English teacher Paige Illig lifts 48 kilograms in the clean and jerk. Illig has been competing in weighlifting competitions such as the Black and Red open in her free time. Photo courtesy of Paige Illig.

Paige Illig might seem like your average English teacher with her petite frame and mild personality, but she has a surprising talent; Olympic weightlifting. This past year, Illig placed third in her class at the Black and Red open in Reston.

Illig first became interested in weightlifting a year ago when her boyfriend convinced her to give it a try. “I was always really lazy, and I hated working out,” said Illig. “When I started lifting weights, it was fun, and I started to get the results that I wanted.”

Illig also enjoys the challenging and competitive environment that comes along with the lifts. “The lifts are a challenge to do, and it’s a way to add competition to something that wouldn’t normally be competitive,” she said.

Illig competes in various weightlifting competitions throughout the year, most frequently in the Black and Red open competition.The competitions are organized in the same way as a swim meet; you cheer on your teammates, but you are still competing as an individual against them.

While placing third in her class is a huge accomplishment, Illig does not view this as her most notable accomplishment. “Being able to clean and jerk a hundred pounds was a personal victory for me,” Illig said. “Placing didn’t really make that much of a difference to me, but having that personal victory of getting the weight that I really wanted.”

In regards to anyone interested in picking up Olympic weightlifting, Illig suggests doing research and being wary of injury.

“Make sure you know how to properly lift before you start so you don’t get hurt, because it’s super easy to pull something or hurt yourself,” she said. “It’s a very easy thing to fall into, and once you start with that community it’s very easy to reach out to other people that can help you.”

Comparing weightlifting to teaching, Illig noted the reversal of roles from teacher to student. “I definitely see the relation in the way of learning from someone who is more experienced than you, and being more of a student,” she said.