When Andrea Macauley isn’t winning world championships, you will most likely find her teaching workout classes in Cottage Grove. And the 54-year-old five-time world association of benchers and deadlifters (WABDL) champion has no intention of stopping anytime soon.
“My goal is to try and encourage and inspire all that comes across my way. And that I come across theirs. Whether it’s sitting in the doctor’s office or pushing my cart at Safeway,” said Macauley fresh off of teaching a step class last Wednesday night.
For over 32 years, Macauley has been leading classes across Lane County. While the people and places she taught and classes she’s led have changed, what has remained is the excitement to be there.
“We can come in really dog tired, had an emotional day, everything go wrong and you come here and you do your workout and you leave tired but feel good,” she said.
As the sounds of the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack welcomes a full class of people with varying levels of fitness, it’s easy to see that people are excited to be here. While the class starts at 6 p.m., the space begins to fill up 10 minutes before as eager participants want to claim their “spot” and also begin to chat with those around them. Each new face that walks through the door is met with a warm welcome from not only Macauley but the other people who see this as a good way to spend their evening. While the promise of an hour-long workout is what brought them to the gym, it is the people in the room that keep them coming back.
“They greet each other and know each other by name and learn each other by their name... and I want the love to spread through the town,” said Macauley.
In the class, like many workout classes, the individuals are instructed to believe in themselves and to keep fighting. But these are not just empty phrases from their instructor but rather guiding tenants of her life.
“Nothing is unattainable as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had lots of setbacks along my way. Injuries, and physical issues and the thing is you just keep chipping away. Even if it’s just a little bit. If you fall down, you get back up. It’s five steps back, six steps forward. That’s what you have to do,” she said.
Lifting is a punishing sport both physically and mentally. From the mental side, no matter how good the lifter, they end their lifts after they have failed to lift the next weight. There is no going out on a high note but rather a constant reminder of the level that you could not get to.
But with grit and determination, Macauley demonstrated these skills last November on her way to a WABDL championship in the bench press. Setting an Oregon state record for her age group with a weight of 187.2, she became a champion. Something that was anything but guaranteed.
After health complications earlier in the year, Macauley was called by people from WABDL just a few weeks before the competition asking if she was going to compete. After being hesitant, she agreed and then dropped 37 pound in five and a half weeks to make her weight class.
“That’s crazy and I wouldn’t tell anybody to do that. Nobody,” she said in November. “I wouldn’t say go lose that much weight that short. I think I was really driven by… everybody’s support that said, ‘you can do this.’”
Just as those around her believed in her, Macauley looks to provide that for those in her class each night. A sense of no matter who is walking through the door, if they can believe in themselves, they have the ability to achieve. This has been something that has always been engrained in Macauley.
“My mom instilled that early in my life. You never say you can’t. Can’t was not a word. And then honestly, honestly, when my daughter passed away, I really just wanted to lay down. And one of the things that my daughter, with as much wisdom as she had in her 18 years, was that she said, ‘Mom you never give up.’”
Macauley’s daughter, Sumer Solesbee, died in a car crash on her way to church during her senior year at Cottage Grove High School in 2003.
“And she was training. She could out bench me, oh my gosh. She weighed like 105 pounds and could bench 135 raw. And she was only 4-foot-11. She was amazing,” said Maccauley.
“It took a few years for me to step out. And I’m so thankful because I heard her words say to me, 'you can do anything.' And then I honestly, I give God the glory. He’s my higher power. And I also give my family genetics, my Scottish blood. I’m a warrior.”
With her warrior spirit guiding the way, Macauley then continued to teach her classes, began to get into weightlifting more seriously and more than anything else, wanted to build up all those people around her.
“What drives me is that everyday I wake up and my eyes are open and I’m breathing. That’s what drives me. There’s something that I can be happy about.”