Orinoco Flow- Enya

My legs have shooting pains in them today. Walking the dog this morning had me crying in an alley. Exhaustion rears it’s ugly head every once in a while and brings with it an entire host of emotional baggage I like to keep buried. I feel like I’m getting sick, drinking ginger and lemon tea and eating oatmeal to feel better. Comfort food. 

I have 4 weeks until my next show and I’ve been getting judges feedback from the OCB Tidewater show. Bodybuilding is an interesting sport. We work our asses off for weeks, reducing body fat all over to show case the muscular structure underneath, muscle we spend years building. When you look at how the

Women first looked in the sport, Amanda Latona being a great example, they were wearing off the rack swimsuits and looking a lot more like swimsuit models than the hard bodies and tiny waists we see today. 

A lot of pros have stopped competing because the look has gotten increasingly harder and less focused on a natural look. 

It’s ironic how a health industry that claims to be so focused on doing things in a maintainable and balanced manner is so focused on the smallness of its women in the bikini division. In fact- they downright ignore the facts that many women take dangerous routes to achieve that look.

My feedback has been overwhelming- leaner, leaner, leaner. More ab work. More glute and ham work. More leanness. And maybe adjust my hair.

I knew going in that I didn’t have the smallest package compared to the other competitors and that this was a possibility. I knew it. But hearing it still stings. I have an almost 300 lb. deadlift. I train 5 days a week, work three jobs, maintain my household and train others as well. And none of that counts on a stage- none of it. I’m strong but I’m not skinny enough. In a subjective sport- I am too thick.

I’d love to tell you that this kind of feedback hasn’t gotten under my skin, but I’m not trying to lie about these experiences. I see a lot of fitness inspirations post about how being first place requires that kind of sacrifice and dedication and that everyone at an elite level is not necessarily healthy. 

But it’s something I really struggle with. I love building and the discipline of cutting and getting into the best shape of my life. But I don’t support making myself smaller- for a subjective competition. I don’t talk to my clients that way. I don’t train others that way. I celebrate health and the difference it makes in your day to day life. The sport is about building muscle and health and your mental strength as well. It seems incredibly counterintuitive to keep pushing beyond the scope of health in order to win a higher placing.

My heart hurts. It feels like all the hard work I put in falls short. And that’s another danger of this sport- I struggle with depression as it is. Most days I have a great handle on it- but dieting for 16 weeks and looking at yourself every day and seeing if you’ve dropped pounds or inches to be enough for someone else’s judgment wears on your mental health.  And I can’t say that the repeated feedback of lean down hasn’t made this worse for me.  I don’t want to struggle with  someone else’s opinion of me, I don’t want to question the opinion I have of myself. 

It bleeds Into my other goals. My faith in the gym I’m putting together. My faith in my work skills. My faith in myself as a daughter, friend and partner. The doubt can become crippling. And depression doesn’t always manifest itself as crying jags and unending sadness, it’s just a lack of joy and a bleak nothingness. The doldrums. I’ve always loved that description from the Phantom Tollbooth. The time where there is no wind in your sails and you seem stuck in place.

It’s not always like that. It won’t stay like that. But sometimes you just need to hide from life a little until you feel like you can figure it out again. You can go through the motions and keep smiling but you can only hold yourself together with tape and glue for so long. Your body shuts you down eventually - forces you to take some time. I’m hiding in my bed with two bowls of chicken noodle soup and ginger lemon tea. I’ve watched a lot of Orange is the New Black. I have cried out some of the frustration at feeling this way. But I’m not forcing myself to keep stepping forward when a pause is necessary. 

I keep seeing a post on Facebook that says it’s ok not to be ok. “Reminder to ANYONE that my house is a safe zone. Coffee can be on in minutes or if you prefer something stronger or heavier, no problem. I will always be available - even if we haven’t talked in a while. Text me, call me, message me, anything. I will be there. I am always a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. Nothing worse than being alone and going through things alone.”

I’m not ok right now. And that’s ok. I will be. I’m struggling, but I’ll keep moving. I want you all to see the double edged side of things- especially competing. I want you to understand that even people who look like they have their shit together really might not be as strong as they look. And that depression can still look like a 5’4” fitness fanatic with a great dog, family and boyfriend. 

xo.

Ready- Esterly, Jung Youth

If you haven't noticed by now- my blog posts titles are songs I'm currently listening to. A lot of that has to do with Spotify and their discover weekly playlists.

10 weeks of prep culminated in an awesome show day on September 8th at the OCB Battle for Tidewater. It's my first show day in two years and my first in a tested federation. I made the switch because I'm tired of competing against others who are willing to "go the extra mile" so to speak in a sport where the building is supposed to be the main focus. 

 

I'm a dedicated gym-goer- I am not dedicated enough to use additional supplementation to succeed. I rarely even use protein powder anymore, switched to whole foods quite a while ago and I found Crystal Light to be a better alternative and way cheaper to BCAA's. 

I worked with @SwoleSarah, or Sarah Moorman for this prep. We had a weekly training guides and macros and I checked in with her every other day if I had questions or concerns. I am currently training quite a few people myself, and my brain doesn't have the bandwidth to check myself throughout a prep period when I have them to focus on. 

 

It was a slow process and while I placed third and am still waiting to have feedback from the judges- I felt pretty great about the package I brought to the stage. My feedback from NPC was always that my legs/butt were too big for my body shape, they wanted a leaner and tighter look. OCB is traditionally a more natural focused look, so I didn't expect to have to be as lean as NPC requires. I will say that I definitely felt more muscular than the majority of my bikini competition overall. I wasn't as "tiny" as the other ladies. 

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I could definitely work on my posing the next few weeks and my T-walk. It was the first time implementing that in my stage presence. My posing could be tweaked to make my waist appear smaller, my midsection is a bit thicker from the amount of deadlifting I do. I could decrease it- but that means being less strong. And I don't care enough about competing for that. I want a 300lb. deadlift more than a skinnier waist. But overall- I felt really, absolutely wonderful. And I brought home 3rd place in Novice B and Open C. 

*I apologize in advance that you're going to see a lot of my butt in the next photo*

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I didn't do any absurd cardio hours, but I do think I could add a bit more in over the next few weeks. We also didn't do any insane dieting, which was a big part of the discussion over prep in general. I love being in shape- but I have health boundaries I wont cross. And I love having a coach that respects that. I definitely had muscle and a body I was proud to show off. 

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I had an incredibly supportive and wonderful prep too. My parents, siblings, friends and significant other were all on board. My friend and fellow competitor, Gigi, joined me for show to help glue my bikini on and nail my posing. She was an absolute champion. My coworkers, loved ones and friends joined me out to celebrate. I ate cupcakes and fried rice and a ton of shrimp and chicken tenders and a charcuterie board and two ice cream sandwiches. And now I'm back on the grind. And ready for the normalcy of foods I love and exercise.

 

I have 5 weeks until the OCB Chesapeake Classic in Baltimore, MD. And I'm ready to be done with the season after that. I promised myself that 16 weeks of dieting would be the max amount I'd do for the year.  I refuse to diet through my anniversary, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Holidays are important, being present for family and friends is important. Dieting and competing needs to find it's place in your life- not be your whole life. I have a gym to open. And a life to live.

I guess we shall see what I look like 5 weeks from now. Honestly I can't wait. Thanks to everyone who has followed along and been a great supporter along the way. You make all of this more fun!

xoxo,

Kerith

 

Canyon- Glded

I'm a list maker. I like to write them, with the idea of crossing items off the list. But I write each to-do item down and check the list off mentally.

Every time I check something off, something new pops up. Another item to address as I continue down this path. I have a lot of moments where I tuck my head between my hands and try not to hyperventilate.

I've met with a graphic designer and I'm hyper focused on the logo and image I want to convey. The kind of story I want to tell. When I discuss the name Tequila and Deadlifts, I always get a few questions. Is it a bar? Why Tequila? Isn't that counterintuitive?

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I work in the restaurant industry and I watch people on their feet every single day, I also watch people pick up cases of beer with a rounded back and hurt their shoulders moving 160 lb. kegs. It's an industry that also enjoys a few drinks after works, and I am someone who loves a great tequila cocktail or even just a great sipping tequila. And I love to exercise.

I believe in a balanced mindset. I don't want to be an all or nothing approach to fitness and I know the majority of people I work with do imbibe. I'm not saying alcoholism, I'm saying adults make their choices and I want to support that fitness journey and find the right balance between play and health.

I want to be representative of my business. I am so exhausted by the constant "all or nothing" approaches of the current fitness industry. We push competition, speed, "no excuses" and "no days off" when we, as fitness professionals, know so much better. 

I do not expect an all or nothing approach to health, I do expect those that work with me to give their all on programming and to take the work we do in the gym seriously.  

I plan to focus my gym on those that need it most, because training in and of itself is often classist. It's expensive. Often times big box gyms lock clients into contracts, and when tragedies happen or life gets overwhelming, a client is paying for a service they cannot possibly use or getting sent to auditors for bad credit because they refuse to allow them out of a contracted agreement. There will be no contracts, just pre-purchased punchcards for 5 or 10 sessions. I'll have a cancellation policy that will be very clear and handled situationally. I am not trying to punish anyone, I want every client I train with to succeed. 

My pricing is going to be incredibly fair, especially for those in careers that require a hell of a lot of emotional output and have very little financial support. Teachers, Social workers, restaurant workers- you will find affordable training here. I'll do small group training as well, up to 5 at a time, in the case that you would like to work out with friends or co-workers and keep your team accountable. 

I'm going to especially focus on women in lifting. The ones who are intimidated or afraid to step into a weight room. The ones who've been told that dieting is a way of living and there is nothing else. The ones who still think cardio is the only way to lose weight and that weight loss is the only thing they should focus on. I'll be here to help you find your confidence in the gym, that no matter what you walk into you know your way around, that you have a strength inside that can only continue to grow, and that cardio is fun but lifting really heavy weight is fun too.

I'm not just building a gym. I'm building a mindset. A community. A balance. 

"Crazy Dreams"- Smash Cast

I have a morning ritual. I wake up and throw clothes on and walk the dog, I make her food and wait while my coffee drips slowly through the pot. I look forward to it, a cup of coffee and a few moments of silence in a hectic day. Usually, I have to chug it and make my way to my first appointment, but occasionally, I get some real down time and allow myself to think.

I collect coffee mugs from places I've visited. Vegas, New Orleans. I have ones with Courage burned into the mug and a worn favorite that tells me: "You're my person." A tablespoon of creamer, no more, to be topped off with the liquid black gold that jump starts my brain. These little rituals are small in the grand scheme of things, but they keep me centered when my life is in flux.

And today is a day of flux. I'm making some big changes. I'm leaping and hoping I hit the ground running. 

This building here: This is the new home of Tequila & Deadlifts. Where I will live the mantra of, "Live more. Do more." Where I will teach others to be balanced and badass. 

 

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I've got quite a bit already to start. Bands and ropes and medicine balls. Small weights. And tonight, I am getting in a car tonight to make the drive where I'll pick up my 2 squat racks and 2 bars and multiple weights and benches in a few hours. A treadmill beside them. And behind this open door will be my square of the warehouse floor, where I will help others find their strength and their joy in the gym the way I found mine. 

When I started my journey in fitness in 2011, I was struck by the need for training in every Group X classroom and in every avenue of career path. Whether you sit all day or stand- proper form and technique will change your life for the better. As someone who works in the restaurant industry, I often see my coworkers injure themselves with carrying kegs, or lift cases of beer with their back. I watch family and friends start on their own personal training journey only to get slammed back because the cost was just too much.

I want to help people. That's it. That's all I've ever wanted. And this studio will be about exactly that. I'm going to train those who can't afford traditional training, the people I work with each day who need the guidance and will benefit from it most. I'll be a trainer by day and continue to be a bartender at night. And I'll have a smattering of marketing projects on the side. Because I think you can have it all- you can work the careers that make you the most happy. And so I'm leaping.

4 weeks from now there will be a small studio in this space. And I'll be living my own crazy dream. 

 

Returning by Paul White

I traveled 3,000 miles. 38 hours of driving. I crossed three time zones and 10 state lines. In a fully packed up Toyota Sienna, where the drum set sat next to me and Spotify played hours and hours and hours of music. When it wasn't dead silent from the lack of service. Thanks T-Mobile....

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I started in Denver. The mile high city. And when I stepped off the plane and stared at the landscape, I felt like I'd been knocked back. Pretoria and Denver look the same, without the Rocky Mountains in the background of course. But the rolling hillside and shrubs look a hell of a lot like home. I don't know how anyone can stand there, in that space, and look at the vastness of the earth and not be overwhelmed with the glory of nature. I sat with my boyfriend's friends and learned about the city he lived in, stopping in at their favorite haunts and eating some of the best tacos I've ever had at a bar with one hell of a sense of humor. It's called Pinche, by the way.

 

I drove 15 hours through Denver, New Mexico, and West Texas. I had multiple moments of heartbreak and awe. The land is not easy, it's rugged and harsh. Mountains paint the sky blue and the land looks wind torn, with the occasional windmill on a mesa like a sky dancer reaching for the clouds. Settler's looked at that land with dogged determination and decided they would make it their own. More often than not I saw land tearing down homes, natures tendrils reaching up to pull bricks down the walls, to reclaim what had been built. But the homes that survived, are incredible.  In New Mexico, I went over 15 miles at time between dwellings and I was mind blown at man. Roads, electricity and telephone wires are testament to the presence of humanity, but otherwise the flats and mountains, mesas and buttes, are all barren of human touch. No billboards litter the highway, no gaudy signs for gas or cheap motel rooms. Just the occasional small town, a blip in the unchanging landscape. The road trip was long, and often arduous, with the wind whipping across the road and forcing me to fight the elements for the majority of the 15 hour drive.

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I landed in Austin at 9:30 at night and walked down 6th street, time and memory and exhaustion driving me to the nearest food joint that still served food on a Wednesday night. Eureka! was the choice, where a bourbon cocktail named Penicillin won me over, and a woman named Christine had me hysterically laughing as we discussed men, bunnies, the love for movement beyond a desk, the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a workforce and the fact we say sorry too much. She invited me to join her for a yoga retreat in Boston in August and when I left she hugged me and told me I had a beautiful soul.

 

In the morning I drove across Texas and into Louisiana, and I cried over the vastness of the Mississippi river and how brave men and women had to be to cross that without a bridge. We owe so much of what we have to people with far more guts then we have. And then I drove into New Orleans, as the sun broke through and storms finally quieted, and oh if that city doesn't feel like coming home. There's an energy in New Orleans, a hum in the lining of the walls. Where belief systems are a little different and you can see children playing tag amongst the tombs as easily as you see them on the playground. Music pours out of open doors, colored houses dot the landscape and theres something amazing to do or see on every corner.

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We visited several local favorites, caught up on a year of changes, discussed love and family, work and wishes, and the lives we want for ourselves. We stopped at St. Roch's market in the morning, before we walked the quarter, and indulged in overly great food. I spoke with Melvin, a man who loves this city so much and was so glad I'd come to visit. And we talked about music, and places to see and the vibrancy of people, of art, of music and experience. And he told me to come back because I looked like I belonged there.

 

If there would ever be a place to pack up and start again, I'd know exactly where I'd go. And I'd never look back. I told Michelle I'd see her in the fall and I left with a heavy heart, because there's never enough time in New Orleans or with a friend who you know you can count on for 12 years and counting. I drove through lightning storms and pounding rain for 4.5 hours, as if the city itself was angry I was leaving. And arrived at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. 

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I saw Stephanie last, 7 years ago, at her mother's funeral. Her son was an infant, not an independent young man like I met. She has done an incredible job, raised a polite and wonderfully kind son. And She and I sat on the couch for seven and a half hours and talked about every possible thing that crossed our minds. From hysterical laughter to conversations that blew my mind. She told me she has stopped apologizing for things and instead has started saying thank you to people instead. "Thank you for your patience, thank you for not judging my house." The shift in position felt life altering. Seven years was covered in such a short time and it will never feel long enough. We ended our journey with breakfast and a hug and a vow to have more adventures together instead of just discussing them. 

And then I drove 10 hours home. Honestly I think the most impressive part of the trip was the fact I spent that much time in a car without getting a speeding ticket.

But I learned so much about myself in that car. To drive that far alone is to be trapped with your own thoughts and fears and wants and to be forced to confront them. I didn't stress about food or workouts, I enjoyed the moment. The first trip I've gone on where exercise and food were not an obsession, because I know what I'm capable of and that I can alter my state with hard work. I felt a sense of calm and peace as I looked forward to my new career choices. Between restaurant industry and advertising, my day will be filled with excitement and value. I will not be a stationary, caged bird, I will travel. For work, for pleasure, for a change in scenery. Fears, that have once kept me tethered were alleviated as the hours passed and I realized I am able to do a lot more on my own than I gave myself credit for. I forgave myself for holding back, for still allowing someone else's voice to ring hollow in my ears after the fact.

And when I pulled into Richmond, it was with love, because I do love this city, but also with joy. Because you can always come home, so there's no reason to stay tethered anymore. 

I'm ready for more, more life, more adventure.

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