Thursday, November 29, 2018

Joining the Tribe - The Coach that I am

Kira Dorsey, Masters Athlete, Capitol City Championships, 2018

For the past month or so, I've been looking towards the future. Recently, I put in an application to be part of the Super Fit Hero directory of Body Positive Trainers.

Now, I thought a lot about joining this tribe. I kept rolling around in my head what it meant to be a 'body positive' trainer. Was I really one? What did that mean anyway? As much as I work in the realm of physical health and movement, I also realize that I deal with mental health in a lot of ways as well. No, I'm not a mental health professional by any means, but I understand the mental games that come into play with weightlifting. The fear of the new lifter. The anticipation of a seasoned lifter attempting a new weight. The defeat of a bad day in the gym. The elation of a a great day in the gym. (I mean, if you've ever snatched, you get it...)  So naturally I believe that things that stretch our mental comfort zone are just as vital as those new movements.

And I hear a lot of understandable critiques about the Body Positive movement, especially from my fellow trainers. Honestly, I get it. Most of our clients initially come to us to lose weight, right? So why should we be encouraging the fatness?!

After a lot of mulling over it in my brain, I applied and was accepted.

Because I get it.

Because it's a good fit for me. Is there anything wrong with wanting to lose fat? Of course not. But most of that happens in the kitchen, not the gym. In the gym, I already am the Body Positive trainer.

So what does it mean, to me, to be a 'Body Positive' coach?

It means

I am the coach that looks for growth over perfection.
I am the coach that will proudly stand by and stand up for my transgender athlete/client.
I am the coach that will learn about the struggles of my clients and empathize.
I am the coach that will be louder than the voice of fear in your head.
I am the coach that believes that you CAN do it, whatever "it" is, however long it takes. Let's do it.
I am the coach that believes power doesn't have an ideal gender, size, or age.
I am the coach that believes each person has a unique talent to bring to the world.
I am the coach that will NOT encourage my client to get on the scale.

It ALSO means

That I will never advise you to get on the scale every day. 
Weight and fat aren't the same thing. The wooden chair I'm sitting on has a 'weight'. It doesn't mean the chair is 'fat' or 'unhealthy' or in some way 'broken'.  Weight is the effect gravity has on the chair. It'll weigh something else on the moon. And when I'm done with this Earth and slip slide into my grave, my 'weight' won't even be a topic of conversation at my wake (which better be AMAZING... just saying). It won't be carved on my tombstone. The important things will be. Loving wife, daughter, sister, mother, (and badass coach) will be on there.

That life is too short not to enjoy.
Go on vacation. Enjoy a holiday meal with family and friends if you want. Do that marathon. Lift your bell of choice (kettle bell, barbell, dumbbell, handbell). Learn. Grow! Experience! Your fitness should allow you to experience life to the fullness you desire. Whether that is keeping up with your kids, your friends, your partner - it is YOUR LIFE!  Your training should enhance your enjoyment of your life, not make you feel ashamed, worthless, or ruined.

Maybe it's the process of application, has reminded me of all the amazing people I've had the occasion to work with, maybe it's the holidays that has be a little bit nostalgic, but as I look forward, it's amazing to realize how much I've learned from the fledgling beginnings. I'll never forget one of my first clients (a 78 year old veteran with 2 knee replacements that was learning how to use his legs and his abs again), to a few of my favorite athletes who let me guide them on their journeys into their first meets and beyond, to the more recent transformative moments when I realized I was the only female weightlifting coach in a warm up room full of men, and yet I held my ground with any of them. Or when I have gone to break out the brass knuckles (figuratively) for my athletes during competition because I didn't see why my transgender athlete shouldn't be allowed to compete to the fullest extent the rules allowed...

Not one of those incredibly memorable transformative moments had to do with the number on someone's scale or their pant size.

Now, my own journey has taught me that there is more to fitness, strength and power than meets the scale.
Sure, dropping a pant size isn't a bad goal. There are very few 'bad' goals out there. But I know my body personally changes often. When I turn up the heat and really focus on an upcoming meet or event, my body changes quickly. It responds to heavy lifting, but the scale doesn't shift much.
And that's okay.  I want to be as strong as I can be where ever that lands me on the scale. Because for me in my life, being strong means I can take care of my family when my husband deploys. Strength is such a highly personal thing, but being capable of doing the things life calls upon us to do is really a feat. Whether it's handling a high stress job, or carrying a toddler through a store, life calls for all kinds of strength.

And I believe we can build it together.

That's what makes me a body positive trainer.

If you're looking for someone to shame you into changing your ways, that's not my crowd. If you're looking for someone to empower you and push you - to plant seeds and help you cultivate them - THAT is the crowd I run with. And I'm proud to be part of this new community.
You can find me here through Super Fit Hero and meet me at the Y.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Surviving the "Off Season" or Lessons in Adaptation

If I had to sum up 2018, I would call it the "off season" year.  Personally, we've had things to handle on the home front, from the transition of getting the kiddo into a preschool routine, to the constantly shifting schedule of the Navy, from broken down cars to sickness and back again. It's been a hell of a ride.

And I'm not the only one. Several of my athletes have had their own behind-the-gym battles to fight. And I'll be honest, for those of use who are highly kinetic, these times can be exceedingly challenging. Just one one thing is handled, another thing pops up!

Sound familiar?

It's like the year of the full-moon craziness, am I right?

Okay, maybe this is your year that you've been kicking ass through - but rest assured, there will be an off season year for you too.

The idea isn't that everyone shouldn't have an off season. The foundations of health and strength are not 'perfection'. They are not some unattainable photo in a magazine or lifting total in a competition. One of the KEYS to strength building is flexibility.This isn't the year of the barbell. This isn't the year we bring home medals and trophies and accolades. This is the year where we may pick up a kettle bell or a sand bag or a dumbbell more often. This may be the time we challenge ourselves with body weight or with the TRX. None of that is Useless.  There is NO SUCH THING AS WASTED STRENGTH.

Muscles are made by making tears in tissue, and letting it heal, and repeating the process over and over and over, in new an exciting ways.  That is how the body adapts to stress. It breaks down, and then builds up.
So let me say that again.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WASTED STRENGTH.This may not be the calendar year for a new Personal Record at a meet, but this may be the year for that new personal record on a plank. Or a box jump. Or even the mental game (which, let's face is, is 80% of the game of life PERIOD). 

So, yes, as a team, this has been the year of the Off Season for the lifters, but no moment has been wasted time. No movement has been wasted energy.  Mental games are being honed. The biggest test, resiliency, is just around the corner. And beyond any barbell - that is a life skill, a strength, worth building.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Toxic Nature of the "No Excuses" Movement or The Value of Recovery

I get it. Many of us have been making excuses for our health for decades. "I'll start on a Monday... oops... I didn't prepare. I'll start next Monday." or "I can't afford a trainer/gym/workout program." or "My accountability went out the window." or "I have a holiday/event/vacation coming up." 

I get it. There are LOTS of 'excuses' for not taking your health seriously.

So many, that I often see folks doing something like #NoExcuses on sweaty selfies post workout.

Recently, I noticed someone shared that she felt like she was swallowing razor blades, but got her workout on anyway. Okay, we all workout through some sick days. The next day, she talked about getting chills and a fever, but she got her workout on anyway. Finally she was dx'd with strep, and she got a workout in anyway. Now, these are home workouts, so she's not going around a gym willy nilly infecting other people. But...

I had an enlightening conversation with a client who happened to be pregnant. We were talking about the "no excuses" movement and she passed along some wisdom from her doula. After the baby is born, she is to remain horizontal whenever possible. And she has a great point. After birth, no matter how the baby is born, women have a giant wound that can be healed with only 1 thing. Time.  In fact, in looking back, if I could have done 1 thing differently, it would have been to be more patient with myself and my healing process. 2 weeks after giving birth, I was coaching a strongman meet. Less than a month after having a kid, I was back in the gym. If I had really respected the wound that was healing, I might have given myself more grace and not attempted to live up to my namesake (The Bionic Woman).

In fact, I joined a few No Excuse Mom and Fit4Mom groups looking for answers to post partum fitness. And you know what I found out as I left those groups?

I was shamefully full of 'excuses.' I couldn't make workouts that didn't include kids because I had no child care. I couldn't make workouts that demanded I strap her into a stroller because I have a kid who thinks strollers are lined with barbed wire and will scream until she turns blue and passes out. If she doesn't start breathing within 1 minute, we start CPR. That's not something I wanted to deal with while trying to workout.

So there I was, neck deep in shame, and a bit lost. Without being able to workout, did that make me a failure?

 I ended up doing what I could, when I could, and I still believe that was the right call.

Here's the point of the matter -

I believe we have no greater tool at our disposal than honesty. 

Being honest with ourselves shows the clear line between the reasons and the bullshit (excuse my french) excuses.

Should we have excuses?
 In fact, I argue we ALL have something going on that is an obstacle to our goals.  We all have things crop up that mean the healthiest choice we can make is to modify or even miss a workout.
As a coach and trainer, I want my clients to meet their goals and look out for their health with honesty and clarity and above all, safety.
  Sure, sometimes that means we power through the sniffles, or modify like a mofo for injuries or other medical conditions.
  Example, I tweaked an ankle playing with my dog. So I modified my program from Olympic lifting to Deadlifts this week.
  But then I caught a cold. So I modified my intense deadlifts to a brisk hike with the dog.

  The cold moved into Bronchitis and an ear infection. RED ALERT! Time for a day of rest.

See, I like the basic idea behind the "No Excuses" but the truth is, there is NO SHAME in having a legitimate reason.  Maybe it should just be renamed "No Bullshit."

So pick 1 thing this week.
Get deeply honest about it.
Change is on the other side of shame.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Pre Trainer Girl days - My Speech on Motivation

(I wrote this blog just before kicking off my career as a Personal Trainer and Weightlifting Coach. - And it's still my favorite, well worthy of a repost.)

I'm not great at motivating people to come to the gym. Most of my work outs are with hired help (Trainer Guy) or flying solo. Sometimes My Sailor is along for the ride, but more often than not he isn't. (With his crazy schedule, I can't blame the guy.)

I just generally keep flying the 'bat signal' (as Trainer Guy calls it) and inviting people until they either stop talking to me (because they see the change and aren't ready to make it themselves, or they know I'll invite them on a hike/walk that they really don't want to do anyway and disappearing is easier than actually saying 'no'). Either ya come along for the ride, or ya don't. I'm just me on my own ride, happy for company, but content to fly solo if that's the case.

Not very good traits for someone considering getting into personal training, right?

But, before you write me off, here's my #1 go-to motivational statement.  Let me know what you think. Comment away!

"How badly do you want to pee?"To me, it seems like life is a lot like those"Choose Your Own Adventure" books I used to stay up reading by flashlight in my bedroom well past my bedtime. (For which I was often BUSTED.) Just like the books, there are always unforeseeable factors involved, but, for many things, I get some form of choice.
Let me lay this little "Choose Your Own Adventure" on you -

(For complete effect, run tap water or a waterfall sound effect as you read this.)

You're sitting in a meeting room during a very important meeting. The speaker is showing no signs of letting up soon. In fact, he/she is only 1/2 way through the material. You're sitting and sitting... and that glass of water or cup of coffee/tea is testing the limits of your bladder. You just kind of had to 'go' when you came in, but it's been at least 45 minutes since then and you're bladder is aching, about to explode. You've shifted your weight as much as possible or bounced your leg as much as possible. You're about 30 seconds away from wetting your pants right there in public with your co-workers surrounding you.

What do you do? You have the following options:

A) Pee your pants in public and deal with the fall out.

B) Excuse yourself as quietly as possible.

C) Wait for your bladder to rupture, and deal with the fall out of not only wetting your pants in public, but the embarrassment of 911 being called for you.
(Now, get up and turn off that water or waterfall soundtrack and go to the restroom. It's okay. I'll wait.)

I think it's safe to say that most (toilet trained) reasonable adults would opt for B, given the options in the scenario above.

Pause for a moment and think about why though.

Why wouldn't we want to wet ourselves in public?  We'd relieve the pressure instantly and be done with the pain of an aching bladder. However, it is usually a sign that we aren't capable of taking care of ourselves. A whole new world of experiences open up when a child becomes potty trained. Also, we'd be stuck in these wet, stinky, uncomfortable clothes all day, or the act of changing would significantly disrupt our day. It could also damage our reputation. In the world of social media, little is truly 'private'.  So an adult having an accident is rare. It could also mean that the adult is sick and unable to control his/her bladder - and unable to take precautions for such a scenario. Basically, nothing 'good' comes out of that scenario (unless you want to take revenge on your office chair...). Socially, it's bad news. Professionally, it's bad news. Health-wise, it's even worse news (especially if your bladder ruptures and you have to be rushed away in an ambulance for something completely preventable.)

So...ready to have your mind blown?
Okay, not really. But I firmly believe that people only change under 2 conditions.

Condition #1
They HAVE to in order to survive.

Condition #2
They WANT to more than ANYTHING.

 I'm not talking about the person you know that 'wants to' quit smoking or 'wants to' lose weight or 'wants to' eat better. I'm talking about the person who wants to like they want to go to the restroom. I'm talking about the person who is doing the adult-version of the pee-pee dance because they want the change so much.

Now, that said, no one potty trained themselves.

has a team of 'professionals' helping them along. For potty training, it's usually the parents or guardians. For health related issues for adults, it could be a team of doctors, therapists, trainers, work out buddies, or accountability buddies. There are as many ways to learn and incorporate new healthy habits as there are ways to learn to go to the bathroom. Some parents use stickers or rewards to teach their kids. Others wait it out. Others nag their kids into it. There literally millions of different, creative routes to take, but the goal is the same.

So, don't want to lift weights and cross train like me?
Want to walk your way to wellness?
Want to work out 6 days a week for that oh-so-delicious-'cheat'-day?
Make those work outs count!
Want to swim your way into next summer's swimwear?
Go for it!
Want someone to call you and check on your eating habits?
There are lots of GREAT journal apps and even groups you can go to.

Afraid someone (like me) will 'judge' you in the gym? You're probably right. I'm Human. I will Judge you. But it's not what you think...

Here's me honestly passing judgement.

The more obviously physically challenged you may be, the more inspirational you are to me. I know how badly your feet/ankles must hurt, but you're doing it away. I know how much you worry about others 'staring at you', but you're doing it anyway. I know how you don't think you'll ever get to that magical shape you're dreaming of. I'm intimately acquainted with the shame those that struggle with weight are. BUT you're not letting it get in your way any more.

You're taking care of yourself - doing something no one else can do for you.
You're excusing yourself from your usual routine (exampled by the business meeting) to handle your business (or bladder).

And if you're totally physically fit and powering through a work out, I'm probably looking at you wishing I were that good at pull ups, push ups, running, etc, but knowing that, if I keep working at it, I'll get there.

But I know, deep down, that until you want the end results as badly as you don't want to wet yourself in public, you don't really want it.

So.... How badly do you have to pee?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Coaching, Competing, And Crowing

This weekend (April 28th, 2018) , my current team of Olympic Lifters and I competed in a large meet in Olympia at Fortis Sports. The meet included teams from Canada, and it was announced that there were scouts present recruiting for every division (weight class, gender, Masters, Senior, Youth, etc) for the US National team. Um - wow...

After some registration snarffles, we were all ready to go.

To sum up - I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by this amazing team of lifters.

And not just because they all showed up.

But they actually showed up.
(And I am not just referring for our PR parties - but there were plenty of those!)

Let's start with the ladies -

 In the first session, my 2 lifters were listed as 2nd and 3rd to begin their lifts. The first person to lift was a 9 year old girl from Canada. She had a bit of a rough patch in the warm up room, and by the time it became her turn to lift, it was clear her nerves had gotten the better of her. Who could blame her?! She was the youngest competitor by a few years, and here she was in a different country lifting FIRST! That's pretty nerve wracking! As she cried with her mom seated next to her, Dorene and Kira both took a moment to chat with her and encourage her. 

I think I got a little teary here.

They get it.

My lifters GET IT!
That is what this sport is all about.

It's not about the personal records on the platform (though those are nice when they happen). It's not about the medals (though those are really nice).  Okay - so it has to do with those things, but bear with me here.

Lifters genuinely want their competitors and team mates to do their best.

I find myself cheering for other lifters to make their lifts and come out with the bar overhead and 3 white lights indicating that a lift is good.  I want to see every lifter (not just mine) have a good day.

Weightlifting isn't actually about the weight on the bar, well, not entirely. It's about being better than yesterday. Better in technique. Better in score (hopefully). Better in movement quality. Better in focus.
Sure, there is a LOT of form and technique work. Not every lift is technically beautiful. (Some championship lifts are down right ugly.) But all of the lifters are fighting the same fight. No matter age or what is on the end of the bar, each lifter is doing scary and amazing at the same time.

Before they even took the platform, these women made me proud.

That's exactly the kind of character I want on my team.

Everything else that happened on the platform was gravy.

As they took the platform, everyone performed well, coming home with personal victories.

And now for the fella - 
Unfortunately my awesome photographer had to leave before Emmet's turn came up, but I'm equally proud of him. Emmet has only been lifting for about 6-8 weeks, but has really put his heart into the work. As a transgender man, I was curious if I'd have to run any interference on him competing, but I'm very glad to say that the event treated him with equality and made it a non-issue.
  Coaching the guys is always a fun, and different experience. I'm usually the only woman in the warm up room. It isn't until at least the first set is done that I'm reminded of how few female coaches there are in this sport. I've always found working with men just as much fun as working with my own gender, but it's moments like these that I'm reminded of how the stereotypes about lifting heavy things is still alive and well, even in this day and age.

And me -
When it came time for my lifts, my team was there to cheer me on, and I'm pretty happy with my performance as well. It had been a rough month of training, with my daughter being sick for a while, and a few niggling injuries. But maybe the rest was just what I needed as I was able to set a new record for my Clean and Jerk at a meet, and fell just a little shorter on my snatch than I'd like. I went 5/6 on my lifts though, and I'm very happy about that.

I also got to perform the last lift of the session. THAT was interesting. (For those new to weightlifting, that means I was attempting the heaviest lift of the session.) I don't think I've ever fallen that high on the totem pole before.Usually there is some other ultra heavy weight ahead of me.

While I'm going to focus my own training this summer on shaving some weight so I can compete in a lower weight class this fall/winter, it was awesome to be a heavy lifting ultra heavyweight Masters lifter in this meet. Out of both sessions, I was the only one of my class attending. Being heavier than I'm accustomed to (and as busy as I can possibly be) has given me a lot of time to really develop a deeper understanding of body image and how much we let it rule our lives (men or women). But what if we just focused on what we could do? What if we turned all that energy and time into effort on becoming better at the things we love?

If you could do the things you wanted (like move well and feel good) would it be easier to accept the skin you're in, no matter what the scale says? Now, I'm not advocating becoming really good at eating Oreos, for example, but if you're reading this and struggle with body image, take a moment, get a little zen, and picture what it would be like to actually love your body unconditionally.

In my case, I had a clear choice -
 I could walk up to the bar and cower or try to make myself appear smaller in my bright blue bargain singlet while scouts planted all over the audience judged me. That would, however cause me to be distracted from my mission.
I could walk up to the bar, attempt a weight I've never tried in competition before, stomp the platform, and lead the bar in our iron dance.

I chose the latter.

Kinda freeing idea, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Health at Every Size - Revelation

When it comes to personal trainers, I'm not the smallest woman you'll meet. Even at my leanest, I've never been a petite woman. I've often joked about being a 'broad'. I have broad shoulders, stand about 5'8" and even at my leanest, I'm not petite.

I was recently invited to a photo shoot with some of the other trainers I work with at the YMCA.  And I won't lie, I was a bit nervous. So nervous, I bought every woman's best friend - Spanx.

Deadlift 245lbs
I wore them in the morning as I prepared around the house. I knew I wouldn't have much time to change when I got there.

I got to the gym and stopped at the bathroom quickly before heading into the shoot.

And in that moment's pause, I stopped and decided something.

Truth in marketing.

It was a piece of advice a friend of mine once gave me when I was struggling to get into the world of coaching. When I doubted myself and my abilities to bring quality to the table for my athletes. After all, weight lifting is a man's world, right? She encouraged me to trust my truth would win the day.

And you know what? It did. Eventually I worked hard and that dream came true. Being able to share in the empowerment of others is the most fulfilling thing I've ever done professionally.

So, if that advice served me well then, why would sell a lie now?

Am I at my leanest? No. But how can I honestly encourage my clients to embrace their journey, if I'm ashamed of mine?!

Deadlift 230lbs

I took off the Spanx. I went into the photo shoot as I appear every day at the gym.

Because, here's the thing -
 Life is a journey.
Wellness is a remarkably
significant part of that journey.
Everyone wants to stand
on their own legs as long as possible.
Everyone wants to feel good
no matter their age, size, or circumstance.

And if I'm going to market myself - it's not going to be some perfect facade.
My clients and athletes get me.
The real me.

 And this is what the photographer captured. The woman I am, as I am, where I am on my journey -
 being the kind of coach I want to be - on the level in the trenches with my people. No matter what size they are. We're all working towards building the healthiest, maintainable life we can. 

As an athlete, I look forward to continuing to drop a weight class eventually, and keep my lifting strong.

Like they say - it's not the destination, but the journey.