When students in Ashley Burnet Smith’s strength and conditioning classes at Wayne County High School want to give up, she has quite an example to fall back on to encourage students to continue training.
That’s because Smith herself has overcome some challenges to remain in her fitness regimen, with the results paying off recently during the American Open Series 3 in Las Vegas, Nev. With more than 1,650 athletes at the event — including Olympic lifters — Smith ranked 51st out of 156 competitors in the Senior 71kg weight division. Weight lifting is one of the original Olympic sports. It is designed to test the human limits of explosive strength and power by using a weighted barbell as resistance while traveling through a greater range of motion than any other strength movements during execution. These limits are displayed using two skills-based competition lifts — the “Snatch and Clean” and the “Jerk.” During competition, each athlete has three attempts at the “Snatch,” followed by three attempts at the “Jerk.” The combined total of the highest successful attempt of each lift determines the overall winner in a body weight category. Smith, a 146-pounder, was successful in five of her six lifts as she declared her highest total of 146 kg or 321.2 pounds.
Smith’s journey to weight lifting and fitness began in 2012 at Spikes CrossFit in Ellisville. At the time, she was attending Jones County Junior College and wanted to find a way to stay healthy between a busy schedule that included both school and work.
CrossFit is a fitness regimen based on constantly varied movements performed at high intensity. These movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running and more.
“CrossFit is like no other sport,” Smith said. “Some days, it was so physically and mentally demanding that I questioned why I would put myself through 90 minutes of torture. The next day, though, I would show up and, slowly, I began to fall in love with it.”
Over the next few years, Smith competed in several CrossFit events. “Competing gave me the opportunity to push my limits and make new friends among the CrossFit community,” she said.
In 2014, Smith became a CrossFit Level 1 Certified Coach, which she currently uses for her position both at WCHS and as an instructor at South Central Sports Performance/Wellness Center in Laurel.
There were other obstacles to overcome during the next few years, though. During the fall of 2017, Smith’s busy schedule of working two jobs and finishing up her BGS degree at William Carey University left her with very little time to train. She then explored weightlifting after a couple of her girlfriends introduced her to their coach, Dan German from LiftLab in Indianapolis, Ind. “Training did become easier,” Smith said. “It just became more concentrated with better recovery time.” Training as a remote athlete, Smith said she has to rely on demonstration videos and feedback from her coach. “My focus is on technique and consistency, and trusting that all my hard work will payoff,” she said. Smith’s LiftLab programming consists of two-hour works five or six days a week. She trains with three other women at the South Central Wellness Center. The lifter and fitness instructor said women question her all the time about lifting weights and if she is afraid of becoming too “bulky.”
“I wish women would quit stereotyping weightlifting or CrossFit as a man’s sport,” she said. “The day has passed where women have to appear as fragile and petite. “The benefits of weightlifting for women are numerous. It can boost your metabolism, build strong bones, improve posture and reduce the risk of injury. Furthermore, weightlifting can enhance your mood, reduce stress and give you more confidence in yourself.” Superintendent of Education Bobby Jones said the school district is proud to have Smith on staff, both as a coach and an athlete. The strength and conditioning program was added to two years ago.