Ramblings On Body Image
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Here’s some truth for you:  I am not comfortable in my current body.

 

Does that mean I hate it? That I stare in the mirror and say shitty things it?

No.

Does that mean I feel compelled to start dieting right this very second and exercise myself into oblivion?

No.

Does that mean that I say fuck it and stop training and eat things that make my body feel not great?

No. Although, I definitely do get down with some “fun” foods occasionally, because #fuckafaddiet.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have days or weeks where I’m pretty unkind to myself, because I’m a human. But more often than not, I don’t really spend much time thinking about the physical appearance of my body.

This is not because I don’t care about my body or my appearance (I do), but because my body is the vehicle that I live in. It is not a source of worth, the most interesting thing about me, or the sole focus of my attention. I do not force myself to be inauthentically “in love” with my body or spend energy shaming and speaking negatively about.

It is neutral territory.

It just IS.

It is ever changing.

It allows me to thrive.

It allows me to do things I enjoy. 

I’m not interested in dogmatic approaches that tell me how feel about my body. I’m not interested in approaches that take away my autonomy to feel and conceptualize by body the way that works best for me. There is not a one size fits all answer to issues of self-concept, self-image, and body image. Do what makes YOU feel best, on your own terms.

Cutting Weight for Powerlifting? Avoid These 3 Beginner Mistakes
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*Note: this article covers the topic of cutting weight to make a weight class for strength sports. This is not an article about fat loss or sustainable weight loss. Cutting weight can be very dangerous and you should consult with your physician before engaging in a cut.*

Prefer video? You can catch a quick video that covers all of this info on my FB Page. 

Cutting weight for strength sports like powerlifting is not a fun endeavor. It’s physically draining and mentally stressful. There can be a lot of panic and worry surrounding those 30 seconds on the scale, especially if you’ve never cut weight before. I won’t get in to when it is advisable for athletes to cut weight or how much is appropriate, because that would be an entirely separate article. Spoiler alert: the vast majority of people do not need to make drastic cuts or cut any weight when competing in strength sports.  

However, if you find yourself in a position where you’re about to cut (an appropriate) amount of weight for the first time, check out the tips below to help you have a successful cut! 

  1. Starting too soon: If you’ve cut out your carbs and salt 3 weeks out from weigh ins....you’re gonna have a bad time. Manipulation of variables like water, salt, and carbohydrates are all tools in the toolbox when it comes to cutting weight. Removing those tools early on leaves you with limited resources to use as you’re close to your weigh in day. A cut based on water manipulation (and subsequent losing of excess water in the body) should start anywhere from 5-7 days out, depending on the athlete and the situation. Don’t limit your resources by trying to cut everything out too soon! 
  2. Doing too much: Much like starting too soon, doing too much can negatively impact your cut and more importantly, your meet day performance. If you’re only 1-2lbs over (and not a very light weight athlete) you likely do not need to manipulate your water and cut carbs and be super dehydrated for days on end. You want to minimize the amount of time that you are depleted and dehydrated for optimal performance on your meet day. Being at weight 4 days out, if you're cutting, is definitely not required or recommended.
  3. Panicking and not trusting the process: When you are cutting weight for the first time, it is important that you have realistic expectations about what the process will be like and what to expect day to day.  For example, when loading water and salt, it's fairly  normal to gain a few pounds on the scale for a day or two. This is totally fine! It is part of the process! But, if no one has set your expectations for you, this can cause you to panic and start taking drastic and often unnecessary measures. Remember, you only need to be at weight for about 10 minutes on weigh in day. Trust the process you or your coach has laid out for you and try to chill out as much as possible.

Again, cutting weight is not something that most people should be doing. It is not a long term fat loss solution or a health booster. It is something done to make a weight class to be competitive in a sport. If you've never cut weight before, I highly suggest hiring a coach to help you through the process. There is quite a  bit of science that goes into constructing an effective, safe cut and rehydration/refeed process that sets you up for a solid performance. It is much easier to have someone else take the reigns in this realm so that you can focus on getting ready for your big event. 

Got more questions on cutting weight? Leave them below!

Body Autonomy: A Coaching Perspective
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If you’re a coach, how many clients have you had say to you “can you just tell me what to do”? I’m guessing that it is at least a dozen. It’s a common and understandable question. Clients come to coaches for their expertise and guidance, which can often look like coaches who hand out plans with “do this or else” type directions.  Somewhere along the way, the focus of health and fitness as an endeavor for total self-betterment was forgotten. Instead, it became a process of checking off items on a list to meet some arbitrary requirements of what we think a health and fitness journey should look like. It became defaulting to “gurus” and coaches and trainers who pushed their own agenda on their clients without caring if their clients even wanted those goals to begin with. Instead of creating a process to help women take ownership of their bodies, it became a process of turning your body over to someone else’s agenda, wishes, and goals. The concept of autonomy has been lost. And quite frankly, that’s a fucking shame.

Body autonomy, or what I call the “your body, your goals” concept, has been glossed over in so many realms of health and fitness. We see a lack of autonomy on several different levels ranging from pressures to look a certain way to not having a say in competing or training. As a client, it may feel like you’re in a dictatorial relationship where the coach’s instructions are not to be questioned or that you must complete a task that aligns with their goals, not yours.  You may feel like like you’re pressured into fitting in to some sort of box - whether that the box of being a powerlifter, being in a particular weight class, losing weight, not losing weight, etc. The point being that as a client, you perceive that a choice is being made for you instead of with you. While some of this may be done with malicious intent (we know that there are some coaches out there who systematically abuse their clients), a good portion of this is done by well-meaning coaches who take the “tell me what to do” demands at face value. If you’re a client who is experiencing this, it is worth it to have a conversation with your coach to discuss your concerns. Good coaches will welcome the conversation and work with you to create a stellar coaching experience. Others may tell you “too bad” and if that’s the case, I highly suggest taking your hard-earned dollars somewhere else.

The process of learning to stand in your power and build confidence is one that can be messy and difficult. I know it was,and still is, for me.  In my short coaching career, I’ve had the honor of working with individuals from all different walks of life ranging from nationally competitive powerlifters to women trying coming back to lifting after serious injuries. Whether you coach in the digital or “real world” sphere, your clients come to you with their own stories and experiences. They may have had very negative coaching experiences in the past, they may have experienced traumatic events, and they may be slow to trust another person. As an athlete who has been in all of those positions, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing coaches.  These experiences have been transformational for me as an athlete and instrumental in helping me become a better coach.

On the coaching side of things, helping clients stand in their power while also giving them direction and guidance can be complicated. This issue is even more complex when coaching women since women tend to be inundated with a significant amount of bullshit surrounding issues of body image, food, exercise, and appearance.  There are so many mixed messages coming from every direction when it comes to women and their bodies. It seems like every day there is a new expectation associated with how women should exist in our bodies and what they should do with them. As a woman, it is an incredibly exhausting experience. As a coach, it is a difficult thing to see the clients you care about be weighed down by the baggage of these mixed messages.

You want to help your clients to embrace the potential that you see in them (even if they don’t see it in themselves, yet). You want the absolute best for the individuals that hire you. You believe in them and their abilities and want to see them also believe in themselves. So how do we, as coaches, encourage autonomy while providing the guidance and expertise that our clients are seeking from you?

  • Let them tell their own story: Women who have had negative coaching experiences, experienced domestic or sexual violence, or other traumatic incidents often do not get to tell their actual story. Stories are told about them to other people. Their stories may get told, but they often do not get to share their experiences in their own words. Allow your clients to share what they want, when they want, and how they want. It is THEIR story, not yours.

 

  • Promote decision making: A common theme for women who have undergone traumatic interpersonal relationships (whether domestic, coaching, or otherwise) is that their decision making power is systematically stripped away from them. Give your clients ample amounts of decision making power. Coach in a collaborative manner and ensure that they feel that they are an active participant in the process. This can mean that perhaps they choose some of their accessory work for their session or that you seek input about what they want to focus on in their next training cycle.

 

  • Focus on strength based progress: This is not limited to adding weight to the bar! Strength based wins can come in the form of rep PRs, volume PRs, or my personal favorite, mental PRs. Encourage clients to find at least one “win” from the session or week and focus on giving feedback on their strength, both mentally and physically.

 

Having a degree of autonomy in my own training is incredibly important to me and it is something I am adamant about for my athletes. Educating, facilitating growth, and confidence building are pillars of my coaching practice and making space for client autonomy is a big, BIG component of accomplishing those things.  Women deserve to feel autonomous in their bodies wherever they are, whether that’s out in public, at home, or under a barbell. I know that it may be easier or more desirable to the client to tell them exactly what to do, no questions asked. But to me, that feels like a disservice. As coaches, I know we can do better for our clients. We can help them come into their autonomy and exercise it, unapologetically.