If you missed Part I of “A Practical Guide to Do Weights Make Women Bulky?”, make sure to give it a read prior to diving into today’s interview.
Today’s guest post is from Performance360 Coach, Julianne Russell. Julianne has undergone a remarkable two year transformation using a training routine focused around powerlifting,Olympic weightlifting and circuit training.
She is down 28 pounds and her body fat has gone from 35% to 14%.
Today, she will share her thoughts on training, diet and the female body.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am originally an East coaster, the youngest of six, in constant competition with my brothers and…well, everyone else on the planet. I spent my whole life playing sports until I transitioned into mainly practicing and teaching yoga about 10 years ago and surfing in the last 6.
Those were my main physical movements until I joined P360 in 2013. Earlier that year, I had injured my neck and shoulder teaching yoga, and was unable to move my arms very much, or turn my head without experiencing terrible muscle spasms that would last from a few seconds to a couple hours.
I had fallen into a depressed state, hitting the bars every night, eating complete shit, and got my 5’4″ frame up to about 170#. My overall health was poor, physically, emotionally, and mentally. This went on for about 6 months before I was properly diagnosed and could begin to heal.
I started at P360 at that lowest point, a complete beginner to barbells and kettlebells. Even though I was slightly intimidated, I was also incredibly stoked to learn new shit and get to work on having a healthy body once more.
Have weights made you bulky?
No. Not even in the slightest. Do I have more muscle and definition? Absolutely. However, every singe area of my body has gotten smaller because I’ve dropped so much body fat.
Since focusing on heavy weight training, what results have you seen?
Overall, I have lost 28 pounds and my body fat has gone from 35% to 14%.
It’s been a very steady loss in lbs and inches as opposed to a lot of up and down that I see in other programs and short-cut based nutrition plans. In my initial 6 months I lost (and kept off) 12 pounds mostly from my belly, my hips, and my upper back/shoulders. I’ve needed a new wardrobe for a while but I continually hesitate to buy new things because of the steady shifts I find.
I dropped from a size 8-10 to a 4-6 (sometimes surprising the hell out of myself by fitting into a 2), and my wet suit got SO big on me that I had to buy a new one 6 sizes smaller…. 6 sizes smaller.
My measurements across the board are at least 2 inches smaller, in some areas more (my upper arm, upper thigh and rib cage are more like 3). I
can see abs, without flexing, for the first time since I was 14.
Has diet also been a factor to achieve this aesthetic?
I fucking love food and eating it. All of it, all of the time.
The first major change I made was the timing of my meals. This is also probably the only thing that I really pay attention to on a daily basis, meaning I don’t count calories in/out I just calculate more when I eat them. I eat my biggest meal of the day after my P360 workout. Typically that will contain copious amounts of fat, protein, and whatever carbs I have around (usually some sort of potato to satisfy my genetics).
Throughout the day beyond that, working around surfing and teaching yoga I continue to eat fat and proteins, but mix in greens and veggies more in the evening. That allows me to go to bed feeling full but light rather than full of bacon and eggs.
I also quit drinking which is a giant factor in my overall better health. Alcohol is basically poison, there’s no other real way to put it. I went from drinking every single day, to maybe once a month.
A big thing I like to tell people, I don’t have “cheat meals” or “cheat days”. I don’t use my workouts as punishment for things I’ve eaten that are “bad”. The negative vocabulary we attach to food only exacerbates our negative feelings for ourselves and choices we make.
I don’t need to eat ice cream every day, so I don’t. But I still eat it because life is worth enjoying with out always worrying about how my abs will look.
What has your training improved other than your physical appearance?
Well, the obvious would be my overall increased strength and athleticism. I am pretty strong these days, and I feel it. Not only can I pick up really heavy weight (and quickly when necessary), I can now hold my handstands for longer. I feel better on my yoga mat mentally as which allows me to take my practice deeper. I can paddle faster and stronger in the water than ever (which ultimately allows me to feel more comfortable in bigger, heavier waves and out swim sharks).
Perhaps the most important thing for me has been an shift in my mental and emotional health. The focus required for weightlifting, the body awareness and commitment, all translate into a more clear head space on most days. Throughout the time I was injured I felt relatively out of control because my body felt foreign to me. That’s no longer the case, and I am a better coach and teacher because of that.
What is your definition of a strong female body and how do you feel powerlifting and weightlifting accomplishes that?
Aesthetically, I appreciate females with some muscle. I think more people do than they think just based on the response of folks to my own physical changes. I think it’s sexy when your body shows your physical abilities. Everybody has a different genetic makeup and some of us may never achieve certain aesthetics because of that, so ultimately the way you carry yourself is what shows strength.
To me, confidence in yourself and the fire within is what really defines a strong female body. So whether it’s a 165# woman deadlifting 400#, or a smaller woman confidently performing strict bodyweight movements it doesn’t matter.
Strong is strong in how you carry yourself.
Why do you think our society is one that attempts to standardize the female body?
I think our society (and many others) is afraid of strong women. It’s been that way for a very long time…or since the beginning of time. Historically speaking in every facet of life we’ve been told to fill a certain role, and over time the appearance that goes with that role has changed but is still standardized in some way. It used to be sexy to look like Marilyn Monroe (who was a size 14 and a voluptuous, curvy woman) but you still had to keep your mouth shut.
Now, we’re told that female models that are a size 6 are plus sized models, and bikini ads are by far the most depressing visual for the average woman, but we should probably try to look like that if we want to fit in and be happy.
Ultimately, I think it’s just an old world view that women are inferior and need to be told how to look and act regardless of what the current social standard is. If we are constantly striving to achieve something, no matter how ridiculous or outside of reality that is, our voices are muted because we are insecure.
If a woman (or a man) is taking responsibility for her health and not draining healthcare resources and social services, then it is absurd for anyone to pass judgement on her appearance. It looks different on everyone and it’s nobody’s right to use words like “too skinny”, “too fat”, “too muscular”.
We live in this weird world of diet fads, fitbits, cleanses, and just straight up incorrect information in regards to food. Instant gratification. Everyone wants to be skinny in 30 days or neglect themselves of nourishment all in the name of meeting this ridiculous standard that shouldn’t exist.
I personally prefer hard work and realistic goals while eating real food that tastes good. My body will respond however it responds and I, and other women, should be ecstatic with that.
What would you say to a woman nervous about going into powerlifting or weightlifting for the first time?
Be nervous. That’s a normal response to something that is new. Just don’t let your nerves and doubts cause you to make fear-based decisions and limit your potential for great results.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was “doubt your doubts”. Your mind can only conceptualize what it already knows, so it may try to limit your body.
Learn to move, become connected to not only the strength in your muscles, but all the way down to your skeleton. The strength that comes from being under a barbell will also strengthen your mind and focus outside of weightlifting.
Surprising yourself is fucking fun and we don’t get many opportunities in day to day life to experience that. When you discover you can lift something heavier than you thought, or jump higher (or at all), or technical improvements, it’s liberating.
That’s the stuff that changes a regular day into an exciting one for me.
How has your life improved since embracing this style of training?
This is a long list so I’ll share the most important to me.
I’ve learned a lot about myself both physically and mentally in the last 2 years than I ever would have thought. I have moved way beyond the limitations I had set for my body and learned how to embrace a certain level of (self imposed) pressure and apply it rather than avoid it.
Honestly, I think I’ve become a lot friendlier of a human as well, just because I’m happier with myself. This has translated into a ton of personal growth within my relationships with friends and family, and allowed me to be open to new relationships as well. The training is important in my day to day wellbeing, but I also strongly believe it’s the people of P360 and the coaches that have ultimately transformed me. They make me want to be even better and continue to push myself.
With this type of physical exertion, as an outlet for stress, competitiveness and aggression, I find it easier to be soft and gentle when I teach yoga. This has made me a more effective teacher, and allowed my students a different experience. My more nurturing side comes out in my relationships because I have a place to focus my intensity now, which I think it’s safe to say, everyone in my life is grateful for.
Any last parting words?
People get great results for themselves in all forms of fitness. This has worked extremely well for me and I cannot recommend it more highly for all women. I have not ignored cardio, I just don’t do traditional cardio. I don’t run or use cardio machines. I do circuit training at my gym using weights.
Heavy lifting will improve your life in a number of areas. You’ll be a more confident, stronger woman and to me, that’s what it’s all about.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think, and if you liked it, please hit the SHARE button below.