Monday, March 13, 2017

WHAT????? I'M NOT HARDCORE!!!!! - Guest Blog Post by April

Today, my blog is being overhauled by my lovely friend April D.  She is a fellow gym-goer and bad-ass chicka.  On pretty much every conversation we have with one another, it ends up with me telling her that she either:

1) Needs to start her very own blog


2) Needs to start a YouTube channel because people would definitely watch that!  

On the following blog post (down below), I had asked April to write about something that she is passionate about and this my friends posed as a bit of a challenge. April is one passionate lady.  You just sense the zest she has for life even in the first few minutes of meeting her.  It is plainly obvious.  She took the time and FINALLY came up with this.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Not a lot of the wording was changed.  These are her words and her story.  

I hope you enjoy it.  



And here’s the truth about becoming hardcore.

Hi, My name is April and I’m into bodybuilding, power lifting and I’m a social worker.

10 years ago, I was 150 lbs, hot and broke. Now, I am 240lbs, strong and wealthy. (Wealth, for the purpose of this paper, is the feeling of fulfilment). WHY?

That ladies and gentlemen will be the topic of this blog.
The audience of this blog is going to be US. All of us. Fat, skinny, tall, short, ugly, pretty, unseasoned, and yes even the pros.

In this blog, I’m going to be talking about going to the gym, building relationships, what success means and becoming hardcore.

Since going back to the gym in 2015, I have earned a few titles. My personal favourites are “old school” and “hardcore”. In all honesty, I did my very best to deny this “hardcore” non-sense. Shit, I don’t look hardcore. I am, after all, fat. But I have had some very close people, including Kim Ho and my trainer Ryggs, walk me out of denying this title and truly embrace this title.  

When it comes to being hardcore, to me, it doesn’t matter how much you lift. What matters is that you do it. Before accepting my hardcore title, I was just running through the motions of finding personal success.

How do you find success? Well, let’s start from the beginning.

So, you’re sitting at home and you figure you’re going to go to the gym. Or you are like me....once upon a time the best of the best and lonely as fuck? (I have never competed but I have modelled.) And then your life went beyond the gym and you made your decisions to the best of your ability and lived with the consequences. The fact is that right now, you’re going. You go "all-in" because this is it. You’re going to go to the gym and you’re going to go every day and that’s it. Right? Trust me when I tell you, we have all been there. It doesn’t matter your background, profession, or how many kids you do or do not have. We have all been there.
This is where I’m going to invite the social work perspective. This is going to be a non-judgmental and more therapeutic approach to going to the gym. This will be less about motivation and more about inspiration.

How do you get to a place where you sign the gym membership and do it? How do you get from a place of broke to wealth? How do you earn the love, admiration and respect we all want and desire from others? What does hardcore even mean? 

This is the journey I want to take you on. I would like to invite you to discover your true strength.
What makes the difference between someone who succeeds in this life to change and someone who doesn’t? Well, that’s simple. Making time (which you can read up on in Kim Ho’s Blogs) and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

So, let me take some time to explain this. This is a graph that is meant to be read from the bottom up and it’s also based around creating change. The reason you are on the couch in the first place is because of the red zone: the physiological. I would also say that your safety, love and belonging should also be in good order before going to the gym.
(Now hang in there all you pros cuz I’m going to be helping you all in a bit here, if you’re feeling lonely at the top. If you think that your life is perfect, then feel free to stop reading. I have boundaries around time. I will not waste your time by trying to get you to buy into this paper and you won’t waste my time with any hate crap ok?)

However, I can almost guarantee that after you hit the gym floor, your safety, love and belonging are all compromised. Why is that? Well, you’re going into the gym because you are not truly secure in your body. That’s OK because neither am I. Imma let you in on a little secret...Not a single person you meet is truly happy with what they see in the mirror. That’s why we go to the gym. But don’t tell anyone I told you. It’s our little secret.

Your resources are compromised. Bodybuilding for 10 years and going from 150 lbs to 250 lbs with 10 years of atrophy, I can safely say that my resources were compromised. If you’re a first timer, you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ll let you in on another little secret, none of us actually know what we’re doing, we just make it look good. And that’s ok. In all actuality, seasoned gym goers love trying new things, seeing how this or that exercise feels. It’s an ongoing process of self discovery.

Your morality is compromised. Don't get me started on fat shaming or ethics in the gym but trust me when I tell you, I know all about that. Want to know the truth about being fat???? Use it to your advantage!!!!! If you smile and invite lots of relationships, you can actually make a lot of friends. But don’t tell anyone I told you that either ok???? It’s our little secret. And the topic around being the most emotionally safe person at the gym is another topic for another day!!!

Your family are compromised. You ain’t got no family in the gym. Your health is compromised because now your old injuries are going to bite you in the ass. 

Finally, your property is very much compromised. “What? I need to share the dumbbells with him???? But I need them!!!! Ahhhhh!!!!! THIS GYM NEEDS MORE DUMBBELLS!!!!!!!!”  THIS IS NORMAL AND OK!!!! We have all been there. We have all done it and I’m going to tell you how to overcome this part. By overcoming the second step called “safety” in Maslow’s Hierarchy, you will have jumped hurdles to becoming “hardcore”.

Now, I’m not going to take too much time going into the rest of the hierarchy but you can read it and you will be able to see how all of your emotional safety can go to hell in a hand basket in about 27 seconds of hitting the floor. If you can trust me for the remainder of this paper, I will teach you everything I know about how to be loved, appreciated, respected, and regarded at the gym.

STEP 1: Safety
STEP 2: Love and Belonging: Building Your Family, One Friend At A Time!

The very first step place to start is, where you put your money. I’m going to get into mine and little Kimmy’s relationship here for a bit.

Kimmy and I met when she had shown me around Snap Fitness. In the 24 hours prior to meeting her, I left my gym in Edmonton, got hooked up with my old trainer and was planning a transition over to the box gym life, from the big gym life. Little Kimmy was her happy, kind and loving self. She took a great deal of pride in her gym and I was very impressed with her customer service. But it was when she asked me what I was looking for that really perked my attention. This was the moment I knew that Kimmy would be a friend to me. When I told her I was into bodybuilding, she responded without hesitation “we can help you with that!” I knew full bloody well that she was looking at a 245 lbs fat chick but she didn’t judge me. She didn’t give me the once over or a weird face or anything. She just looked me straight in the eye and said, “We can help you with that!”

Now, I paid my membership fees and I started right away. I let her know that I was working with a trainer in the city and I was locked into him. She seemed ok with that. Her and I worked out at the same time for a bit and I had a chance to observe her dedication to her workouts, her work and her marriage. She also observed me.
She commented on how my trainer must love me for my lifting abilities. I commented on her focus and her drive. To be painfully honest, I found myself being very nervous around Kimmy because she was just so amazing.

At this point in our relationship, and even up to writing this blog, I had no idea how many people Kimmy had in her life. My relationships are usually face to face. And that’s it. Being a social worker, my life has, for the most part, been lived incognito. Therefore, to me, Kimmy was “the manager behind the desk.”  But I could see that she was very well apt in the gym.
In order to calm my own nerves around Kimmy, I actually had put in my mind that I paid Kim to be nice to me. So every time I said hi to her, I expected to hear a “hi” in return. This actually took a great deal of ego strength. I don’t like using ego strength if I don’t have to because it feels like I’m bitching up. And I think if we are all honest with ourselves we don’t really like being bitches or ass holes. But I feel like Kimmy and I were lucky, in so far as, we both had an almost instant mutual regard for one another.
Now, I’m not the type of person to BS my way around life. I would rather deal with a harsh truth then a happy lie. And with Kimmy, I took time to be my most truest and authentic self. With this in mind, our relationship quickly evolved from a politically correct tragedy to an emotionally correct safe place.

This is a great Ted Talks video on emotional correctness.  

Even if it was just, “Hay April. How are you doing?” I would take this moment to be your most genuine and authentic self. “You know what Kimmy? I feel ok today, but Imma get a good hour of cardio in and turn my tunes up as loud as I fucking can and I’m going to go off in lala land.” I truly don’t think it’s healthy in any relationship to say your fine if you’re not fine. I think it’s okay to have an okay day. Own those feelings and do something about them.  Why we feel better after the gym is also another topic for another day.
Now, one of the nice things about having the idea in the back of my mind that I paid Kimmy was that in my own mind it gave me a bit of room to practice and fuck up. Can I let you in on another little secret???? It’s almost impossible to fuck up!!!! People at the gym are VERY forgiving!!!!!!! They are usually just happy you’re making an effort. And if you walk away going “OHHH I fucked that one up.” Don’t worry, revisit the topic tomorrow!!! Apologizing for fucking up is NOT a sign of weakness. It’s a commitment to change.

Say hi, smile, and take this part slow. Make sure that you purposefully allow 10 minutes to re-establish your relationships.
“Hay Kimmy! How are you?”
10 minutes of chit chat. Relationship re-established. And done! NOOOOTTTTT
Now, mine and Kimmy’s relationship was really like a bull in a China shop. Kimmy was always very kind and sweet and I, well, I fumbled my way on to her blog. God, I can’t even tell you how many things came flying out of my mouth. And she would just smile and laugh and be warm.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows of emotional correctness. There was a dark period of time where I actually had to re-establish new and temporary boundaries in our relationship. I was going through a time that was extremely hard for me. I told her “Don’t ask me how I’m doing until after my work out. My view on the world is much better then.”  I wanted so bad to protect my little Kimmy from my hurt.
And you know what Kimmy did instead of asking how I was doing? The moment I walked through the door, she would get her little ass running around that desk that she was behind and she would give me a hug, full on, no boundaries and no judgement allowed, hug. She did that for like 2 weeks solid. For 2 weeks, little Kimmy would welcome me home.
Mine and Kimmy’s relationship has truly evolved into a very magical thing. We have a respect and regard for one another that is second to none.  We have worked out together. We talk as much as we can. She brings out the best in me and I hope I give her the same.

But honestly guys, it's 10 minutes. The wealth of love, caring, empathy and kindness that you can get and give out of 10 minutes of just being your truest and most authentic self will change your life forever.

And it doesn’t matter that I just saw Kimmy yesterday or last week. What matters is that I’m seeing her, and anyone else I see, right now. I make it my purpose to spend time with people and re-establish relationships. I could lift all the fucking weight in the world.....but trust me when I tell you, my life is more fulfilling now at 240 lbs, and taking the time in those relationships then it ever was when I was 150 lbs. And that ladies and gentlemen is wealth. (Now to all you pro’s, another topic of conversation for another day will be around the power of role modelling. Yup, I knew you would sill read this article!! Topic of conversation is “did you get more out of this article then just building relationship in the gym?)

Your people skills will help you feel better at the gym. You will find that you will build a few friends, and a few more and even say hi to regulars who’s names you don’t even know. Believe it or not, just by knowing who you paid for and just opening your mouth can, and does relieve so much isolation in a place of discomfort. And that is %75 of your success.
And if you want to test this theory, go to the gym for 3 months straight. Talk to as many people that you can. Ask people to spot you. Spot other people. Be kind and warm. Then miss one week.
Then go back. I promise you, you will have people ask you where you have been. That’s how you know you have built your own family. Now, you have your home gym.

Safety, Love/ Belonging are now checked off in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Hold others accountable too. Remember, we are all in this together. If you see a face you haven’t seen in a while, welcome them home too.

STEP 3: Esteem
STEP 4: Self Actualization: I Look Like I Know What I'm Doing Because I Do Know What I’m Doing!!!

If you are walking into a gym and you don’t know what you’re doing, THAT’S OK!!!! We have all been there. The best way to solve this problem is to be your truest and most authentic self. I solved this problem by hiring a trainer. Never in my gym life have I not had a trainer. My initial reason for having a trainer was because I didn’t know what I was doing AND THAT’S OK. They are there to teach you how and what to do. They will even put together a program that fits you. I then got my second trainer (Dean Sommerset) to help me recover from my spine fracture. I got my third trainer to help me recover from my surgery and recondition me after spending 10 years off to raise my two daughters. Now, I have my current trainer to help me with my body composition. All in all, I’ll admit that I’m lazy and I want someone else to think for me. Yes, I pay them to be nice to me and I’m nice to them. But I work to earn their respect.

When I earn the respect of my trainer, I earn the respect of my peers in the gym. Why? Because I have admitted my weakness, learned what I hired them to teach me and became confident/comfortable in the movements I have to do. Now, I have to warn you that your relationship with your trainer can become very personal because this is the person who is walking you through a life change. Respect and honour that process for what it is. Don’t hire the hottest guy or girl you see. They see through that shit and it’s very belittling. I’ve seen it on the floor so many times and have watched trainers literally disengage from their clients for treating them like a piece of meat. Hire them for their knowledge, for their structure or simply because you want to look like them. Just don’t hire them because you want to date them.
I’m going to get a bit into the fine details a bit here on how I picked my current trainer. I’m also going to get into the power of a moment here with you guys.
Ryggs and I met at the gym that I was at previous to Snap. He was a trainer there and I was a client. But I had my own trainer Jess, and she was rehabilitating and conditioning me.

I kind of saw Ryggs around the gym a couple of times and never really thought much of it. He was structurally sound. He was similar to another dude that worked there but Ryggs had a bun. The other dude had red hair. Both dudes equal and opposite to me. 

So, one day I had a really awesome body composition. I did a 5 for 5 in 2 weeks. (5 lbs of body fat loss and 5 lbs muscle mass gain in 2 weeks) and, of course, I would tell anyone who would give me the time of day. And there was Ryggs. I went flying up to him and said, “Now, you’re someone who would appreciate this” and he was like “what?”. I told him about the 5 for 5 and he interrupted me with all his happy wishes and blah blah blah...and then I was like “in 2 weeks!!!!!” It was in that moment where I was not judged for being fat.
He tried to pay me some bull shit compliment about having biceps and I said, “No, that’s just well shaped fat.”  I stumbled, fumbled and fucked up all the way through that entire conversation and this huge dude, who could have just snubbed me off as another fat chick going to the gym, was happy for me. In a moment. All it took was a moment.  But that’s all it was right? Just a moment, no big deal.
Now, that was the first time we met.  He was not my trainer yet. I was still conditioning.

A couple weeks later Jess, my trainer, told me that she was applying for a really great opportunity elsewhere. Just an FYI, if you have a trainer tells you that, it’s time to start looking for a contingency plan.

I started fishing. I talked to a few trainers here and there and did a great deal of observation in to other trainers’ styles. I kept kind of coming back to Ryggs. Now, let’s be honest. The guy is hard to miss. The dude walks around like a brick wall with a bun!!! Like this guy is HUUUUGE. But there was something about him and it took three weeks of passive observation for me to nail what that something was.
After a few positive encounters and a look into his professional background, I took it upon myself to go up to him on a very clearly baaaaadddd day. That’s when you really get to know people. I asked him a relatively intelligent question. I said, “Regan, can you help me with something?” He didn’t even look up from his phone when he said, “Yeah what?” And you want to know what went running through my head? “You had better watch your sorry ass cuz I’m about to figure you the fuck out, Bitch.”
I pointed to the front of my shoulder and said “what is this?”
He looked up from his damn phone and replied in a snarky tone I had never heard from him before or since, “anterior delt.” Now, I could have walked away, cashed in my chips and called it a day in that moment. But I didn’t. I calmly wrote in my book that I had at the time “anterior raise”. And I looked at him as he looked back at his phone, and I pointed to the side of my shoulder and said “what is this?”  He exhaled, and looked down past his phone. The thought in my head? “Gottcha fucker!! YOU ARE MINE!!!!” He looked at me and realized who he was talking to. And he answered the question, like my Ryggs would. My thought in that moment was, “There we go sweet heart, your safe with me.”
What did I see in Ryggs? The exact same longing and loneliness I felt 10 + years ago.

You see, when I was bodybuilding back in the day, I had no friends. Everyone thought I was hot but I had no really real friends. No one I felt truly safe and comfortable with. Who saw me for me on the inside. That was partly my own fault because I was working in a career where I couldn’t talk about my life outside of the gym. But that’s what I saw in Ryggs, a man who was tired of being treated like a piece of meat.

I walked away from that conversation knowing that he was it. He was my next trainer. And I knew that I was going to turn his whole fucking world rate upside down. He was going to learn how it feels to be respected. How it truly feels to have someone one your side. Someone who has your back. I had no idea when or how, but I knew I would!

Shortly thereafter, Jess went to pursue her new career and I moved over to Ryggs.
Now, if I sit here and say that the process of having a trainer is easy, I would be a fucking liar. My expectation of him, seeing as how he was 6’4” and a beast, was that he would be able to push me to the next level. I had my first appointment with him, and I was so excited. I had envisioned an awesome work out and that I would hit recovery and that it was going to be crazy and I was going to blow him away with my strength aaaaand then not. My first session with him was a fucking joke. It would have been great if I was a first timer but I wasn’t.

So, I had to figure out how to get under his skin and prove to him that I could do what I could do. What I’m about to tell you worked for my trainer and I, but I also knew that I had a lot to lose. This is what I did. I went up to him a couple days after our first session and I made another appointment with him. After making the second appointment with him, I actually said “And if you could stop your pissing around, that would be great.”
In that moment, he could have dropped me as a client. But I think I walked away too quickly for him to get a word in edge wise. In all honesty, I had never been so scared in all my life but also, if I had the balls enough to say that, I had better have the balls enough to back it up.
We had our first leg day together and that’s when he really saw and respected what I was made of. That was after 4 sets of a 10 plate leg press. After that, Ryggs and I weren’t just “on”. Ryggs and I were “OOONNNNN!!!!”

Shortly thereafter, he was gone to another gym. Long story short, he and I are back together and still working through this totally amazing client/trainer relationship. My trainer knows the most intimate details of my life. Be prepared to earn their respect and work out a lot of stuff with them. (working the mental through the emotional and into the physical is also another topic for another day.) I actually call the weeks my trainer and I get together, my getting Rygged weeks.
Because our relationship was built on the premises of respect and because I strongly hold him in a very high regard for his intelligence, ability and structure, and the fact that he is equal and opposite to me in that I’m the female version of him, he became my friend. The space between my trainer and I is a very sacred space. My trainer and I have an energy on the floor that is hard not to notice. The best part is, I know he has my back. Our relationship is integral to my success at the gym.

Now, let’s get onto success. Success is relative. Kind of like the Tylenol commercial. You know the one that says “Normal. Whatever your normal is.” It’s similar. Success. Whatever your success is. If you show up to the gym every day, then that is success. Set your goal. If your goal is to meet 5 new people, then that is a success. If your goal is to lift 0.5 lbs more then what you did last week, then that is success. Spend 5 more minutes on cardio, then that is success. From pushing yourself just that little bit, you WILL become successful.

Now, with all of these elements in place, gym, trainer and friends you have accomplished, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety, love/belonging and esteem. Now, you’re ready for self-actualization. This is where change and success happen.

Once you become successful to yourself, others will see your success. When others see you as successful, that’s when they will start calling you hardcore. And maybe, like me, you will deny the claim. But maybe one day, you will embrace it like I did.

If you liked this article, please tell me. If you have questions, ask me. If I have challenged your thoughts, let’s talk.
Be humble and stay strong!!!!

April Dombrosky

Source: Boundless. “Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.” Boundless Management Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 14 Feb. 2017 from
Kohn, Sally. Sally Kohn: Let's Try Emotional Correctness | TED Talk | Rep. N.p., October 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.