughters recently lifted her way to the top at the 2023 Women’s Rocky Mountain Championship platform in Deadlift and was named Best Lifter from a field of 60 female powerlifters at the Murray meet, held March 11. Her deadlift of 347.2 pounds set a national record, as well.
Being fit is a passion for this 32-year-old. Raised in Honeyville and a Bear River High School graduate, she comes from an athletic family, so being in the gym and following a workout routine comes naturally.
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PICTURED ABOVE: Thatcher resident and strong woman Kyla Hillam recently earned national recognition by deadlifting 347.2 pounds and setting a new record. Courtesy Photo
“I have been conditioning forever,” Kyla said. “Even in high school. I started lifting weights around 2015, and then had my first baby. But I didn’t start caring about deadlifting until 2018 and thought I should try a powerlifting meet just for fun. I honestly didn’t know anything about them. In 2019, I just started ‘Googling’ and found one in Idaho Falls.”
She said she called the meet director to get some details, “because I had no idea what I was doing.” She got just the answers and the encouragement she needed to sign up for that first challenge.
“I went to Idaho Falls. I did not expect to set any records,” Kyla said of that initial competition. “In fact, I didn’t even know until I was there when they were doing the briefing that I could get a state record.”
Ignorance did not seem to affect the outcome. Kyla went out on the platform, and deadlifted 292.5 pounds, breaking the Utah state record in her weight class (132-148.8) at that competition.
She enjoyed the experience, loved the rush from lifting, but figured it would be just a one-time thing for her. She had other plans. She and her husband, Jeremy, had another child in 2020.
In July of 2022, she challenged herself again and deadlifted 300 pounds.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I might be able to get a national record,’” she said, but an admitted “random motivator,” her urge to compete again wavered back and forth – until November.
“I was just feeling very motivated one day, so I decided to sign up for this meet,” she said of the all-women competition in Murray. As she trained at her favorite Tremonton gym, CrossFit, during the ensuing months, she bested her own record with a 310-pound deadlift, then again with a 325-pound lift in February. Just two weeks before the meet she wowed everyone, and herself with a deadlift of 335 pounds. But weight – her own – became a factor.
“I started to get a little worried about my weight,” she explained. “My natural weight is around 153 pounds,” and just over the 148.8 limit, which meant she would have to move up to a higher bracket and battle the bar against women up to 20 pounds heavier than her. “I had to cut that last little bit.”
Several days before the weigh-in, she stopped eating to make sure she was down. It worked. At the Friday weigh-in she was at 147.4, enough to remain in her class for the Saturday event. She rewarded herself with a meal of “pretty much everything in sight.”
The day of the competition saw her outdo all her previous lifts with that national record of 347.2 pounds, overtaking the previous record of 341.7.
“That is what I was hoping for,” Kyla said. “But then I was very, very surprised and taken back to find that I also won the Best Lifter at the meet for deadlifting,” an honor calculated based on her weight and her incredible lift.
The greatest honor, however, came following her accomplishment. Kyla and Jeremy had debated about taking their daughters, ages seven, five and two, to the all-day competition. At the last minute they opted to let them be part of their mother’s vie for the record.
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PICTURED ABOVE: Kyla, center with her husband, Jeremy, her parents, Bruce and Joan Nelson, and her three daughters. Courtesy Photo
“I’m so glad we did,” Kyla said. “It was so cool, and my girls were so excited. Right after I lifted and walked back, my seven-year-old and my five-year-old ran to give me a hug. My seven-year-old looked so sad and I said, ‘Are you okay?’ She said, ‘I’m just so happy I just have tears in my eyes.’ That was my favorite part of the whole thing.”
Kyla said she is proud of her accomplishments but more grateful for the example she is able to share.
“The world is so focused on ‘Skinny, Skinny, Skinny’ and the way you look. I just love that my girls get to see it so differently. They see through me that their body is a tool, not an ornament. They see what you can do with it and not what it looks like.”
And that lifts her spirits more than any weight record can.
Video courtesy of Kyla Nelson Hillam