At 4 feet 11 inches tall, Demetria Harvin was the classic 98-pound weakling, although in her case, she was only 88 pounds.
"I was scrawny. I had been skinny my whole life," she recalls. But that changed seven years ago when she saw a poster of a female bodybuilder on her then-boyfriend's wall. "I said, 'I want to look like her.' "
Her boyfriend helped her buy a set of free weights. It was not only the end of scrawny, but the beginning of a spiraling, healthy hobby.
After a year of lifting in the privacy of her bedroom, she liked what she saw in the mirror and joined a gym to lift heavier weights.
The gym owner, a bodybuilder, mentioned that she should think about bodybuilding. She did, and in her first competition took second place. Two years ago, a powerlifting coach approached her. Powerlifting tests a person's strength.
She joined the Natural Athlete Strength Association, a powerlifting organization for drug-free athletes. Now, 34 years old and114 pounds, she has competed throughout the United States and even journeyed to Cape Town, South Africa, as a member of the U.S. Powerlifting Team com-peting in the Powerlifting World Championships.
Unlike Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters do not hoist the weights above their heads. Harvin does three lifts: She bench presses 185 pounds, she bench squats 315 pounds and she dead lifts 297 pounds. In her first competition in November 1995, she broke the bench squat record and has held it ever since.
A research technician at the Cancer Research and Development Center at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Harvin works out two evenings a week after work for about two hours, and then again on Saturday mornings. "Actually we can't train every day," she says, "We have to give our bodies time to recover."
What keeps her motivated is being part of a team.
Weightlifting requires discipline and consistency, and it's easy to get discouraged in the beginning.
"It takes a long time for a person to get out of shape and gain weight, so it takes a long time to get into shape," she points out. "If you're consistent, the changes will come."
She notes that while women often are intimidated by free weights, weightlifting is an ideal activity for building bone density. Her advice to women is to try it.
If being fit is not enough inspiration, remember: Harvin's also one of the few women who can eat anything and not worry about calories. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
Each Sunday, Fitness Profile tells you about a Baltimore-area resident who inspires in his or her quest to be healthier. If you know of someone who'd be a good subject, write to: Fitness Profile, The Sun, Features Department, 501 N. Calvert St., P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore, Md. 21278.
Pub Date: 5/10/98