Nearly 10 years ago I got an email from another Krista. She was a police officer and powerlifter, and we hit it off pretty much right away. I asked her for some pics to put up on my site, and as it turned out, she had penned a few strength training articles of her own.
When I saw her compete at her first powerlifting competition, I noticed that her opening lifts were higher than many of the women who were heavier than her. In other words, she wasn’t just strong for her weight, she was strong compared to women who were much bigger than her. So, I figured she knew what she was talking about.
She wrote an account of her experience, and I posted it on my site. Over the years, I’d occasionally hear about her exploits. And then I ran into her again — and boy, she’s been busy. But first, the original article:
I would have to describe myself in terms of training as “a work in progress” and my training background as “a roller coaster”. You know that roller coaster I am speaking about, because any woman who had tried to better herself in the gym has been on that ride.
My problem was I dabbled in everything but never really got into anything for long enough to see progress. Nor did I really understand what I was doing and why or how my training and my goals are supposed to mesh together. I wanted it all. I wanted it now, but then a few months later I would be onto the next fitness craze or diet of the month. I have learned three very important things that now contribute to my success in my fitness and lifting. I remind myself of them every day.
1 – Slow progress is the best progress.
2 – Less is more.
3 – Keep it simple.
I have always had the same vision of what I wanted to attain through my training. I just had no idea how to attain my goals properly. I am sure most women can relate to that. I wanted to be as strong as possible, yet lean and sleek; muscular yet feminine. I wanted to be able to do anything I wanted and not be set back by lack of strength. It drove me nuts that I couldn’t do pull ups and that any type of leg exercise exhausted me to no end. I wanted to be able to run circles around guys in whatever arena we happened to be in…whether it was an innocent arm wrestling challenge or a touch football game. I always wanted to be in the game, an active contributing member of the team and not on the ground gasping for air. The last thing I ever wanted to be was the weak token female on the team. I would rather die!
I was always athletic and competitive as a child and never had a problem keeping my thin muscular build, even when eating bowls of melted cheddar cheese and fries with gravy, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard daily. But all dreams eventually come to an end. In my early 20’s the cottage cheese thighs started to set in.
I got on the Ontario Provincial Police force (OPP) in 1994 and began the horrors of shift work: sleep deprived, inconsistent eating habits, fast food, lack of exercise…hello cruiser butt! So, the plan? Well low fat, lots of cardio! What else? That’s all you heard about at that time. Protein bad! Weights were for football players and bodybuilders. Just keep running and stepping and raising your heart rate while munching on rice cakes and diet Coke and you’ll be fine! Jelly beans and fat free cookies? Of course, they are great because they have no fat?! NOT! The extra hours of cardio, the food deprivation and the no protein high sugar diet didn’t do the job. Sure, I lost some weight and went down from a size 9 to a 7 but my shape never changed and the cottage cheese remained. The only difference was I was a smaller cottage-cheese-butt girl.
But despite outdoor cycling (we’re talking 40-80 km), advanced aerobic classes, muscle toning classes and eating fat free everything my body fat was up to 24.9%. The number shocked me and I had to ask the analyst, “Are you sure? That can’t be right?” Yup, it was correct. Sure it could have been a percent lower… or higher for that matter. The point was I was getting thinner but fatter all at the same time. Not only that, I was not gaining any strength or muscle either by over-cardioing myself to death. I had lost a significant amount of muscle that I had gained from my early years of gymnastics, track and baseball. Worst of all, I was always feeling low on energy, depressed and got sick often. I had become an under-nourished, over-trained, protein deprived, cardio queen. Which was the TOTAL OPPOSITE of what I was trying achieve. Talk about frustration!
February 1999. What a good month that was! It marks the transition for me. I mustered up the guts to approach an aerobics instructor at my gym who had the look and the strength I was looking for. To my delight she advised that she just started training people and I would be her first client. She introduced me to the world of weight training and proper diet. She reduced my cardio program to 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes. She gave me a consistent weight training program and a diet plan that freaked me right out! What?! Eat more protein and less breads and pasta. I couldn’t understand how the heck I would lose body fat especially If I was doing less cardio. But, I reminded myself how amazing she looked, and she was nearly 20 years older than me and had two young children. It must work, I thought.
It did work. Within a few months I had lost 3% body fat and actually gained a few pounds of lean muscle. Wow! Who knew? Was it hard? You bet! I went through carbohydrate withdrawal when I started this new way of eating. All bran was heaven to me. Cottage cheese and fruit was a treat. I couldn’t wait for my healthy pancakes (maple syrup) and post workout meals (corn flakes). But, it is worth the bargain. Don’t get me wrong; I still get to have my cake and eat it too, just not every day. Everything is within moderation. But, the more you have those treats the more you want them. So, I learned I was better off not to have them at all.
OK. So it sound like my problems were solved just like that right? No. Not really. By the Spring of 1999 I was not feeling fulfilled by my workouts. Something was wrong. Something was missing. I was doing a bodybuilding type routine. Breaking body parts up. Weight training almost every day. Lots of sets, lots of reps, lots of overlapping and duplication. It just wasn’t me. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew there was something else out there for me that would fit my goals perfectly.
back to the drawing board
Enter Sean Toohey and Cheryl Zovich (www.cyberpump.com). While posting on the American Bodybuilding bulletin board, Sean started exchanging email with me. He saw some potential in me but knew I was somewhat brainwashed by the Muscle and Fitness mentality. He introduced me to real training – The Iron Game. He suggested that I could achieve all my goals and more in less time and using much less energy. Here we go again! How is that possible?
In May 1999, Sean gave me a program to match my current goals including bench press, squats, high pulls, bent over rows, push press, farmer’s walks and roman chair sit ups. That was it?! Training two days a week only. I was so confused again.
But he made me give it 6 weeks and if I hated it for whatever reason I was off the hook. So I very reluctantly and hesitantly agreed. I am so glad I did! I would never go back to the mainstream form of training. I have been training only 2 days a week for over a year now and I have never been so strong, looked so good or been so healthy.
a work in progress
My weight is about 128 lbs, the same as it was when I had a big cottage cheese but and weak arms. My body fat now hovers between 18-21% depending in whether I am competing or not. Yes, competing. I have finally attained my strength goals. Actually I have achieved far more than I ever thought possible.
In 1997 I had a hard time leg pressing with 25 lb plates on each side. When I started squatting in 1998 I started with the bar and sets with 85 lbs were killer. My best 1 rep squat currently is 225 and I know I have bigger numbers ahead of me. My bench press is at 125 lbs and I can deadlift 235 lbs.
Even better, I can do pull-ups with added weight for reps and my cardiovascular condition is the best it has ever been, even with the more relaxed cardio program.
Actually, when I am close to a powerlifting competition I do no cardio work at all. I eat tons of quality food and never deprive myself of the foods I truly want or crave. I am strict with my diet and training but realistic and reward myself every opportunity I get.
Is it all over now? Are my problems solved? Is the battle over? Yes and no. Training is a work in progress. It is never over. If there was an end, it would be no fun. We always have to working on a new goal, continually progressing. But, I now know what works and can more easily come up with an effective plan of action for my goals. I will continue to re-evaluate my goals until the day I die and hope to die as being as strong as humanly possible.
I am positively addicted to the iron and look forward to every single workout. It all makes sense to me now. Slow progress is the best progress. Less is more. Keep it simple. I share this with you because I know all of you can relate to my training dilemmas of the past and I understand your frustration. If one woman can make a positive change in her training and be one step closer to her goals because of my experiences, then I am happy. When you finally realize your true potential in the gym, that feeling is indescribable. I want every woman to discover that feeling of training euphoria. The potential we as women have in life and in training is unbelievable. Never underestimate your abilities. Never put a threshold on what you can achieve. Because, the reality is, you can achieve whatever you want to and so much more. Don’t get sucked in by the mass media and everyone else’s expectations or images. Defy the odds. Go against the grain. Take some chances. Learn — lift — grow .
Never, ever underestimate the untapped strengths you have within.
What’s the other Krista been up to in the last several years? Kicking ass, that’s what.
As her bio describes:
Since beginning her competitive career as a strength athlete 10 year ago, Krista has become one of the Canadian Powerlifting Union’s Top 20 Female Powerlifters. She is also a National champion, provincial record holder and two times Commonwealth Championship medalist.
Recently, Krista has turned her competitive attention to the physique side of the industry, placing 1st overall at the Beverly International’s 2008 NKC Bodybuilding & Figure Championships and 1st in Heavyweight at the CBBF Natural World Qualifier in 2008. She is currently working towards a goal of placing at the Arnold Amateur IFBB International Bodybuilding Championships in March 2009.
Not bad for a woman who started out just wanting to get in shape a little!
Wonder what the next decade will bring?
I’ve just published a new profile of Krista for Precision Nutrition. We’re now coworkers at Precision Nutrition… and Krista’s MY coach. She’s grown a lot and so have I.
Life is funny — and awesome!
The moral: Make buddies with strong chicks when you meet them. You never know what might happen!