“I not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. I’m really good at suffering.”
Amelia Boone (The Michael Jordan of OCR).
Way before I began serious training, I had to work on my mental toughness. I read many books, listened to podcasts and talked to a lot of people who have accomplished incredible events including two of my closest friends who have completed the Death Race.
I had so many doubts about my ability to take on the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy. I have never considered myself the type of person who could take on such an event. So why the hell did I sign up?
My sister and I were visiting my parents who live in Fayetteville. I grew up at Ft. Bragg. I was trying to convince my sister to register for a Tough that was taking place where we both live now, in Tallahassee, FL. She was on the computer looking at events and then said there is one at Ft. Bragg and that we should sign up and stay with my parents. We were both so excited about the opportunity to do an event on the hallowed grounds that my dad trained on for so many years. We registered AND THEN read about what the event entailed. I was terrified and immediately began my typical doubts in my ability and my mental strength.
The first Tough I did several years earlier, I hated. I was in way over my head and wanted to quit many times. I even thought about falling off a curb and breaking my own ankle to get out of it. Yes, I was that miserable. Seven of us finished and I was one of them. I came home and threw my patch in a drawer and swore I would never do one again.
The following year a bunch of my friends and clients (I am a personal trainer and own my own gym) signed up for a Light so I got suckered into doing it. It was a great event and soon I forgot how traumatized I was about the Tough I had done.
I signed up for the Tallahassee Tough against my better judgment, but again, my friends and a few of my clients were doing it. I succumbed to peer pressure.
I never work on conditioning and I hate cardio. I had spent the last couple of years training and competing in powerlifting. Anything over five reps was enough cardio for me.
I finished the Tough along with our whole group and not once did I think about breaking my own ankle. Although it was very challenging, I was hooked.
With 7 months until the Joe Warner Bragg Heavy, I figured I had plenty of time to train.
I downloaded a few different programs online and began to focus on becoming an endurance and cardio girl.
I soon found out I was not good at rucking longer distances. One of the first things required for a Heavy was a 12 mile ruck in under 3 ½ hours. My sister, an endurance athlete had no trouble. I on the other hand was dying. I was slow and had all kinds of pain in my feet. My mind began to work against me. I’ve never had much self-confidence and training for and failing the simple task of fast rucking only made things worse.
From the very start, I was thinking about how I could back out.
After screwing around for a couple of months and not getting any better, I hired a coach, Flo Zurkinden who had done many endurance events including the JWBH and several Death Races.
The first few workouts sucked. I was taking a lot of breaks and left gasping for air. The doubt really set in. I made sure that everyone who knew I was signed up, knew I wasn’t sure I had the mental strength to finish. My doubts, my lack of confidence and my fears permeated every part of my life. I became a loser before I even started.
My workouts included running and I hate running. Many times I be out on the trail and as soon as I started getting out of breath and uncomfortable, I quit.
It took a couple of months before I started getting some endurance. I still couldn’t ruck fast even when I added spurts of running. The thing that scared me the most was being last and left behind.
I finally started working on my mindset. I even met with a sports psychologist, things were that bad. We came up with several techniques, the first being to quit telling every one that I lacked mental toughness.
I started training my mind. One of the best things I did, although weird was to read and copy Mark Klemm’s (number 35 in selection) quotes. I had one quote put on a bracelet that I never took off. I had the quote as my screen saver and had a copy in my car. I had my friends and family write personal letters which I laminated and kept in my pack. The other important thing that one of my friends wrote for me was to focus on the task at hand and don’t give any thought to what might be next. That became my mantra.
I covered my weight plate with a picture of my dad receiving his Silver Star after a heroic event he performed in Vietnam. My dad, who served 35 years and is a retired SGM was my inspiration. He spent so much time training at Camp Mackall and I wanted to be there.
Finally everything came together. I was at a place that I was confident in my physical abilities and I began to believe that I could finish. I would finish no matter what.
My sister and I arrived in Fayetteville on the Wednesday before the event. My mom was sick and my sister decided to spend the time with her and not to do the Heavy with me.
My dad is currently in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. We spent the afternoons and evenings visiting with him. Most of the time he doesn’t quite know who I am. Sometimes with coaching, he knows I’m his daughter but doesn’t remember my name.
I don’t want to get into this too much but it’s hard to see my dad, my hero, so vulnerable. I never know what to say to him because he can’t communicate very well anymore. I wanted to tell him what I was about to do but wasn’t sure he would understand.
The afternoon before the event, I asked him if he remembered, Camp Mackall. His face lit up and he said, yes. I told him I was about to do training there. I don’t think he understood that. I wanted so bad to talk to him, ask him questions and share this experience with him but I couldn’t.
I went to War Stories that night. It was great to meet so many people that I only knew from Facebook. I was thrilled to meet, Mark Klemm ie, number 35 from GORUCK’S hardest event, Selection. I wore my, “I finished the day I signed up” shirt. It was a statement he made during Selection that stuck with me. Of course, I got a picture taken with him.
I also took a huge risk by trying to bribe Cadre Dan with a handful of Dons, the official money of Pineland. I figured he’d either think it was funny or he’d make me regret it the next day. Thank God, he thought it was funny.
Friday was a blur. I packed and unpacked my ruck several times. I started to panic. I was worried about bringing the right clothes, the right food and the right gear. My sister helped me weed out the contents of my ruck so it wouldn’t end up weighing 100 pounds.
We had one last visit with my dad before we headed to Southern Pines. I met up with a couple of ladies I knew from FB and had met the night before at War Stories. We made plans to stick together.
At 5:00, everyone was ordered to get in line. It was go time.
Stay tuned for Part Two, Joe Warner Bragg Heavy AAR (after action report)
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July 26th 2015, I competed in my second powerlifting meet. I was the leanest I had been in years. I was strong and I was physically prepared. My numbers weren’t the best. In fact, the weights I was lifting the weeks prior to the meet were much higher. I let myself feel disappointed, but not for long. I knew that that was the last meet I would do. It was a goal and it required a lot of time and hard work, but I was ready to move on.
I actually didn’t want to compete because of the very specific training I had to do which interfered with other goals I wanted to accomplish. I mainly did it because my youngest son, Nigel was competing in his first meet and I wanted to do it together. It was a great bonding experience.
The week I got back, I had much needed surgery on my thumb. I had put it off for a year while I was training and endured a lot of pain. My cartilage was gone and my bones were wearing down from chronic arthritis.
The procedure is Carpel Metacarpal Arthroplasty. They shave down the bones or remove the more deteriorated bone and use the forearm tendon to replace the cartilage. It was pretty invasive surgery. Full recovery can take up to a year. Of course, I knew or rather thought that would not apply to me.
I devised a workout program that I could do to work around my hand. I was quite proud of myself. I busted my ass in the gym despite my disability. Little did I realize that even though I avoided using my hand, that my workouts were stalling my recovery. When the pain didn’t subside and sometimes got worse, my doctor explained that I was still contracting the joint. It was time to take off and focus on recovery.
My lack of consistent exercise soon turned into eating junk and weight gain. It was depressing to see the scale and my body fat go up, yet it didn’t stop me. I ate junk, felt bad and so I ate more junk.
In October of that year, I was slowly working out again but with modifications and then I broke my foot. I spent the next six weeks in a cast. Almost immediately after getting my cast off, I had to have kidney surgery to remove a huge stone and with that came a stint and more time off. Shortly after that, I hurt my back because I rushed back into working out instead of focusing on regaining quality movement and mobility.
Basically, I was injured or recovering from injuries from July through December. Physically, mentally and emotionally, it was one of the lowest points of my life. I ended up completely out of shape and weighing the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.
I was ashamed of my body and felt like a failure as a fitness instructor. Who is going to listen to me when I can’t even get my own crap together?
Last month, after starting and failing more times than I can count, I decided I needed help. Left to my own devices, I will sit on the couch and drown my sorrows in Oreos while watching a Cops marathon. I finally decide to get help. I hired a team of professionals to help me not only with the physical aspects of my life but with the emotional part, which for me is a huge piece of the puzzle.
I got myself a trainer, Beth Andrews,who is helping me reach my next performance goals. I hired a dietitian, Jon Allen to help me relearn to eat healthy and lose this excess fat and I hired a health coach , Carol Donahoe to help me get back on track in all areas of my life.
Having accountability to each of these people is what drives me to succeed. I just started recently and can already see changes in my life. After almost 10 months of being lost, out of control and depressed, I now have a plan of action and a purpose. Although progress is slow since I am just starting with getting my strength back and my eating under control, I feel hope and I feel empowered.
Maybe the last ten months have been a blessing. I now know that if I want to succeed and be the best I can be, I need help. It was a hard lesson to learn but that’s ok because I made the decision to change and I’ve surrounded myself with the right people to help me.
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It’s been so long since I’ve added to my blog. I’ve said this before and I’m embarrassed to say it again. I’m dusting off the blog and getting busy again.
I’m realizing that running a business that requires keeping up with social media, emails, newsletters and marketing and that the writing I love to do and that I’m passionate about, falls by the wayside. That has become the case with my blog.
As soon as I received my 2016 Passion Planner in the mail, I sat down and scheduled time each day to write. I made it as important as any other appointment I schedule. I find that I do better when I schedule things in my planner. I’ve scheduled time to work and time to work out as well
I set the timer on my phone for an hour for each and don’t stop until the timer goes off. That means, no Facebook, no chores and no distractions during that sacred time.
This past year has been tough. I have been sidelined by injuries, surgeries and life. I have hardly worked out since July and am now out of shape and carrying an extra 20 pounds.
After my last Powerlifting meet in July, I finally had the thumb surgery that I had put off for a year. Up until my Carpal -Metacarpal Arthroplasty surgery, I had been training in extreme pain. I sucked it up and continued training knowing that my surgery was scheduled the week after my meet.
I had high hopes for that meet but my numbers (weight lifted) went down during the last months of training. My confidence was crushed with each training day. I would look back at my numbers from the previous year and I wasn’t even close. I wanted to back out and use the pain as an excuse, but the real reason was because I knew I would not do well. I also knew I had to compete. The reason was much bigger than me.
My 20-year-old son, who has always lacked confidence and didn’t like to have attention on himself, was competing for the first time. I was so proud that he was finally putting himself out there. I knew it was such an accomplishment for him personally just to register, knowing that he may not be the best.
I had to set the example. I had to show him that I too could step out of my comfort zone knowing that I would not do well. It was important to me because I know that the lack of confidence I’ve had my whole life and my negative self-talk has been his model. I regret that.
He did great. He set PRs and more importantly, ignited a passion within to continue competing
I, on the other hand, have decided not to. It’s not because of my confidence. It’s because I have set other goals that are more important to me; goals that I have put aside so I could focus on my powerlifting.
I got with my coach and set my goal of completing the RKC’s Iron Maiden Challenge. If you’ve read through my posts you’ll see that that has been one of my goals for several years. That is the goal that I am passionate about.
The Iron Maiden is a huge feat of strength, one that requires consistent training and lots of patience. It’s a goal that does not come easy and may take me a year or longer to achieve.
The challenge is to press, pistol squat and do a pull up with a 24 kilo Kettlebell. That is 53 pounds. Fifty- three pounds of iron; a weight that is so far out of reach at this moment. That is why I have to do it.
My goal goes way beyond just the Iron Maiden. I want to do it to prove to myself that nothing is impossible just because I’m 53 years old. More importantly, I want to inspire and ignite passion in women who think that they cannot accomplish big things because of their age.
So, follow me, better yet, join me in setting a big scary goal and let’s show ourselves and the world that we are strong and powerful no matter our age.
Laurel aka, Super Strong Nana, who is weak as a kitten right now.
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It’s January 31st and by now many people have already reverted back to old habits and behaviors and their New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Does this sound like you?
January 1st is just another day. There is nothing magical about this day but somehow it’s become the day when it seems everyone is making resolutions to lose weight, join a gym, quit smoking and make other abrupt changes in their lives. The problem with this is that many people set these goals without a clear plan of action of steps to take and plans for backsliding.
Starting out on new goals and behaviors is exciting but what do you do when that initial motivation begins to wane? What actions and plans do you have in place when getting to the gym or doing exercise becomes a chore? What about plans for backsliding? This is when many people give up. Then the target day to change becomes Mondays, or the beginning of the month or God forbid, on the first day of the following new year.
The good news is that you can start over anytime. You can start your day over anytime. The point is, never give up. Accept that you may have blown your resolve. Get over it fast and pick yourself back up. Changing is not easy. It may take many attempts and many failures but do not give up.
Get a notebook and write down very specific goals. Put a deadline to each goal. Most importantly, write specific things you will do each day to reach your goals AND write some action steps to take when you feel yourself falling by the wayside.
Believe me, I have to pick myself back up many times. I have never claimed, nor will I ever claim to be one of those fitness professionals that always eats clean, works out every day and never struggles with body image. I’ve had a life time of bad habits, low self-esteem and disordered eating and it’s not going to change over night. I just refuse to give up. I certainly get down on myself, but I always manage to get right back on track.
Part of my success in not throwing in the towel and giving up completely is writing. I keep a journal. I write down goals, both personal and professional. I set deadlines. I write action steps and I get help if needed from people who have more experience in areas than I do. I work with a trainer and a business coach. I surround myself with people who are goal oriented, successful and like-minded. When I get off track, lose focus or begin to doubt, they are there to set me straight and get me on task.
If you feel lost or have given up, do yourself a favor and find mentors. Find people who emulate the kind of life you want to live and who are the kind of people you want to be like. Start keeping a journal. Set goals. Expect there to be ups and downs but have a plan in place to deal with them so you can get back on track fast.
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I am a data freak! I admit, I am one of those obnoxious runners that take five minutes to set my heart rate monitor, MapMyRun app, my Round Timer and the perfect playlist. Thankfully, my running partners do the same. I love the data. I want to see my heart rate, how many calories I burn, how far I ran and how fast (slow) I went. The same goes for my weight lifting and gym workouts.
Although I haven’t done a bodybuilding competition in almost 20 years; I still have my workout and food journals. I knew every workout, weights lifted, sets done, how I felt and every morsel of food that went in my mouth. Yes, I was obsessive, but I had to be. I had to know where I was in order to get where I was going.
Setting goals, which I am adamant about and which I blog frequently about are one of the most important things you can do on your fitness journey. Once a goal is set, there needs to be a specific plan. It’s like taking a road trip. You have a destination (your goal) and your plug that into your GPS and follow directions. Next thing you know, you’ve arrived at your destination.
The best way to follow the map to reach your goal is by collecting and keeping data. Obviously, you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am, but you do need to figure out a way to track your progress that works for you.
The easiest way I find is with a good old-fashion training log. My personal favorite is the Convict Conditioning Training Log which you can see below.
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This quote by French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery hits the nail on the head for me and for pretty much everyone I coach and train. One of the things I like to do when I meet with clients is to get them to set a goal. This is what I get, “I need to lose weight”, “I’m going to try and lose weight”, “I would like to exercise more”, “My Doctor said, I need to lose 50 pounds”, “I want to get in shape”, “I want to be more toned” and my personal favorite, “I need to lose (fill in the blank with unrealistic number) for my wedding next month”.
So without a plan of action, these people; without intervention, will continue spinning around in the cycle of diet hopping, changing workout plans and trying every quick fix available on late night TV, only to find themselves right back where they started.
Does this sound like you?
The answer is simple. Set a realistic, specific, exciting goal that when accomplished will have you jumping for joy and feeling so empowered that you are ready to take on the world.
Here are the steps:
1. Make a goal. Be as specific as possible! If you want to lose weight, how much? Is it realistic? Do you want to hike a mountain in a foreign country? Is it realistic? This goal does NOT have to be about weight loss. It can be about anything. The process is the same.
2. Write it down! Get that goal on paper. I prefer good ol’ pen and paper as opposed to the computer. There is something about the person connection of writing that seems to have more power. Having a goal, no matter how good floating around your head with everything else is going to get lost, so write that sucker down.
3. Write it down. Yes, it’s that important. Put it somewhere you can see it throughout the day.
4. Get support. Ask positive people and family members for support. Have them join you. Stay away from those who discourage you with well-meaning comments like, “You don’t need to lose weight, you are fine just the way you are”. Yes, you may be fine, but are YOU happy with where you are? That is all the matters.
5. Set a date. Your goals need to have a sense of urgency or they will never happen. Again, be realistic. If you have a lot of weight to lose, give yourself 6 months to a year. If you reach your goal before that…AWESOME!! If you plan to run a marathon or climb a mountain, make arrangements, pick a race far enough away that you have plenty of time to train without getting injured.
Here is an example of my goals that are written at my gym for all to see. To my surprise, I’ve reached and surpassed a few of them and had to make them bigger.
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I have accomplished a lot over the past year in my training. Even though I had to take time off to heal from a ruptured tendon in my hand, I was able to set quite a few personal goals including weighted chin ups, a half marathon and a Goruck challenge.
My ultimate goal still remains the same and that is to complete the RKC’s Iron Maiden Challenge. This feat of strength is to do a pull up, pistol squat (one leg) and a press with a 24 kilo (53 pound) Kettlebell. It’s an exciting goal in that, it may take a long time, possibly a year to reach and it’s a humbling goal for the same reason.
While doing the training towards reaching my IM goal, I decided (was talked into) doing a powerlifting meet. My training partners are all guys young enough to be my kids and I find on many occasions, I get caught up in their goals and their training which for me, is a good thing. I find working out with these guys challenges me to lift more, do more and get a little competitive, so when they decided to do a powerlifting meet, I was up for the challenge.
We picked a meet in Orlando that was three months away. Up until this time, I had done some deadlifting and very little bench pressing and no back squats. My main workouts up until that point were Kettlebells. I contacted my trainer/coach, Brett Jones who has been training me online for just over a year. We discussed new programing and set new goals. What I love about my coaching from Brett is that his first concern is always my movement and my form. I had to send videos of all of my lifts for his critique and approval and only then did he started me on my program.
Training with “the boys” taught me to challenge myself, believe in myself and keep my training in line with my goal. I have to admit, I have training ADD. I have a hard time sticking with my goals or I have too many goals at one time and therefore will not make progress. These guys made sure to shut me down whenever I tried to veer off of my program. If I tried to superset my lifts, they were on me. If I didn’t take enough time between sets, they were on me. When I ran over to do some pull ups while waiting for my next set, they made fun of me.
I had no real expectations for my first meet…until I saw the Florida state records for my age group..and then it was on.
I printed out the records, made them my wallpaper for my phone and looked at them constantly. Even with just a few months to train, I knew I wanted to break those records. I was driven and focused.
Focusing on strength training and powerlifting taught me a lot about myself both physically and mentally. The physical lessons are pretty evident. Strength is as much as skill as it is just being able to lift heavy stuff. Finding my groove, my foot placement, my hand placement, breathing patterns, perfect form and practicing these with every single lift whether a warm up set or max attempt takes practice. Not taking the time to learn the skill and the right set up and preparation for ME is the difference between making a heavy lift seem easy and not being able to lift a weight I know I am capable of.
Physically, I know I am pretty strong with lots of potential to get stronger. Mentally, I have a whole lot of work to do. My first thoughts upon starting a training session and looking at the weight and reps on my plan are, “That’s heavy”, “I don’t think I can lift that much”, “Has Brett lost his mind”? “I can’t do this”, “I am not strong enough” and then goes the downward spiral until my thoughts center on what a weak loser I am.
Yes, I may be physically strong enough, but if my head isn’t in the game and believing that I can kick ass; my attempts are futile.
It was so bad that the guys would put the weights on the bar and not tell me how much and because I can’t add well or do barbell math, I didn’t know what I lifted until the set was over. At my meet, Vince, who handled Dave and I, didn’t tell me what any of my lifts were. All he did was ask how I felt and then told the judge what my next lift would be. I just went out there and lifted.
I know at the meet, I did not lift as heavy as I did in some of my training sessions and that is ok. I broke the state records for the Masters 50 and over and therefore reached my goal. People back home were asking me how much I lifted and what my numbers were. I had no clue until Vince told me several days later. I think had I known how much my attempts were, I would have psyched myself out.
So I’m going to do another PL meet in the fall. This time I will strengthen my mind as well as my body. I will not allow negative thoughts to rent space in my head. I will approach each set, each rep and each lift with confidence. I will know how much weight is on the bar and I will crush it. I will train with intent, I will follow my program. I WILL break the state records that I have set already.
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I could come up with a million excuses on my absence, but really, I have none. I feel bad about leaving all of my readers (mom) hanging for so long.
So much has happened in the past year but to write about all of that would be overwhelming for me and all of my readers (mom).
So, let me start with the best thing that happened to me this year. I have another grandchild! Andrew Blackburn was born on January 15th of this year. As with the birth of Ava, I immediately fell in love. There is nothing that fills my heart with pride more than watching my son, Ryan being a devoted, loving husband and father.
I’m sure as grandparents, we still see our children as children. Sometimes it boggles my mind to realize that he now has his own family and that his wife and children are the center of his world. The loss of the old relationship broke my heart. On his wedding day, I knew that I was no longer the woman in his life but instead from that day forward, Erin would be the woman in his life. As I said at his wedding; I could not have hand picked a more perfect woman for my son. Ten years later, I can still say the same.
One thing that I am most proud of is that I raised a caring, gentle, loving son. He is my gift to Erin and to his children.
Ok, enough mushy stuff. Here are the pictures of my new grandson, Andrew and a few of my favorite girl, Ava.
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I’ve recently let the guys from Tallahassee Strongman use my gym for their training. I decided to join them when I could between my other workouts.
These workouts are tough but so much fun. I leave feeling empowered and proud that this almost 51 year old grandmother can accomplish amazing feats of strength. I know that many women and men my age feel that it’s time to slow down. They are afraid that hard challenging workouts are not in their cards anymore. I’m here to tell you that it’s not true.
With proper progression and a solid program that includes joint mobility and movement prep along with recovery, almost anything is possible.
I am constantly inspired by people my age and older who do not let the aging process slow them down. I am in awe of those people doing Ironman, marathons, powerlifting and other seemingly impossible workouts.
They motivate me to continue to get stronger and more fit. My golden years are going to be my best ever!
Here is a video of Sunday’s workout with the guys. I pulled and SUV and did a 115 pound atlas stone lift. Now that was fun!
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Wow, what happened to the year? Seems like I just turned 50 not long ago. Fifty has been great and I am looking forward to 51. Crazy to think that I will soon be a woman in her “50s”.
I remember thinking 50 was old..hell, I remember thinking 30 was old. Aging was always a scary thought. I think it was because my perception of older people, especially those over 50 was what totally wrong. I used to think that I would be overweight, move slow, drive slow, have a ton of wrinkles, drive a sedan, eat at cafeterias and start all my sentences with, “When I was your age”.
Reality is that I am in better shape, move better and look better than I have in the past 50 years. I drive an awesome fully loaded Chevy Avalanche and I’m happy to report that I have not eaten in a cafeteria. Ok, I have to admit that I have used the words, “When I was your age” a few times, but only to make a point.
One of the best things that I have found that comes with age is that I am less concerned with what people think of me. I can’t tell you how much that has changed my attitude and my self esteem. With age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes peace.
This month I am going to feature interviews with some incredible men and women in their 50s who inspire and motivate me and I hope it does the same for you.