Seven years ago, Sara Jean Meyer watched her first bodybuilding competition.
“When I saw the female bikini class on stage I was in awe,” she said. “I told myself that I was going to do that.”
Now a coach for USA Limitless, Sara Jean’s training began the moment she got back to her college dorm, where she cleared out the cupboards and began planning out workouts and a healthy eating regimen.
The following spring, she took the stage, placing second overall and qualifying for nationals.
Over the next several years, Sara Jean competed in 13 competitions, including the Arnold Classic. She attributes her success to a combination of training for bikini competitions and powerlifting.
“I am a natural bikini pro, and I have competed both as a raw and equipped powerlifter as well,” she said. “Even through my competition season in bikini, I perform all powerlifting style training.”
Her numbers reflect her training: she squats 275; benches 125; and deadlifts nearly 300 pounds.
In addition to numerous awards and accolades, her style of training led to another nod of recognition: the nickname, “Bikini Beast.”
But this year, the beast took on a new challenge. Motherhood.
Lifting for two
When Sara Jean became pregnant with her daughter, she was determined to continue lifting. Heavy.
Doctors encouraged her to continue lifting, but ditch the belt. Friends and family were a bit skeptical.
“Some of them cringed at the idea of me lifting while others praised my actions,” she said. “Either way, I knew I was going to continue training because it was healthy for me and my baby as it kept me strong throughout my pregnancy and was preparing me for labor.”
With the exception of cutting back during the first trimester, Sara Jean kept her lifting regimen. She scaled when needed, and modified squats with the Smith machine toward the end of her pregnancy.
Still, at 37 weeks pregnant, she pulled 185 pounds for three reps of deadlifts. And she continued right up until her delivery.
“I just listened to my body and adapted when necessary,” she said. “In the first trimester, I was often sick and unable to workout more than 2 times per week. It was a big challenge for me to not go, but I was in no condition to be in the gym so I had to listen to my body.
“By the second trimester, I was working out about four times a week, still continuing on with my powerlifting training and some moderate cardio as well. I lifted up until I was just about 38 weeks pregnant, and I delivered at 38 weeks 4 days.”
Introducing Quinley Jean
Throughout her pregnancy, Sara Jean said she pictured herself having a natural birth with her midwife. Of course, babies tend to have their own plans, making labor and deliveries unpredictable.
“I managed to experience 32 hours of it naturally,” she said. “I truly believe my strength from training gave me not only physical strength but mental strength as well.”
During labor, Sara Jean’s baby flipped, becoming breech. As a result, Sara Jean needed an emergency C-section.
Despite the drama, Quinley Jean came into the world on July 14, weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces. One day later, Sara Jean was up and walking with her newborn daughter.
“I believe [lifting] kept me strong throughout my pregnancy and my long labor,” she said. “Right now, I am still in the postpartum recovery stage. I was walking the hospital halls and pushing my baby in the bassinet after one day. I’ve been moving as much as I can, but also knowing I have to take it easy because recovery time is longer with a C-section.”
Sara Jean said she’s looking forward to being cleared for lifting in a few weeks and she hopes to compete in a powerlifting competition next spring and be back on the pro stage in October 2018.
“In the meantime,” she said, “I will continue walking and enjoying every second with my baby.”
Sara Jean said lifting throughout her pregnancy felt empowering. And plenty of other women took notice, cheering her on throughout her pregnancy via Instagram and other social media.
“I love lifting,” she said. “I thrive on being strong and I love pushing myself to be better and set an example along the way to other women out there that anything is possible. Our bodies were designed to have babies and to give birth. They were also designed to be strong.”
Want more? Check out our series on pregnancy weightlifting.