‘Lifting Heavy Transformed My Confidence And Body In My 30s’

I grew up in a very religious home that restricted me from playing sports and a lot of other activities. Everything I was allowed to do was mostly church-related. I often saw my cousins indulging in competitive sports while I sat wanting to join in.

Finally, when I was about 16 or 17 years old, I got my license and had more freedom to explore fitness. It started with a family friend who taught spin classes at our local gym, National Fitness & Racquet Club. I would head to the gym at 4:30 in the morning to take her classes and loved it.

Not long after, I came across a Muscular Development magazine article that featured the strength workout of a WWE star named Sable (Rena Lesnar). I started following the workout after my usual cycling class. It was my intro to strength training, and it opened the door for me to move my body and challenge myself. Within a year, I began teaching cycling classes and realized it was the confidence builder I needed.

By the time I was in college, I had my IFPA (International Fitness Professionals Association) certification, transitioned to strength training three to four times a week, started working at a 24-Hour Fitness, met competitive bodybuilders, and even did a figure competition to see what it was like.

Once I moved to Washington, I started my own personal training and wellness coaching business.

After several years of strength training, a vacation sparked a breakthrough and aha moment in the gym.

During a trip to Uruguay in 2017, I went to a gym where the dumbbells didn’t have the weight listed on them. That day, I did a workout and had to train solely based on how things felt.

The next day, I was super sore and figured I probably grabbed heavier weights than I would have back home. At the time, I’d see a 15-pound dumbbell and think to myself, “This is what I know I can lift because this is what I always lift.”

That experience proved that I could handle more than I thought, and it changed the way I approached what I lifted in my workouts. Since then, I’ve pushed myself to lift heavier and gotten stronger than I thought possible.

I make every strength day a full-body day so I challenge all my muscles consistently.

I currently strength train three days a week, and every session is a full-body workout. In addition to training head-to-toe, I make sure my workout hits all the major movement patterns of the human body. When I’m doing push movements, I might do bench presses, dumbbell presses, and pushups. For pull movements, I’ll do lat pulldowns, pullups, and rows. My press exercises consist of overhead delt moves or shoulder work. Meanwhile, squat variations, lunges, and unilateral work are all go-to’s for lower body work.

Hip thrusts and deadlifts are super empowering as well. The heaviest I’ve hip thrust is 435 pounds, although I’d love to hit 600 one day. As for reps, if I’m working on strength and lifting heavier, I’ll stay in the 3 to 6 range, but sometimes I’ll do 15 to 20 if strength isn’t the priority.

On cardio days, I’ll jump rope, do the agility ladder, take on some box jumps, or hop on the indoor bike for about 20 minutes. Sometimes my cardio will overlap with strength days, and if so, I do cardio at the end of my workouts. Generally, I prefer separating my cardio and strength days.

I take recovery days as seriously as my strength training workouts, and the benefits extend beyond the gym.

On recovery days, I go on walks with my dog, which I consider to be a form of active recovery. I also go to the sauna and do a cold plunge one to two times a week at Connect Wellness, which is amazing. I’ll sit in the sauna at around 220 degrees for 15 minutes followed by a 34-degree cold plunge for two to three minutes for three rounds.

The first few times, I had to learn how to control my nervous system under that kind of stimulus. Now, I can regulate faster and calmly breathe through it. It has helped me handle life outside the gym as a mom in terms of self-regulating my responses and maintaining level-headedness. Aside from that, I focus on getting good sleep.

I used to be focused on staying at a certain body fat percentage to maintain a specific physique. In hindsight, I was holding myself back and restricting how much muscle mass I could put on. I had to tell myself to forget about those numbers if I wanted to start seeing results. Since then, I’ve been able to put on 25 pounds of muscle, and I love it.

As far as nutrition goes, I stick to the same meals for the most part. For my first breakfast, I eat three eggs, sautéed veggies, and a little bit of bacon. Then I get to work and have a mid-morning bagel or oatmeal. For a snack, I’ll do a protein shake and fruit. And lunch and dinner vary as long as it has 40 to 50 grams of protein and vegetables.

I’m proud of my PRs, but my greatest achievement is my consistency and commitment to exercise.

I haven’t done heavy deadlifts in a while, but I recently hit 290 pounds for 3 reps, which was a big accomplishment. I’ve also been able to do 11 pullups. Those are especially hard for me, so being able to get to that point feels really good.

What I’m most proud of is my commitment to fitness—I haven’t stopped in 22 years. I see it as a journey that has no end, it’s something that I want to do forever. If I don’t do it, I don’t feel like myself. You have to remember you’re worth the effort—you have to be a little bit selfish and make yourself a priority.

I want women to know that they’re worth more than their size or how much they weigh. Strength training is one of the biggest forms of self-respect you can do for yourself. Life can be overwhelming, but it’s an undervalued tool to manage mental health. It’s been a saving grace for me, and I want other women to experience that as well.

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