Psychology professor Holly Arrow keeps two passions — teaching and olympic weight lifting

To say that Holly Arrow had a busy 2015 would be an understatement.

Arrow, 60 and a professor at the University of Oregon’s psychology department, spoke at a conference on socially extended knowledge put on by the philosophy department at the University of Edinburgh.

In addition to speaking at the conference, she also contributed to a book that was an extension of the project.

Publishing new, relevant work makes Arrow no different from any other professor. What does make her unique is that she maintains an ultra-busy work week while also balancing the schedule of an Olympic weightlifter.

“It’s a challenge … Like anybody, you wanna get your exercise in any way,” Arrow said. “I try to train on the weekends. Just try and fit things around my schedule.”

Arrow competed at the International Weightlifting Federation Masters World Cup in Dallas, Texas in August. She was entered in the 63kg masters weight class for women 60 and older.

At the World Cup, she completed a successful snatch of 47kg (105 pounds), a successful clean and jerk of 64kg (140 pounds) and placed first in her division. She set four world records in her category, and is one of just four American women to break a world record since 2014.

Her dominance on the national stage came just months after a trip to the US National Masters Weightlifting Championships in Monrovia, California. There, she was placed first in the same division and was pound-for-pound the strongest lifter at the competition.

Essentially, she is the best masters Olympic weightlifter in the world for her weight class and the best overall in the nation.

At an age where many people are physically limited and unable to perform routine daily tasks, Arrow is in peak physical shape; out-lifting competitors 20 years younger than her and throwing around bars that weigh nearly as much as she does on a daily basis.

It was a refusal to fall into a physically-limited lifestyle that launched Arrow’s Olympic lifting career.

Like many other successful lifters, Arrow was introduced to the sport through CrossFit. She began training at nearby Eugene CrossFit after a trip to the doctor revealed that her bones were thinning and she was in the first stages of osteoporosis.

“My mother had broken a series of bones and she was on medication,” Arrow said. “I had myself tested and found my bones were thinning.”

She started CrossFit training in 2011 with the intention of building strength and began competing in open competitions shortly after. Within 18 months of her introduction to the sport, she qualified for the Masters CrossFit Games, an event that is sponsored by Reebok and airs annually on ESPN.

“When she first joined, she was just run down,” Eugene CrossFit owner and trainer Jeremy Stecker said. “She liked to exercise, but she just had a hard time staying healthy … She was just beat up and she wasn’t sure she could stay in there. We had to do a lot of scaling, a lot of modification to workouts.

“She’s just such a hard worker, and having that mindset is just the perfect mold for taking somebody to the next level of her fitness training.”

Arrow placed 8th overall at the 2012 games her first time competing — an incredible feat for somebody so new to the sport.

Arrow is obsessive when it comes to recording her workouts, and while patiently thumbing through a notebook that has workouts charted as far back as 2013, she explains that she averaged 11 workouts per-week in preparation for the 2014 CrossFit games.

Recently, Arrow has found a way to cultivate her two passions — fitness and teaching — and is now adding coaching to her repertoire. She coaches at Eugene CrossFit a few times each week and mainly works with a group of older women, many of whom have the same goal that she started with, to live healthy and independently.

Arrow gushes as she describes a recent client who spent the last 45 years sedentary, without any consistent method of exercise, and is now on the verge of completing a wall-ball toss with a four pound ball.

“I think that one of the things that I really like about being athletic at this age … is that I am the example to them,” Arrow said. “I’m kind of the demonstration that things don’t have to go downhill; you can get strong again.”


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