One of the many things I appreciate about Derek (my boyfriend, coach, friend, etc.) is the way he pushes and challenges me in absolutely every aspect of my life. In the gym, he pushes me to go for weights I never thought were possible. In my work, he pushes me to pursue opportunities I had never considered. In my outlook of the world and the way I perceive things, he challenges every belief and every stand I take on a subject. He doesn’t just accept what I have to say about strength, nutrition, feminism, societal standards or body image—he pushes me to strengthen my case and pokes holes in every inconsistency until I can come back to him with a better argument. Downright frustrating at times but I know that every single time he does it I get better and for that, I am grateful.
A while ago we had a conversation in the car about one of my blogs. To be more specific, about my thunder thighs blog and the way that women were reacting and engaging in conversation with me about it. Derek, always considerate of my feelings, asked if it would be okay to ask something that might make me angry. Every time he asks this, I always say yes but I’m always a little scared of what might come out of his mouth.
He asked, “Why should people listen to you? You’re a 23-year-old punk who doesn’t really have thunder thighs and hasn’t had a child or doesn’t have skin that sags or body parts that have changed dramatically from old age. You’re in the ‘prime time’ of your life and haven’t really experienced anything truly hard.”
I looked at him a little dumbfounded. Talk about tough love. Here I was thinking that I was making a profound difference in how other women view their bodies and strength training. In reality, my experience may be pivotal to me but it’s not even close to how amazing, inspirational and empowering some of the other women’s experiences in my life are.
This conversation happened about two months ago and I’m just now realizing why women of all ages should care what this 23-year-old punk has to say. For those of you who don’t know, I am a journalist. I studied journalism at Indiana University and for my entire life the written word is how I’ve communicated the most effectively with the world around me. So many people can start a blog. Whether you have writing experience or not, it’s easy to write a couple paragraphs about your life, your kids, your fitness routine or your cooking. Thousands of blogs exist but I think my job, as a journalist, is to tell the stories of all the amazing women in my life and use their experiences as examples for other women. My experiences are limited and people who are a different size, color or shape than me cannot relate but I want to relate to everyone—every race, body-type, sexual identity and age. It’s important to me that strength is inclusive because for so long it was not—only men could be strong. It’s time that we’re all included.
As a journalist, I have set out to talk to as many women as I can about their experience with strength training and how their journey has affected their own life. Asking my Lift, Look, Be Strong ladies about their experiences seemed like a fitting place to start. Be on the lookout for their stories as I finish my interviews but for now, here are their opinions about what Lift, Look, Be Strong means to them.
Marketing guru and wife, Claire is ferociously dedicated to whatever she sets her mind to. She excelled and made drastic improvements during her second body building show and is now training for a half marathon. As a former athlete in high school, strength training has helped her unleash that competitive side of her again and help her to be an overall healthier person inside and out.
“Lift, Look, Be Strong to me means a few things. First, it’s an inspiration. It encompasses the willingness to step outside of your comfort zone and not be intimidated by what other people might think. Being strong to you might not be what being strong to someone else is and Lift, Look, Be Strong means being able to understand and fully appreciate how you are strong in your own way. Other people may not get it and it might be out of the norm but I’m proud to carry around a water bottle with that slogan on it. I’m proud to be apart of this team.”
Mother of two, wife and kindergarten teacher, Natalie began strength training about two years ago with one goal—to be social. Fast-forward a year and she has truly come into her own regarding strength training. She has competed in a bodybuilding competition and is realizing just how much her body is capable of inside (and outside) the gym.
“I think a lot of people think of this big, buff guy with huge muscles when they think of Lift, Look, Be Strong and that might be true for someone but that’s not what it means to me. For me, it’s being mentally and physically strong in your capabilities and it doesn’t have to do with comparing yourself to anyone. It speaks to your strengths and how strong you are as a person.”
Where to even begin with Elizabeth…she is one of the sweetest, most determined and fearless athletes. She is a patient teacher, mother and wife and she’s even more patient with the barbell. She has explored weightlifting and powerlifting and continues to surprise everyone (and herself) with her strength and resilience to keep getting better.
“I never really knew what it meant to be strong. I had been working out and strength training for a while but it never really registered until I competed in an Olympic weightlifting competition and started training for powerlifting. To me, Lift, Look, Be Strong has helped me understand what being strong is because it has helped me realize that I am so much stronger than I think and that it’s all about being strong for you and no one else. It’s more than just how much you lift, it’s the whole package.”
There are not enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe Katelyn’s journey and if you are ever feeling down on your progress or questioning what you should do regarding fitness go read the Girls Gone Strong article I wrote on her. She has undergone an incredible weight loss transformation, explored (and excelled) at both powerlifting and weightlifting and strength training has become a part of who she is.
“I assume, given Derek’s coaching style, that there is no one way/right way/best way to interpret what Lift, Look, Be Strong means. Strength has come to mean a lot of things to me. The fact that I made so much progress in such a short amount of time came from a lot of factors, but I think that one thing I did consistently the entire time was learn to practice more honesty with myself. Because I was allowed to focus in on my goals, I asked myself often (sometimes daily): “I say/think I want this, but what am I doing?”. It isn’t easy to acknowledge that you’re lying to yourself, that you’ve been wrong or acted in ways that you aren’t proud of. But for me that has been a critical part of making progress. Strength has come from acknowledging my own inconsistencies and weaknesses, viewing them with compassion, and making the changes that I need to in order to live the life that I want to live.”
Mother of two and wife, Kristie is always, always available if you need a helping hand. She gives so much of herself to her family and friends but her strength training is one of the things that she holds dear. She runs Spartan Races, can keep up with any man at a pull-up contest, and has trained for two bodybuilding competitions. She sets tremendous goals for herself and is dedicated until the very end.
“Lift, Look, Be Strong means exactly what it says. Not only do you look strong but you are strong. It’s not just physical but also mental and it includes the whole package from inside out. I consider myself a strong person, just personality wise, and strength training has enhanced the confidence I have in myself and my ability to inspire my children, family and friends. Being strong helps me in every single thing that I do.”
If you, or anyone you know, have a story to tell I would love to know about it. Shoot me an email and let’s chat.