Brandon Ramos / M+F Magazine
Sarah Cogswell, one of the top Strongwoman competitors in the 82kg (180 pounds) weight class, doesn’t compete or lift for the plaudits, money, and titles. So when she failed to make weight for the 2019 Strongest Woman in the World competition in Fairbanks, AK, she didn’t sweat it—literally.
Coupled with not sleeping for 24 hours due to travel and sitting in scalding Epsom salt baths, Cogswell was unable to cut 19 pounds of water weight. Rather than straining herself physically and mentally for the last-minute weight loss, she decided to cut her losses and move forward. The event organizers of Strongman Corporation still allowed her to compete, but she was ineligible for the purse, title, and spot at the women’s pro show at the Arnold Strongman Classic. Cogswell couldn’t have cared less.
"I’m not here to win competitions,” Cogswell says. “This sport for me is about being the strongest version of myself. When it comes down to competing against yourself, you aren’t competing against other people, so the weight class doesn’t matter as much.” After all, her love for the sport goes far deeper. In 2016, Cogswell graduated from Ursinus College located in Collegeville, PA, and relocated to Alexandria, VA. She felt lonely and lost.
After work, she’d head home and remain a shut-in. It was when her feeling of isolations got worse that Cogswell dedicated her efforts to weightlifting. She began going to The Edge 2.0, Virginia’s only Strongman and Strongwoman training facility, on Sundays with other women who were interested in lifting. It was the perfect fit for Cogswell, a former soccer player who says running wasn’t an option for her after a knee injury in college.
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My gym goal for 2019 is pretty simple, rediscover why I love training. I miss workouts like tonight- empty gym, nothing special on the schedule, washing away the rest of the world. Getting stronger is amazing, competeing and traveling is fun, but at the end of the day I lift because it makes me happy which makes the rest of my life better. This year I'm not going to lose sight of that. . . #strongman #strongwoman #prostrongwoman #gymgoals #circusdumbbell #womenwholift #strength #gym #cerberus #grrrlarmy #cleoharperactivewear @grrrl_clothing
A post shared by Sarah Cogswell (@trisarahsquats) on Jan 8, 2019 at 8:20pm PST
“The reason I love Strongman is that everyone is trying to be the strongest version of themselves, and it’s great to be around people like that,” Cogswell says. “Especially a community of women being the strongest they can.”
She vividly remembers the day she set a personal record by deadlifting 480 pounds; 50 more than her previous max. Overcome with joy and accomplishment—and surprised by her feat some three or four months after setting her previous PR—Cogswell cried as her interest in lifting blossomed into a full-blown love affair.
“That was the moment where I accomplished so much more than I ever thought was possible,” she says. “That is the moment I fell in love with lifting, and that’s what I love about the sport and lifting—defying all expectations and not putting limits on yourself.”
Today, Cogswell is still trying to decide her lifting future: does she continue to compete as a middleweight or move up to heavyweight? She plans to hire a diet coach to manage her weight and cuts better, and is slightly hesitant to move up to heavyweight because she’d have to compete as an amateur again to receive her pro card in that weight class.
"It’s definitely something I’m still trying to get a handle on; 180 pounds for most women isn’t a weight that’s hard to manage, but as you put on more muscle, especially as a natural athlete, it takes a lot of mental effort devoted to my diet to keep my weight down that much,” she says. “It ends up being a balancing act. It’s not that I couldn’t sit close to 180, it’s how much time do I want to devote to thinking about my diet and to the sport in general, which is essentially a hobby.”