Amber’s Journey

amberRecently I completed the Strong First level One Kettlebell Certification under the guidance of Method Strength & Performance owner Ryan Zuver. But let me take you back a bit and give you a little back story leading up to current day. This is going to be a long one, but stay with me. It gets good. In first grade at the young age of about seven I began to notice things about my body. At swim lessons, in my little mind, I was a little bit thicker than some of the other girls. When I sat down I noticed a few more rolls than my friend had. I can still picture my young-self pulling my knees to my chest, hoping the other girls wouldn’t notice “my fat rolls.” The reality was, I was a tiny kid and not even, if barely, on the growth charts when I visited the pediatrician. I stopped eating what I deemed, “fattening” school lunches. (Let’s be honest- they weren’t great!) I ate little if any of the packed lunches my mom sent to school with me, instead feeding them to the ducks at the local pond I passed on my walk home from school. In the years that followed, I continued down this destructive path.

In high school, some days I didn’t eat more than a few saltines. I justified my eating habits when questioned, by complaining of an upset stomach. My hair became dull and lifeless- my nails weak and brittle. At 21, with an infant daughter, the damaging behavior was still ever present. I had to lose that baby weight! I worked out two plus hours a day, seven days a week. Not eating. Binging. Purging. Not eating. On it went. I was 96lbs at 5ft.  I was skinny, weak, and terribly unhealthy. But you couldn’t tell me that. While I was never diagnosed as anorexic/bulimic, I was what considered OSFED, (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder). OSFED is a feeding or eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment, but doesn’t fully meet the criteria for another feeding or eating disorder. I also suffered from anxiety and depression.

I hit an all-time mental low in 2011 when upon getting in the shower following interval treadmill sprints- I noticed a lump the size of a golf ball, sticking out of my groin. The ED docs informed me I had bilateral inguinal hernias. A hernia on each side of my groin. Meaning- NO training for quite some time. I launched into absolute hysterics. My sister’s wedding was in two months, how was I going to keep the weight off if I couldn’t train? In the back of my head, I knew this was insane thinking, but couldn’t help myself. I sunk in to a huge depression.  I had the surgery and at 12 weeks post opp, I eased back into training. This was against the best wishes of the surgeon, who had warned me I would never lift “heavy”, again. This was the same surgeon, who didn’t understand why I wanted/needed to lift anyway.

Over the next few years I continued to train at least five days a week, with a body builders/image based approach to lifting. I’m not saying bodybuilding is bad, but for me, it was feeding already detrimental behavior. My weight fluctuated up and down- my metabolism wreaked at this point from the damage it had sustained over the years. The constant cardio sessions were no longer doing their job. I had, however, started reading up a lot on nutrition, learning to meal prep, trying to better fuel my body. Subconsciously, I knew my behavior was unhealthy, and I needed to figure out a way to make a change. I had really begun to think about the image I was sending my daughter. About the kind of role model I wanted her to have, knowing I never wanted to see her experience my journey. Even with this as a positive, I was mentally still in a pit. I was still chasing image as my end goal, constantly nursing a shoulder injury, never feeling good enough. The sad fact is, none of this is uncommon. I am 100% certain, many girls, women, and even men reading this, can relate in one form or another.

Fast forward to 2013. Things were about to change. I met Ryan in November of that year, and began training together shortly after. In the beginning he handed me some info on rolling and crawling and told me to read it. This guy wanted me to roll leading with my eyes and head like a baby.  I thought he was a loon. Little did I know how it would later help my Turkish Get Up, tremendously. This is where I began to understand “trusting in the process.” Over the course of the next year, I learned to deadlift, improved my squat, hit 2x bodyweight with the hip thrust, and conquered my first REAL pull up. I went on to then accomplish many more pull ups, even beginning to practice weighted pull ups.

Suddenly I was no longer focused on my body image, but instead, what my body could do. That next deadlift goal…that next military press goal…passing the StrongFirst snatch test. And guess what? My body changed in surprising ways. My waist leaned out; my back took on the defined shape I had been chasing for so long, without actually chasing it! (Thank you pull ups!) Women at the gym were stopping me mid-training to comment on my hamstrings! And instead of it being a dreadful, self-loathing experience…it became an amazing journey. As a matter of fact, the most amazing journey of my life, aside from motherhood. It was my journey of self-discovery and self-love. I gained confidence that I had never before possessed. Strong, capable, confidence. I’m now proud of the example I’m setting for my daughter.

This past April, after meeting with one of my biggest role models, and influences in the strength and conditioning world, and getting a little shove from her, I decided to finally tackle the Strong First kettlebell certification. Ryan planned/wrote my training programs with six months to prepare. If I’m honest, I still wasn’t 100% sure I had what it took, but I was going to give it all I had. Along the way I wanted to quit at least once. At times the training and life in general, felt overwhelming. However, I put my faith and trust in Ryan, knowing he wouldn’t let me go unprepared, and decided to do what he had been telling me all along…trust in the process. I hadn’t come this far, to only come this far.

I am happy to report, Ryan had me VERY prepared, (it pays to trust in the process, and your trainer- especially when it’s Ryan!) I passed feeling strong and confident, and like I could now conquer the world. I had placed my faith and trust in another individual, reached outside my comfort zone, worked my butt off, and had the time of my life doing it. I can’t wait to see what training goals we will accomplish together in the future. In the end I’ve learned this. Believe in yourself. Trust in the process.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Slow and steady wins the race.