The beats of techno pumped through Flatirons CrossFit in Boulder as Rosanne Smario-Allen wrapped dark purple bands around both wrists. A puff of chalk dust floated toward the ceiling as she rubbed the white powder on her hands before walking over to her weightlifting platform. She bent down to grab a barbell with 29 kilograms split between both ends -- what she calls just a warm-up weight.
Smario-Allen, a 47-year-old Louisville mother of three, competed in the American Masters Weightlifting Championships in Monrovia, Calif., earlier this fall and set new meet records in both events for her age division. Smario-Allen lifted 54 kilograms (120 pounds) for the snatch, and 70 kilograms (154 pounds) for the clean and jerk -- two traditional Olympic weightlifting events.
She's back in Boulder training for the Colorado State and Open weightlifting competition in February with her coach Tim Retzik, who opened Flatirons CrossFit in 2007. Smario-Allen picked up the sport less than a year ago after spending hours each week in the CrossFit portion of Retzik's gym.
At first Smario-Allen was reluctant to try Olympic weightlifting events because she didn't want huge, bulging muscles. She wanted to keep a lean, toned look, she said.
"I was really tentative, and I think that's true for a lot of women because we don't want to get bulky and heavy," she said.
Smario-Allen owns a body fat testing business in Boulder, so she decided to test herself before and after she started Olympic weightlifting training.
Her body weight stayed the same, but her body fat percentage dropped, she said. Standing at 4 feet 10 inches, Smario-Allen said she uses Olympic weightlifting techniques to stay fit -- she hasn't done cardio in months, she said, because the weight training keeps her in such good shape.
Retzik, who also competes in Olympic weightlifting events, said he'd like to change the somewhat negative perception of weightlifting as a sport that only huge, muscular men can try.
"Women are just taught they're not supposed to be strong, and that's not really the case," he said. "You always see the big heavyweights. They're big guys. But the smaller weight classes are fit people who can move a lot of weight, too. It's a sport for everybody and anybody can do it. "
It was Smario-Allen's daughter, 20-year-old Taylor Paschall, who convinced her to try CrossFit. The two competed together at CrossFit competitions before Paschall gave up the sport.
"We have a unique relationship," Paschall said. "It's cool that we can relate on something on that level. And even though I'm not doing it anymore, she still talks to me about it and I can relate."
Smario-Allen's 13-year-old son, Mason Allen, took up CrossFit this past summer to get stronger for other team sports. Paschall says her little brother won't admit it, but he looks up to their mom for being so strong -- literally as a competitor, and figuratively as a person.
"It is pretty awesome, considering her age and she's had three kids," Paschall said. "I don't see many women excelling (in weightlifting) like that."
Back at the gym one morning in December, Smario-Allen held her breath while bending over to grasp the bar with both hands. She stuck her tongue out in concentration, looked toward the ceiling and lifted the bar high over her head with straight arms while her legs bent into a squat.
The bar slammed to the ground with a "thud," bouncing twice while Smario-Allen caught her breath and reached for her water bottle.
"I don't know why I continue to think I can do this stuff," she said, laughing as she added more weight to the barbell and prepared for another lift.
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.