The familiar sound of clanging steel plates banging the ground echoed throughout the warehouse on a cold February morning as nearly two dozen powerlifters lifted weights to fill a different kind of plate – dinner plates.

At Jared Markiewicz’s gym, Functional Integrated Training (FIT), 5380 King James Way, learning how to deadlift and squat isn’t so much for the glamor or glory as it it’s about creating a foundation for lifelong fitness and strength.

“By no means are my clients competitive powerlifters by choice or is that their goals,” he said. “Their goals are to be as strong and healthy as possible for themselves.”

Even so, a group of 22 of FIT’s clients – 12 women, and 10 men – competed in a powerlifting competition on Sunday, Feb. 6 to exhibit their strength. But the event was less about earning bragging rights, and more about making a difference. With powdered hands, they raised barbells to raise money for a local nonprofit.

The event raised over $3,700 and collected around 450 pounds of food for Badger Prairie Needs Network (BPNN), a food pantry based in Verona that serves all of Dane County.

This was the fifth time Markiewicz and staff have organized a charity powerlifting meet the weekend before the Superbowl, the last time was in February 2020. He opened his facility in June 2012.

It’s “pretty unique” both to this type of gym and kind of event to have more men than women, with FIT’s clientele being around 55 percent female to 45 percent male, Markiewicz said.

“Squats and deadlifts are usually much more of a guy’s type of sport,” he said. “We have a pretty unique dynamic here.”

The nonprofits selected for this annual charity powerlifting meet have always been ones that a client in the gym works for or causes near and dear to a member’s heart, he said, to create a more personal impact with the fundraiser.

The 2020 meet was for an organization that provides rehabilitation services for substance addiction, after a member of the gym lost a daughter to an overdose.

However, the plan moving forward is to create a consistent annual event, so FIT has decided to continue supporting BPNN with its charity meets in the coming years. Markiewicz said he would like to “go bigger” in the years to come – not necessarily with the scale of the event itself, but with how much money is raised.

“The purpose is to create goodwill for our clients, with lots of fun, lots of energy,” he said. “But also it’s about representing our larger community and having the purpose of it be for a bigger cause.”

BPNN executive director Maggie Gleason has been training at FIT longer than she’s been running the hunger-focused nonprofit – she joined the gym in March 2018 and took over at BPNN in January 2021. She competed in the event, too, and it was her first ever powerlifting competition. She spoke during the event about how the money donated would go toward the cause of ending hunger locally.

After speaking with Gleason, Markiewicz realized the importance of doing an annual push for food collection and monetary donations for the food bank in February.

“Donations to them fall off after the holidays,” he said. “Come Jan. 1, all the influx of holiday donations and income jumps off a cliff. I think this is a good cause for us long term, done at a time when there’s really, truly a need.”

He said that Gleason, as a longstanding member of the gym, embodies the type of client he wants. Powerlifting is not a “short, quick fix thing” for health, he explained.

“This whole thing is truly a process, a lifelong thing,” he said. “Everyone in the competition has been here at least six months, and the vast majority have been with us for a number of years. We had them exhibiting their skills – the work they put in over the years. People look for quick fixes and magic pills – but there’s no such thing – just consistency and hard work and this competition is the culmination of them being consistent and putting in the work over the years.”

That sets powerlifting apart from traditional bodybuilding or strength training, which can be a bit more self-centered, said.

At FIT, rather than everyone having their headphones in and keeping to themselves, it’s a tight-knit community where people know each other’s names and greet one another with smiling faces, he said, and care about what’s going on with others outside of the gym.

“Lifting helps release anger, stress, and depression,” he said. “People come to our gym to shed all of that.”

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