About Dana

© John Adkins Photography

Dana McMahan

I’m a food writer who, with zero previous interest in anything athletic, was lured into powerlifting and found a love of getting strong.

On this blog I chronicled my year-plus long experience of transforming from a couch-loving writer with a penchant for macarons to an athlete, a record-holding powerlifter, with a truthful look at the moments of glory, despair — and a whole lot of work — along the way.  My powerlifting career ended with an injury and surgery in winter 2012 but the power I discovered didn’t vanish when I hung up my weight belt. I’m on a quest for my next adventure now.  To find a new passion I’m learning new sports around the world — trying rock climbing in Vietnam, white water kayaking in Oregon, and Muay Thai in Bangkok among others.

Questions about my experience? (Or how to make the perfect macaron?) Email me. You can also find me on my travel blog.

I had (and still have!) a lot to say about heavy lifting for women — have a look at some of my stories:

Runaway Train, Elle magazine, June 2012
See also: But wait, there’s more

What happens when a sport changes your life-and then you can’t do it anymore? Carried away by the power of powerlifting, Dana McMahan discovered new abilities and hard limits. Read


Hey Women: Paint-on Muscles Aren’t Going to Help When You’re Old

We need to stop accepting the magazines stories that tell us to avoid bulking up at all costs, especially when that cost is our bone health.

So You Want To Be A Weightlifter? What You Need To Know To Get Started

Let’s stage a coup of weight rooms across the country, tell the magazines and their five-pound weight routines where they can go, and get serious about heavy lifting!

Competitive PowerLifter Secrets: What The Diet Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know About Weights

If girls started getting under the bar with some serious weight, the market for diet books, gadgets, pills, food-like products, exercise gear, Spanxx, and so-called health/fitness magazines might just entropy.

Weight Lifting Landed A Scalpel In My Spine, But I’d Do It All Over Again

“Our little bodybuilder is waking up,” I heard the nurse say through my haze of anesthesia and morphine. I struggled to sit up and a nauseating wave of pain slung me back onto the hospital bed. “I’m not a bodybuilder,” I muttered. “I’m a powerlifter.”

Why No Pain No Gain Is All B.S.

“No pain no gain needs a lot of explanation. That’s the trouble with clichés.”

That’s Dr. Eddie O’Connor‘s much nicer way of putting something I’ve been saying for a while: “no pain no gain” is bullshit that gets you hurt.

Resolution Rehab: Screw The Scale—Get Me A Barbell

Brimming with elation, exhilaration, exuberance. Racing heart. Face-splitting grin. Did I win the lottery? No. I reached a goal – an epic, seemingly unattainable goal. I conquered a 200-pound – nearly double my bodyweight – lift.

I Heart Powerlifting (And I’m Not Bulky Or Masculine)

I spend four days per week in a gym; on days off, I pine to be there. I lift hundreds of pounds, sport smeary chalk prints on my sweat-soaked clothes and listen to cacophonous music at dangerously loud levels when I train. I attack large, bloody-rare steaks like a caveman. Am I a 275-pound shaved-headed dude with my bench total dangling as a charm from a gold chain around my thick neck?Nope. I’m a 100-pound 30-something female food writer who has fallen in love with powerlifting.

More …

And I’ve talked about lifting on a local news show. Take a look!

180, done!

High fives  all around when I broke the APA national and world record for squat in the 105 weight class with a 180 pound squat


3 thoughts on “About Dana

  1. Just found your site after reading your profile in Experience Life magazine. I’ve enjoyed reading about your experiences, especially since injuring your back. I’ve been in a similar situation for over a year, with no real answers and no end in sight. Fitness is my job too, first as a trainer, RPM instructor and diabetes exercise leader, and now as a wellness coach and writer. I was never as strong as you, but since discovering weight training in my twenties, have loved lifting, and just working hard in general. Now, I can’t do the kind of workouts I love, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to again. I wrote about it recently on my blog, “I must be a slow learner.” You might also like this one: https://wishfit.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/a-call-to-action/.

    Good luck with your recovery, and finding a new sport!

  2. I just found your blog and am excited to read more! As a lover of food and heavy lifting (currently working my way through New Rules of Lifting for Women) it is great to find someone who talks about both!

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