When the pandemic hit, Tami Forero lost close to everything — her business, her team, her money. Even her dogs.

“Everything I had worked for my entire career literally was gone in a day, and that’s a hard place to be,” she said.

Stuck at home, she went through the motions, but struggled without having an objective.

“I am an entrepreneur, and I’m used to setting goals and working really hard and achieving them,” she said. “I did that for many years, but all of a sudden, you don’t have any goals to achieve. For a personality like mine, it’s devastating.”

After two years of losses, Forero found her strength again. She returned to weightlifting.

“Going back to the gym, it’s just one thing obviously, it’s not the cure all of my life, but I just had to do something. I just I had to start somewhere,” she said.

After having to step back from the practice during the pandemic because of shutdowns and financial restraints, she finally was able to return in December 2022.

“I literally was home for almost two years, not doing a lot, and I hated it,” she said. “I said to my husband, can you pay $22 to get me back to the gym or else I’m gonna go crazy in this house. There’s only so many times you can clean and do laundry and mow the lawn.”

Now, the 51-year-old is preparing for her first weightlifting competition coming up in April, training with two other women and a trainer at Vasa Fitness.

“I always wanted to compete — just give myself a goal and do something at least once,” Forero said.

Forero started weightlifting about 10 years ago, looking for a healthy way to burn fat to combat a thyroid problem.

“Clinically, I was trying to burn as much fat as possible for my health,” she said. “But I really found that I loved it. I really liked the whole idea of lifting something heavy that you couldn’t lift yesterday.”

She’s training with two other women, who are also planning to compete this year. Both were encouraged to start by Forero’s trainer, who now works with the trio.

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“I’m a bigger girl, so losing weight has always been a little tougher. Like I just hold on to my weight, and ever since we started weightlifting, it’s been easier for me to lose weight,” said workout partner Lidia Gallegos.

Like Forero, Gallegos also likes the process of watching her strength grow — and competing with her husband.

“I like how I feel after we’ve done it,” Gallegos said. “I also like lifting heavy. My husband also lifts, so we’re also super competitive.”

The health benefits, Forero said, are tremendous.

“I just wish more women knew about it because physically it’s so good. I think every woman should be weightlifting,” she said. “It makes your bones strong. It gives you great posture. It just changes your whole life. You know, you can carry all the groceries in at once.”

Forero’s trainer, Cole Pauley, added that weightlifting is just good to stay healthy.

“It’s great for overall health and longevity of life,” he said. “People tend to kind of think it’s all or nothing where you just have to do it for big muscles and big weights. But realistically, you’re just doing it take care of yourself.”

But, the exercise doesn’t just impact physical strength, Forero said.

“I have done a lot of hard things in my life, and this just gives me the release of actually doing it physically,” she said. “When I’m in the gym, I think about that. I’m like, wow, you know if I can do this, if I can lift this 255-pound deadlift, I’m sure I could go out and conquer whatever else I’m doing in my life.”

Because of the impact weightlifting has had on Forero’s life, she wants to encourage other women to try it out, no matter their age. When she went to her first weightlifting competition to observe, she was blown away by how welcoming and supportive the community is.

“The weightlifting community locally, and I would say even broader, is so supportive. They love this and they love that you love it too,” she said. “They feel like they’re on stage with you doing that because we’ve all done it in the gym. And so, I found that as such a pleasant surprise to find such a sweet community.”

Her words of advice for those on the fence: Just give it a try and be open to finding friends.

“Find other women that are interested in weightlifting no matter what level they’re at, and go together. Make it a fun thing,” she said. “We push each other, we’re a little competitive. We really cheer each other on when we’re doing something and it’s, you know, when you have a win it’s really great.”