Saturday, January 31, 2015

An Open Letter On Power, Body Image, And Being Yoda

"How is man to recognize his full self, his full power through the eye’s of an incomplete woman?" - Jada Pinkett - Smith, Speaking on The War on Men by the Degradation of Women

Lately I've been faced with some huge changes to my body that I have little to no control over. It's given me a good chance to step back, hone my skills, and move forward with an evolving, renewed perspective. 

I deal with the idea of body image all day long - both mine and other people's. I spend more than half of my day standing in front of mirrors, in a world where I find it particularly valuable to lead by example. Just like anyone else, I notice every extra inch on my waistline (and enjoy every newly defined curve).

That said, sometimes it's extra challenging to deal with physical changes - and, let's face it, there are lots of changes through life that we have little to no control over. Sure, we can wash our hands and do our level best not to get sick, but it happens from time to time. We will age (despite popular beauty secrets). We all get wrinkles, scars, and some of us go gray (or bald) before others.  As things change, we all have our moments were we feel less-than-stellar about them. For me personally, some days I feel decidedly fluffier around the middle than others. My stomach and hips were the last spots of the body fat to disappear for me, so of course, I'm particularly sensitive to changes in those areas.  And as a woman, those spots can change seemingly overnight.

We all see ourselves through different filters. We're all our own worst critics. Learning to give yourself credit where credit is due seems so hard when criticism comes so easily.

But for me, personally, I realize that allowing those negative thoughts to have any real power over my day isn't helpful. After all, a higher calling than being Trainer Girl is being My Sailor's wife. And the last thing he needs is me freaking out at home about something that is entirely natural in the grand scheme of things. Cool, calm, and collected are part of the job description.

Which is why I am exceptionally grateful to my 'tribe' -  you know, those people who know how to ground us, push us, and build us up at the same time.
A few members of my tribe
As challenging as this week has been, it's also been particularly memorable as well. From lunch with Trainer Guy's Gal to coaching my athlete through Ergomania, to adding a new lifter to the roster and seizing a new oppurtunity to coach Olympic Lifting, it has been an amazing week.  Trainer Guy reminded me that burpees, though part of most workouts now, used to be impossible for me. A new lifter unknowingly reminded me of a time when (my-now-favorite) Overhead Squat was scary. My seasoned lifters hitting PR's in the triple digits reminded me of a time when the bar was heavy.  Running with several clients in a row reminded me what it feels like to test out my body and find out it's capable of more than I might have thought it was.

No matter the current changes, I've come a long way - and I'm not 'done' by any stretch. Trainer Guy's faith in me that I'll eventually make it to Nationals for Olympic Weight Lifting helps bolster that goal, despite the fact that my timeline has required some adjusting.

Through that combination of grounding and building, I've found a stable place to handle change from.

While changes are unavoidable, I'm a big fan of bringing the most powerful, fulfilled, strong (in more than form) person into all my relationships. When I'm feeling good (on many levels), my athletes get a better coach. My clients get a better trainer. My friends get a better friend. My Sailor gets a better wife. There is a strong trickle down effect.

Today, my athlete inspired me. She brought her family to Ergomania. I may have been her coach, but she was the Yoda for her kids (and likely even her proud husband). They witnessed how to handle competition, and understood the meaning of 'winning' beyond medals and awards.  They saw the power of an already powerful woman competing under her own drive. I may be her coach, but when she gets out there, it's just her and the rower. I couldn't do it for her. She won her own personal record today.

So when I read Jada's comment above, it finally dawned on me that, it's through powerful people, that we recognize our own power. And maybe, just maybe, everyone is that powerful person for someone else.


Monday, January 26, 2015

The Rhapsody of the Day: Train-a-versary #2

As of today, it's been exactly 2 years since I started working with Trainer Guy. What better way to celebrate than a work out, right?
While there wasn't anything special about today's workout, it does tend to make me a bit reflective.  For example, part of today's workout involved 185lb back squats. Back when I started, I'm pretty sure 45lbs back squats (aka, the bar) were "heavy". Now, the pieces have come together where I can back squat over my body weight on any given day...

That's not a brag - but rather a reminder for me. As I train others, I see reflections of where I was in them. Many of them surpass where I started. Many of them were like me, intimidated by the thought of walking into a weight room. Now, the weight room is my 2nd home. Now, I'm that 'crazy girl' with the 300+lb deadlift, on some platform in the corner putting 100+ lbs over my head on a near daily basis, because I have 2 competitions coming up.

Aside from remembering the past in my training life, I also had a few highly memorable moments that properly express my day-to-day life pretty well.

Moment 1 -
I get this a lot on Facebook, but I've gotten it a few times in person too. It usually is a comment to the effect of "You're lucky. You can work out whenever you want. You live a lifestyle that makes you be healthy." 

No amount of 'luck' can help flip a 400lb tire, 60 yards, up hill....
 While it's usually well intended, I can't say that I'm not offended on some level by the assumption that this life I live was carved out of sheer 'luck'.
 Yes, in general I do consider myself a pretty lucky girl.  But that said, I have to give more credit to dogged determination than 'luck' in this case.

After all, I'm an underdog long-shot that doesn't know when to quit.

I can honestly say that I have every excuse (and then some) to  do less than I do on the health front. My schedule is hectic (days often start at 3am and end around 8pm).  I have health conditions that don't always making working out comfortable. I could throw in the towel at any moment, and it's likely no one would blame me. But the truth of the matter is I worked very hard for this life. The reason I haven't fallen into those traps is one of long established habits and sheer stuborness. Day by day, I changed my life from an office worker to an athlete.
Now, not everyone is meant to be a Personal Trainer or even an athlete, and I'm not suggesting that's the path for everyone, but I do take offense to the assumption that I got here because of luck. Luck had little to do with it. Yes, I was lucky to get hooked up with the right people, but it wasn't like I bumped into them on the street. I got here because I worked my ass off. I'll stay here by working my ass off. Luck, fate, and destiny may very well play a strong role in my life, but hard work can't be discounted and diminished to just 'luck.'

Moment 2 -
Walking out of the gym today, with Bella across my shoulders, a little toe-headed girl, no bigger than my hip, followed me out, mesmerized.
"What is that?"
"It's a barbell."
"What's it for?"
"It helps me make people stronger."
She jumped up to touch the barrels. "Do you always carry it like that?"
"Across my shoulders?" (My usual method of getting Bella across the parking lot includes hoisting it across my shoulders.)
"No. Like wings!"
I couldn't help but smile at her fearlessness and her observation. I paused and crouched down, letting her touch it further. "Yup. Sometimes things are lighter when you carry them like wings."
Shortly there after, she ran off to find her mother again.

So, thanks little girl, for reminding me why and how much I love what I do. I get to work with awesome people who inspire me daily in their journey.

 Best. Job. Ever.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

'The Thing about Perfection is...'

Friday - my birthday - I had a really 'bonked' work out. Missing lifts I usually make with ease, I realized it was time for some added rest. My nervous system overloaded, I knew it was the wise thing to do. But that said, that doesn't mean that I like sitting with the anxious energy a few days later.  The whole experience got me thinking about the 'progress over perfection' idea. I actually love the idea, but I'm wondering if it's actually possible to have both.

Bear with me - there are wedding pictures, but this will all make sense, I promise...

Unless you've known me since 2003, you probably don't know that I tried to talk every single friend I knew getting married into walking down the aisle to Brick House. At the time, I was married to my (now-ex-)husband and I'd had a nice simple church wedding with a reception at my parent's house afterwards. I wore a long sleeve gown with a 6 foot train in winter, all in white, as per tradition. There wasn't anything especially distinctive about the wedding and reception, but was a pleasant enough affair.

When the time came many years later, for My Sailor and I to tie the knot, I let him largely hold the reigns. I've had a wedding before. This was his first, and my last, so I wanted to give heavy credeance to his opinions. And, let's face it, he's the fashionable one out of the 2 of us. I know; it's terribly unusual for a groom to plan a wedding. He didn't plan everything, but he picked the color palette and was totally open to being less-than-traditional. We eloped (for legal reasons) as the Navy continued to postpone the wedding date at least 3 times over nearly 2 years. When postponement #4 loomed, the situation changed drastically. My father was dying of terminal cancer, so the Navy finally granted him leave to handle the wedding. The whole affair was planned and pulled together in under 100 days (though I'd had my gown for over a year).  Most people spend over a year planning their wedding. It took a village, but we were able to pull off a true celebration of life. But, that's not really the crux of the story.

As I am sitting here pulling up photos to (finally, almost 3 full years later) make our wedding album, I couldn't help but laugh. See, after we said our very non-traditional "I Do's" (which included a hand blessing instead of a ring exchange, and a love letter box instead of a unity candle or sand ceremony), my DJ friend pumped out the recessional -

Brick House.  Right before walking up the aisle, I sprang it on my wedding party that we'd be dancing back down the aisle.

Even our friend and officiant, Green Guy, got in on the action!
I remember, for the first time in my life, whispering to My Sailor during our first dance, that this was 'a perfect day'.
That kind of made me think about 'perfection' in a different light.

Maybe, just maybe, perfection doesn't mean everything went according to plan?

I mean, let's take that 'perfect day' as an example, shall we? First of all, the wedding was in Anahiem. All of our previous plans were for a Disney World (Florida) affair. Second of all, it was 2 days before the last anniversary my parents would get to spend together. After 41 years of marriage, my father passed away (F*ck Cancer).  Our budget was so small, we weren't sure we'd be able to actually have much of a 'honeymoon' without help from our guests (we asked for them to sponsor events on a small road trip we took from Anaheim to San Fransisco).  In fact, we didn't even know our DJ was showing up until I was in make up the morning of the wedding.  It was 107 degrees that day - a record setting day, which meant we had to restage our cake cutting so the cake didn't melt. My Sailor stuttered over his "I Do" (which was actually incredibly endearing) and I was chubbier than I'd hoped I'd be, despite 5 days a week at Zumba religiously and a C25K program and logging all of my intake on There were still rounds of chub over the top of my gown that aren't there now, 4 years (and lots of weight lifting) later.

All in all it was far from 'perfect' if the definition is 'according to plan'.

But we 'think' it means that 'everything went according to plan', right?

Many brides would look back at that chub, or photos with their past-away Dad and feel regret or pain.

The funny thing is, I never had any of those regrets. It was still a perfect day despite the heat, illness, and pudge.  There isn't a moment I regret or was disappointed by. While it wasn't 'according to plan', it was perfect. 

A bonked workout is far from 'perfect' in any sense of the word though. It didn't go according to plan at all - in fact, it's been kind of a rough week to even get my workouts in at all due to some crazy scheduling. But the struggle reminded me of this...

I have a choice - I can look at the big picture or beat myself up over 1 little workout where the body and mind weren't playing well together.

I think I'll choose to believe that, with all the craziness of life that's happened this week, choosing to rest instead of press on was the 'perfect' decision for that moment in time.

I'll get better at the next one.

Quote of the Day: "It wasn't in my plan, but ya know,  some of the best things aren't. My plans are in pencil. There is always room for improvement." - Me

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Pioneering, Coaching, and The Changing Landscape of 2015 (Photo Heavy)

Photo Credit: Sean Humenay
"You are a luxury item. You'll go hungry as soon as the economy makes a down-turn again."

 "Don't give up your desk job. Everyone needs a plan B."

For me 2014 was all about proving my 'street cred.' I have always been 'the girl with something to prove' and last year was no different.  There were a LOT of naysayers when it came to becoming a coach - though many had the best intentions, they didn't understand that I need to be 'all in' to be successful. So last year, I decided not to turn down a single competition, to learn all that I could, and to find a way to share the empowerment I discovered during not only lifting, but pushing myself beyond where I'd ever dreamed I'd be.

Looking back on the year through those eyes, I'd call it 'mission accomplished'.  Here's a quick glance back -

Competed in Expedition Everest, May 2014, in Disney World...

Made a dream come true, PR'd my 5k and finished 105th/5500.
Strongman August, 2014....
Finished first, after a close race with Strong Girl.
Completed my first "Murph", May of 2014
1 mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 push ups, 300 squats, and a 1 mile run.

Completed Grace RX in under 5 minutes... 30 Clean and Jerks @ 95 lbs, for time
With a fabulous group of people.
The very first Earn Awesome event outside of the Y - The Electric Run 5k.
RESET the 5k record set earlier this year in Everest...

And then there is the Olympic Weight Lifting Stuff -

Trident Open Clean and Jerk
And then there were the amazing adventures of 2014 -

Our 'Waiting' trip to Disneyland - waiting for our adoption/foster kids
Braving Category 5 Rapids with My Sailor
Explored North Shore, Hawaii...
Including swimming with sharks.
Dipping my toes in the glacial waters near Skynomish/Index, WA

Hiking around Lake Crescent
And a few random stomps through the local parks

If 2014 has taught me anything, it has taught me that there is great strength in patience, gentleness, and perseverance. In the scope of accomplishments, last year a success. It was fraught with its own unforeseen challenges and heartaches.  While we completed the paperwork for Foster-to-Adopt, the bedroom designed for our future-kids has 2 well built bunk beds that remain surprisingly empty as the New Year dawns. A few failed matches and heartbreak later, we decided to take a break from that world for a while. With our crazy schedules, it's probably been for the best.

I haven't seen my family in over a year - and we all lived in the same town until about 4 years ago, so it's a little weird. I'm still getting used to a life without my Dad, which hit a little bit closer to home when I realized that I'm following in his footsteps when it comes to blazing my own trail, no matter the criticisms.

Like any other year, it's had it's good and it's bad. But the truth is, it's FLOWN by.
So what are the new goals for 2015?
While I have my own lifting/strength training goals, it's my coaching goals that I'm most fired up about.  From helping first timers take their first steps onto the platform to helping seasoned lifters reach new potential, I'm loving every little bit of it. There's always something new to learn in this field, and with competitions on the horizon for a few of my favorite lifters, I'm excited to see where they go.

It's also amazing that 2014 has hooked me up with all the right people. Whenever a doubt or insecurity raises it's tiny voice, one of my Yodas is within ear shot and comes up with some miraculous rebuttal, or I have a session with one of the inspiring people I work with and I'm reminded of the bigger picture.  And it's suddenly hard to give those insecurities any power. They remind me everyday that fear, whether it be of judgement or others or failure or whatever, is a prison of our own design. One that has the power to keep the best of us caged up, away from the world forever - if we allow it to.  Being a part of those break through moments nearly daily feed that belief more and more.

I can't wait to see what next week brings - and the next year.

So here's to the friends made in 2014 and the ones I've yet to meet.

As for 2015?

Let's Dance.