How I Got Powerlifted Back On The Wagon

This is a guest post by Claudia de Jonge Oliva, a former client, fellow coach and inspiring businesswoman.

A tale about denial, pressure of leading by example and strong AF women.

2018 was a year full of highlights: I turned 40 and was ready for it both physically and mentally. I started my own business and it became a success much faster than I expected. I got to take part in helping to grow a new CrossFit box with some of the most authentic and fun people I have ever met. It was a year full of new exciting experiences and I enjoyed it to the fullest.  

However, juggling all these different projects was also challenging to say the least and, aside from all the highlights, there were also some moments when I was full of self-doubt and wondering if I had chosen the right path.

I am a firm believer of practicing what you preach, and it was hard for me to advise others on how to keep up their healthy habits when keeping up mine was not always at the top of my priority list.

Neglecting this did, of course, worsen the situation and at one point the inevitable happened: I fell off the wagon.

I had fallen off the wagon multiple times in the past years and I usually managed to get back on it quite fast. This time, however, it was particularly hard.

To give you an idea: at some point I really started to wonder if I liked CrossFit at all, If I had ever truly liked it or if it had just been something I had created in my mind. Yep, it was that bad.

Luckily, turning 40 contains one big advantage. It’s called: experience. Life experience to be more specific. I had come to see a pattern in my own behaviour:

  1. Fall off the wagon.
  2. Deny the signals and get stuck in something I like to imagine as mud.
  3. Getting pissed off at myself when someone points out the signals and deny them even more.
  4. Getting even more pissed off when someone tries to sugar coat these signals (especially if this ‘someone’ happens to be my S.O.)
  5. Isolate myself because of the two previous points.
  6. Acknowledge the signals and embrace the suck (usually accompanied by feeling sorry for myself)
  7. Ask for help and/or get a plan in place, and then finally…
  8. Learn the lesson and reach my #nextlevel.

While dealing with all the above-mentioned stages of grief (not necessarily in that order) I suddenly remembered that a while ago my interests had gravitated towards powerlifting.

I got inspired by some very strong women like Marisa Inda and Stefi Cohen. Both Latinas, both short and both strong AF. I had forgotten about this as I was too busy over-analysing things and too busy being in denial.

This went on until approximately the end of 2018 when I came across a YouTube video of @megsquats (Meg Gallagher). I already knew her story but this time it resonated with me even more. She spoke about how she once fell off the wagon and that finding her way into powerlifting eventually got her back on the wagon.

It was after seeing that video that I immediately left my pity party and was determined to make powerlifting one of my new year’s resolutions. The other one is meditation, by the way (please feel free to remind me of this as I tend to forget it, which is the main reason why I’ve put it on my new year’s resolutions list in the first place).

I did a Google search and found Barbell Strength, a powerlifting gym in Rotterdam that is only a 15 minute drive from my house!  I sent them an email, told them my story (conveniently leaving out some parts), got a response the day after and went in for an assessment a week later.

During the assessment, Barbara pointed out a flaw in my squat.  I had developed this while compensating for the back pain that I had been neglecting for months. By neglecting I really mean NEGLECTING in capital letters. It was not even on my over-analysing (aka shitty excuses) list. Looking back, I am pretty sure that not being able to deadlift 25kg a month earlier should have been a clear sign.

Anyway, it took me months to accept that I was in pain and not enjoying one of the things I absolutely love: to lift heavy weights. When Barbara pointed out this flaw, I felt relieved. Like if I had been excused for having been off the wagon for so long. I even get a bit emotional while writing this down.

I remember we sat down after the assessment and she told me about Barbell Strength and said: “there is a small disclaimer that I have to make, we are transitioning to a Powerlifting and Strength Gym for women only. We believe in empowering women and (…)

I stopped listening after this point because she had me at “empower women”. I wanted to say: OK, where can I sign and when do we start! I did try to keep my cool though, not sure if she noticed.

We made an appointment for January, agreed on my training frequency, and that was the start of my powerlifting journey.

It only took 5 sessions to get rid of the flaw completely and, more importantly, get rid of the pain.  I’ve been training at Barbell Strength for almost three months now, without any pain whatsoever.

For now, my goal is to get back to my old PRs by the end of March and I am very excited about what the future might bring. Without wanting to get too much ahead of myself I am pretty sure it will involve lifting some heavy weights.

What I really like about Barbara is that she makes coaching about YOU. While training it’s like she’s invisible although you can sense her presence. I know that she is carefully observing my every move from different angles and after her observation she will give me that one cue that will help me further. And if she notices that it doesn’t resonate with me, she will try another one or another one until I nail it!

To me, Barbara is not only a knowledgeable, kind and professional coach but she authentically embodies what she stands for: to help women conquer weights.  And in my personal case: helping me back on the wagon.

About The Author

Barbara M.

Since 2013, Barbara has been helping women of all fitness backgrounds get stronger, leaner and more confident, both inside and outside the gym.

Her passion lies in educating, empowering and encouraging women to find out what they’re capable of, and more.

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