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Tribesports User of the Week: Heather J

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Posted by Heather J under Weight Training (Strength Training), Running on 1 May 2013 at 11:00 PM

Dallas and Heather J runningWhat has been your toughest Tribesports Challenge and which are you most proud of?

Well first of all I’m surprised and delighted to be chosen as User of the Week. It’s a huge accolade and puts me in some great company of very encouraging and committed TS users. Thank you.

My toughest challenge so far has been doing Three full bodyweight chin ups in one go. It’s taken me months of trying and I’m still to repeat the feat. My next goal is to progress on to 5 and then the Women only 10 full bodyweight chin ups Challenge.

Most proud - well that’s a tough one. As a “back of the pack” runner, I’ve only ever Run a mile in 8 minutes once and once only, in race conditions, and that was the second mile of a 5K I did on a hot and humid morning in Houston, way back in 1999. That’s still my unassisted 5K PB of 25.08. These days I sometimes run the Edinburgh parkrun with my dog  Dallas in harness, and she takes a chunk off my current un-dog-assisted 5K time. Our combined PB is 24.25. The reason I managed that 7.59 minute mile was that my Dad was over in Texas watching me and I wanted to make him proud. Isn’t it inspiring how you can raise your game when other people take an interest in your progress?

I’m also proud of my Parkrun 50 t-shirt and am plugging away at getting my Parkrun 100 t-shirt, hopefully later in May 2013. Like the TS UOTW award, I like that it’s something money can’t buy, you have to earn it. That fits with my values and my philosophy of life.

Parkrun 50 Tshirt

One of the other things I’ve done that I’ve really enjoyed, and will always be proud of, was Cycle Lands End to John O'Groats (known as the “End to End” in Britain). I really enjoyed training for this goal, and then achieving it. I found that spinning classes really helped my pedaling technique, and multiple long weekend training rides to see the lighthouses at the most westerly and southerly points of Scotland, riding through gorgeous scenery on empty B roads, helped too. Cycling the length of England and Scotland was a wonderful way to get to know my country.

Land's End cycling

Bench press Heather JYour goals for 2013 are already being ticked off - which one do you think will be toughest to achieve?

I really want to achieve the standards of Lady Lifters Level 4 but realistically I think this could be a hard one to reach in 2013. My bench press has quite a way to go to hit 100% of my bodyweight, I’m just under three quarters of the way there. Or maybe I should lose a lot more body fat whilst increasing muscle mass, though that’s not a very easy thing to do either.

I also find the more meditative challenges more of a challenge as I’m a very active sort of person, and they aren’t really amenable to type A behaviours to achieve them! I did a course in Acem Meditation which was fantastic, but I still struggle to follow this practice daily. So making space in my day to do some yoga poses, to take my time instead of rushing, and to contemplate all that is good and precious in life are also important and valuable challenges for me. I’m still working on Meditate every day for a month Challenge. Thank you to everyone on TS who created Challenges like these, and who show me by example how to live like that.

Heather J SquattingHow did you first get into strength training?

I’d just come back from my first ever 7 day juice detox holiday where I’d had a fantastic time doing the Juicemaster detox - I lost 7.5lbs in a week but twisted my ankle half way through so wasn’t able to continue with my usual running routine. When I got back I was looking for something else that was progressive and structured, and started doing Mark Rippetoe’s barbell weight training program which I followed religiously for 16 months before graduating to Jim Wendler's intermediate program. I found strength training a complete revelation - it’s a combination of effort, focus, balance, strength and mental concentration and also gives me the most incredible endorphin and adrenaline surge. Squatting heavy and deep, (with the help of the Squatters Tribe) and pulling a deadlift bar weighing more than your bodyweight (with the help of the Deadlifters Tribe) tests you in many ways, physical and mental, and success depends on good technique. 

I’ve been fortunate to have had a coach help me learn the lifts and teach me proper form. Better still, I now have two training buddies Rob and Alastair whom I’ve introduced to Starting Strength. I also formed a sports club my work gym called the Strong for Life club, and have mirrored that here on TS in the Strong for Life Tribe. The whole purpose of that is to encourage more people to try weight training that is planned, progressive and safe. I’ve been delighted to see the Strong for Life Tribe grow, and now we also have a virtual training group going to help people get better at chin ups and dips. Because of the typically lower upper-body strength of most women and the lack of testosterone, these can be relatively harder lifts for us girls. I am really motivated by the Girls Gone Strong website and like their manifesto.

What would you say to other women who may be apprehensive about trying it?

Weight lifting and strength training for women is no different than for men! There are lots of myths out there that women will get really bulky, and that women’s physiology can’t lift things up and put them down. That’s simply not true and there is ample scientific evidence behind that. This is a presentation that my trainer and I gave to encourage women to get involved when we started the Strong for Life club.

Standing pressI have found that strength training has increased my self-confidence as I have learnt new skills. My sense of achievement has been high because strength training has taught me concentration, consistency and self-discipline. The physical effects are both immediate and long term. I get a big buzz from lifting, and always return to my desk with renewed energy and a really positive outlook on life. Lifting drains stress away from me. Longer term, my grip strength, posture and flexibility have all improved too. Most of all, strength training makes me feel happy.

It only takes one person to start and you can begin a revolution. We now have over a dozen women working on chins and dips, using an assistance machine initially and then progressing to giant elastic bands to help on the up part. I’ve been so happy to see small groups of women training together and encouraging each other, and I have to say all the guys in the gym are hugely supportive too. I’m very happy to have some TS training buddies for chins and dips - people like @loretta, @vix, @jcastaneda5700, @adamkru, @mncrowwoman and @sjstick

I devised the CHIP Challenge for the Strong for Life club at work, designed to bring people together to take a personal test to see how many chin ups and dips each person could do in 30 seconds. There will be prizes for the most improved, not just the strongest. So thank you to the TS community for testing out my CHIP challenges already, as I’m still getting everything in place to run our first CHIP challenge at work. But I do know one of the women at work can do 13 continuous chin ups and one of the guys can do 20. So why not take the challenge and beat that?!

Pre-workout juice recipeYour homemade juices look awesome - what's your favourite pre-workout juice?

My ultimate comfort food juice (that is also a smoothie), and the one that gives me some carbs before some heavy training is a banana yogurt smoothie made with the juice of 2 apples, half a lemon, and half an inch of fresh ginger. It is zingy and fresh tasting and also gives me some protein too. Here’s the recipe.

From all the guides you've written, it's clear that you have a keen interest in nutrition - what would you say is the best thing to know about nutrition?

There are no quick fixes. I know that to lose weight and keep it off is about lifetime and lifestyle choices made day and daily. For me TS Challenges help me to establish and maintain good habits. I’ve found it beneficial to focus on adding in the things I want to eat, as well as experimenting with reducing or cutting out various foods or drinks for periods of time such as Prepare your own meals for 7 days and Drink no red wine for 7 days in a row. When it comes to things we really love (and I’m a member of the Wine Lovers Tribe) we don’t have to deny ourselves, we just need to consume sensibly. Everything in moderation as my Granny used to say!

Which sports are still on your bucket list?

Hmm - I’m not sure I have any. I prefer sports with a high degree of personal effort and not too much risk!  So gravity- or wind-based sports like skiing and sailing which I took up when I lived in the US are not things I still pursue and heaven forfend I would ever go sky-diving or bungee jumping like some other brave UOTW!  If I can get my serious running mojo back (ie run more than twice a week, faster than a comatose tortoise) then I’d like to do a Standard distance duathlon which would be the longest duathlon I’ve ever done. 

I would also like to enter a proper powerlifting competition, perhaps in 2014.  Although I don’t think I’ll be competing for Scotland when the Commonwealth Games comes to Glasgow next year!  

Which Tribesports member makes your day?

That’s a tough one. The whole ethos of TS is connecting people from around the world, across sporting disciplines and interests, in a community of mutual support. I’ve found lots of people generous with their comments and encouragement. So here’s a shout out to pretty much every previous User of the Week, who are amazingly good at commenting and encouraging, and a special hello and thank you to @kenh1965 who seems to have become my personal online strength training coach/cheerleader. It means a lot to find people who are interested in the same things as you are, and I love having the TS community egging me on. Thank you each and every person who has encouraged, commented, taken a challenge or joined a Tribe I’ve contributed to the community.

Assisted running with Dallas

What's your favourite quote?

Failure is not an option - NASA motto

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration - Thomas Edison

Hard work never killed anybody - my Granny

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