Julia Trezise-Conroy, vegan powerlifter
Julia is a powerlifter from New Zealand who has been recognized with some amazing lifts.
Competing in the sub 56kg category she has recorded a total of 285kg competing raw. This included a 90kg squat, which was a new UPANZ national record, and a 60kg bench. The deadlift of 135kg was a new UPANZ national record, and improved on her lift of 125 kg three months earlier which gave her the national record with the GPC authority.
The achievements in squat are particularly rewarding for Julia, who told us “that made me happy because squats are not my strongest lift.”
Setting her sights on international competition now, the fitness instructor has expectations of hitting bigger lifts.
Julia is a committed vegan, having, in 2013, taken a fitness-based path towards an all- encompassing vegan lifestyle.
“I am a fitness professional and as such I stay up to date with the current research on fitness and nutrition” Julia explained to us in an interview just after her two national records in 2017. “The majority of the current and emerging evidence points towards a plant-based diet as being the best thing you can do for your health and longevity, so I put these conclusions into practice and cut meat, dairy, fish, and eggs from my diet.
"Shortly after adopting a plant-based diet I joined several vegan groups for advice and recipes, and became exposed to a lot of information that shed light on the reality of using and abusing animals for food and other products. Once you become aware of the animal abuse happening every day, it just seems untenable to continue to contribute to that. I wish had my eyes opened earlier; if I had known at the age of ten what I know today, I would have been vegan since then. I regret my years as a consumer of animal products, and I regret contributing to the needless suffering of animals.”
Julia had adopted the ethical standpoint within six months of starting the transition within her diet. Julia now takes the commitment very seriously.
“I’m completely vegan; that extends to clothing, cosmetics, homewares, and anything else. At this stage I have fortunately not been in a position where I have had to eat animal products, not even whilst travelling. Even overseas I have found that it is generally possible to stay vegan if you are well-prepared and well-researched. I imagine it’s not like that in every country but I have been lucky so far. It does mean that my partner (who is also vegan) and I plan holidays based on the how easy or difficult we think it will be to access vegan foods.”
Working as a fitness instructor means that training must fit in around the work.
“I only really have four days a week in which to lift. I teach 16 Les Mills classes per week including Bodypump, Bodybalance, RPM, and Sprint. Typically I end up powerlifting on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I prefer to train each lift (squat, bench, and deadlift) twice per week so some days I’ll end up doing double-duty with, for example, bench in the morning and squats in the afternoon. It is less than ideal, but that’s life.”
Fuelling the demands of this lifestyle is very much achievable as a vegan, and Julia has some favourite foods.
“I eat plenty of peanut butter. I also eat a lot of beans, kumara (sweet potato) and potatoes, rice (brown basmati is my favourite), tofu and tempeh, and pulled jackfruit, which I’ve only just discovered! Some of my favourite and most-common meals include bean nachos, saag aloo (spinach and potato curry), roast veggies and tofu sausages, and tempeh stir-fry. Lunches are often leftovers, or I’ll stop it at one of the local vegan cafes and buy something delicious such as raw pizza, a hearty salad, or maybe a vegan burger. I drink a lot of chai and green tea, and after-dinner chocolate is a pretty regular feature in our house!”
As veganism has grown, Julia is like many other athletes in finding that veganism doesn’t raise many concerns.
“My coach, Strini, is very supportive of my veganism even though he has zero interest in going vegan himself. I don’t talk about veganism a lot except to other vegans, so most people get to know me and see me train well before they find out that I’m vegan. My strength and fitness speak for themselves, as I am certainly stronger and fitter now than I was before I went vegan, so people just don’t question whether I’m getting enough protein or whatever. In the four years I’ve been vegan, I’ve only been asked where I get my protein twice; and both times it was a sincere question by people who were keen on finding out more. On the rare occasion that someone does make a bacon joke, it is usually in good humour and never intended to be disparaging.”
A bright future
While national records may be seen as a pinnacle to aspire to, Julia has much more planned.
“Powerlifting is such a great sport and I feel that I’m only at the beginning of exploring my potential. We have three federations that operate in New Zealand, and I’m currently lifting with UPANZ (which is USPA and IPL affiliated) and GPC. I look forward to going to the UPANZ Nationals in August  and intend to qualify at that meet for the IPL World Championships. That’s the plan for this year. Next year I’d like to lift more with GPC and train towards setting some more records.”
In competing and improving, Julia also hopes to spread the word about veganism.
“I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by good people who are often genuinely interested to find out more about plantbased eating. Most people don’t want to hear about ethical veganism, but I have noticed that people seem to be more open to it after they’ve already made some changes to their food. It seems to me that once people have already reduced or eliminated meat from their diet for health reasons, they are more likely to be open to discussion on the ethical issues in the dairy industry, for example.
“Most vegans are passionate about helping other people to see the truth about animal rights, and I’m no exception. My philosophy is that actions speak louder than words, and that most people are concerned with their health more than with animals or the environment, so that’s a good starting point. I just try to lead by example with health and fitness, and then support people who are genuinely interested in adopting a plantbased diet. To that end, I wrote a book on plantbased nutrition to help my friends and clients, and address any concerns or questions they have. It includes 40 recipes to get people started on animal-free breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. It’s currently available in PDF format from www.gracestrengthandmovement.com and will soon be released on Amazon.”