Saturday, 21 April 2018

Bad Ass Female Coaches

Bad-Ass Female Coaches

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some incredible powerlifting coaches, particularly of the female variety.

But when I thought about it, I realised women were in the minority. There is only a handful of female coaches turning up at comps with clients on the platform. The powerlifting community is a beautiful community, we support each other and have each other’s backs, so I feel incredibly lucky to have a small group of female coaches who I admire and am lucky enough to call colleagues. I watch these ladies closely and learn from them and there is one common theme that I see amongst us all.

There is NOTHING we won’t do for our clients.

For this post I want to focus on four bad-ass female coaches in particular, coaches who are consistent with their own training and the message they share. These women 100% walk the talk, they take care of themselves, they preach health and wellness and they are strong AF. Physically and mentally. What more could you want from a coach?

Before I dive into it, I want to also give a shout out to all the other women, like these four, who are also doing awesome things for the powerlifting scene in Brisbane, not to mention the coaching scene in Brisbane in general.

Alicia Fistonich – Valhalla Strength, Brisbane

Alicia is a woman I have admired from afar for some time. A mother, an athlete, a coach; she’s not afraid to be all three at once and doesn’t give a flying fuck what people think. I remember watching Alicia at a comp happily breast feeding her little man whilst getting a client ready to step out on the platform. She then carried her little guy for what seemed like hours throughout the day of the comp while he slept peacefully in her arms and unaware of what was going on around him. I was completely in awe.

CC:       Tell me about your passion for powerlifting and coaching.

AF:       I initially got into powerlifting because it taught me to change my perspective of myself. I was training to be strong and fit, not just physically but mentally, [and] being able to dig deep and do those reps that were tough or hitting numbers that you never in a million years could comprehend being able to hit. 

Now I love it still for all these reasons and so many more. If you don’t put in the work, you sure as shit aren’t going to get the results you want. It teaches you how to listen to your body and how to work harder as well. It teaches you to be disciplined and to trust the process and the people. Feeling strong is a powerful feeling when embraced correctly. When you feel strong you present a strength to others as well and the mindfulness you learn in this sport can be applied to anywhere.

CC:       What about comp day? How do you feel when you’re leading a client through the pressure of competition?

AF :      I get so excited for my clients! I absolutely bloody love to show people what they can do when they have all but written themselves off. I hardly ever tell anyone their third attempts, so it is so fricken exciting to surprise people haha.

But mostly excitement, elation, happiness and then extreme tiredness. Coaching clients into comp has taught me the importance of trusting the process whatever it may be. To be able to go into a situation, switch off to everything else and just focus on doing something we do a hundred times a month is an important skill.

A big thing for me is to not apply limitations to yourself. Don’t limit yourself to attempts and numbers; aim higher, take what is in front of you on the day and then run with that. Ultimately, coaching is a team effort not a dictatorship, and it is important to listen to your athlete.

CC:       What’s next on the agenda for you?

AF:       Finish Uni! Ha, but no, seriously, I’ll be halfway through my Exercise and Sports Science degree at the end of this year and then onto my Masters of Exercise Physiology, so this is a big goal for me. [It’s also] time for me to get some more competing under my belt now the boys are a little older. To me it is important that they also see what you can achieve if you are consistent, patient and work hard.

CC:       You are one hell of a mother, coach, athlete and colleague Alicia. Keep rocking it out.

I couldn’t write a blog about inspiring kick-ass female coaches without mentioning the incredible women in my team at Ritual HQ. Libbie, Kirsten and Braeden are all amazing coaches with a diverse background and keen interest in helping their clients with not just their training, but also their mindset.

Braeden Small – Ritual HQ, Brisbane
At just 22, Braeden is a coach to be reckoned with. I consider Braeden to be one of our most senior coaches. She has coached both male and female clients into several comps and has several more comps under her own belt, and is fast becoming one of Brisbane’s most sought after coaches. With almost a full book of clients, I can’t wait to see what this bad-ass female coach achieves over the next few years and I have the privilege of being in the front row to see it.

CC:       Tell me about how you got into powerlifting and your experience as a powerlifting coach.

BS:       I originally started out in powerlifting because of you and Tyler driving my desire to get back into some sort of competition environment. I could see the benefit of the sport of powerlifting and wanted to learn more about it. I love the focus and structure I get from powerlifting and the knowledge I gain, which I can pass onto my clients in their coaching sessions. 

CC:       Competition days are a big deal for athletes. Is it a big day for you too?

BS:       I feel like a proud mum! I love the connection I share with my client on the day and the excitement and sense of achievement between the two of us, it really is the best feeling. Being a coach for competitive athletes has really taught me to manage my emotions. No matter how stressed or nervous I am feeling, I have to manage my state and remain calm because it’s not about me, it’s about them!

CC:       So, what’s next for Braeden?

BS:       You will see me back on the platform in September, alongside my dad and brother! For now, my focus is to continue to get stronger, maintain consistency and enjoy the build up.

Lily Riley – TTC Strength and Powerlifting, Brisbane
Another woman who regularly rocks my world and is worthy of a mention is Lily. Lily goes from squatting 200kg to being scared of a bird who wanders into her gym to rocking a bikini with a cocktail in her hand in Bali. Balance is key, as is a fun approach to life. If we take life too seriously in this game, then we lose. Straight up.

Lily regularly inspires me with her commitment to herself, her clients and her life, but more so with her balanced approach. Working out of TTC, a big name and predominantly male-dominant powerlifting gym, Lily rocks it there on a daily basis and works with both men and women to help them become way stronger than they ever imagined possible.

Lily recently helped me in my final days leading into comp. I had some massive inflammation due to an injury which threw my bodyweight out. Lily checked in with me each day, supported me, offered suggestions and generally took on the emotion that I was experiencing. Whilst she couldn’t physically do anything to help me, knowing that another strong-ass female powerlifter understood what I was going through and offering moral support made all the difference. It’s the small things, and the extra care that we show, that make us women unique, as coaches.
Keep rocking it out Lily. 

Alesha Pimm – Building Elite, Brisbane
My final girl crush is Alesha. Alesha has competed in a couple of federations and has also taken clients into prep. I love watching Alesha with her clients; what you see is what you get, she doesn’t pretend to be anyone that she isn’t, and I absolutely love that about her. She’s all about getting women strong both physically and emotionally.

It’s clear that she has a deep connection with her clients and is genuinely interested in their success. Alesha, keep rocking it out, I bloody love you and I love watching what you do for the women of this world.

CC:       Alesha, what got you into powerlifting?

AP:      I got into powerlifting roughly three years ago, primarily because of the coach and gym I was training with. Coincidentally, it was the same network that sparked my interest in strength training, altogether, so I owe a lot of credit for who I am today to my very first coach and that gym.

The intention behind my first competition was purely to experience the environment I’d watched from the sideline. On the day, I felt how it brought the community together, the cool attitude of the women I competed with and the fun I had, which is what kept me going back!

CC:       Why do you love it?

AP:      I love the essence of it. To constantly strive to better yourself – and not necessarily the old idea of you vs you, but just purely to be better in how you perform, in how you handle training, in how you self-regulate. There are so many ways to improve in our lives and just simply looking at it as the opportunity to get stronger misses so many elements of who we can be.

CC:       What emotions do you feel on the day of a client's comp?

AP:      It’s a concoction of, “Holy shit, am I ready for this?” and, “The girls are going to do so well!”

I think that’s a pretty common coach thing – nerves and excitement. But the nerves are generally about how I’m going to fall on my face or misload a bar, or accidentally give the wrong next attempt to the table for my lifter haha. I have full faith in my clients and the work we have put in as a team. The greatest feeling I get on the day though, is watching my girls be badass athletes and blow their own expectations out of the water. My favourite moment is that complete elation on a client’s face when they turn to me after a PB!

CC:       What has coaching a client in a comp taught you about yourself as a woman?

AP:      Coaching at my first powerlifting competition was a whole new world of emotions, as is any new experience, but the feeling has evolved over time. The key thing I’ve learnt is that women have an intuitive power of stillness and quiet, and that power harnessed at the right time can displace any force.

For myself it was learning the importance of self-regulation. The ability to breathe away nerves and cultivate a nuturing environment, especially in the buzz of comp day, has been a key to bringing my clients to PBs and always leaves us having had an awesome day.

It’s also something that has hugely benefited my clients in their training and competitions. They have their own individual rituals to regulate and reset and that makes us as a team more comfortable and confident, leaving us free to apply effort where needed and enjoy the day.

CC:       And what's next for you?

AP:      What’s next for me? There’s plans to compete again later in 2018, as well as return to university (god knows why) for my Masters of Physiotherapy in 2019, a long term goal of mine. For 2018, though, my focus is on leading Building Elite so our team can compete strong and proud later this year, across all of our diverse sports. We’re looking at a huge year, it’s really exciting!

This list is by no means exhaustive. These four women are simply bad-ass coaches who I have connected with over the years or who I have shared experiences, knowledge or a connection with. They are incredible, so follow them online or hit them up in person if you’re keen to learn more. 
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Saturday, 24 February 2018

Why I am a Competitive Powerlifter

I often wonder why I put myself through the rigours of getting up on a platform once or twice a year, to be watched by hundreds of people while I pull the ugliest faces I am capable of and potentially pissing myself in the process.  There is nothing glamorous about competing in a powerlifting comp, and for someone who openly cares about her appearance and throws makeup on every day, it certainly doesn’t align with how I appear on the outside. Then there is the lead up; I commit to twelve full weeks of no drinking, early nights, good quality food and weighing myself regularly.  

One of the ugly faces!

So why do I do it?

The line is drawn: I know what my ideal body weight is for my size. Once a year, by competing, I am ensuring that I maintain my weight. It gives me a reason, other than the way I look, to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight for me. Everyone’s weight fluctuates, even mine. Knowing that I need to sit in a particular weight class to compete each year keeps me accountable to my weight and my health. Not that this is all about the scales – to be honest, I don’t even weigh myself when I’m in an off-season. However, I know what my body looks and feels like at the correct weight for me, so I don’t allow myself to creep too far from that range because I know how hard it is to get it back off for comp season.

An uncomfortable goal: I’m not ecstatic about competing to be honest, which is exactly why I do it. It’s uncomfortable. There is no point setting goals that sit in your comfort zone. There is no sense of achievement at the end. It’s like, meh. When I get to the end of a comp and I know I have committed myself entirely to that 12-week process, it is an incredible sense of achievement (and relief!). Because there are many, many times during the prep process where I consider giving up. So, to get to the end without quitting, be on-weight and hit a couple of PBs along the way, is always something I am exceptionally proud of. Throw into the mix the juggle of motherhood and business and I know I have achieved something great (for me).

Challenge misconceptions: Competing in a powerlifting comp is also about challenging what is ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ for a mother who has had two kids and a hysterectomy. Whilst there are loads of mothers powerlifting, there can never be enough as far as I’m concerned. Let’s change this misconception that we lose our strength through childbirth and motherhood, or that it isn’t ok to lift heavy things because you might hurt yourself and be unable to look after your kids. Oh yes, I’ve heard all of it. The other misconception that I try to smash every year is what the perceived maximum weight is for a small person like me to lift. For a long time, I ran a belief system where I had a maximum capacity for my lifts. What I have come to realise over the last few years is that the only limit is what you place on yourself. If I can continue to add even just 1kg to my lifts each year, I am continually improving and getting stronger, all whilst getting older.  Yes, mass moves mass, according to the powerlifting community, but I also believe strength moves mass. So I’m choosing to get stronger, not bigger.

Injury prevention: Yes, you read that right. I put myself in a State Powerlifting comp to prevent injuries. When I am following a carefully structured program, training regularly and progressively loading the body, I have less injuries. I also invest in more maintenance during this time, like chiropractic treatments and massage. This ensures I successfully achieve that uncomfortable goal. So, if you tend to live in a constant state of injury, perhaps change your thinking about your training – maybe you need to get MORE uncomfortable with your training goals. Additionally, when the focus is sharp, there seems to be less time for the unnecessary dialogue that can lead to unnecessary injuries or self sabotage.

My kids: They are the driving force for most things I do. I want my kids to grow up seeing their mum put herself out there and challenge herself. I want them to remember me as someone full of strength and determination. Someone who led a healthy life and set stretching goals and then did everything she could to make sure they happened. When I feel like giving up, I think of them and what I want them to do in times of significant doubt – and I soldier on.

So I ask you – when was the last time you set a goal for your training that made you feel physically nervous and very very uncomfortable? A goal that made you put your body, your health and your training higher on the list of priorities?
I’m not just a full time powerlifter, I’m also a mum, a partner and a business owner working extraordinary hours. I do facilitation work, I mentor other business owners and I write. I am also a powerlifter – why? Because it enables all of the other areas of my life to work cohesively together.
Perhaps it is time to rethink your goals.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Let's not judge

Being in the public spotlight, albeit in our humble little suburb, opens me up for regular criticism. I have come to accept and embrace the notion that I will always have haters, or people who don’t agree with what I say and do, and people who judge me for the decisions I make and the stand I take on certain issues.

And that’s ok.

However, I am still human. So despite my bravado, sometimes criticism stings a little. My saving grace is that I’m surrounded by an amazing circle of support and an incredible boyfriend, who always remind me that to fight the fight I am fighting and to live with purpose is to invite haters. It comes with the territory and it means I am exactly where I need to be.

I’ve lost friends, clients and members of my community over the years. Not because I’m not doing my job well, but because I confront the big issues and I encourage people to own their shit. Not everyone likes to own their shit. Instead, they like to show it to others and turn it into someone else’s shit – this allows them the opportunity to continue to NOT own their own shit. Try and say THAT fast three times.

Do I get it wrong sometimes? Hell yes. Do I own it when I do? Absolutely.

One thing that I really don’t agree with or encourage is to judge parents, especially mothers. ESPECIALLY single mothers. C’mon ladies – this gig is TOUGH. Do we really need to publicly judge or ridicule each other or talk about each other behind our backs?

I’ve been judged for a lot of things over the years; choices I have made, views I’ve expressed both in my writing and in speaking gigs. I’ve been criticised for ending a marriage, having an au pair, having a nanny, working full-time, shacking up with and then falling in love with a much younger man. I get criticised for the positive and close relationship I have with my ex-husband. I’m judged for choosing to live separately from my boyfriend, Tyler, for the first 3-and-a-bit years of our relationship (actually, I get comments on all areas of our relationship, it doesn’t seem to matter that we are blissfully happy and in love).

I’ve had people comment regularly on the fact that Tyler does no parenting of my kids – why the fuck should he? He’s not their dad! They have a dad and they didn’t ask for another one! And he didn’t fall in love with the kids, he fell in love with me, it just so happened that I came as a package deal! Wrap your head around that and judge away.

Non-conventional? Yep! Happy as two pigs in mud? Oh, you have no idea ;)

I make a conscious choice to be quite open about my life on social media. If people are going to connect with me because of what they have seen on social media, I want it to be authentic. I want it to be honest. Mistakes and all. I'm not just going to present the blissful side of my world, I'm going to be transparent and present all sides of my world. This opens me up for judgment because, yes, sometimes I make mistakes. I don’t want people to see a blissfully happy life, free of mistakes, issues and normal human stuff, because that wouldn’t be me.

Here’s the thing I don’t understand though, when did we as humans decide it was acceptable to judge parents? Being a mother is fucking hard. Being a single mother is NEXT level hard. Sorry to all the mums who are still married, but it is. It’s not lost on me that I got the good end of the deal when it comes to marriage separations. I have a good relationship with my ex-husband, which gives me some flexibility of care.

But no matter what your custody arrangement, as a single parent, you are trying to be everything for your kids when you have them in your care – the mum, the dad, the full-time worker, the company director, the daughter and family member, the friend, you name it. It’s an extensive list and a lot of balls to keep in the air. When someone throws judgment at me for a parenting decision I have made, it’s hard to not let that sting deep. Because at the end of the day, we are all doing our very best with the resources and knowledge we have and I am CERTAIN there isn’t a parent alive who doesn’t have some level of regret for a shit parenting decision they have made at some point. Mother's guilt is VERY real. 

Why do we believe we have the right to make this suffering worse for a parent? I know I make curly decisions regarding my children that some people really struggle with. But these decisions are between their dad and I. I know I am going to screw up many more times as my kids enter their teens. I am shit scared of taking my daughter through her teens, she is EXACTLY like me – headstrong, independent and moody.

Am I shitting myself? Absolutely.

What I am most worried about though, is the public commentary I am going to get around my kids as they grow into young adults. They don’t deserve that and nor do I. I am proud of the parent I am. I am incredibly proud of the little humans I have created and managed to keep alive for nine whole years. I am mostly proud of the job my ex-husband and I are doing as a united front to raise them in an unconventional living arrangement.

Our kids have a beautiful acceptance and love for every possible relationship combination and they truly understand that it is important to be loved and to love whole heartedly in a relationship. They understand that life is incredibly short and that it’s ok to take risks and embrace adventure.

So yes, I get judged for taking them on scooters in Bali (you should have seen the joy on their faces as they rode through the streets of Seminyak taking in the sites and smells) or white-water rafting in crazy wild water followed by some risky Balinese village-prepared lunch. I am sure eyebrows were raised for letting Sam go out on a fishing boat without me in Fiji. But I can guarantee my kids are creating incredible memories and are learning that it’s ok to take calculated risks.

On our most recent holiday in Fiji,  I watched my daughter snorkel out on the ocean. She clung to me and our guide for a bit, then she gently let go and floated away from me. I watched her get a reasonable distance from me before she realised. She got a little fright and swam back to me. For all my perceived faults as a mother, it’s worth it to see the look on her face when she realised what she had achieved. 

So, before you go judging me, or any other parent for that matter, how about we all just take a breath and remember that we are doing our best in a very tricky, judgmental world. Let’s celebrate each other, love each other and lift each other up, and embrace all of our differences and appreciate that we all are just trying to keep these small people alive.


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