After two decades of training as an Olympic weightlifter — and racking up records and earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in 2000 along the way — Cara Heads Slaughter can pick up just about anything.
For her next feat, the 36-year-old is working to raise the profile of her sport as a coach. To do that, she relocated from California to the D.C. area, lured by the booming CrossFit scene. Through her company CH Fitness & Performance (607 S. Ball St., Arlington; 310-818-3671, chfitnessandperformance.com), she offers one-on-one and group training, as well as special clinics.
Her classes consistently fill up, and her $225 two-day camp co-hosted by fellow Olympian Cheryl Haworth this weekend is nearly sold out. Still, Slaughter wants to reach the potential students out there who are intimidated by the idea of learning to lift.
“I’ve trained for three Olympic trials. There’s a place for intensity. But learning the technique early in your career is not the place for that,” Slaughter says. “I want to make Olympic lifting accessible and fun.”
Hoisting hefty plates isn’t drudgery when you’re focused on all of the tiny details that go into each movement, says Slaughter, who takes a brainy approach to coaching. (She also has a master’s degree in sociology.) Those pointers help distract from the fact that you’re getting a full-body workout in a short period of time.
“Toning and firming — those words drive me crazy,” Slaughter says. With Olympic weightlifting, the goal is to build explosive power and athleticism, and that translates into improved coordination, balance, flexibility and strength.
Although her students eventually learn how to raise the bar, Slaughter starts without weights. Whether they’re clean slates or seasoned athletes, many need to readjust the way they squat so that they have a stable base. Then she explains how to keep tension in the back and abs to avoid injury.
“They say, ‘This is tiring.’ I say, ‘Exactly,’ ” Slaughter adds.
But if you follow Slaughter’s advice, you’ll be ready for liftoff.