I Am Enough: A Tale of Two Women

I Am Enough | stephgaudreau.com

I am enough.

But I wasn’t always convinced of that.

Let me share with you a tale of two women:

On the left was me in 2011. I’d just finished the Tahoe City Xterra race and a season of off-road triathlon. Prior to that I spent 8 years racing mountain bikes – much of it in the endurance domain of 6+ hours – and running long distances.

What you might see is a woman who looks trim and confident and loves her body – but that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

I obsessed about my body, and I never felt small enough, even though this was the lowest weight of my adult life at about 58kg (128 pounds).

It was never enough. I was never enough.

I used competition to validate how I felt about myself and always pushed myself to do longer and harder events in order to prove my worth. I medicated myself off the stress response I got from punishing my body. It was exhausting.

What you don’t see in that photo is how weak I was, how much back pain I had, the terrible saddle sores I dealt with, the pain of a failing relationship, and how I constantly put myself down.

Funny how we tend to think that just because someone looks a certain way, their life must be friggin’ great. 

It took a few years but gradually I started to change a lot of things about my life.

I started really eating to nourish myself. I started strength training – I was introduced to it by CrossFit – and focusing on what my body could DO rather than how it looked or how much I weighed. I left my relationship. I eventually left a career that was safe but didn’t fulfill me. I read a lot and worked with some amazing coaches. I scoured the Internet for quality information about mindset and nutrition and fitness to conduct this experiment of one.

And you know what? I eventually found peace, and I started loving me for me.

It didn’t happen overnight but it did happen. It’s not perfect. I still have my moments, but life is infinitely more gratifying. 

On the right is me just a couple weeks ago. I weigh about 70kg (154 pounds)…yes, over 25 pounds more.

I routinely put my bodyweight+ over my head. I love my work. I’m not laser-focused on what I look like.

I am enough. 

One of the reasons I created the Women’s Strength Summit is to share with you the women that helped me, and if this post resonates with you, I hope you’ll join us starting March 1.

Click here to grab your free ticket to the online event, and I’ll see you there along with 30+ female experts who have a ton to share about how to strengthen not only your body, but your mind and your spirit as well.

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Mind Your Own Barbell

Mind Your Own Bar | StephGaudreau.com

Oh the barbell.

Easiest way to feel great – or horrible – about yourself. 

The solution: mind your own barbell. 

This is something I’ve struggled with / worked on a LOT as an athlete, so please don’t think I’m getting all preachy here. It’s something that competitive, athletic people often deal with, myself included. 

When you’re pushing your limits, training hard, and entering into competitions, you inevitably, usually, at some point will stop and compare yourself to others. It’s human nature. 

Why is she stronger? Why is he faster? Why haven’t I hit a PR in this workout when everyone else did? See what I mean?

As hard as it is, MYOB(ar).

You’re comparing your performance to someone who’s not you, and a person’s unique mix of circumstances cannot be replicated by you, even if you following the same programming, work out at the same gym, compete in the same weight class, etc. 

Your age, years of experience, proportions of different muscle fiber types, ability to recover, diet, sleep, life stress, ability to deal with volume and intensity, are ALL different. Even your ability NOW compared to your ability last month, last year, or five years ago may be different. 

So what’s the best way to MYOB? Start keeping a log of YOUR progress. Your best lifts. Your training plan. Your mood. How you feel. It’s the best data you’ve got. 

Does this mean you can’t be motivated by others around you? Hell no. It just means to stop and think clearly about stuff when you want to beat yourself up for not measuring up to others.

What do you think about minding your own barbell? Leave your comments below!

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes?

Are You Making These Top 3 Training Mistakes? | StephGadureau.comAre you making these top 3 strength training mistakes?

I asked three of my strong lady friends—Jen Sinkler, Diane Fu and Melissa Hartwig—to chime in with the three errors they see people (specifically women) make when they set out to move some weights in the gym.

Last week I posted about strength training as one of the keys to sustainable fat loss, and it sparked some great conversation across social media.

Many people said that they’re interested in basic strength training but they don’t know how to get started.

[Side note: If you’re looking for a top-notch powerlifting program that focuses on the squat, bench press, and deadlift, I want to tell you about Unapologetically Powerful. It’s a new program from powerlifting badasses Jen Sinkler and Jen Blake, and it’s designed to get you silly-strong and—if you’re so—ready to jump into your first meet.

The Jens have spent hours developing this resource, and it’s incredible. I’ve had a chance to go through their demo videos myself and apply them to my training. The cues are spot on, and I’ve every confidence they’ll help you get strongrrrrrrr (as Jen S says).]

 

Okay, on to the Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes.

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes? | stupideasypaleo.comJen Sinkler — Unapologetically Powerful, powerlifter, & gym owner

1. Not getting proper instruction at the outset. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard women say that they stuck to the cardio section of the gym because they found free weights section to be intimidating, and I get that!

Even once you’re sold on the benefits of resistance training, it can be difficult to know what to do with the equipment. While some lifts are pretty straightforward, most have layers of cueing involved that both help keep you safe and maximize the effectiveness of the lift by recruiting the right muscle groups in the right sequence. Always, but especially when you’re just getting started, it can be invaluable to seek the guidance of an expert.

Either join a group fitness class where the instructors are well-qualified and attentive, or consider purchasing even a few private or semi-private sessions with a personal trainer to hammer home form for some of the main movement categories (such as squat, press, upper-body push, and upper-body pull, plus rotation and anti-rotation).

2. Not using progressive overload. I admit it, I’m a jock. All of my best friends are jocks, constantly pushing themselves and each other. Inevitably, everything turns into a contest, including how much weight they can lift, and it can occasionally get out of hand. With that personality type, reigning in the urge to give it their all, all the time, is the name of the game. With many others, the opposite is true: Rather than exploring their limits, I see people reaching for the same weights week in and week out. The problem with that strategy is that the body is too smart for that — it adapts to the demands you place upon it, and thus your progress stalls out.

So, it’s important to capitalize on the principle of progressive overload, where you very gradually increase the weight you use from session to session. That way you’re constantly making progress! That said, progress isn’t linear, and you won’t be able to add weight every single time until infinity.

When you get to the point you can’t add more weight, that’s when you change the repetition scheme (say you drop from 8 to 10 reps to 5 to 6) until your body adapts to that and you need to change it again. Generally speaking, you work from higher to lower reps, then start over with a higher rep scheme again with the brand new weight you can do for that many reps.

3. Not finding a training style they enjoy. Just as there are many different types of yoga (anywhere from sweaty, fast-paced power yoga to yin yoga, which is slow and still) and endurance events (from obstacle courses to 5Ks to ultramarathons), there are many different types of resistance training.

There’s powerlifting, which focuses on the barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift; there’s Olympic lifting, which homes in on the barbell snatch and the clean and jerk; calisthenics, which uses bodyweight only; various styles of kettlebell training, some of which focus on strength and others more on efficiency; the sport of strongman, which includes a number of timed challenges using various equipment; CrossFit, which combines a number of modalities from gymnastics to Olympic lifting; and various bootcamp-style classes that employ dumbbells only, just to name a few.

Here’s the thing I think a lot of people miss: you don’t have to do anything you don’t enjoy. More to the point, you probably won’t stick with a regimen if you don’t enjoy yourself — so it’s well worth your time to explore which training styles you like best. Take a class, drop in for a session, take a workshop. Make the pursuit of better fitness one of the grand experiments of your life, and that life will be a longer and more robust one.

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes? | stupideasypaleo.comMelissa Hartwig — Whole30, RKC kettlebell certified

1. Assuming heavy weights are for guys only. You’re not limited to the little pink dumbbells just because you’re a woman, and lifting heavy weights with a strength-focus won’t make you big and bulky like a professional bodybuilder. There are many benefits to picking up heavy stuff, including building strong, healthy bones; developing functional fitness that will serve you well in your everyday life (think helping a friend carry a couch, or picking your tantruming toddler up off the floor); and increasing muscle mass (and your metabolism).

2. Not learning from a qualified trainer. If you’re going to strength train, you need to learn proper form, and you can’t do that by watching Instagram videos. Seek out an experienced, qualified trainer to teach you to perform the movements effectively and safely, and teach you how to work them into an overall training routinte to suit your goals and context.

3. Testing, not training. It’s fun to pull 1-rep maxes and go up in weight every time you set foot in the gym. But strenth training isn’t just about setting PRs; it’s about building functional strength that stays with you and keeps you healthy (at the gym and in real life). This means doing the sometimes boring, not-so-sexy stuff like assistance exercises, mobility work, and technique work at lighter weight. You’ve got to pay to play, and all that training will really pay off when the time is right to test your new capacity.

Are You Making These Top 3 Strength Training Mistakes? | stupideasypaleo.comDiane Fu — FuBarbell, olympic weightlifting coach

1. Not lifting heavy or often enough – Spending time in 85%+ range for weights and getting accustomed to heavy loads and frequently

2. Undereating – Not having enough resources to recover

3. Diffusing effort – Not focusing on the basic movements like Squats, Deadlifts, Presses, and Olympic lifts and too much on other ancillary exercises/conditioning

Time to get strong!

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Are You Making These Top 3 Training Mistakes? | StephGadureau.com

Photo: Fresh Burst Photography

Questions for these ladies or me about strength training mistakes? Leave a comment below!

Let’s Talk Cellulite

Let's Talk Cellulite | StephGaudreau.com

Let’s talk about the C-word, shall we?

I’m referring to cellulite.

I have. You probably have it. If you’re like 90% (yes 90%!!!) of women, you have had some amount of cellulite in your life. Even guys get it.

I’m healthy. I’m strong. I have a perfectly healthy body composition and yet, I still have cellulite. And I don’t give a damn about it. I also have a gigantic squiggle varicose vein that runs most of the length of my left leg. See it? I’ve had it since I was 21 (yes, way before I lifted weights).

Why do I tell you all this? It’s because my body isn’t perfect and I make no apologies for it. The media tries to make women (and men) think we are less than because we have bumps and cellulite and stretch marks and all the things NORMAL BODIES HAVE.

Even really fit, totally healthy, super strong, thin / toned / whatever you wanna call it people have cellulite. A lot of it is genetic. A lot of it is affected by age and the elasticity of our connective tissue.

But here’s the thing: Do you let your bumps and rolls define you? Do you judge yourself for the imperfections that every human has? Are you trying to improve your body from a place of loathing or frustration or hate? (Hint: that doesn’t work.)

Start focusing on what you love about yourself. The people worth your time in this world already see that. It’s time you did, too. Love yourself for WHAT YOU ARE instead of always thinking of WHAT YOU’RE NOT.

Talk to me. What struggles do you still have about cellulite? Leave your questions and comments below!

Strength Training…Not Just for Meatheads Anymore

Strength Training: Not Just For Meatheads  | StephGaudreau.com

Strength training. It’s not just for meatheads anymore.

If you want to lose body fat and gain muscle mass, move heavy weight.

If you want to improve your metabolism, move heavy weight.

If you want to look good naked, move heavy weight.

If you want to skyrocket your self-confidence, move heavy weight.

What’s “heavy” will depend on your experience level and progression but know that if you only keep lifting the same light weights, you won’t continue to get stronger and the improvements you did see when you started lifting won’t continue. The body constantly adapts and gets stronger and so we must continue to stretch ourselves and see what’s possible. In other words, tiny dumbbells aren’t gonna cut it. Yes we all need to start somewhere but the key is not staying there long.

Bottom line: if you’re trying to come to a healthier body comp, focus on your performance. Challenge yourself. Lift heavy weights a few times a week. The body you want will come as a result of focusing on the right things like nourishing your body, sleeping plenty, moving smartly and taking time to relax and destress.

Here’s me doing some heavy front squats for sets of 2. It doesn’t take much. This medicine is powerful and efficient!

Questions about strength training? Leave them in the comment section below!

ZFG

ZFG | StephGaudreau.com

Guys. When it comes to your health and well-being, nobody is going to do it for you. Nobody. Not your spouse. Not your kids. Not your friends.

You have to be relentless. ZFG.

If you’re stuck, stop focusing on the end result you want. It may be too far from where you are now to seem achievable. Instead focus on the process. If it’s exercise, focus on your performance. If it’s food, focus on choosing nutrient-dense, non-junk food. If it’s your mental game, focus on the tiny things that bring you joy.

So many of us wait for huge signs and dramatic final results. The secret is in the process and showing up every day for yourself.

Zero Fox Given by @whiskeygingercollective

Thoughts about taking care of you? Leave them in the comments below.

Getting Outside

Getting Outside | StephGaudreau.com

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”

– Sir John Lubbock

Scrolling through photos of New Zealand on my camera roll and this one of Lake Wakatipu caught my eye. Immediately a flood of memories has come back and it reminds me of my commitment to go outside more and just be.

Admittedly, I’ve not done very well on this commitment since I got home but it’s something I’ll continue to work on. I know it’s something I must do to truly be and feel whole.

Queenstown, New Zealand.