Look up the word “strength” in the dictionary. No really, do it! Strength is defined as being “the quality or state of being strong” meaning here, bodily power. Strength is also defined as being mentally powerful, as well as courageous. The term “vigor” pops up here as well to describe the word “strength”. Look up vigor and we find a deeper sense of the what it means to be strong. It is about being mentally sound, physically healthy, and expressing a great deal of overall vitality. Strength has everything to do with our physical power output as well as it does our own sanity. Being strong is about being able to overcome any challenges, be they a health crisis, an addiction, a body image problem, or a physical limitation.
So…what does strength mean to me?
I have spoken before about how difficult it was for me to maintain a weight of 123.5 for RKC Vienna prior to the weight class changes. Looking back at some of my old youtube videos and pictures from that time period made something very clear to me: I looked exhausted and sickly. For me, that weight was no longer natural. My hormones were all messed up, I became an irritated little Burgher (to say the least) and oh, decided not to fuel my workouts for fear of a scale (which was smashed last winter). Looking back at my progress from that pathetic state, a few things came to mind. A year ago, I had DREAMED of the day I could do 48kg Kettlebell swings for reps. Having upped my weight and overall power, look at what recently happened.
7 reps, and a THUD! (my sincerest apologies to the neighbors downstairs! SORRY!)
With that in mind, I wanted to address some of the toughest questions I asked my friends this week as a way to make a point of what it means to be strong. Here’s my own answers to a few of my own questions.
Did you ever personally struggle with an unhealthy body image?
Yes, I did. All during my RKC training I, the Primal Burgher, became one of those “obsessed” types about my own body fat %, weight classes, you name it. I hate to admit this publicly but hey! I’m human. That is NOT to say that the RKC certification is itself a bad thing. It is NOT! Rather, instead of doing the logical thing to get
stronger, I allowed myself to enter a state of serious under-eating until it was almost too late. Looking back at my food logs, there were times I was barely getting 1500 calories for my demanding workouts. That was a recipe for muscle catabolism, which I had the pleasure of experiencing too. I was lucky that I was able to gain the mass that I did quickly before RKC Vienna. In fact, I weighed in around 131 which was nearly 10 pounds over where I started from when I began training. I swear on my life that the additional muscle gave me the ability to pass RKC without falling over backwards. I was also able to compete for Iron Maiden. Had I not listened to my body, I probably would have failed my certification. I never want to experience that again. It was stupid, and I take full responsibility for it. However, it taught me something. Love your body, perform at your peak and wow the crowd. Get restrictive, and watch yourself waste away. Literally. Obsessing over your weight and body fat percentage is dangerous. Period!
What is it about strength training that you think truly enhances your life?
I began strength training back when I was 22. At the time, I had one 12kg kettlebell and worked my way up over the years to doing demanding lifts with weights sometimes as heavy as my own body. Originally, I got into strength training as I read a ton of research on how short burst activities helped fight stress and inflammation. I used functional fitness to actually help me deal with my autoimmune issue, and it worked like a charm! From there on out, I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to see just how strong I could be and how physically fit I could become. I restored my health, passed RKC Vienna, and have made it my mission now to share the benefits of power output and overall health with the masses. Strength training was a factor for helping me overcome disease, and when that happened, my confidence soared. Hell, sometimes I even felt invincible! Knowing how functional fitness enhances the body overall, it is my mission to educate others on how to eat smart and train hard so they can enjoy their lives! In short, I reversed my health problem which increased my confidence. The added enhancement in my life is having the ability to share that knowledge with others. It’s been a blessing!
What would you say to women who are afraid of gaining weight or “bulking up” from strength training?
To quote RKC II Kerry Swick, “If your scale bothers you, THROW IT OUT!” Fat loss is one area of fitness, but muscle growth is an entirely different ball game. Women don’t have the hormonal structure to bulk up like male body builders so fear not! Feed yourself! Love yourself! Don’t make the mistake I did by under eating and over training! Love your new-found strength and don’t apologize for it! Be self-sufficient! You’ll find that you’re more confident and resilient in the end!
One year ago I was a whopping 121 pounds. Now, I fluctuate as low as 125lbs to up and around 130lbs, and I don’t look any different at those weights. I am also happy to say that I just don’t give a sh*t anymore about what some scale is going to say about my weight. I have strong legs, arms of steel, and an incredible power output. My number one goal now is to consistently pass the 16kg RKC Snatch test (I have tested here before but want to consistently perform the 100 reps in 5 minutes on every occasion attempted. Perfect practice makes perfect after all!). In the mean time, I have learned some super technical but super fun body weight maneuvers as well. Check out my recent demonstration of an elbow lever on top of a wooden stool!
Ladies, be “unapologetically strong!” You CAN find confidence through strength training and develop an entirely new and healthy body image because of it. Strength even goes beyond physical exercise! Strength is about loving yourself, being independent, and overcoming the challenges life throws at you without even flinching for a second! Now, get out there and show the world how powerful you really are inside and out! Squash whatever obstacles are in your way and don’t look back! You’re stronger than you know, and that’s a beautiful thing!
Remember to eat smart, train hard, and enjoy your life!
Janelle Pica, RKC
Special thanks to Kat Wolfgang, Lisa Joseph, and RKC II Kerry Swick for being so willing to chat with me about the role of strength training for female health. This has been a great experience for me and so many other people out there who contacted me this week about the blog posts. Thanks for showing me what it means to be strong!