Just Say No…. To Pink Weights!

I don’t even know who Sean Flanagan is, but brother, you keep preaching!

Let me say it loud and clear for those in the back:

SAY NO TO PINK DUMBBELLS.

I would like to also say no to gloves but that is for another day.

There is little, within the realm of bogus fitness B.S, that gets my gears all twisted up more than pink dumbbells and “trainers” that encourage you to use them.

  1. It insinuates that women need to have pink girlie weights to workout. Poor Pam can’t go over and touch the heavy dumbbells or barbell with the boys.
  2. They fundamentally go against the VERY BASICS of science in regards to how you are able to gain muscle, or the popular term for women ” tone up”, which, spoiler alert is the act of building muscle then leaning out so you can see it.
  3. The reason is really grinds my gears? Lifting weight is ESSENTIAL, especially as we age, due to muscle loss and osteoporosis. Women, especially, need to lift weights to prevent muscle loss and osteoporosis. The trick to lifting weights is stressing the muscle and, sister, you CANNOT DO THAT if your weights weigh less than your purse!

Breaking it all down.

Issue 1: Leave the girls with the girlie weights

Oh sweet stars, I am not even going to touch form for women in fitness pictures.

Girl weights, girl pushups, girl section of the gym, girl boss….For the love of all things holy can we stop minimizing the absolute badassery of women?!

You don’t need girl weights. I am not even going to get into the science of why here. That is point 3. What I want to get into is the fact society has broken us up into categories that begin with “girl”.

“Oh, good for Pam she is a girl boss”. You don’t hear men described as men bosses. NO. They are just a boss.

“We better make girlie pink weights so Suzy feels comfortable lifting the weights and doesn’t gain muscle”. NO. Sister, you do not need different weights OR a different section of the gym. You walk your confident self over to the REAL weights and lift those suckers better than the boys.

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than teaching someone how to barbell squat and they send me updates saying:

  1. They are lifting heavier than the guys at their gym.
  2. The guys are barely hitting paraell and they are going a$$ to grass.

You go girl!

Now we’re talking.

Not sure where to start or how to use them? I can help.

This is slightly off topic of point 1 but I do believe ties into the pink dumbbells and females having to be separated by “GIRL” titles:

I know in today’s society it is taboo to say “I want to win”. Now a days we just have to want to show up. I wasn’t raised that way. I want to win. It in in my blood and it is why I workout and train.

But you want to know something? When I competed in CrossFit I wanted to beat THE BOYS. When I train for triathlons and trail races I want to be competitive against the boys. I am blessed in riding we aren’t broken up by men and women, so there is no concern there.

I will NEVER forget the first time I was in a CrossFit gym. I had been working out at home, using Outlaw North programming, but decided to make it to regionals I had to actually go to a gym. I showed up in my baggy hoody. I kinda half assed the fun warm up we were put through, which was basically tag for adults. I am, and will always be, awkward in group activities like that.

Next was bench press. I was paired up with a male athlete and the trainer kept a close eye on me, being the new person. When it was my turn the client and trainer both said “Here, I will lighten the weights”.

I smirked and said “No need”, and dropped my hoody like some kind of badass in a boxing movie.

If cameras had been on me it would have shifted to slow mo as I drop the hoody and walk over to the bench. The next words, and truthfully I can’t remember if they came from the trainer or client, were “Holy crap you are jacked…”. Now, I find Crossfit to be a bit more progressive in the recognition of women badassery but there was still that misconception that because I was a girl I would need lighter weights.

And for those saying: You were imposing those beliefs, they could have just done so because you were new. Throughout the whole first day it was mentioned multiple times how I was “Keeping up with the boys”.

I show up to show how friggin badass and tough women are. That we don’t need special divisions, weights, areas of the gym, special titles to show a girl made it to being a boss.

I show up to prove women don’t just “Keep up with the boys”.

So sister, put down those damn pink weights and show off how badass you are. They aren’t doing a damn thing for you anyway.

JUST SAY NO TO PINK DUMBBELLS.

Issue 2: They don’t do a damn thing

My eyes bleed seeing people promoting pink dumbbells. Well, maybe not bleed yet but tears do fall.

You are being MISLED. MISLEAD and money is being made off your back for it!

Sister, do me a favour. GO weigh your purse, bag or back pack right now. I will wait. Just humour me.

I will just drop this here for some hold music while you do this.

Back?

Fab. Now, friend, if your purse weighs more than your weights you are doing it wrong. If you have a baby, and carry your baby around, and your BABY weighs more than your weights. You are doing it wrong.

To see results you must have progressive overload on the body. The progressive overload principle basically states: In order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.

Or, to put it another way, your body will not change or improve unless you force it to.

No matter how perfect your workout is, muscle will not be built, strength will not be gained, and performance will not improve unless you show your body that these are things that absolutely NEED to happen in order for it to survive.

Read that again.

You know how you get rid of that turkey neck arm? WEIGHTS. Heavy a$$ weights. You need to provide muscle to give the arm some actual SHAPE. Pink weights won’t do it.

You know how you grow a booty? WEIGHTS and heavy ones!

Long term results require lifting within a 5-8 rep range to FORCE your body to change. Popular home workouts are great to get started or use during “Shreds” for high rep circuit work however to see real change and muscle growth there must also be heavy lifting within properly structured programs.

Issue 3: Bad Health Advice

Ok, so fine. A trainer wants to target women that are petrified they will look like the Hulk if they touch real weights.

Real weights won’t cause you to become huge!

So, why is it my business if “trainers” want to sell the business of pink weights and fru fru workouts?

Because they are not only misleading women but they are causing long term health problems.

My mother in law has osteoporosis. When doctors, myself and her son, begged her to start lifting weights she got pink dumbbells.

Ok, in fairness I think they are blue but either way they are under 5 pounds.

You want to know what has NOT improved? Her osteoporosis or strength. In fact, she is recovering from a broken bone as I write and struggles to use crutches due to lack of strength.

Here are some cold hard facts for you sister:

Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is a natural part of aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade.

Now, I couldn’t find a study that specifically speaks of women. I am sure they are out there I am just so riled up right now that I need to keep writing. Never the less.

Most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass during their lifetimes. This number is higher for women.

Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase your risk of falls and fractures. A 2015 report from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research found that people with sarcopenia had 2.3 times the risk of having a low-trauma fracture from a fall, such as a broken hip, collarbone, leg, arm, or wrist.

Shit, you may be thinking, I am over 30! What can I do to combat this!?

LIFT HEAVY WEIGHTS IN A PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD PROGRAM.

Yes, this means if you workout at home you need heavy dumbbells and a barbell, as you progress. Yes, this means you will likely need to get a membership to a gym.

No, this does not mean you are alone if you have no idea what to do or where to start. I am developing a YouTube channel with workouts here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3QQdWscURZYByuNLHF5f-g?

And I am also creating a membership website for those that can’t afford the 1:1 training.

I do not want any woman to be left behind due to funds.

But, let’s get back to research.

Women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis over men. By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

This CANNOT BE DONE WITH PINK WEIGHTS.

To wrap up…

At best trainers that promote light weights and no progressive overload are misleading you. At worst they are directly contributing to long term ill effects on your health.

10 years ago I was that woman too afraid of judgement and “Doing it wrong” to dare go into the “mens” section of the gym. Too afraid to lift heavy. I now have my own business as a coach to help empower other women to realize how truly badass they are.

You are a badass. Not a girl badass. Just a badass.

xo

Ashley

Mindset for the Competitive Equestrian

What separates elite athletes from the rest?

Talent?

Many talented athletes never lived up to their potential.

Technical skills?

All the technical skills in the world will not help if you are unable to perform those skills in the heat of competition.

Natural athleticism?

There are many examples in sports where less athletic athletes became elite, and physically gifted athletes failed to succeed.

So what is the special ingredient that produces elite athletic performances?

The biggest contributor to elite performances is mindset after all the training and talent is baked in.

Mindset is your mental outlook and how it helps or hinders your performance in competition.

So, let’s talk about mindset for the equestrian athlete.

Have you ever felt nerves or anxiety while competing? When I was younger I literally could not eat the morning of a show. Saying I had butterflies, or jitters, was an understatement! I was even known at the show grounds for getting so worked up I was sick to my stomach the mornings of the show!

For most people pre show, or pre class, nerves are a common occurrence. Often we don’t even realize how much those nerves are holding us back or how CRUCIAL mindset is for our success. Further, a lot of us pull it together at the last minute without even realizing how much better we could have done if we were properly prepared mentally.

Telling yourself to “just relax” does not work. It won’t even work coming from your mother, trainer or long time friend. A winning mindset needs to be prepared well before unloading your horse at the show or walking towards the dressage ring.

I am going to summarize the top 5 mindset skills that I feel are required to be a successful athlete. This is not an exhaustive list and, of course, there are other skills as well. This list comes from my own education, experience and training in Psychology as well as NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) as well as a long time working with athletes in my coaching programs!

  1. Choose and maintain a positive attitude.
  2. Use positive self-talk.
  3. Use positive mental imagery.
  4. Manage anxiety effectively.
  5. Maintain concentration.

Skills 1: Successful athletes choose and Maintain a Positive Attitude

Successful athletes:

  • Realize that attitude is a choice then choose an attitude that is predominantly positive.
  • View their sport as an opportunity to compete against themselves and learn from their successes and failures.
    • This allows you to focus on what you can control, which is your own attitude, performance and progress. This gives YOU the power to succeed instead of worrying about factors outside of your control, such as what Sally and her horse are bringing to the ring that day.
  • Have a coach-able attitude and do not say things like “I know that already” or “I have already tried that”. Successful athletes are open to feedback and welcome advice on how to improve.
  • Respect their sport, other participants, coaches, officials, and themselves.

Skill 2: Use positive self-talk.

Successful athletes:

  • Work through stressful situations using positive self-talk. It is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to do well in a sport if your negative thoughts are telling you otherwise.
    • I recommend my athletes begin with writing down their most common self limiting beliefs, such as “I am not good enough to do well” , “I could never beat the girls with the fancy warmbloods”, “I always mess up my dressage test” and reframe it into positive self talk, such as:
      • ” I perform well in tough competitions”
      • ” I am prepared and unstoppable”
      • “I am a great athlete and my horse is ready”
      • “My horse and I always perform our best”
      • “I am a badass and I am ready”
      • Post these new beliefs everywhere and anywhere you need to until they become your default thought process!
  • Tip: To generate a strong sense of self-belief, an athlete cannot worry about feeling arrogant. To be the best you can be you must believe you are the best. There is no shame in being arrogant inside one’s own head. In fact, it is a critical element to achieving success.
  • Use self-talk to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors during competition. When you feel negativity or anxiety creeping it reframe it with positive self talk. Positive self talk will also help an athlete overcome setbacks during competition.

Skill 3: Use Positive Mental Imagery

Successful athletes:

  • Use positive mental imagery to focus on the desired outcome. There is no more powerful mental tool than mental imagery and it can have a huge impact on your sports performance.
    • Imagery is used by virtually all great athletes and research has shown that, when combined with actual practice, improves performance more than practice alone.
  • Visualize themselves winning in great detail. They include multiple senses such as the sound of the horse breathing, the sound landing from a jump, feeling the warmth of the sun, the feel of the horses coat, etc.
    • You should duplicate the sights, sounds, physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions that you would experience in an actual competition. 
    • Tip: Create and use mental images that are detailed, specific, and realistic.
    • For those that struggle with visualization I recommend beginning with guided meditation to learn how to focus your mind.
  • Use imagery during competition to prepare for action and recover from errors and poor performances. Maybe you “messed up” in your dressage test. These skills will help you brush it off so it does not negatively impact the rest of your competition.

Skill 4: Manage anxiety effectively.

Successful athletes:

  • Accept some anxiety as part of sport. Pre competition jitters are not only normal but help increase performance.
    • Accept, rather than fight, the nervous energy you feel. Don’t misinterpret it by thinking that it is fear. That adrenaline rush you feel is normal and it is part of your body’s natural preparation for the competition. Notice it, but don’t focus on it.
  • Realize that some degree of anxiety can help them perform well. This is important so athletes do not allow jitters to develop into a spiral of stress and negativity.
  • Recognize ways to deal with stress and anxiety in their day to day life. This could be yoga, meditation, walks in nature, breathing techniques, etc.
  • TIP: If you connect a state with a behaviour, for example, deep breathing with your eyes closed to a quiet mind or fist pumping to pump yourself up you can INSTANTLY change your state at the competition. This, of course, must be a neural connection that is solidified well before the competition. The outcome needs to be connecting a desired state with a certain behaviour. This can be seen with elite athletes that have pre show rituals!
An example on how there is an optimal amount of arousal (“stress”) to reach a peak level of performance.

Skill 5: Maintain concentration

Successful athletes:

  • Have learned how to maintain focus and resist distractions, whether they come from the environment or from within themselves.
  • Are able to regain their focus when concentration is lost during competition. You see this with viral videos of loose horses running through a test and the rider staying focused. While the horse is often the one credited it is more so the RIDERS concentration that keeps the horse focused and relaxed. Horses feed off of our emotions and the more relaxed and focused you are the more relaxed and focused they are.
  • Have learned how to play in the “here-and-now”, without regard to either past or anticipated future events. If they are unhappy with their last dressage test successful athletes move on and focus on the current moment and the current test. Allowing the past or future to dictate emotions will cause anxiety and lower your performance.

In summary…

Effective athletes train their mind as they train their body, or, to relate to horses effective equestrian athletes train their mind as they train their horses! Keep in mind that research has consistently proven that athletes who possess a growth mindset, and believed their performance could be improved simply through effort significantly outperformed those who believed that their talent was fixed.

I hope you enjoyed this article and it challenged you to think about how your mindset may be effecting your performance!

Free equestrian community:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/426232728129685/

My YouTube Fitness and Mindset Channel, make sure to subscribe to stay up to date!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3QQdWscURZYByuNLHF5f-g

xo

Ashley

There is no risk greater than refusing to risk at all

While in my masters of social work I took a HUGE risk: I left to travel.

I had just taken out the loan to pay for tuition. 2 weeks after I paid tuition (and it isn’t cheap!) the guy I was casually dating asked if I wanted to go to Australia with him. He was going for his masters for teaching.

Now, I feel it pertinent to add that I didn’t hop on a plane with a random guy I met at the bar the week before. We had gone to high school together and I knew him quite well.

But, it was still a risk to drop my life and move across the world!

But, that is what I did. I quite literally dropped everything and got on a plane.

I am STILL paying off my student loans 11 years later but it was worth every second. I left a piece of my heart in Australia. It was everything I could have expected and more.

Home
Dream come true.

Now, had I been afraid to take that risk I would never have had that experience. And, while one may argue that you don’t know what you don’t know, meaning I wouldn’t have known what I was missing, Australia had been on my vision board since I was 5 and my vision board was ripped out pieces of magazines and the board was my wall.

The point is this: When you are 90 in your rocking chair looking back at your life the biggest regrets will be the risks you DIDN’T TAKE. And I am not making things up. There has been actual research about this.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, came forward with the top 5 regrets people had in the last 12 weeks of their life:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Bonnie stated people realized how many dreams they left unfulfilled and how health, and “time”, had been taken for granted in their younger years.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Bronnie says: “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.” Bronnie

Now, if that doesn’t light a fire in you I don’t know what will!

A lot of people think my mission in life is surrounding fitness. It isn’t.

My mission is to help YOU live life to the fullest. Enjoy each day. Live the healthiest you can. Be happier. Laugh more. Run the marathon you always wanted to run. Buy the horse you always wanted to buy. Move to the other side of the world on a whim because your heart is telling you to.

Fitness is just a tool I use, and a VERY powerful tool at that.

My tip to help you start taking control of your life?

Take your favourite complaint and turn that baby inside out!

For example: ” I can’t afford to buy that horse” becomes ” Money loves me so much it throws itself at me!”. Yes, corny, but powerful. I did this when I was finally tired of my old excuses on why I couldn’t afford a Blazing Colours baby. The point is NOT that you say this and then money rains down from the heavens as if some drug lords house blew up a kilometer down the road. Although, maybe that could happen!

No, the point is you start to search for the possibilities, the opportunities. You see the positive, not the lack of dollar signs in your account. You start to get into a success mindset and get ready to make shit happen. When I started this affirmation I started problem solving and applied to a ton of jobs! The one that allowed me to afford the baby hired me. And I was wildly unqualified!

Future eventer extraordinaire

Another negative to a positive? “I hate my job” becomes “I am grateful to my job for supporting me and for being my stepping stone on my way to awesome badassery and for teaching me so very much about patience and perseverance.” I think every entrepreneur can relate to this one! I use it daily as my business grows and it has completely transformed my life and how I approach each day.

The point is I want you to write down whatever crappy self limiting belief is holding you back then flip it. Post it around your house. Write it on your mirror with lipstick. Stick it to your dashboard. Make it the background of your phone. Bloody well needle point it into a pillow if you need to.

Then, say it every time you catch yourself about to launch into the same old boring complaint.

And here is the thing many people don’t tell you:

Transforming your life is uncomfortable.

Changing your mindset is hard. You must commit to being uncomfortable day after day. Befriend the unfamiliar, the risky, the “I don’t wanna” and do it anyway.

The discomfort means you are almost there.

xo

Ashley