In Depth With Steph Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo

In Depth With Steph Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo

Steph Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo shares her story, her nutrition advice to women, why she still struggles with the modern fitness industry's messaging, and so much more.

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In Depth with Olympian Weightlifter Morghan King

Standing 5 foot nothing and weighing in at a whopping 105 pounds, you may expect Morghan King to be quiet, shy, or otherwise little, and frankly, you'd be wrong. This weightlifter (who was born and raised in the Seattle area) is as fun, bubbly, funny and chatty as they come, and I had such a great time hanging out with her and chatting about her trip to the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she came in 6th.

She has one of those personalities that makes you feel like you're best friends, even if you've known her for an hour, and she was constantly making us laugh with her quirky and outgoing style while we chatted in her gym in Bellevue, WA, while the CrossFit Regionals played in the background. She has recently relocated to Arizona, where she is opening a gym with her fiancé and coach, Dean Kruse, called Falcon Weightlifting, where she will continue to prepare and train for the 2020 Olympics. So go get cozy and settle in and prepare to be inspired! Without further ado, let's get right into it!

 

YOU COMPETED AT YOUR FIRST OLYMPICS LAST YEAR AND CAME IN 6TH. HOW WAS THAT EXPERIENCE FOR YOU?

It was surreal. I was really excited to go to Opening Ceremonies and then I found out that I was supposed to compete the day after that, so I didn’t get to go. I didn’t even stay up to see the torch get lit because I was so tired, but it all just felt like the blink of an eye. I was there before everything was set up and after everyone had left, and it was so cool getting done first, because then you get to enjoy everything. I didn’t see any of the big sights because I’m a little afraid of crowds, but I was thinking, well, I just got engaged here, we’ll come back.

THAT’S RIGHT! YOU GOT ENGAGED THERE, WHAT AN INCREDIBLE WEEK FOR YOU BOTH PROFESSIONALLY AND PERSONALLY.

Yeah it was pretty amazing, my family was there, his family was there, it was the Olympics. I joke that I’m screwed now, that nothing else will ever compare to that. Maybe when I have a gold medal around my neck.

THAT'S YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL, YOU ARE CURRENTLY TRAINING FOR THE NEXT OLYMPICS. WHAT’S THAT LIKE?

Yup, that’s the goal, and it’s gonna be a lot harder this time. The talent in America has skyrocketed, it’s pretty exciting. In just a short period of time, juniors are now doing what I did at my first Senior Nationals right now.

 

HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE SPORT OF WEIGHTLIFTING?

I was doing marathons and triathlons before which was sort of the natural progression after soccer, but I was always realistic about it. I mean I’m 5 foot, I’m not going to be able to go as far and as fast as most athletes. I lost motivation training for them, it was really boring by myself all the time, just being in the pool for hours on end.

So then I started doing CrossFit which I liked because I was able to come in and be competitive again and vie for spots on the leaderboards. I started CrossFit in August, and the next March when the Open rolled around I got talked into participating, and our team made Regionals which was really fun.

I get asked all the time, “how long did it take you to get strong, or to get strong on your coach’s program?”, and I just think back to one of my very first days of CrossFit where we were finding a one rep max for our back squats, and I squatted 90 kilos. So I credit some of it to genetics, to playing power sports growing up, and having a background in gymnastics. Growing up I was always competitive, and I actually graduated with a degree in graphic design, thinking I wanted to pursue something beyond athletics. But I just kept falling back into it. And with weightlifting, I got to a point where it was like, I’m either gonna do this or I’m not, and it’s going to have to be 100%.

 

SO WHAT WAS THE MOMENT THAT YOU DECIDED TO GIVE WEIGHTLIFTING A REAL SHOT?

I think it was at the second CrossFit Regionals I competed in, where we were in the 200’s workout. We were ahead of all the other teams and then we actually didn’t even finish the event because of a judging call, and not hitting extension on some KB swings. And I was devastated. Just so mad, in tears. And then this guy comes up to me and says, 'hey, I just want you to know, those were the best OHS I’ve ever seen'. And at the time that made me furious to hear, but I think that was my defining moment because I went straight to Dean (who was a strength coach) and I was like, I need to get stronger, make me stronger. I just wanted to get really, really good at one thing, and he put me on a strength program that was centered around weightlifting, and I just immediately knew it was a perfect fit. It definitely helped to have someone who was so passionate about the sport, and Dean is still my coach to this day. [And her fiancé.]

I’ve always had that “I’m gonna out-lift everyone in any gym I walk into” mentality (which isn’t always realistic, but what can I say), and I love weightlifting because it’s this brute perfection sport. That feeling of, when you do it right, the world completely stops. I love that.

 

DO YOU THINK THE POPULARITY OF CROSSFIT HAS IMPACTED THE SPORT OF WEIGHTLIFTING?

I think it’s changed a little, and I also think weightlifting in general is changing. There is a lot more interest in strength sports these days. The rise of CrossFit has definitely helped. It helped bring light to breaking barriers with women and stereotypes. Weightlifting is a sport that’s really fun to watch- you either make or you don’t. With all the drug retesting and doping violations in recent years there was/is some fear of it being cut from the Olympics altogether, but I’ve been told it’s one of the most watched sports in the Olympics. I mean it’s not a sport you really watch all year, because most people don’t understand that competing less is the goal, allowing you longer training cycles. You don’t want to compete every couple of months, that’s just not sustainable.

I think for Juniors, CrossFit is a great place to start, especially to just build their GPP (general physical preparedness) since they might not be playing other sports in schools these days, and some schools even have PE removed altogether. So you lose all of that- you don’t get to play, to find what you like, and the variety of elements in CrossFit really help that.

 

YOU BREAK SOME WIDELY PERCEIVED STEREOTYPES ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING WITH YOUR SIZE. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A WOMAN OF YOUR STATURE AND YOUR STRENGTH?

I'm reminded of the time I was wearing a weightlifting shirt at the Pan-Am Games, and I was riding an elevator with these baseball players, and they asked what sport I was competing in. I pointed to my shirt and said weightlifting, and they all laughed. I was like, no, really, I do that. 

It’s funny because two of our best Olympians were my size. Our only gold medalist was a 48k athlete. I was just at a Lululemon summit [Morghan is an elite ambassador for Lululemon] and we were talking about gender roles in sports, and I just kept thinking that when I was growing up, I never saw gender in sports. I was just a competitive athlete. I just wanted to play with the best, and maybe had a little Napoleon complex.

I think one of the things that is great about CrossFit is that there’s no real “body type” for it, but that’s also why I felt like weightlifting was more my style. I mean, it’s definitely hard to compete against the Elisabeth Akinwales, when you factor in body weight and the percentage and tonnage that I am moving around in the same event. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely possible and we have seen results in that at the Games. The mentality for strong minded women that can do anything is growing at an enormous rate which is awesome to see.

 

WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION TO KEEP PURSUING THIS MEGA GOAL TO MEDAL AT THE OLYMPICS?

When I decide to put my mind to something it’s going to be 110%. The last 4 years it was pretty easy because everything was new, I was just riding this high, and making every international team I tried out for. After the Olympics though, I went through this weird feeling of holy shit, it’s over, what do I do next? Am I really gonna put myself and my body and my family and my relationship through all this stress again for 3 minutes of being on stage?

It’s been harder for me after the Olympics to find motivation again, just knowing that it’s not gonna be as magical- it’s going to be really, really hard work. Not that it wasn’t before, I sacrificed my whole life for the sport, but now I know that I have the ability to medal, and I don’t necessarily think I thought that before. I have this "why not me" mentality.

I think a lot of times we put these international lifters on a pedestal because they have been doing weightlifting for so long. With them everything looks like calculated perfection. Seeing the rise of USA in the last couple of years and being on international stages says we are ready for more medalists, and I know I can be one. I do a TON of visualizing, and I always saw myself standing on the podium, but now I really know that it’s possible, I know I’m internationally competitive, and I know that people are watching. 

I also get inspired when I think of myself being a role model. I’m sort of trying to find my groove, figuring out who I want to be as a person, who I want the public to see, and so on. I’m not a super flashy girl on instagram, I like to post things that inspire and motivate people. Something that shows you have to put in hard work to get results. I want mothers and daughters to see me and be inspired just the same. I want to be the inspiring athlete that people want to emulate, and that’s motivation itself.

Yes I’m an athlete but I want to be involved in the community. I think of Kendrick Farris who’s done such a good job with that- staying in the area that he grew up in, speaking to people in a way that inspires the younger generation to put their head down and work. The world could use more role models like that, you can never have enough of it.

I want to be the role model that teaches people that performance is more important than aesthetics, and just because you could gain one more place by dropping 4 pounds, doesn’t mean you should. There’s such a focus on diet manipulation right now and it’s kind of scary- I’ve even had parents ask me about it. I firmly believe until your child has a chance to become internationally competitive, protect their growth and teach them to eat healthy, teach them to love their bodies no matter what. Performance and love of the sport comes before all. Make sure you are having fun with what you are doing.

I’m actually really excited because I am going up a weight class! My body naturally sits in- between two classes, which is actually good for the sport since my coach likes me to train about 2-3 kilos heavier for recovery purposes. But it’s such a trend now to drop weight classes that I’m excited to rebel and break the trend and show people that they can gain weight too.

I’ve never really been someone who’s obsessed with food, but it can be a slippery slope on a cut. Weighing yourself every time you’re in the bathroom and that sort of stuff is not healthy. I mean you always want to watch what you’re eating to some degree, but competing as a 48 for that long of a time became a little bit too obsessive for me. Most of the women that I competed against at the Olympics were 53k weightlifters prior leading up to it.

 

LET’S TALK ABOUT YOGA, WHICH SEEMS TO BE AS MUCH OF A PASSION FOR YOU AS WEIGHTLIFTING.

I’ve been doing yoga for a long time; my mom and I used to do yoga together. I sort of dropped it for a little because it was hard to balance when I was doing triathlons, because you’d be training 24/7.

When I was doing CrossFit I started it up again and tried flow, restorative, bikram and hot yoga (all the yoga!) trying to find a style that worked for me, and I wasn’t really finding it. Then I saw Sandra Arechaederra, who is a master’s lifter, posting about “yoga challenges” on social media and I wanted to learn more. She totally got me back into it; we did month long challenges and it was so fun. Sandra created this pseudo program for me called #DoYourYoga - just a pose a day- that worked around my weightlifting training. It’s awesome because it has caught on and quite a few people follow it now.

I loved that I had found yoga that integrated weightlifting. I actually always wanted to become a yoga instructor for athletes and offer something that not only takes the functionality of stretching, but includes the spiritual aspect innate to yoga. I grew up in the church but I’m not really religious anymore, so yoga became my church. I’d go to yoga and leave feeling refreshed, whole, and like I had “me time”.

More recently I’ve really been into mindfulness and meditation, which is hard. I actually changed up absolutely everything 6 months before the Olympic trials, which by the way, is 100% completely not recommended. Ha! But. We just knew something was missing, and I trusted Dean. We moved across the country to be with one coach (which didn’t work out), then we moved to train at the Olympic Training Center where I worked with Zygmunt (who is the best human being alive), but he was coaching like 17 people at the same time, which is tough. So we knew something had to change, and that’s when we got with Shahin Nasirinia.

It was around this time that I started doing guided meditations before I slept, on the advice of Holley Mangold, and I would say that I owe at least 60% of my success at Olympic trials to meditation. Going into trials, I told Dean he couldn’t stay with me, and the day before I don’t want to see anyone at all, I just want my mom to bring me food. I spent three days by myself, just being in my own body.

Most people when they get on stage are super nervous and fidgety and I was so calm, so mellow, smiling and excited, because I knew I was ready. It was such an incredible feeling. I don’t think most people work on their brain- they think they can just muscle through it because it’s weightlifting. And I even see it in CrossFit: when you’re doing thousands of reps, yes you can muscle through it, but when it comes down to it, that last 10% is all mental and if you don't have it, you’re never going to get to that elite level.

I’ve always wanted to coach but I’m not sure I want to be in the gym all day every day, that just seems not so fun for me- I’m a very outdoorsy person. So getting into this mindfulness and poring through psychology books makes me want to pursue sports psychology. I mean, coaches are everywhere these days and I think the psychology behind it all has gotten lost in the mix. I feel like it’s considered “hippy shit” and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I must say it is definitely gaining popularity in the athletics community. It’s just learning to be present. It’s learning to be comfortable with who you are as a person and how to achieve your goals in life in an organized manner.

I think we all try to force things on ourselves or change very innate qualities about ourselves, like I have an artistic side that I always wanted to pursue, but I was always super competitive and tried keep sports as a side hobby. And I realized that this “hobby” of sports was pretty time sensitive and if I wanted to do it, I needed to do it.

 

HOW ARE YOU MENTALLY & PHYSICALLY PREPARING FOR YOUR GOAL OF MEDALING AT THE NEXT OLYMPICS?

I would attribute my mentality to lots of things; my nature, how I grew up, having a solid support system, a dad who pushed me and challenged me. But really what I think drives me is knowing that there are people out there who are working harder than me. Knowing there are people who want to beat me. And it’s gonna be a lot harder this time.

Now I have this target on my back. Which is strange because I haven’t really embraced the fact that I’m an “Olympian” yet... sometimes I wonder if that even happened. Such an accumulation of the last four years into moments on stage. I wonder what the root of that is, maybe it’s because I didn’t do as well as I wanted so I’m hungry for more. So now I’m faced with just doing my best. I mean I know what it takes to get there, so I just have to be confident in my hard work and trust that I can get back to that level. And then just deliver that extra push.

I think of Melanie Roach, who came back at 40 and was doing eerily close numbers that she did as an Olympian and I was amazed. I asked my coach about it and he said that it’s easy to get back to where you were... it’s those last couple kilos that you have to really fight for. I feel like that’s where I’m at now.

WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO WOMEN WHO HAVE A BIG GOAL OR DREAM?

Commit to it. If you’re gonna do it, don’t half ass anything. Learn to trust your gut. And if you fail, so what? What are you really going to lose? Money? Money comes back around. You’ll know you gave it everything you had. People are so scared of failure, and I think I am a little bit too, but failure isn’t bad. Commit. 

 

Be sure to follow along on Morghan's road to the 2020 Olympics on her Instagram @kingmorghan and check out her yoga page @liftersyoga !


Do you dream about competing in the Olympics some day? Or maybe starting your own business, or sailing around the world, or achieving some other huge life goal? Dreams that big can be scary, daunting and overwhelming, but where there's a will, there's a way, and I've outlined the way in this PDF. Download my FREE guide to tackling those Big Goals, because the world is ready to see your greatness.

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ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT TAYLOR GAGE PHOTOGRAPHY

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Your Stories: In Depth With Elisabeth Akinwale

If you're a CrossFitter, Elisabeth Akinwale is a household name. She's a five times Games competitor and qualified for her first Games a staggering eight months after discovering CrossFit in 2010. It comes as no surprise that she's been an athlete all of her life, starting as a gymnast at the age of 4, and has collected an impressive array of distinctions and awards in various sports.

She lives in Chicago with her partner and her son, and I was thrilled when I found out that she would be attending the Girls Gone Strong Women's Strength and Empowerment Weekend here in Seattle. I have always been a huge fan, and admired her grounded and thoughtful approach to fitness, culture, body image and life. I jumped at the chance to be able to interview her, as she is always sharing such insightful and inspirational words on her social media platforms that impact thousands of women, in hopes of sharing more of her personal story with you here.

She is currently rebuilding her site and creating lots of great content over at ElisabethAkinwale.com, so be sure to check that out, and for all of the images from our photoshoot, head here. Let's get right into it!

 

 

YOU'RE CURRENTLY NOT TRAINING TO COMPETE IN CROSSFIT. WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO SIT THE SEASON OUT? WILL YOU COMPETE AGAIN IN THE FUTURE? WHAT DOES YOUR TRAINING LOOK LIKE NOW?

There were a number of factors that contributed to me deciding not to compete in CrossFit this season. Overall, I try to be intentional about the direction I’m taking in my life. But there was a period of time I was competing in large part because of inertia. It was something I had been doing and I just kept doing it because I love training, and competing had become a natural part of the yearly cycle. It was important to me that people of color be represented out on that Games floor, so I carried that torch for some time. When I took a step back and assessed the whole picture, I realized that there were a lot of exciting things that I’ve wanted to pursue, but haven’t because of the demands of competition and training.

I want to challenge myself in other ways, and make more concrete contributions to the world around me, which requires time and effort committed to those endeavors. I’m not a fan of the idea that you can have it all. I don’t believe any one person can do it all, do it well, and do it at the same time. All of us have a limit to our resources, and competing in CrossFit doesn’t hold the same meaning for me that it once did, and therefore doesn’t deserve the commitment of resources that it takes to compete at a high level. It’s all about being clear with what I value in my life and making decisions accordingly.

ONE OF THE THINGS YOU SPEAK A LOT ABOUT IS YOUR MOTHERHOOD. HOW DOES BEING A MOTHER INTERPLAY WITH YOUR CAREER AS AN ATHLETE? ARE THERE CHALLENGES? HARMONY?

My life as a mother, and a co-parenting mom specifically, is essentially why I became a competitive athlete again in my mid-thirties. I started CrossFit in the wake of a divorce and really threw myself into it as a coping strategy to manage the pain and empty spaces when I didn’t have my son with me. Spending time at the gym, building friendships, working on skills, etc., was a great distraction at the time, and grew into something much more.

Being a mother and competitive athlete was a gift to my son in that he had a front row seat to my process of setting and striving to achieve goals. He probably has a better sense of everything that goes into being a CrossFit Games athlete than most, since he’s been part of the 24 hours a day, week in and week out commitment for years on end. He’s seen me live an empowered and self-determined life, and he most definitely views women as strong and capable. 

Being a mother made me a better competitive athlete because he’s always kept me well grounded in what is most important. I’ve been incredibly disciplined with my time, energy and focus in order to keep my competitive life rolling, while trying not to make it the focus of his life.

There are absolutely challenges with being a mother and a competitive CrossFit athlete- that’s why there are decreasing numbers of mothers reaching the highest levels of competition. The nature of the training is very time and energy intensive. Many high level coaches want their athletes to crave being in the gym more than anything else. As a mother I can say upfront, that never has been and never will be the case for me. I’m also the head of my household, and have responsibilities like putting food on the table, paying for tuition and activities, being present and having energy for my son. These things can difficult when you’re spending hours upon hours training every day. Frankly, training makes me a better mother, but training to compete, at this point, doesn’t.

I LOVE THE WAY YOU CELEBRATE YOUR BODY FOR IT'S CAPABILITIES, ADAPTABILITY, STRENGTH, AND POWER. WAS THERE A DEFINING MOMENT THAT ALLOWED YOU TO SEE YOURSELF THIS WAY? WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO SEE THEIR BODY IN THIS LIGHT?

There are lots of cultural elements involved with the idea that women would be viewed as anything but capable, adaptable, strong and powerful. In some ways, being boxed in as frail or less physically capable is the battleground of middle class white women, and femininity itself has been defined within those constraints, which is why we see Black women who display strength, physical and intellectual power (Serena Williams and Michelle Obama come to mind) being called masculine. 

My perception of the female body was first shaped by my image of my mother. Growing up I saw my mother as endlessly strong, and the furthest thing from frail, or any other dominant image of how femininity is displayed. For my entire childhood my mother worked overnights on her feet as a machine operator, and usually had one or two additional part-time jobs. The idea of a woman being strong and physically capable was never a question. I have an older sister who is my sports role model and we were both encouraged in our physicality. Based on this foundation, I’ve escaped the hang-ups some women have about claiming their strength.

We grew up in a sports centered household, and I started sports when I was 4. And I loved it. I like to feel my body move, I like feeling myself breathing, feeling my muscles work. During my childhood I had numerous surgeries for a health condition. My athletic career as a gymnast included seven knee surgeries. So I've had some experiences that make me appreciate my body for just existing, being able to move and take me through activities I enjoy. 

Just living life has shaped my perspective, as it does for any of us.  After I had my son I went from being a gym rat to focusing on being a mother and not so much time on my fitness. My initial venture back into training was just going on walks twice a week. It wasn't intense, but after not being as active walking just felt good.  We should allow ourselves the simple joy of feeling our bodies and experiencing the world in them. I think of women who want to stay covered at the beach because they don't think their body is fit to be seen.  I’m like, you know what feels great? The sun on your skin. You know what feels good? The wind against your skin.  Your body exists for reasons more than what it looks like. This is part of fully experiencing your life. 

Seeing yourself as what you fully are, or what you are fully capable of as a human being, requires that you be willing and brave enough to step outside of the box that’s been devised for you. These boxes are constraints, but they can also be comforting because if we fit ourselves inside them we think we’ll be more accepted, less judged, freer from the critique of others. Leadership comes from those who define themselves outside the pre-conceived notions about who or how they are supposed to be.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A STRONG WOMAN OF COLOR? WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO USE YOUR VOICE FOR MOST ON THIS TOPIC, AND WHAT IMPACT OR MESSAGE DO YOU HOPE TO SPREAD? 

I don’t think I would characterize myself that way. In my life, strength and resilience have been expected and demanded of me. I think for Black women, finding spaces to be strong in isn’t the challenge—it’s finding space and support in vulnerability that is less common. I’m not strong all the time, I experience the full spectrum of human emotion. I need support and affirmation, and it’s that type of support and affirmation that I strive to create for others in my social media space. Being vulnerable enough to show our true selves across that spectrum is push back against the mainstream imagery created around Black women, and I think that’s important for everyone to see.

People reach out to me on a regular basis to share that seeing me in the predominantly white world of elite CrossFit competition has made a difference to them. It’s makes a difference to people to see themselves reflected in me. More than just being out there, I’m working to make a more direct impact, specifically around communities who are underserved when it comes to access to fitness and wellness resources, information and facilities. If there’s any single message, it’s that we can participate in any activity we choose. We belong everywhere, and that includes where we might be a minority, or in spaces of our own making, designed to meet our specific needs.

 

YOUR LAST NAME TRANSLATES TO "THE WARRIOR HAS RETURNED". (PRETTY BADASS). IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU FEEL LIKE A WARRIOR? WHAT GIVES YOU STRENGTH TO FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU WANT IN THIS WORLD? 

I feel like a warrior in that I prepare myself both physically and mentally to be ready for whatever comes my way. I don’t seek conflict, but I’m capable of holding my ground. I seek not only outward strength, but inner knowledge and peace. When I think of a warrior I think of balance—both a weapon and a shield—and I try to embody that.

Standing up for what I believe in, and what I want to achieve in this world feels like a forgone conclusion. Based on how I was raised, the people who came before me, and most powerfully in my life, as a mother. Giving up is simply not an option. My son’s presence in my life has kept me going more times than I’d like to admit.

 

IN WHAT WAYS HAS YOUR OWN SELF IMAGE EVOLVED, MATURED? WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU GIVE TO YOUR 20 YEAR OLD SELF?

My self image has become increasingly internally driven over the years. Like anyone else, I’ve been subject to the programming of the culture around me. There was a time when those values had more impact on the way I felt about myself and the image I wanted to project into the world. I’ve come to reject a lot of those external pressures and embrace who I am at my core.

My training and fitness focus has shifted from aesthetics, to performance, to simply valuing how I experience life living in this body. The experience includes how I look, as well as what I can do with my body, but it centers the being in the body.

My advice for myself 20 years ago? Have compassion for yourself, and be where you are. There’s nothing in this world that’s not for you, if you want it. Stay in tune with your intuition, and trust that any obstacles will be overcome, broken through, worked around, or used to build you for your next step.


If you'd like to see all the images from our shoot, head over to the Taylor Gage Photography blog to check it out! 

A huge thank you to Elisabeth for her time! Be sure to follow Elisabeth on her Instagram @eakinwale and her Facebook page, and check out her programs at ElisabethAkinwale.com


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Your Stories: In Depth with Rory Zambard

 

Rory Zambard has one hell of a resume. She’s a Crossfit Games veteran, travels the world as part of the Level 1 Staff, a regular on the Regionals scene and holds myriad accolades, achievements, and sponsorships both within the Crossfit community and out, all at the ripe young age of 24. She has recently opted to turn away from something most Crossfitters can only dream of in the competitive Crossfit life, and instead embark on a new and exciting journey on the island of Kauai, HI. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with her and we chatted about all things Crossfit, who inspires her, how her mentality and body image has shifted recently, what she’s got on the horizon, and lots more.

 

YOU WITHDREW FROM THE 2014 GAMES DUE TO A BACK INJURY. DO YOU HAVE ANY INTENTIONS OF QUALIFYING FOR THE GAMES AGAIN?

Never. Never ever ever. I’m done- it’s hard. It’s mentally, emotionally, spiritually really challenging, and there’s cooler things that my eyes are set on right now. I think I'll do the Open workouts this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll register… I think I’d be afraid to qualify. I don’t want to see my name stacked up anywhere.

SO IF YOU'RE NOT TRAINING FOR THE GAMES, WHAT ARE YOU TRAINING FOR RIGHT NOW?

Just fitness for real life. It’s great to be back to the intention of Crossfit: to be fit for real life, to be a part of the community, to have fun and play, and enjoy the journey again, instead of training for a specific goal. I think goals are a wonderful things to have, but I went for most of my time with Crossfit with really specific lofty goals, and a season without goals has actually been one of the best things that I’ve been able to do. So my only goal right now is to just come into the gym and have fun every day, and stay healthy.

 

WHAT DOES YOUR DIET LOOK LIKE? DO YOU FOLLOW ANY SPECIFIC GUIDELINES?

When I was competing I did The Zone Diet, which I found the most effective for training- the weighing and measuring brought accuracy to my food. But for the last year, perfectly honestly, I haven’t done anything as far as precision and accuracy go. After withdrawing from the Games in 2014, my intention was to come back and compete again, and I hit a wall hard in January and I took 5 months off of fitness. I didn’t do anything for months, maybe worked out 3 times. I threw it all to the wind- training, fitness, exercising, my diet- it all had to go the wayside so I could reconfigure a lot of parts of my heart and where I’d been spending my time, and a lot of parts of who I am, and get that back in order before I worried about anything else. And now that I feel put back together and feel really whole, I maybe should focus on my food again, but it’s been so much fun to just not have to worry about feeling 100% every day. I know what 100% feels like and how much food impacts that, but for the last year I’ve been willing to not feel that way just so I can go out for Thai food at 11pm with my friends, just for fun.

 

YOU ARE PART OF THE LEVEL 1 CROSSFIT STAFF WHICH MEANS EVERY WEEKEND YOU ARE INSPIRING AND HELPING PEOPLE HIT THEIR GOALS. WHO IN YOUR LIFE DOES THAT FOR YOU? WHO PUSHES YOU, GUIDES YOU AND BETTERS YOU?

I have a few people who do that for me- my mom is definitely someone that I lean on. She knows me better than anyone else in the world, knows my heart, knows how to make me better in the way only a mom can; In that subtle way that they just sort of shape you, without you even recognizing what is going on. She calls me Lisa V 2.0. She’s my sounding board, she’s my comfort, she makes me better. Also my best friend Lizzy does that for me- she knows the best and the worst of me, she’s my play and I have so much fun with her. But more importantly she knows everything about my heart, and those are the people that hold you accountable, who challenge you, and know when you’re falling short of the mark. Having someone be able to call you on your bullshit is the best part, and to be able to tell you the truth without sugarcoating it. Someone to just shoot ya straight, and it can hurt, but it’s awesome.

Meeting Lizzy was great- we hated each other at first. You know how with women (something I’ve kind of gotten over but every so often it’s there), where you see another woman and she’s strong and powerful and pretty and smart, and you think “oh we could never be friends I hate you”, [laughs]. I don’t know what that is, but it’s a thing! But we had a moment, after I was being stupid and a workout didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and I was stomping my feet and huffing. I walked outside to cool off, and when I came back everyone in the gym had that feeling of “Don’t talk to her- just leave her alone, she’ll kill you”. But Lizzy marched straight up to me and said, “Hey. How’s it going.” And I cried and we bonded and she’s been my best friend since then.

And Kurtis from Rainier Crossfit is my compass, like a second dad to me, that’s been instrumental in my development, my character, and perseverance- both in Crossfit and in every area of life. He’s the person who never tells you where to go, but he’ll remind you what north looks like. 

 

WHAT'S IT LIKE TO HAVE A BADASS GAMES ATHLETE AS A MOM?

It’s pretty awesome, but also funny because I don’t think about it like that- she’s just my mom. But you can’t quantify how much much of an impact it’s had on me.  I got to see a mom who was just as interested in health and fitness as me, and it’s what brought me to the gym and what kept me there. I’m so proud of her and I couldn’t be more thankful that she’s my mom.

 

WOULD YOU SAY THAT CROSSFIT HAS CHANGED YOUR OWN BODY IMAGE?

Definitely. I grew up chubby, and there’s certainly an impact that has on your heart and how you view yourself, especially when you’re young. To break that image can be next to impossible in our society. But it changed when I started Crossfit, since that showed me I am strong and capable and that’s what’s beautiful. It showed me that beauty isn’t about what you look like- and that held for a while, but then you become an athlete, and then there’s a new set of standards for what you’re supposed to look like, which is the unfortunate part. It’s not just about what you can do anymore, it’s about how many abs you have and how little clothing you can wear. There’s a whole new standard for fitness and what’s that supposed to look like.

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DO YOU THINK IT'S CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE FOR WOMEN IN GENERAL IN ANY GOOD OR BAD WAYS?

I think it’s doing way more good than it is bad. But there’s always a drawback, whenever there's a standard being broken there will be an extreme. And it's not Crossfit's job to fix it- that's on us. I think Crossfit has broken down a lot of boundaries, as far as what is “mainstream attractive”. It’s now beautiful to have muscles and acceptable to have abs, and it’s great if your jeans don’t fit because your quads are too big! Those are incredible things that Crossfit is responsible for. Crossfit is the sole reason there are women with abs on the covers of magazines now. It’s given people another option to feel good in their own skin and shows us that capacity is beautiful. It’s beautiful to be strong.

But there’s also a challenge with that; yes strength and capacity is beautiful, but now it’s also unless you have 8 abs to show for it, it’s not enough- we’re chasing a goal that’s impossible to reach.

And the women you see out there who are fighting for top spots in the world look the way they do because it’s their life. It’s necessary to mention that that’s not balance. I say it because I’ve done it. I say that because I’ve hung out with the best in the world, and I say that because I’m guilty of it. When you’re the fittest on earth, and you’re chasing a body fat percentage, you’re not just chasing performance anymore, you’re chasing a body image. It’s not just about what I can do, it’s how I look when I do it. And that is such a tragedy. It’s so sad that we have such capable and beautiful people, from “average” to the best in the world, but they get wrapped up in “I can’t do or eat that because it will make me look like this”. It breaks my heart. I think we should support people regardless and take a stand, and talk about reality instead of this madness, this mission to achieve something that is never attainable. You’re gonna get to 8% body fat and want to be at 7%.  When does it end? When are we good enough?

 

DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE TO LOOK A CERTAIN WAY BECAUSE OF YOUR VISIBILITY IN THE SPORT?

Yes and no. There is pressure, and in the last year that’s been something I’ve decided to not acknowledge. I don’t follow anyone on Instagram, I don’t look at social media, because it’s too much visual stimulus as to how the world is saying I need to look. I don’t have everything dialed in, I don’t have everything figured out, just like everyone else, and I need to get my head and my heart straight before I look at anything that’s telling me I need to look a certain way. It’s taken a year for me to breathe and let that stress go.

It’s been a struggle sometimes, but I’m beginning to see that I’m way more than my fitness, and I forgot that for a long time. I cannot behave, act, workout, eat, or do anything based upon how I’ll be seen by the world. And I feel free now. I didn’t think I had a problem with this stuff, but I was dead wrong. I didn’t realize how far into my life I based decisions off of appearance. There’s so much freedom in just finding me, and living my life.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A STRONG WOMAN?

I’m trying to separate myself from that perception of being a “strong woman”. I want to be a graceful woman. I want to be an elegant woman. A powerful woman. I think those things are much more than just being strong. “Strong” to me means you’re built to endure something, and I don’t want to endure life. I want to enjoy it. I think “strong” is something we put on ourselves, and if you walk around with your own armor, you can’t receive life and you can’t give it. I want to be armor-less, and walk through life vulnerable and graceful and full of love.

 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN WHO ARE CHASING THEIR GOALS, WHETHER BIG OR SMALL?

Two things: Be fearless. Just run at it. The worst possible outcome is failure. No matter the goal, failing is getting you closer, and maybe it’s the outcome you needed, not that you wanted. And enjoy the process. I was very “goal-destination”, and when I got to the destination I was already thinking about the next destination, instead of the cliche of enjoying the ride. 

It’s one of the things I love about Crossfit. There is no arrival. You’ll never get there. There is no end. It’s why, I think, some people don’t do it- because they’ll never get there, never be the best at everything, they’ll never arrive at the destination. You need learner’s heart. Are you willing to walk into the gym every day with your guard down? Because that’s required. It’s a long journey to a far off destination, and every day you take a step closer to a target that’s moving.

 

YOU'RE MAKING A HUGE MOVE TO HAWAII IN A COUPLE WEEKS. WHAT BROUGHT ON THIS MOVE AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BE UP TO OVER THERE?

It’s a calling. I’ve been expressly told to go by God. I went to Kauai with Progenex for the Ultimate Trail Run, and it was so much fun and raised a ton of money for the program that offers free Crossfit to all the kids on the island. I went there when I was in a delicate place in my life and I was feeling exposed, and when I left I felt I left a piece of my heart there. I was overcome by the love there and how remarkable the people were. I just decided to pull the trigger and I accepted Aaron Hoffman’s offer. There’s a piece of advice I had gotten in the past that resonated really hard with me, which is, there are always people waiting for you on the other side of your decisions. The way has been prepared and there are people waiting. It’s not just about you, it’s about more than that. And it’s true- everything for the move has just fallen into place and the process has been way too easy- the way has been cleared. 

I’m so excited to be there. I don’t know what the program really looks like yet, all I know is I’m gonna go coach some kids! I’m coaching the middle schoolers and high schoolers a few days a week and helping Aaron organize next year’s Ultimate Hawaiian Trail Run, which raised $100k for the kids last year. It gives these kids a place to belong. It’s created a community for kids to show up and know they’re loved. Drug and alcohol abuse is a really big problem on the island- it’s inundated the island. It’s also my family’s history, I grew up in the middle of it and I know what it’s like to see recovering and not recovering drug addicts popping in and out… I have a heart for it, and I love kids, and I have this powerful tool of Crossfit to be able to use. It’s just an amazing mash up of timing and skills and gifts that’s presented itself. Plus the island’s pretty beautiful too!

 

YOU'VE MANAGED TO ACHIEVE LIFETIMES WORTH OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND YOU'RE ONLY 24 YEARS OLD. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE YEARS TO COME?

This last season of my life has been about perspective. I was running from destination to destination with blinders on for so long and not actually seeing the world and the people around me. The seasons that are the hardest yield the most growth, and I wouldn’t change it for the world- my ups and downs with Crossfit, the speed I grew up at, I wouldn’t trade any part of it. I’ve been sprinting since I was born- I ran at whatever I wanted and I got it. There’s a lot of ego involved in that “see that and do it” idea, and now I can see that for what is is- a gift. 

Where I’m headed, I have no idea, and that’s the coolest part! For the first time I don’t have goals. The only goal that I have is to love people relentlessly. I have the opportunity for a new beginning, and I get the choice to love relentlessly. Whatever that means, I’m not sure, but that’s what I want to walk into.



All photographs copyright Taylor Gage Photography. Hair and makeup by Off White Beauty, Seattle.

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Crossfit Games 2015: Interview with Lauren Brooks

Us with Games athlete Lauren Brooks and the founder of Exo Sleeve, Sloane.

Us with Games athlete Lauren Brooks and the founder of Exo Sleeve, Sloane.

While we were at The Crossfit Games last weekend, we had an amazing opportunity to interview Games athlete, Lauren Brooks. She constantly impresses us with how she maintains life as an elite Crossfit athlete while taking care of her family and her gym, while also promoting body confidence and self love. She's one beautiful and badass chick and we're so thrilled we got to spend some time with her!

We sat down with Lauren in the Exo Sleeve booth and got to pick her brain about life as a full time athlete and full time mom of two, how she's overcome tough obstacles and injuries in her athletic career, and how she stays focused to accomplish all her big goals.

Check out our in depth interview with Lauren here:

 

 

Be sure to follow Lauren on Instagram and check our her BLOG for lots more inspiration!

Lauren is sponsored by ReebokExo, Kill CliffBarbells for Boobs, Formulx and Unbroken Designs.

 

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Crossfit Games 2015: Interview with Jackie Perez

Us doing the famous "Jackie Pose" with the woman herself & her BFF and fellow badass lifter, Lis.

Us doing the famous "Jackie Pose" with the woman herself & her BFF and fellow badass lifter, Lis.

We had so much fun at this year's Crossfit Games! Of course witnessing the actual Games in person was amazing, but we really loved the opportunity to engage with the community; after all it is the biggest gathering of Crossfitters on earth! 

We ran into lots of great people and had a chance to interview a few athletes and pick their brains about various struggles and triumphs as strong women.

Check out our 2 minutes with the beautiful and badass Jackie Perez:

Be sure to follow Jackie for tons of inspiration on Instagram .

To learn how to radiate confidence and feel hot in your skin like Jackie does, be sure to check out Thrive Online, our new online health coaching program!

We'll be sharing our more in depth interview with the amazing Lauren Brooks next!

 

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Your Stories: In Depth with Melissa Hartwig from Whole30

Melissa Hartwig, the New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of the wildly popular and life-changing Whole30 program, has been on a whirlwind tour for her new book, The Whole30. Between pitstops at places like The Today Show, Dr. Oz and The View, she kindly made time to sit down and chat with us for She Thrives, and we are so thrilled to share our conversation with you today! Melissa was absolutely as fun, kind and insightful as we were hoping she'd be, had some amazing answers to our questions, and couldn't have been more gracious.

Read our detailed interview with her to learn all about the way she handles industry pressure, how her own body image and outlook has changed, how she draws on her strength from getting clean to help people with their food issues, and lots lots more.

 

WHAT INSPIRED THIS NEW BOOK?

Our first book, It Starts With Food, outlined all the scientific background for our general, big picture nutritional recommendations. It was the science behind our 4 good food standards, why we exclude the foods we exclude, and the health benefits of the foods that you’re eating. We outlined the Whole30 in that book, in the way of "here are the big picture recommendations and here’s a way that you can implement these in a self experiment", and we thought that would be enough for people to be really successful with the program. 

What we discovered was people would say, "I love the science, I love knowing why I’m doing what I’m doing, I’m super motivated, but I still need to know how to do the program"- We realized that people needed a lot more practical application. We did some focus groups and were surprised by the number of people who said that the Whole30 taught them how to cook. So this book came out of the desire to put everything we thought people needed to be successful with the Whole30 all in one place. So it’s got all of the preparation and getting started, planning tips, the extensive FAQs, and then cooking fundamentals (which we never would have thought to include until people told us they wanted that), and then also 100 recipes. 

So the thought behind this book was, if someone asked you about the Whole30 or you wanted to share it with someone, you could hand them this book and walk away, and they could be incredibly successful with the program.

 

AS THE CREATOR OF THE WHOLE30, DO YOU FEEL A LOT OF PRESSURE TO EAT AND LIVE "PERFECTLY"?

Oh my gosh what an insightful question. I used to. I used to feel like there was a lot of pressure to look a certain way (especially when I had my baby), to eat a certain way, to always exercise, to never have hard days.. But I gave that up a really long time ago when I realized it made me feel like an imposter in my own life. I was setting this standard for myself that I couldn’t expect anyone else to hold up to, and I certainly couldn’t hold up to, and I don’t think that set a good example for our readers. People connect with authenticity, with you sharing pieces of your life, the good and the bad, and hopefully explaining some of the life lessons you’re learning along the way. 

So I don’t feel that pressure anymore. There’s still the occasional, "I’m getting up in front of a lot of people today, do I look pretty enough?" kind of thing, but I feel like anyone standing up in front of 400 pople might think that. But for the most part, I really have found great peace in being more genuine in my own life and in my own struggles and sharing that with my readers, and they really seem to connect with that really really deeply. 

 

ONE OF THE THINGS YOU MENTIONED AT YOUR BOOK SIGNING WAS HOW THE WHOLE 30 GETS WOMEN OUT OF THE MIRROR AND OFF OF THE SCALE. HOW WOULD YOU SAY YOUR OWN BODY IMAGE HAS CHANGED SINCE GOING DOWN THIS PATH?

I had been using food so much as a tool for my body composition (either a reward, punishment or comfort), and just not having access to those foods to use in that way forced me to take a look at that and say, "ok I’m really lonely tonight, what am I going to do instead", or "I’m feeling really uncomfortable about my body weight, where is this leading me tonight". So between that and focusing on strength training, and just focusing on getting stronger, I was able to see food and my body in a different light. There would be days that would go by where I realized I hadn’t scrutinized myself in the mirror at all, and that had never happened before. 

I think part of this also came with the realization that I don’t have to be perfect and I’m not supposed to be perfect.  There used to be a time (this is true), that I used to say "there’s no such thing as too skinny" -honestly- before I started Crossfit, before Whole30. But now for me it’s more important to look healthy than to look any other way, and healthy for me looks 5 or 10 pounds more than what I used to carry. I think pregnancy helped change that too- you gain weight, you’re curvy, everything's bigger, you feel voluptuous, and it changed my perspective enough that I was able to get out of the majority of the body dysmorphia that I had.  And I’m still not totally there- I still have my moments. But when I get into that place now I’m able to get out of it so much faster. 

ON THAT TOPIC, A LOT OF PREGNANT WOMEN STRUGGLE WITH STICKING TO A PALEO TEMPLATE SIMPLY BECAUSE CRAVINGS AND AVERSIONS START TO TAKE OVER. HOW DO YOU SUGGEST WOMEN HANDLE THIS CHALLENGING TIME?

I highly recommend doing a Whole30 before you get pregnant, so that you can identify the way foods impact you. So when you’re pregnant and having cravings or aversions and you’re having a hard time sticking to a rigid paleo template, you know which of the grains or which of the "off-plan" foods you can eat that aren't going to mess you up in a really major way. 

I also like to tell people when it comes to cravings or aversions, shop from your pantry. I used to bring the whole damn grocery store home when I was pregnant- every single thing that I could possibly, maybe want to eat, and every time I’d want to eat I’d go through it all and think "do I want this, or maybe this"... Having a huge variety of really compliant choices would make me oftentimes gravitate towards some things that I wouldn’t have thought I wanted, but because they were there, I could eat them, and they were all healthy and clean. 

Constantly reevaluate whether you can or can’t eat a certain food. For me I couldn't eat eggs at 8am, but by 11am, eggs sounded really good. You’re probably going to have to toss meal planning out the window since often you don’t know what you’re going to want until 5 minutes before you’re eating. 

And if it’s really a struggle, I just say go back to the foods you know are going to do the least damage- see if you can satisfy that craving with a more compliant version of that food. If you’re craving something super starchy and sweet, instead of a pastry, would maybe a sweet potato drenched in ghee with a little brown sugar and cinnamon do the trick? Get creative. Don’t use this as an excuse to eat all the things, just because you’re pregnant. 

FROM EXPERIENCE, I KNOW THAT PROTEIN AND MEAT IN PARTICULAR WAS HARD TO EAT DURING PREGNANCY. ANY TIPS FOR HOW TO KEEP UP YOUR PROTEIN INTAKE WHILE PREGNANT?

When you’re pregnant, your body has a more difficult time getting rid of ammonia (a byproduct of amino acid breakdown), and higher levels of ammonia in your blood and body can be dangerous, so it kind of makes sense that women get an aversion. I think there’s enough evidence to suggest that a super high protein diet isn’t really good for mom or for baby, at least in that first trimester.

But the other piece of it is this: If you’ve been eating a really healthy, high quality diet, if you don’t eat that much protein for a month or two, it’s no big deal. Your body has plenty of vitamin B12 stores and your iron isn’t going to tank in a matter of a month or two, so try to look at this from more of a big picture perspective versus day to day. If you go through your day and can’t get any protein in whatsoever, no problem- your body has a tremendous capacity  to buffer, balance and store. 

And remember to explore your options and think outside the box! I ate so much canned salmon when I was pregnant- something I never really ate that much of before. Think, could you have sardines right now, do I want salumi, maybe some chicken salad, and eventually something will probably sound good. 

WHEN YOU'RE TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR EATING HABITS AND THAT DOUGHNUT OR COOKIE IS STARING YOU IN THE FACE AND YOU'RE DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT TO GIVE IN, WHAT IS YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS LIKE AND HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT?

The first thing you have to identify is do you actually really want to eat it. The brain does some really funky things when presented with an opportunity to get reward: Dopamine spikes and you get really excited and the anticipation takes over, and it’s like an adrenaline response- fight or flight- am I doing this or not. So I always encourage people to pause, and just take a moment, take some deep breaths to go against that fight or flight stress response, and take that minute to think about what’s going on with this doughnut. 

Ask yourself a couple questions: Do I really want to eat this? Is it really going to be worth it? Is this a stale doughnut that’s been sitting out for 4 hours since the marketing meeting, or are you in Portland and planned a visit to the famed VooDoo Doughnuts? There’s a difference. Is it going to mess me up? Will the consequences of eating this be so negative that I will regret this choice? 

If you get through all of these questions and you still want the doughnut, then eat the doughnut! That way it’s a conscious deliberate decision, and not a reaction to this reward sitting in front of you. 

And if you decide it’s not worth it, the best thing you can do is distract yourself; physically remove yourself from the temptation, call a friend, take a walk, whatever you need to do until that craving breaks it’s hold. 

 

WE KNOW YOU RECENTLY CELEBRATED A BIRTHDAY OF 15 YEARS CLEAN. IT'S RELATIVELY EASY TO SAY OK, I'M NOT DOING DRUGS OR DRINKING ANYMORE, BUT FOOD ISSUES ARE UNIQUE IN THE SENSE THAT YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO EAT- YOU CAN'T JUST STOP. A FAIR AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE WITH FOOD ISSUES ARE ALSO RECOVERING ADDICTS OR ALCOHOLICS. IS THERE ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE THEM WHERE THEY CAN DRAW ON THE SKILLS USED TO GET SOBER AND CLEAN TO HELP WITH THEIR FOOD ISSUES?

I think I’ve taken a lot from that experience and pulled it into the support we offer on Whole30, perhaps subconsciously. The advice we give people who are recovering from drugs or alcohol is the same advice I would give to people who are really struggling with food, and sugar in particular: You have to change your environment.

When I got clean, I literally threw away tee shirts and hats that reminded me of using, and I couldn’t listen to some music anymore… If you have these powerful associations, you’ve got to cut your ties. We talk about creating space or distance; I tried to create as much of a buffer between me and the drugs as I could, so I dropped all my friends who I knew would give it to me if I asked, I told my whole circle, "If I ever ask you and try to convince you that I’m ok now, you cannot pay attention, and you need to call my mom". So you create a buffer to make distance, and then you rely on support from other people on a regular basis. 

It’s the same thing with food. You can’t stop eating, and that’s what makes it so much harder. You have to learn to create a healthy relationship with the thing that you feel addicted to, which is really challenging. But you can still create the space and make your environment really safe; get  the tempting stuff out of your house (we’ve got a section in the new book that addresses when you’re the only one in a household doing the Whole30 and you can’t rid the cabinets of all temptations). Talk to your friends and family- communication is so key with this. The more personal you can make this communication, the more effectively you’ll be able to enroll people in this change. Explaining to people why you’re doing what you’re doing, the impact that these negative associations with food are having on your life, or with your relationship with that person, can all help to recruit them to help you. 

And then leaning on that support is key. I don’t think anybody coming from a place of sugar addiction or an eating disorder should do the Whole30 without the support of a trained counselor. It’s not just about the food, it’s about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Sugar is a totally real addiction that’s socially acceptable, that often comes with peer pressure too. Relying on that support and adding in tradition psychotherapy or group counseling or meetings or whatever you can do to get that in-person support (a very powerful stress mediator), can be helpful.

And you might not be able to do the Whole30 all in. The rules are not for everyone and they can actually be very triggering. If you need to modify the program for your particular context, do it. 

 

YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU USED TO DO CROSSFIT. WHAT IS YOUR FITNESS ROUTINE LIKE THESE DAYS?

I get into the gym or move outside about 5 days a week, and I do whatever I feel like doing. Right now (because of the book, travel, family, etc), I can’t afford to stress my body with high intensity exercise, and I don’t have the consistency in a gym to have serious performance goals. So my goal right now is to just get in there and move and maintain muscle mass. So I’m doing a lot of kettlebell stuff, some body building stuff, some heavy lifting, walking a lot, hiking occasionally, sometimes some HIIT on the erg, or just throw a bunch of weight on a sled and push it around the gym. Mostly slow and heavy stuff to keep muscle mass and not so much cardio.

I don’t do any work until I’ve gone to the gym- I always start my day with that so that it sets the tone for the rest of the day. My goals in the gym right now are to get back to 5 or 10 dead hang pull ups (since I had my appendix out in January), and I’d love a 1.5 body weight deadlift, but really right now it’s more just about moving and enjoying how good it makes me feel to be active.

 

WE CAN TELL BY FOLLOWING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA THAT WOMEN LOVE YOUR HAIR AND CLOSET! IS THERE ANYTHING YOU'D LIKE TO ADD ON THE TOPIC OF BEAUTY OR FASHION?

No, actually there isn’t! It’s so funny, people are always asking for a hair tutorial or something and I just think, "No, I don’t do that!". I just can’t be all things to all people. I’m not a makeup expert or that info fashion.. It’s like "I just wrote this really long and intimate post, and you just want to ask me about my hair?". You’re never going to see me on Like To Know It- it’s just not my thing. 

 

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TOTALLY NOT PALEO TREAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE?

If it’s April, it’s a Cadburry Creme Egg. It is the least food-like product in the world. It could literally not be less food. But for me, my mom always put one in my easter basket and I always saved it for last, I always got to eat the whole thing (instead of cutting it in half like I had to do with most treats). So I eat it every year, I love it, I savor it, and I move on. 

 

YOU'VE BEEN RUNNING THE WHOLE9 AND WHOLE30 PROGRAMS FOR A FEW YEARS NOW, AND AN ENORMOUS COMMUNITY HAS BEEN CREATED AROUND THEM. YOU'VE HEARD HUNDREDS, IF NOT THOUSANDS, OF SUCCESS STORIES OF PEOPLE CHANGING THEIR LIFE. WHAT IS THE MOST SATISFYING, MOVING OR IMPACTFUL THING YOU HEAR?

I think it’s the people who say that for the first time in their life they are in control of the food that they eat. They are almost always in tears (which always puts me in tears), because I know just how incredibly freeing that is. If you feel like you’ve been a slave or out of control, you feel weak and like you have no willpower (which is not the case), but when you finally get a handle on that,  that’s what I love to hear the most. It comes from men, from women, from 70 year old grandmothers, from teens, everyone. Hearing that people feel like they finally have a good relationship with food is what means the most to me. 

There are also amazing medical testimonials- just absolute miracles- and those are always great to hear about too. From a big picture perspective, finally developing a healthy emotional relationship with food, your body, and the scale is really really powerful, and it translates into every other area of your life. It’s the keystone to it all. The confidence that comes along with that just naturally carries over to so many different areas in life. 

 

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE WHOLE30? WHERE DO YOU SEE THE PROGRAM IN THE FUTURE?

I think we are really going to expand our resources for the “life after your Whole30”- that’s where we have to go next. This book really outlines everything about how to do the program, and though I’ve written pretty extensively about what to do when you’re done (my Dear Melissa series, for example), but I really want to provide people with more information  about how to turn this into a healthy lifestyle. 

There needs to be more information about talking to friends and family about the way that you’re eating, because when you don’t have the “rules” of the Whole30 to fall back on, you have to learn how to do this in your real life and explain to people, "No, I’m not on the Whole30 anymore but I’m still not eating bread". That was actually my presentation at Paleo FX this year- Food, Friends, and Family, and how to have these conversations with people in your life, since food can be very divisive for people. 

We’d like to get more boots on the ground for in-person support and local communities (instead of just online-based), and we’d like to put together a pregnancy resource as well, to offer tips and ideas for nutrition and exercise, and also things like finding a pediatrician, or choosing your childbirth style, and so on.

But mostly we are trying to continue stay true to our roots and very connected to the community. We never want to get so big that we lose touch with our community, and in fact we have been tuning down some pretty big companies who want to partner or promote us, since we don’t want the Whole30 to become a product promotion machine. We want to make it clear that our integrity is more important than this appearance of success by partnering with big names. We will continue to keep advertising off our website, write all our own articles (no ghost writers), and stay active on social media. Yes, we are running a business, but we need to hold onto our roots.

DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR WOMEN WHO ARE ON THE JOURNEY OF SELF ACCEPTANCE AND SELF BETTERMENT?

You know it’s funny, so many people say you have to learn to love yourself, and I don’t think we really know what that means. I think it’s been such a long time since we’ve been kind to ourselves, that while that sounds nice to do, in practice it’s really really difficult. A good rule of thumb is never say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to someone else. If you think about the way we speak to ourselves and the names we call ourselves, how hard we are on ourselves, it's like, you wouldn't say that to a stranger on the street, so why are you treating yourself like that? 

So many women identify with their eating habits, their exercise habits, their motherhood status, and so on. They become "I am the healthy eater", or "I am the exerciser", or "I’m the kick-ass employee at work", and when you do that, your entire self esteem is riding on something that is entirely out of your control. What happens when you get sick or lose your job or your kid does something stupid and gets in trouble?  I like to try to help women identify the fact that you can’t use these outside factors as a proxy for your self esteem. If you weren’t an athlete or a mother or a healthy eater, who would you be? Are you kind, are you generous, are you loyal, are you dependable, are you fun? Those are all intrinsic things that no one can take away from you. If you can get clear on where you come from in that perspective, then your self esteem comes from you. Get in touch with the things that you value within yourself that no one can take away from you.


FIND MELISSA ON INSTAGRAM AND BLOGGING OVER AT WHOLE 30 AND BE SURE TO PICK UP A COPY OF HER NEW BOOK, THE WHOLE30, IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY!

All photographs copyright Taylor Gage Photography. Hair and makeup by Off White Beauty.


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Your Stories: Brandon Morrison from Lift Big Eat Big

photo by Chris Rosa

photo by Chris Rosa

 

When Brandon Morrison, the founder of Lift Big Eat Big, invited us to come train and talk shop, you better believe we jumped at the chance! A few weeks ago we spent some time with Brandon improving old tricks and learning new ones (deadlifts and log presses!) and got a chance to  pick his brain about the many misconceptions about female athletes, how to begin training from square one, and lots more.

 

How long have you been Strongman'ing/powerlifting and how did you find it?  

I have been competing in Strongman for two years, and Powerlifting for one year. I found it, like many have found it, by process of elimination. I started with Crossfit four years ago, and remember looking at a photo of huge Russian Powerlifters and thought “Wait a minute, I don’t want to be 165lbs anymore, I want to be huge!” After that, I spent roughly a year just lifting and doing my own thing, trying to figure out the direction I wanted to take my training. Two years ago, almost exactly, is when I started competing in Strongman.

 

What misconceptions about women lifting heavy weights do you take pride in dispelling?  What would you say to a woman who is scared of lifting because she doesn't want to get "bulky"?

I feel that one of the biggest contributions LBEB gives to the strength community is that we are accepting of all fitness/strength goals. Originally, I was fairly dogmatic with my approach to lifting, as are most new people who don’t know of the wide world around them, but I have progressed the business into a model that more reflects my attitude towards training. We don’t preach that women NEED to have a six pack in order to feel good about themselves. If they want one, that’s great! If they don’t care about having one, and just want to get stronger, that’s great too! I think a myth that we dispel adequately (although it feels like beating a dead horse, because we repeat it literally every day) is that heavy lifting is not a sport solely for men. There are women, including women I sponsor, that sometimes make me question my own abilities because their performances are so spectacular.

For question #2, I would say this: Do you avoid reading books, because you don’t want to turn into an English teacher? Do you avoid driving, because you are afraid of turning into a Nascar racer? If getting “bulky” was such an easy thing to attain, you wouldn’t see males pour their souls into the gym, just to gain a few pounds of muscle. Women don’t possess the hormone levels necessary to get “bulky” in the sense that many refer to. Plus, you can lift all you like, but if you aren’t eating more than you require in order to grow, there will be no bulking to be had.

 

What are some positive ways you've seen heavy strength training impact women's lives? How has it impacted your life?

Some of the most readily apparent ways that I have seen lifting affect women’s lives is how they carry themselves, and how their world view changes. I am not referring to just their attitude in lifting, but in life. I see their timidity and feelings of fragility dissipate, as they start to realize that their bodies aren’t made of glass. Their bodies can take a gym beating, grow stronger, and come back ready for more. I especially enjoy the smiles my female clients give after they easily nail a weight that terrified them just weeks before.

Training has impacted my life positively because it gives me a physical outlet, and a two hour chunk of time where I don’t have to do any thinking or business planning. All I need to think about is the numbers I want to hit, what music I want to listen to, and of course, what spandex I want to train in.

 

Where do you get your own programming from? 

I receive my programming from Alanna Casey. She is 3x Arnold Classic Strongwoman Champion, record-holding Powerlifter, World’s Most Powerful Woman, and most importantly for me, she is my role model. She is one of my sponsored athletes, and we have an interesting relationship. If it’s a business call, I assume the lead role in the conversation, and when we discuss my programming, the roles are reversed. She is very attentive to some of my more unique training needs due to body defects, and has helped me greatly over the past year. It is always nice to have someone else do your thinking for you, Even though I program for a pretty large amount of people, I don’t want to write my own.

Taylor working on deadlifts with Brandon. His cues were to keep shins as vertical as possible, pull with explosivity and speed, and avoid the "shrug" on top. This is 185 lbs x3.

 

What are some of your favorite trusted resources for people looking to start a strength training regimen, and how do you suggest they start?

I would be remiss if I didn’t list LBEB as one of my favorite training sources! I love our extensive list of guest authors, because not only do they bring different viewpoints and training methods with their content, they also know that I require all information to be research-based and backed with scientific evidence: If there is no evidence for it, I won’t post it. My biggest concern is LBEB looking incredible, in the literal sense (ie: NOT credible), and that is really reflected in the content we share.

I believe that the most common mistake a beginner lifter makes is trying to follow too many programs at once, and listening to too many varying sources for guidance. It is important to have a guide when you are new, but there are many different ways to reach your goals, and if you try to do them all at once, you will get poor results. By trying to follow two programs to get twice as strong in half the time, you will get half as strong in double the time.

To alleviate this, simply find a program, any program really if you are new, and stick with it to its completion. Don't add in your own programming to it, and don't ask everyone you see for advice, as too many opinions will just cause confusion in your own training. Asking Pros what they currently do for training doesn't make sense: you aren't a Pro. Instead, look at what the Pro did when they started, to see how they became a Pro.

We all started at square one, and know the struggles that go along with it. Stick with it, think about your end goals, and break up your goals into smaller, achievable pieces.

 

We learned one of the classic Strongman lifts, the log press. 

We learned one of the classic Strongman lifts, the log press. 

 

Do you think women and men face different challenges in regards to achieving strength goals? If so, how are they different and how can we support each other in those challenges? 

Yes, I think men and women face different challenges in regards to achieving goals. Unfortunately, most of the problems lie within how others treat those that try to reach goals. Men seem to face detractors mostly from the male population (I call it “nut flexing”). Some men simply don’t want other men to perform better than them, because it reminds them of their own inadequacies.

Women face this from men, as well as other women. I honestly feel terrible for the way that many female lifters are treated, as if “How dare this woman attempt to make herself happy by doing something to better herself?” It is just plain sad to me.

We can support each other with these challenges mostly by keeping our insecure feelings to ourselves. Everyone can see when someone is projecting their own insecurities onto someone else, and detraction can quickly turn a video of a great performance into a fight of whether or not “she looks like a man.”

 

In regards to nutrition, what is the most important thing most women need to implement in their lives (or get rid of) to achieve their goals?

Good question. Naturally I would say to look at what the research says, in regards to nutrition. This doesn’t mean only looking websites with green/natural/alternative in the title, but actual research that may disagree with your current way of thinking.

Many of my most successful female clients have found their success by sticking to a meal plan I have written for them. The most important part is hitting the daily macronutrients I have prescribed. There aren’t necessarily magical “superfoods” that burn belly fat, fight “toxins”, etc. However, by focusing on macronutrient control, you can still eat all the good foods you like, as long as the macro goals are the same. This doesn’t mean that all your calories should come from Taco Bell, it just means that if you get a craving for ice cream or tacos or pizza, eat it! Life is much too short to not get into a little ice cream.

 

Morgan on the log clean & press. The log itself weighs roughly 85 lbs, but is very awkward to finagle at first!

We love that you support overlooked minorities in the weightlifting community, such as women and the LGBTQ community. Can you comment on where your passion comes from in that support?

I am honestly not sure where it comes from. It probably has something to do with the way I was taught history when I was younger (Homeschooled) and I just remember learning about slavery and feeling a great sense of “wrong” about it. I get the same feeling when I see LGBTQ athletes slandered or discriminated against. It just feels “wrong”, I can’t explain it, I suppose, it is just a deep feeling that this is not how it should be. I became a feminist during college, I remember it was almost like a switch went off in my head that said “slavery may have ended in America in 1865, but injustices still run rampant", and they are so prevalent that we don’t see them as out of the ordinary.

I try to bring that type of thinking to LBEB. I know it pisses off a lot of readers, and I may lose them because of it, but I think with my position of very small influence, I have an obligation to be on the right side of history with things like social justice. This puts me at odds with a lot of lifters, but there are still a great deal of good folks out there who see the same problems I see and are dedicated to bettering them in any small way they can.


 

Follow LBEB across the interwebs for tons of training tips & photos of his cute pup Ajax.

LIFT BIG EAT BIG BLOG // YOU TUBE  //  INSTAGRAM @liftbigeatbig  //  FACEBOOK

photo by Chris Rosa

photo by Chris Rosa



 

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Your Stories: Stacy Toth from Paleo Parents

We were lucky enough to be able to chat with Stacy Toth of Paleo Parents about her various endeavors into the worlds of Paleo nutrition, Strong Woman training, and her path to empower women with self-love. She couldn't have been kinder, and we are so thrilled to share all her words of advice with our readers today.

So go grab a cup of coffee, take a seat, get comfy, and settle in to this lengthy interview with one of the strongest and most inspirational women in the Paleo community- And know you'll have a fresh and urgent motivation to go get after your own goals at the end!

    YOUR NEW COOKBOOK REAL LIFE PALEO IS A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO MAKING THE PALEO LIFESTYLE EASY AND SUSTAINABLE. THAT BEING SAID, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO YOUR PERSONAL PALEO LIFESTYLE, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT?

I would say navigating social situations is our biggest challenge. And not just with the kids, but for me as well. I work in an office environment where people bring bagels and doughnuts to work all the time, so navigating these situations in a way where you’re not insulting anyone, while often getting pressure from the people around you to “just have a bite” can be tough, especially since those situations never go away. The thing about being diffrerent in a food-related way is that you can never just take a day off- you always have to eat! So it becomes an ongoing thing that you constantly have to deal with. Learning how to navigate these situations is important, like for example giving yourself a gray area with some foods, learning when to roll with it, knowing where your lines and limits are, and when and how to stick to them is the hard part. 

This is also especially difficult for kids- I can’t imagine being a 6 year old boy and not being able to have birthday cake, or not being able to have the Skittles that the teacher is using to teach math, and not being able to even relax and sit down at lunch with your favorite vegetable because it happens to be green, and the boy next to you thinks that that’s gross. That’s really difficult! They have learn to deal with these situations just as we do, and so I would say that’s the constant battle we’re always facing. 

 

WHAT IS YOUR NUMBER ONE TIP FOR TRANSITIONING KIDS TO PALEO?

Get them involved! There’s certainly a lot of things that need to happen to set yourself up for success, like being prepared, not bringing non-paleo food into the house, etc, but nothing is going to help someone be as long-term successful as getting their kids involved in the process and engaged. From planning to prepping to buying to cooking food, if your kids are involved in that then they’re invested in it and much more likely to try it, to understand why you’re eating this way, and so on. It’s one thing to start a newborn off on the Paleo path, but when you’re talking about say, my 9 year old, who is becoming his own person and making his own choices, the best thing I can do as a parent is set them up for success so that when they’re in a position to make food choices themselves, they make the right ones. 

Stacy and her husband Matt, and their three boys.

Stacy and her husband Matt, and their three boys.

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE A STRONG WOMAN WHO IS RAISING THREE YOUNG BOYS?

Wow, great question. It means to me that I strive to be a role model for all people. I actually minored in Women’s Studies, and even though I’m not a "card carrying member", I do consider myself a feminist and feel very strongly about equality and women being empowered.. and that ultimately translated into me wanting everyone to be empowered. As a mother, I want my kids to know that they’re not always going to be the biggest or the strongest or the best, and that that’s ok! We can all individually be really great at something. I hope that the ability I have to be role model for my boys makes them want to be strong, but mostly I want them to respect the fact that there will be women who are stronger than they are, and that’s ok! I think their dad is a great example, as I’m stronger than Matt in a lot of the “mechanical movements”, and he is wonderfully supportive and encouraging of me.  Sure we have some friendly competitiveness sometimes, but we’re also “rah rah-ing” for one another all along the way, which I think is important for our kids to see. No matter what, I hope I can teach my boys to always be respectful, and to always treat other human beings (including women) with that same respect. 

 

A peek inside Stacy's new cookbook, Real Life Paleo

A peek inside Stacy's new cookbook, Real Life Paleo

YOUR AMAZING BLOG POST I AM STRONG STARTS WITH THE DECISION YOU MADE TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT LOSING WEIGHT AND INSTEAD FOCUS ON GETTING STRONG. WHAT LED YOU TO THIS DECISION? WHAT WORDS OF GUIDANCE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE STRIVING TO MAKE THAT SAME MENTAL SHIFT?

I just stopped caring what I looked like. I had this realization when I was having an emotional conversation with Matt one night, where I was saying things like, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be a leader in a health movement”, and expressing how annoyed I was that I wasn’t losing any more weight.. And Matt just said, “Why do you care?”. He was so nonchalant about it that it struck me- it had never occurred to me that that was something that I didn’t need to care about. And the more I thought about it, I remembered that I had lost and maintained an 100 pound weightloss, I was at the top of the leaderboard at my CrossFit gym, I had improved all my health markers so much that my doctors were recommending Paleo to other patients- I had all these amazing things going for me, and if it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t happy when I looked in the mirror, then I would feel like the most perfect person in the world!

I realized what I needed to work on was my perception of myself in the mirror, and not caring what other people thought, or what I was “supposed” to look like, and instead focus on how I felt, what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. As soon as I reframed that mindset, it became what I wanted my body to be able to feel like, or what I wanted my body to be able to do. And what I wanted more than anything was to be strong. I decided I wanted to set goals for myself that aren’t related to how I look, and I wanted to do it for me.

I knew that even if I got to some “perfect” weight, I’d still look in the mirror and see something I’d want to fix or improve. So instead of obsessing about the weight, it became more important for me to feel good about my body.

This idea of self respect is a big one, and I think it transfers to training in the sense of, “what can my body do” vs “what does my body look like”. I really love setting a big goal for myself (right now I have a goal of a 350 lb back squat). Everyone’s personal goals for themselves might be different, but they all have the ability to decide what it is they want their body to be able to do, and then it just becomes a matter of executing it. For some people that may be becoming healthy enough to carry a baby, for others it may be resolving an auto-immune condition, and for me, in my current phase of life, I want to be STRONG. 

For other women out there: Find people who accept you for who you are- you can only be as strong as the people around you. Even if you’re set up for success but you don’t have a good support network, it’s going to be much harder to succeed with that mental shift. It’s also important to have self respect. I encourage women to not carry guilt or shame about foods they’ve eaten, workouts they’ve skipped, choices they’ve made, etc. Keeping self respect and remembering my goals are what allow me to make the right choices in various situations- I’m not turning down the Ben and Jerry’s because I want to be skinny, I’m doing it because it won’t help me hit my goals for health and strength. 

 

WHAT DOES THE TATTOO ON YOUR SHOULDER REPRESENT TO YOU?

Adeira is a Pheonix, rising out of the ashes, and I feel like I have risen out of the ashes with my health conditions from five years ago, to where I am today. I literally struggled to go up stairs, and had generally just given up on the idea of being a healthy or fit person. My goal with Paleo was to be able to lose enough weight so that I had the energy to play with my kids. So today, to be a competitive athlete is amazing to me. I got the tattoo as a marker of the transition into my Stong Woman training, to remind myself what I used to feel like, and how great I feel now.

 

WHAT DID IT MEAN TO YOU TO TAKE FIRST PLACE AT THREE BIG COMPETITIONS LAST YEAR, AND EVEN SNAG AN INVITE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN STRONGMAN NATIONALS? WHAT OTHER ATHLETIC GOLAS ARE ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU?

I don’t know if I’ve really comprehended it all yet, honestly. To be up against all these incredible athletes who have been gymnasts or lifters for years upon years, and here I am, this thirty-something mom of three, who just got off the couch and lost a bunch of weight and decided to give it a go is wonderful. The community is really incredible too, and being around such a positive energy has been a part of what allowed be to reframe my whole mentality on life. Crossfit, Strongman, weightlifting, etc, has all been such a huge positive force on my life that I could never have anticipated.

Aside from my 350 lb back squat goal, I’d love to be able to make it to the Arnold, so I’m working a lot on my static movements and powerlifting right now.

 

ANY WORDS FOR WOMEN OUT THERE WHO ARE ON THE FENCE ABOUT STARTING WEIGHTLIFTING, CROSSFIT, OR STRENGTH TRAINING?

Just do it. The stars are never going to align, you’re never going to feel perfectly comfortable- that first time walking into a gym is always going to feel nerve wracking and scary- But if you’ve vetted your gym properly and find a place that has an on-ramp or fundamentals program, and coaches that are dedicated to help you learn, and if you’re ready to really take it on in your life, I think what you’ll find is your people

 

YOUR LOVE FOR YOUR OWN BODY DIDN'T NECESSARILY COME EASILY- IT'S BEEN A JOURNEY, LIKE IT IS FOR MOST WOMEN. WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO ARE ON THIS JOURNEY OF SELF LOVE?

Go easy on yourself. It’s not going to happen overnight, and the best you can do is to think positively as often as you can, and if you do that, eventually it will become your default. Find things to love and appreciate about yourself, things to be proud of, things you do well, and feel proud. Make good choices, and feel good about every choice you make.


If you aren't already, be sure to follow Stacy on her Instagram, Facebook, and tune in to her Strong Woman Radio podcasts to get a weekly dose of her positive and motivating attitude!

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Your Stories: Kelsey Nagel

We couldn't be more excited to share this interview with you today! Ladies and gents, meet the gorgeous, funny, humble and totally badass Kelsey Nagel. Together with her amazing team from Crossfit Marysville, she took third place at the CrossFit Games this year- an absolutely astounding feat of strength & endurance. We got to pick her brain and ask her about her life, and we hope you enjoy learning about her journey as much as we did!

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CROSSFITTING AND HOW WERE YOU INTRODUCED TO IT? WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU LOVE IT?

I have been CrossFitting since summer of 2009. I was working in downtown Seattle and a couple co-workers of mine (who were also college athletes) told me about it and roped me into a WOD in the “globo gym” in our building. It was instantly a love-hate relationship. We were those people in the corner doing box jumps, barbell work, pullups etc... You know, the ones that get asked to be quiet and to stop scuffing up the walls and equipment. We felt quite welcome.

I realized I loved the sport after I learned there was a competition side of it. I trained at Lynnwood CrossFit when I first started at a real Affiliate with Jesse Ward, Abi Grove and Diedra Duchane, and I vividly remember the conversation I had with them a couple months after I started: Deidra and Abi told me that I was going to sign up for the 2010 Sectionals that Jesse was organizing for CrossFit HQ not two months later. I was terrified and thrilled at the same time. I finally got to train for something again. I competed at Sectionals that January and qualified by the skin of my teeth for the 2010 Regionals in Puyallup, and the rest is history.

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I realized that I loved it even more when I transitioned to CrossFit Marysville in the summer of 2013 and found a group of people who were just as competitive and driven to make a statement at the CrossFit Games as I was. These people quickly became like family and I am so excited to go into another competition year with them.

HAS YOUR BODY IMAGE CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED CROSSFIT?

Of course. After following main site WODs in the “Globo Gym” downtown for a couple months, I started seeing results; not just in better times or heavier weights, but I saw my upper body gaining tone and muscle. As a soccer player I was used to having larger, stronger legs (have had them my entire life) but I was not used to seeing muscle or size on my upper body... I wasn’t okay with that. 

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I actually stopped doing CrossFit for the sole reason of not wanting to be bulky – I was already 5’11 (and about 6’3 with heels) and single – I didn’t need to be even more intimidating. September of 2008 I had a major hip surgery and was unable to bear ANY weight on my left leg for 3 months. My only option was to swim with a pull buoy and work my upper body. So I set my crutches for that of a 5’5 gal (more work had to be done to crutch) and as soon as I could physically get into a pool I was all over it. 

Over the course of the three months I started getting that upper body muscle that I didn’t like, and then it hit me... I no longer give a sh*t what other people thought about my physical appearance. I no longer cared if people were intimidated by me because I was not only tall but I was built. And since I had to live for 3 months without any weight on my legs (which turned to noodles), I never wanted to not use them to their full potential ever again. I had committed to diving head first into that ‘CrossFit’ thing as soon as my body was ready and healed from the surgery.

About a year later (Sept 2009) I started at Lynnwood CrossFit and never looked back. Through the 5 years of CrossFit I have gained 10-15lbs of muscle and have never been stronger, leaner or in better shape in my life. I get to chuckle that I out-weigh a lot of the guys that I know and am no longer sensitive to being called things like “beast”. I take it as a compliment when guys come up to me and ask me how much I bench and when they get to brag that they are still 5lbs above me in a lift. It took me awhile to get to this point but CrossFit has given me a world that I haven’t seen since the athletic department in college: a bunch of likeminded people who are about always bettering themselves and their game.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO GO TO THE CROSSFIT GAMES AND MAKE THE PODIUM WITH YOUR TEAM?

 I switched to CrossFit Marysville in the summer of 2013. Our goal as a team was to make the CrossFit Games and represent the Northwest on that global stage. Once we qualified, our number one goal was to have fun and perform to the best of our abilities. Of course we wanted to podium, but our thought was just, “it would be amazing to finish top 10”. At the end of the second to last day we were sitting in 3rd overall and sh*t got real. It hit all of us like a ton of bricks...we could not just podium but we had a shot to take the whole thing! After the first workout of the Final day we actually moved up to 1st overall – we were all speechless. The worm gave us some trouble on the final workout but we still managed to keep 3rd place. We got a taste of 1st place and we are hungry to come back and get it next year.

WHAT IS YOUR NUTRITION LIKE? DO YOU HAVE GENERAL GUIDELINES YOU FOLLOW WITH FOOD?

My Name is Kelsey and my life revolves around food. No joke though – Ask anyone, I plan my days around my meals. I once had a tantrum because my parents took us to a Brunch and I threw a fit because that meant an entire meal was skipped...Only Brunch and dinner?! WTF is that about?!

I eat clean though. Food makes me happy and if I limit myself too much on what I eat (i.e. strict paleo/zone etc) then my performance and my attitude suffers. I have realized that I am not going to be that super shredded girl who’s veins pop out during workouts...and I am okay with that. I eat to perform well more than eating for aesthetics.

WHAT DO YOU STRUGGLE WITH MOST IN YOUR LIFESTYLE AND HOW DO YOU WORK THROUGH IT? (DIET, WORK/LIFE BALANCE, A SPECIFIC SKILL, ETC)

I struggle with the fact that there aren’t more hours in the day. I have to get a lot in between 5am and 9pm including work, fitness and family/friends. Most of the time it works and I have the energy to make it all happen...there are days though where I am dragging arse. It comes with the territory though.

IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND GIVE YOUR 20-YEAR-OLD SELF ADVICE ON HEALTH AND BODY IMAGE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I would tell myself to get over the fact that I am not ever going to weigh under 170lbs. That if guys think you are too tall, large or muscular that is their own fault, you shouldn’t be wasting time on them anyway – they are too insecure in their own self to see the breeding potential in you . That strong will be the new beautiful and that there is this thing called CrossFit out there that will keep you competitive, motivated and driven well into your later years.

WHAT'S ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU NEXT? WHAT GOALS ARE YOU LOOKING TO HIT IN THE COMING YEAR(S)?

I would like to qualify for Nationals in weight lifting. I want my team to place, if not win, our next few competitions and of course qualify for regionals and win the 2015 CrossFit games with my CrossFit Marysville Bobcats.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF ABOUT YOUR BODY AND WHAT IT CAN DO?

Honestly, I am most proud of all of it. I’m proud that since college I have added 75lbs onto my bench press, 85lbs onto my power clean, 110 onto my squat, I can deadlift almost 400lbs and I have increased my pullups from 5 to almost 30. That isn’t because of one part of my body – it’s the whole package getting stronger.

ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR WOMEN ATHLETES OUT THERE, BOTH NOVICE & ADVANCED?

Nothing worth having comes without hard work and sacrifice. I would tell women that there is no ideal physical mold for a strong female athlete. Everyone is built & shaped differently. Work EXTREMELY hard on your weaknesses and embrace your strengths. Don’t let naysayers get in your head or in the way of your goals...the female body is an amazing thing and if you put your mind to it, it can accomplish almost anything. Lastly, have fun. The second you stop having fun...you’re doing it wrong. 

Follow Kelsey here & wish her and the Crossfit Marysville Bobcats best of luck this season!

 


 

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