March Mass-Lift Featured Lifter: Monet Bland

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from, how you ended up in MA, what you do for a living, etc.

Well, I’m a Taurus so I like long walks on the beach and eating artisan doughnuts. Seriously.

But really. I was actually born in Boston, Massachusetts and spent the first seven years of my life here. Then I moved to Maryland, which is where I grew up. I came back to Massachusetts for college and for the warm winters (haha!!). I have spent the past seven years at Northeastern University getting all the degrees because why stop at one? I received my Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience in 2014 and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology in 2016, both from Northeastern University. I currently work as a physiologist and researcher at Joslin Diabetes Center where I work with patients who have Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. This mainly involves helping them manage their diabetes with medications, diet, and exercise. I also conduct cell biology research, but I’ll spare you the details on that.

Tell us how you got into the sport of powerlifting? How did this change your life?

Sports have always been such a huge component of my life. Before powerlifting I was actually a sprinter. I ran the 400m dash and everything below that. However, after having two heart procedures, I did not receive medical clearance to participate in any NCAA sports. My only options to stay involved in sports was to join an intramural team or a club team. I started off on the club running team but soon left after I realized that the team was only for distance runners. I thought, who the hell wants to run for 10 miles? Yuck.

After this I joined the rugby team which didn’t last too long either. So then I found myself one night literally running through the list of club sports at Northeastern. I looked at their websites to see if they looked interesting at all, which is when I stumbled across the powerlifting team. I sent an email saying that I wanted to join, but for whatever reason I never showed up to a practice. The following year I decided to go to the info session and the rest is history.

I never thought I’d love a sport as much as I loved Track and Field. But then I started powerlifting which has totally changed my life. It’s also definitely taken over my life. That’s cool though because I’ve had so many amazing experiences in just four years. Being a world traveler (Brazil, Belarus, and even Moosejaw, Canada!) and meeting many awesome people makes being in powerlifting worth it.

What weight class do you compete in?

I usually compete in the 84kg weight class but every so often I eat too many doughnuts and compete in the 84+ kg weight class.

What is your favorite lift? What are your best lift?

Hmmm…I’d have to go with the squat lift. The squat lift is very special to me. When I first joined the team, I couldn’t squat at all. Ask anyone, they’ll tell you. People still make fun of me for it, which is fine because it helps motivate me. When I started I struggled with the correct squat lift depth and I actually almost quit because I sucked at squatting. Luckily things changed and it has since become my best lift. In just under a year I went from squatting under 55kg to squatting 200kg. In general, I’ve found that there are very few things that compare to squatting over 500 lbs (besides walks on the beach and doughnuts). As far as best lifts go, I do compete both raw and equipped. But let’s just talk about equipped. My best lifts are a 237.5/524lb squat, 115kg/254lbs bench, and 225kg/496lbs deadlift.

You’ve done a bunch of local meets, some National, and a few World caliber meets. Which one sticks out as your favorite and why?
That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with the 2016 Open National Championships. I had learned a lot about competing leading up to that meet. For example I found that it is so easy to get caught up in the wrong things before competition. This was the first competition where I feel I actually put everything together correctly, and I did really well as a result. I set personal records in every lift, total, and Wilks. To top it off I went 9 for 9 for the first time in gear.

Tell us what it is like to train at Baystate Athletic Club. Whats your training routine like? How’s it like training with so many World Champions?

Let me tell you something about Baystate Athletic Club. Baystate is the kind of gym you hear described as a hallowed ground. It’s where champions train, and at any point you can be in the presence of multiple National and World champions. Back in the day, rookie lifters (from Northeastern) did not show up to Baystate without being invited by Joe (Cappellino), Lou(Luis Jaimes), or one of the other veterans, so naturally when I was invited to train there I was pretty happy. Now that I’ve graduated from Northeastern, I’m lucky that I get to call Baystate my home. I consider myself very lucky to be able to train with them. They are always supportive and always push me to be a better lifter.

As far as training goes, all of my programming comes from my coach, Paulie Steinman of South Brooklyn Weightlifting Club and Reactive Training Systems. I usually train at Baystate four days a week; two mornings and two nights. To top it off, I typically get a whole Eleiko rack to myself and there’s always at least one dog I get to play with when I train.

What current goals are you trying to accomplish now? When will you squat more than me?

I went through a time when I hated powerlifting for so many reasons. I would go to the gym and train because I felt like I had to but not because I wanted to. My only goals right now are to enjoy lifting, get stronger and not put too much pressure on myself.

Roy, mark my words. I will squat more than you this year. Just wait on it.

I’ve known you since you started powerlifting, and have seen you do some pretty incredible stuff. Tell us about what you consider to be your greatest moment in powerlifting?

I honestly don’t think I’ve been lifting long enough to have a greatest moment but since you asked…I would say it must be squatting 227.5kg/501lbs for the first time in competition. I missed it on depth at 2015 Collegiate Nationals in Atlanta but I later nailed it at the 2015 Open National Championships later that year. Give me like four more years and then ask me this question.

Who are your mentors? Can Big Mike take the credit? Is it King Kupp? Who would you say you look up to as far as a coach, opponent, or fellow USAPL lifter. Any role models in the field of Strength sports?

Grande Michael can take some credit. After all he did occasionally roll around Cabot in his desk chair coaching me. Jokes aside, Michael pushed me to see my potential as a lifter outside of collegiate competition and is the reason I have had the opportunity to compete at a number of IPF meets such as North American and Pan-American Powerlifting Championships. King Kupp can also take some credit as well. Last year he showed me the hook grip (for deadlift) and I haven’t turned back. I get to train with him a few times a week and he is always there to help me with technique and keep me level head when I get too mental about my lifts ( in exchange for a Snickers bar and/or coffee).

I wouldn’t say that I have any mentors but I do have a great coach. After bombing at Collegiate Nationals in 2016, I realized that I needed a coach and I was lucky enough to have Paulie in my corner. I’m a true believer that your support system is just as important as anything else. Having Paulie behind me has had a positive impact on my lifting. I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

Additionally, since I started lifting I’ve always looked up to Liane Blyn and Joe Cappellino. I don’t even need to explain why because you should know exactly who they are and how strong they are. Liane is one of the most down to earth people and it means the world to me that she’s always right there cheering me for me even as she prepares to go out onto the platform to lift. As for Joe, well, it’s Joe.

What inspires you to keep training? Do you have any tips that could help other lifters who are just starting out be motivated to achieve?

I wouldn’t say there’s anything that inspires me to keep training. It’s been a little over four years since I started powerlifting. At this point, training has become part of my lifestyle. I train because it makes me happy, keeps me sane, and I’m getting stronger.

I’m not the strongest but I did not get to where I am overnight. If I could tell a rookie lifter anything I would tell them to just be patient. As new lifter, you are constantly looking at veterans in the sport and comparing yourself to them. Why can’t I squat that? Why can’t I bench as much? I want to deadlift that much. The key is to have patience. Don’t go chasing numbers and don’t rush the journey. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the struggle.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Is Big Mike really mad?

Thank you to my sponsors Doughnuts and Deadlifts, Anderson Powerlifting, SBD USA, and Baystate Athletic Club.

Yes, Big Mike is really mad. He’s been mad since I said I was going to throw a 25kg plate at his face. #bigmikesmad #followtheprogram