Powerlifting helped channel despair, helplessness after loss to domestic violence

When Rachel Tineo’s 24-year-old niece was murdered in a domestic violence incident by the father of her three children, Tineo didn’t know how to fathom the depth of her loss.

Tina Soto had been like a daughter to her – and that someone intentionally and senselessly took her life in front of her young children in June 2013 left Tineo full of rage.

“It’s not something you have a coping mechanism for,” said Tineo, a senior business systems analyst at Tucson Medical Center. “I would go home, talk to my husband, play with the dogs and get up and go to work again the next day – but it wasn’t enough. I had all these built-up feelings, including sadness, anger and depression.”

Something had to change.

Tineo had already been health-conscious. She was a runner. She ate clean.

A part of her thought she should just stick to her kettlebells and running routine. Another part felt it was time to jolt herself out of her comfort zone. She went to her trainer and explained, “I want to bring more to the table because I need it to get through every day.”

“It wasn’t until I started powerlifting that I was able to control the feelings I had. Whether I was deadlifting or bench pressing or squatting, I was taking all those feelings and putting them into buckets in my brain. And I would fill those buckets up with positive energy and that energy would eat up all of those negative thoughts. When I lift, I pick up that bar and I let it take everything away from me.”

Over the course of 6-8 months, she started feeling better.

By November 2014, she had enrolled in her first competition. In that first competition, she bench pressed 110 pounds, did 245 pounds on a deadlift and squatted 120 pounds.

“Powerlifting made me a stronger person physically, emotionally, mentally and intellectually.” It also gave her a ready-made support group, ready to cheer her on to challenge herself to bigger and better accomplishments.

After she started lifting, she started sharing her story publicly, hoping to raise awareness about domestic violence and help erase stigma. Tina had been too ashamed to tell anyone about what had been happening to her for the previous three years.

Serving as an advocate helps give her purpose, even though it is emotionally exhausting each time she relives the story. “I felt I really needed to do this for Tina.”

She will have her seventh competition on Saturday. She’s set a goal of squatting 231 pounds, bench pressing 145 and deadlifting 308.

To this day, Tineo still relies on powerlifting as a form of therapy to get through life’s everyday stresses, as well as the knowledge that Tina is gone.

She’s also kicked up her running program, signing up for a half marathon in March 2018.

Tineo said she’d love to eventually lift with her grandchildren. In the interim, she’s teaching them about respecting themselves – from what they put in their mouths to the activities they do and the way they treat others.

“It’s important to be nice to each other and not say mean things to hurt each other. It’s important to respect boundaries. Ultimately, domestic violence is a learned behavior. If it’s learned, it can be unlearned.”

 

 

 

 

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