What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
Acknowledging ownership of what you can control today. Finding peace with what you cannot just yet. Making choices authentic to you, not what you think others want. Understanding that progress is action over inaction. And embracing “strength” as far more than just physical.
How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
Almost two years now. I’ve yo-yo dieted for most of my life, losing and gaining the same 15 to 20 pounds over and over again through crash dieting and heavy exercise. I lost a lot of muscle mass in the process. What frustrated me was that each time I hit a new low scale weight, I would look in the mirror and wonder why I still seemed fat, why my weight at age 25 looked so much different than the same weight at a younger age. I’m a logical person, and this outcome just didn’t make sense to me. So I started heavily researching on body composition and physiology and discovered there was so much more to how our bodies are shaped than just by calories and scale weight alone. Amongst other things, I started experimenting with strength training, and I fell in love with it.
What does your typical workout look like?
I currently work with my Strongest You coach, Jen Comas. The following is the basic template of my workouts as it changes slightly every couple weeks. Four workouts per week:
- Upper body day: Barbell bench press, back/chest work (chin ups, rows, push ups, etc), arms/shoulders/core work (bicep curl, skull crusher, lateral raise, mountain climbers, etc)
- Lower body day: Barbell deadlift, leg work (goblet squats, lunges, Romanian deadlifts, etc), accessory leg & core work (x-band walks, bear crawls, etc.)
- Total body strength: Barbell back squat, pull ups, kettlebell swings, pallof press
- Total body conditioning: Some fun dumbbell circuits (rows, lunges, push presses, hang cleans)
Nothing feels better than a nice raw deadlift.
Most memorable PR:
255 pound deadlift, twice my bodyweight!
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Alone. It’s become a meditative experience for me. I used to prefer training with others more when I needed the social accountability and motivation, but now I get intrinsic motivation from the experience of working out itself.
Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
A coworker from my old job asked me for advice on getting started with strength training and coming up with a training plan. This wasn’t a direct compliment, but I was so ecstatic that someone considered me trustworthy and knowledgeable enough to give workout advice, especially since I still feel like a newbie myself.
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I saw a lady who looks to be in her 70s or 80s lifting heavy and kicking ass. I told her she was an inspiration and I want to be like her when I’m older. We now always say “hi” whenever we see each other at the gym.
I love poke bowls, especially with salmon.
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Taking a walk outside with a good audiobook or podcast.
“Choose discomfort over resentment.” — Dr. Brené Brown
A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley. This book is not just for those wishing to excel in math and science. It’s useful for anyone who wants to get better at learning, problem solving, and producing creative work.
What inspires and motivates you?
I love stories that inspire me in different areas of life. These are all real-life stories about others who have been where I am now. There are too many to list, but whenever I need a pick-me-up, I pull up the respective bucket and reread these stories.
What do you do?
I am the Co-founder, CTO, and health coach of Viva, an AI-driven bot startup that delivers personalized and empathetic health coaching. When I’m not hacking on the bot itself, I’m coaching our clients through the app. We are in private beta right now and very excited for our recent launch!
Describe a typical day in your life:
I wake up, workout, and shower in the morning. Then I spend the vast majority of the rest of my day working on Viva or coaching our clients. After dinner, I either read or study alone, or watch TV or play videogames with my boyfriend, roommates, and cats.
Your next training goal:
3 unassisted pull ups!
For what are you most grateful?
Since I can’t list 500 different people, I’ll go a bit more internal. I’m very grateful for my resilience, which was instilled in me by my parents, but also built up over the years from several interactions and experiences, both positive and negative. I always say that I don’t learn quickly, but that I recover quickly. I’m very risk-tolerant, but I have not always been that way. I have many people to thank for that!
Which three words best describe you?
Inquisitive, resilient, ambitious.
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, overcoming fear or self-doubt, and how did it turn out?
I recently walked away from a comfortable high-paying job of five years at a big technology company to self-start my own company doing something I believe in and am passionate about. It may or may not flourish, but regardless I’m excited to learn so much from the experience and meet good people.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
Prior to strength training, I was focused on getting smaller, particularly in my midsection. After making strength training a part of my life, I started appreciating getting bigger. Yeah, I like checking out my butt and biceps in the mirror when I think no one’s watching! Despite gaining most of the weight I had previously lost back (intentionally), I actually like the way my body looks even more now. I like the shape more, and I like that I see my entire body instead of just a subsection. I can’t say if this is more of a physical change or a mental change, because strength training definitely triggered a huge mindset shift for me as well.
How has lifting weights changed your life?
Although it started with me just wanting to look good, the biggest thing I gained out of strength training was not the physical accomplishments, but the mental growth. With strength training, I learned to embrace small, progressive, habitual changes over an all-or-nothing mindset. I learned that progress is not linear and that consistent actions, not just outcomes, mattered in the long run. I learned that bodies fluctuate daily, and that so many variables are at play that you can’t control every one of them. I learned how important rest and recovery is. Most importantly, I learned that I was not alone.
I applied what I learned in building strength to many areas of my life. If you ask my friends, they’ll tell you I have no shortage of exercise analogies to impart. I applied the progressive overload principle to overcoming my social anxiety. I made peace with the daily fluctuations of my relationships just like I did with my body, and it allowed me to appreciate them more. I prioritize rest and recovery when I am stuck or stressed at work, because brains behave like muscles too.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
You’re not alone. Pretty much every person you aspire to be or perform like started where you are now, and even they are probably nervous or hesitant about something still. You don’t need to go all-in the first time. Progress is action over inaction.
When did you join Strongest You Coaching? Why did you decide to join and what helped you make the decision to join?
I joined SYC in January 2017. I was primarily motivated by the holistic, habit-based approach to coaching that SYC offered. I already made a lot of progress on fat loss and muscle gain in the past, but I noticed my strength gains and energy levels had stalled. I wanted to work on more than just body composition. I wanted to develop eating habits that kept me energized throughout the day, balance rest and recovery with workouts so that I can continue to improve my lifts, and learn to monitor and manage my stress levels for overall well-being, all while getting the support of an active community.
What has been your biggest challenge in the Strongest You Coaching program?
My biggest challenge has been to stay consistent with older habits. We practice a new habit every 1-2 weeks, and I’m very easily distracted by new challenges, so I tend to neglect older habits in favor of picking up new ones. Sometimes I need to give myself refreshers so I don’t forget about the things I learned in weeks 1-4.
What has been your biggest success in the Strongest You Coaching program?
I am making a lot of progress on my sleep. I’ve suffered from chronic insomnia since Junior High. When the insomnia hits, it can take me anywhere from one to four hours to fall asleep at night. In the past, I would get insomnia attacks at least once a week. Sometimes they would happen multiple days in a row. Thanks to working on prioritizing rest, recovery, and developing good sleep rituals, they are occurring much less frequently (last time I had insomnia was maybe two weeks ago). I also wake up naturally now. Among other things, good sleeping habits have helped me dramatically improve my lifts. Since joining SYC, I went from deadlifting 185 pounds to deadlifting twice my bodyweight (255 pounds) and I finally nailed my first unassisted neutral grip pull up!
What do you like best about the Strongest You Coaching community?
I like how honest yet non-judgmental everyone is. The community members offer support for your struggles, share strategies to tackle challenges, and give you congratulations on your wins. I love reading about other people’s wins too. It motivates me to keep progressing.
What is your “BIG” goal you’d like to achieve by the end of Strongest You Coaching?
If I can consistently sleep and wake up around the same time without insomnia attacks for a full month, that would be golden. I have neglected sleep all my life, but since prioritizing it I have gotten stronger, curbed my cravings, and have been more productive at work. It’s so underappreciated for how important it really is.
What is the habit you’re currently working on most?
Develop a consistent sleep ritual of course!
How has Strongest You Coaching changed your life?
It made me appreciate rest and recovery a lot more. I am definitely the type of person to overdo things rather than underdo them. I came to SYC pretty overtrained and under-rested. I had the mentality that if I wanted to get stronger, I had to work harder, even though I knew logically that isn’t how it works.
What would you tell a woman who’s nervous about joining Strongest You Coaching?
It’s normal to be nervous — we were all a little nervous before we signed up — especially if you’ve never had a group coaching program before. Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself why you want to go after the goal you’re chasing then evaluate the tools SYC offers. If you still aren’t confident in your decision one way or the other, reach out to GGS or the SYC coaches. They love to help answer questions! If it’s just nerves holding you back, take it as a sign that this may just be the comfort-zone pushing step forward you need.
A message from GGS…
In our Strongest You Coaching program, we help women just like you reach their health, physique, and mindset goals. Strongest You Coaching is about more than just training and nutrition. It’s about changing your self-talk and inner dialogue, learning to let fitness enhance your life instead of rule your life, and finally healing your relationship with food and your body, all with the help of your Girls Gone Strong Coach, and your fellow Strongest You Coaching group.
We only open up this program 2-3 times a year and it always sells out fast. If you’re interested, put your name on the pre-registration list now!