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IWD: Rochene Hawley

In the lead up to International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, members of the Interchange team will share some of their thoughts, experiences and stories about the women who have made an impact on their lives. Today’s post has been written by Courtney Mason…

Without a doubt, the most inspirational and influential woman in my life is my powerlifting coach and friend, Rochene Hawley. Ro is the founder and director of Barbell Babes Brigade, which is Melbourne’s only female performance facility with a powerlifting focus.

Since the beginning of her career in the fitness industry, Ro had always been extremely disappointed with how the industry treats women. Whether you are a fitness professional, or a participant, women are often facing adversity in these spaces. Everywhere you go, the industry is shouting that women need to be thin, do cardio, not lift weights, avoid becoming bulky, have a bikini body and so on. As a powerlifter, and woman who overcame her own struggles with a negative body image, Ro felt very strongly about how women were made to feel in these spaces. She made it her mission to completely disrupt the fitness industry and start a movement.

Ro is extremely determined to help women defy deafening social expectations, fall in love with themselves and celebrate what their bodies are capable of, instead of punishing them for not being ‘perfect’. Strength is not exclusively reserved for men, and she wanted women to understand how empowering lifting can be. While you strengthen your body, you also strengthen your mind.

When it was time for her to take her coaching out of the commercial gym, Ro worked day and night to open her own facility, all within a few months. This wasn’t the only thing on her plate. She was also planning her wedding, mentoring her staff, speaking at events, attending workshops, coaching more than ever, supporting her clients in and out of the gym, training… all whilst she was pregnant! Watching Ro pursue her passion relentlessly was truly inspiring. To her, this was not just an expansion of her business, she was responsible for providing women with a community that would allow them to flourish and help them find the confidence to take up space in the world.

The network of strong, independent women at Barbell Babes Brigade is impossible to replicate. The support doesn’t just stop at training either. The community at Barbell Babes wants to see everyone succeed, whether it is hitting a new personal best in a squat or getting that promotion at work. No matter what is going on in life, there is a squad of strong women behind you, cheering you on. This incredible network only exists due to Ro’s passion, dedication and vision for an empowered future for women in fitness.

Along with the unbelievable work she does to disrupt the fitness industry, she is also an extremely inspiring Powerlifter who has represented Australia. Many women feel inspired by Ro and are now looking at competing for the first time themselves. This is an extremely exciting outcome as the number of women competing in powerlifting is increasing exponentially.

Seeing Ro pursue what is important to her while juggling a family, competing, supporting her clients and running a business just astounds me. I have seen first-hand how she has positively influenced the lives of many women, including myself and I am very excited to see what she will achieve in the future.

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