Coq. student gets a lift from first competition

Devin Vowles doesn’t mind doing the heavy lifting around his family’s Coquitlam home. It’s just more training.

And all that work with weight — in the gym and outside — paid off when the 20-year-old Dr. Charles Best secondary grad recently won his weight category in the junior unequipped division at the Kelowna Hard Knox Open power lifting competition. He squatted 200 kg, bench pressed 122.5 kg and completed a 240 kg deadlift for a total of 562,5 kg.

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It was Vowles’ first time on the stage at a power lifting event. But not his last, as his results qualified him of the BC provincial power lifting championships next June.

Before then, he’s back at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Que., where he’s in his third year in sports studies and psychology.

In fact, it was Vowles’ arrival at Bishop’s that got him into weight lifting. The former lacrosse goalie who played box in the Coquitlam Adanacs’ minor system and field for his high school team started hanging out with players from the university’s football team. They spent a lot of time hoisting barbells in the gym.

Many of his newfound buddies towered over 5’7” Vowles, their bulk blocked the sun.

“I want to be like that,” thought Vowles.

So he started lifting as well. And as his effort hardened his physique, Vowles added more weight, intensified his workouts. His friends on the football team offered advice. One suggested he compete.

“I might as well give it a try,” Vowles said.

Now with a goal, Vowles developed a workout program using information he gleaned from the Internet. He searched YouTube videos to learn proper lifting techniques, then recorded his own for comparison. He honed his diet.

Vowles spent 20 weeks getting ready for the Kelowna competition. It wasn’t always easy fitting his 2.5 to three hours of time he spent in the gym between and around classes, assignments and exams.

“I put a schedule together,” Vowles said. “I knew what I needed to do and what I wanted to do.”

That discipline served Vowles well. To save time, he researched and prepped his meals ahead of time. He completed assignments early, tried clustering classes together so he could have blocks of time for workouts.

Still, putting his lifting ability to the test in a sanctioned competition was uncharted territory for Vowles. Used to being in his own headspace while training, he said walking onto a spotlit stage in front of a crowd was a “weird” experience.

“There was nothing to focus on,” Vowles said, adding he normally zones out by zeroing his gaze on a fixed spot when working out in the gym.

But Vowles’ experience playing goal in lacrosse helped him muffle the noise, tune out distractions.

Vowles said he found the atmosphere at his first power lifting competition very supportive. While all the athletes were trying to win, they rooted for each other, offered encouragement.

“When you’re in the gym, you start to feel a little isolated,” Vowles said.

Now that he's back at school, Vowles knows the year ahead will be busy with a full course load and training. But he’s eager to get started.

“There’s 24 hours in a day,” Vowles said. “So long as I get the workouts done I need to get done, then I’m okay. It helps keep me on a rail.”

And his hulking buddies on the football team? They’re now coming to him for lifting advice.

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