Fit, competitive and strong-minded: these women have what it takes

By JUNE THOMPSON, The Gazette April 12, 2012



It has been said a time or two that looks can be very deceiving.

And that’s certainly true for Kacey Baines (and her protege Meredith Evans, but more on her later).

It’s hard to believe that at 5-foot-4 and 138 pounds, Baines ranks among the top 20 power lifters in Canada, and can dead lift 182 kilos – or 400 pounds.

“People always think power lifters are these huge, hulking individuals,” she said with a laugh. “But that’s not always the case.”

What she loves most about lifting is “seeing what’s possible for yourself. You always want to push yourself just a little bit further each time, see how far you can go.”

For Baines, 31, the road to fitness began in CEGEP. While she was attending Champlain College, she started to train in the gym.

“My goal was to get healthier and to get fit,” she said. “I had no other thought in mind at that time.”

But the more Baines worked out, the more she wanted. “I was training three or four times a week, and the more I did, the more addicted I became.”

Emil Muller, a fixture on the fitness scene, and with whom she was training, suggested she try powerlifting.

“From that moment on, I was hooked,” Baines said. “I knew I had found my passion.”

Powerlifting is competitive: lifters in various weight classes try to lift as much weight as possible – in a squat, a bench press and a deadlift. They have three attempts at each.

You would think it would be an intimidating competition to those new to the sport, but Baines said that’s not the case.

“The people in the federation and the competitors are all very welcoming and encouraging.”

With all the time she was training, she said she often thought to herself: ‘What am I doing this for, where am I going with it?’ So it was a natural progression for her to let health and wellness become the focal point of her career.

She went on to get her YMCA and CanFit Pro certifications to become a personal trainer, and was still in Concordia’s fine arts program, teaching fitness and building her business, Epicentre Training.

In 2008, Baines felt the time was right to open a commercial space.

“I wanted a place where I could train my clients, but would also be a home base for other lifters.”

And her gym is certainly not a typical one: there are tractor tires and even sleds.

“I don’t want people to be intimidated by the space,” she said.

“I still do my personal training using some conventional tools, like kettle bells and weights, but I try to make it fun and a little unusual at the same time.”

Her gym has also become a hub for Strongman competitions. And not just for the guys.

“It’s yet another element that I like that is just a little bit different than the norm.”

And different it is: It’s very unusual for a woman to own this type of training facility to begin with.

Baines, who was an ambassador for LuluLemon, continues to give boot camp training sessions for the public in the summer months (her favourites are the outdoor sessions she gives in a park). It was at such a session that she met Meredith Evans, a political science student who was struck by Baines’s enthusiasm. The two began to work out together, which was when Baines realized something about Evans: She is strong.

Over time, “Meredith expressed an interest in Strongwoman competing, and we encouraged that,” Baines said.

Evans is a wee bit taller than Baines, and a few pounds heavier, at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds. She can compete in different divisions, but they have on occasion competed in the same class.

Strongman/woman competitions differ from power lifting in that each competition varies depending on the organizers.

There are usually five to six events per competition involving things like tire flip, farmers walk (wherein the participant carries a heavy weight in each hand for a distance), overhead press with either a keg, a car axle, concrete blocks – you get the picture!

To date, she has competed in five Strongwoman competitions. And along with Baines, she is training for another this May in New York. Baines, who has been power lifting for eight years, likes Strongwoman competition because she finds it refreshing.

Evans said it never occurred to her, either, that this was the path she was going to take.

“I’m still going to school, so that’s a Plan B, but I love what I’m doing right now.”

So much so that she was certified by the National Council on Strength and Fitness last year and has started to work for Baines as a personal trainer.

Evans says one of the things she loves best is the environment at the gym.

“People really encourage each other here; it’s such a positive vibe.”

Both women have similar philosophies: Both believe in eating “clean” – meaning lots of fruit/vegetables/ whole grains and good fats and limiting processed foods and refined sugars.

And both believe in having a positive outlook.

“Recognizing your achievements and knowing that you give your all can create a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment in life,” Evans said.

Baines said strength is paramount: “You need strength everyday to do even regular tasks, lifting children, moving a piece of furniture, carrying groceries,” and she points out that strength can mean dead lifting 500 pounds to one person or just being able to do a pushup to another.

“Chase down the things you want. Never stop. Never give up. Change, grow, learn, explore.”

And never be afraid to ask for help, she advised.

“Don’t worry about failing; try to see obstacles as opportunities.”

Positive and strong – a winning combination for these two women.

Epicentre Training will be hosting a Strongman competition on Saturday, April 21, 10 3 p.m., 665 Desnoyers St., $5 entry fee at door. Standing room only. Details:


Live chat with June Thompson today, noon: Stress, diet, smoking and alcohol are killing us. What will you cut back on? Read more by June and Jill Barker at Plus, blog Move It and Lose It, at

Twitter: @JunieOne Blog: moveitandloseit More columns:

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