Thursday, June 22, 2017

Push Pull Swing Challenge - Day 14

Lots of variations and mixing it up today.

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Subversive Fitness: Day 133 of 360

It's a great day for overhead movements.

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Love to Lift Challenge - Day 52 of 100

The end of workout routine today adds some new ways to activate those lifting muscles and get more explosive.

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The Power of Ketones

Exogenous ketone supplements could transform the way effective ketosis is achieved in the next few years.

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The Power of Daily Movement and Normalizing Fitness

Shane and Pete interview Max Shank about his fitness philosophy, his evolution as a coach, and a subtle mindset shift that will change the way you understand diet and exercise.

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Train Your Chest Without Machines

Does the absence of the bench press in your programming spell certain doom regarding your “gains?”

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How Strong Can A Woman Get, Really?

“Men are just stronger than women. It’s just a fact.”

Well, is it now? This article aims to take a case with common misconceptions and facts regarding women’s ability to get strong and how strong they can get.

At a young age, I learned about a glorious (and a soon-to-be frustrating thing) called “weight class.” Man, did I love elementary school. I could bully the bullies, guys were all my size, and the playing fields leveled. Sports were a genuine co-ed experience, and I was ambivalent to being desired or seen as a conquest. I was an unapologetically feisty girl, able to pound the crap out of mean boys who made fun of a nerdy or overweight kid. I felt like a damn superhero.

Then, we all got older.

Grow spurts and puberty changed the playing fields. I went into it naive and quickly realized how little and weak I was compared in size to them. To this day I pay much respect to size and weight class because when you find yourself on the losing side of someone’s 70-pound advantage, no amount of gumption matters.

In physical trials you need size, strength, and smarts — and even then, you might not come out on top.

What does all this bemoaning about weight class have to do with how strong a woman can get?

In our society, strength is relevant to our comparisons, especially when comparing women to men. It shouldn’t be, but in the context of this article, .why talk about how strong a woman can get without talking about one of the main reasons it’s discussed in the first place? Articles discussing the strength abilities of men often focus on strength whether or not steroids are involved, and culminate with lessons in continued optimization. It is already assumed that men can be strong; what is debated then is how strong they can get.

For example, it’s assumed a guy can help you carry a couch from one home to another. What might be debated with regard to his strength is whether or not he can lift a car off a helpless victim. In a gym setting, the average Joe lifter might be told he should be able to at least load 225 pounds on a bar, while the average Jane lifter is overwhelmingly advised to just stick with the bar, regardless of each one’s height and weight. Generally, it is assumed that the point of lifting for women isn’t to get strong at all, but rather to stay pretty.

How strong a woman can get is rarely up for debate. Society doesn’t assume women can be strong, and even if some people believe in women’s physical strength, it’s always to a judgmental “lesser degree” than their male counterparts. It’s culturally assumed that women are weaker and that if we can get strong, it’s pitiful compared to men.

The truth is that strength isn’t black and white. One of the biggest lies we’ve been told regarding a woman’s strength abilities is that she could never be stronger than a man.

It’s Really Pound For Pound

Yes, a five-foot-four-inch woman weighing 135 pounds could never best, pound for pound in strength, a six-foot-four-inch man weighing 220 pounds — but neither could a five-foot-four-inch man weighing 135 pounds. That’s not a truth we hear often though, is it? We hear tales of David and Goliath all the time, but the truth is that size matters for men, too.

For example, take a collection of the most pragmatic men with regard to the possibilities of absolute strength: professional fighters. The good ones learn very quickly that weight (and within that weight, body types and body composition) is crucial in leveling the playing field. These are small variables that along with skill — not to mention good old-fashioned fear, placebo effect, and timing — can make or break a champion.

People celebrate Michael Phelps, and yes, he is incredibly good at what he does, but his weight, body type, and numerous genetic factors that he can’t control, provide Phelps an edge. Katie Ledecky, four inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter, with less overall muscle mass, clocked the same prelim time on the 400m freestyle.1 This isn’t to suggest she could be him, but it’s impressive nonetheless. It’s as impressive as other smaller men and women who have almost caught them both in a race. The average height and weight of high-level athletes mean everything. It’s why, when people are cheering about impressive athletes, it’s important to look past it and take into account a host of factors that shift appreciation of the athletes themselves to appreciation of their hard work and efforts.

Society has barely begun to see the full reach of women’s strength potential.

People scoff at the notion that Brienne Tarth of Game Of Thrones (portrayed by Gwendoline Christie) couldn’t be a realistic hero, but I beg to differ, my friends. She is six foot three and solid. Maybe she wouldn’t make an NFL offensive tackle look like a rag doll, but most men couldn’t either. Six foot three is not an average height for men or women. I would not want to be punched in the face by the end of her sword handle and most men wouldn’t either. In short, she is a very realistic and capable hero in the world in which she battles.

What does the science say?

One caveat before diving in is that there are some noted differences between genders in hormones and muscle fibers, especially in the upper body. However, those are not as dramatic as the interpretation of research often suggests, especially when looking at sample sizes.

Let’s look at muscle fibers in general, for instance. Muscle fibers are different between genders, individuals, and even within an individual’s body.2, 3 Genetic differences, however small they may seem, play a much larger role than we realize in the literal shaping of a body.4 This is why comparing yourself to a five-foot-eleven woman when you’re five foot two is not realistic.

When we look at how men and women respond to resistance training we see in some areas growth response is very similar.5 We also see that it isn’t just growth gaps between men and women, but also within the gender compared within themselves. In short, it’s not just, “Men always grow muscle easily, and women can’t grow muscle.” It’s more like, “Some men grow muscle easily, and some don’t. Same goes for women.” When we stack size, weight, nutrition control, and the similar fiber types — oh wait, we haven’t done that.

Where does that leave us, then? It leaves us having to read between the lines in a lot of the research. Keep in mind that men are the most commonly studied subjects in hypertrophy and strength research, and even then, they are often not properly controlled.

Women can go longer, and be faster, bigger, and stronger.

Here’s a notion you might not have thought of yet that could inspire you to build strength:

Bigger is stronger, and even then only technically — and even then, there are still exceptions to the rule. Let’s look at the science using some common sense rather than the lazy generalizations we’ve accepted as fact for too long.

Size matters more than gender.6 It matters that men, on average, are bigger and not only in fat mass but mostly in muscle mass.7 But, guess what? It isn’t about them in the first place. I know it may seem a contradiction to say it isn’t about men when a large part of this article has been about them, but we can’t ignore the elephant in the room.

I can’t drive home this point strongly enough — if you strength train, you are already ahead of the majority of the population. Your ability to get strong, even naturally, is exceptional. Keep these things in mind:

  • We all vary greatly in height, weight, muscle fibers, and genetics.
  • Comparison, in my modest opinion, is a wasted exercise. But if you must compare, compare in weight classes and take overall muscle mass volume into consideration — and I haven’t even touched on issues relating to variations of female advantages in endurance, balance, and recovery.
  • Studies have shown that simply believing that you have the ability to be strong with placebo steroid use leads to greater strength gains.8 In short, if you believe you can, you can.

So, how strong can a woman get, really? In arriving at an answer, size matters, but the belief in what you can do matters the most.

References

  1. Zaccardi N. Michael Phelps jokingly challenges Katie Ledecky to race. NBC News Sports. Apr 2015.
  2. Miller AE, MacDougall JD, Tarnopolsky MA, et al. Gender differences in strength and muscle fiber characteristics. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1993;66(3):254-62.
  3. Kristen L Schroeder, Benjamin WC Rosser, Soo Y Kim. Fiber type composition of the human quadratus plantae muscle: a comparison of the lateral and medial heads. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 2014; 7:54.
  4. Hughes DC, Day SH, Ahmetov II, et al. Genetics of muscle strength and power: polygenic profile similarity limits skeletal muscle performance. J Sports Sci. 2011 Oct;29(13):1425-34.
  5. O’Hagan FT, Sale DG, MacDougall JD, et al. Response to resistance training in young women and men. Int J Sports Med. 1995 Jul;16(5):314-21.
  6. Roth SM, Ivey FM, Martel GF, et al. Muscle size responses to strength training in young and older men and women. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2001 Nov;49(11):1428-33.
  7. Bishop P, Curetin K, Collins M. Sex difference in muscular strength in equally-trained men and women. Journal Ergonomics. Mar 1986.
  8. Ahiel G, Saville W. Anabolic steroids: the physiological effects of placebos. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 4(2) · January 1972.

 


A message from GGS…

At Girls Gone Strong, we want you to feel confident knowing that what you’re doing to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong is not only based on tested, reliable, and safe information from trustworthy sources, but also that it is effective and efficient.

That’s why we developed our flagship training system, The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training (AND IT’S ON SALE RIGHT NOW! UP TO 40% OFF!)

We’ve cut through all that noise and the BS with a sane, sustainable, and efficient approach that will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re brand new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.
With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.

We believe fitness should enhance your life instead of become your life. If you exercise in a way that you actually enjoy, staying fit and strong won’t ever feel like a drag. You’ll look forward to it for years to come.

If you want an entire training system that will help you look and feel your best, The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training is for you!

Learn more here!

 

The post How Strong Can A Woman Get, Really? appeared first on Girls Gone Strong.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Push Pull Swing Challenge - Day 12

Explosive clapping push ups are fun and they can get your heart pounding, too. We give them a try today.

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Subversive Fitness: Day 131 of 360

Goals today are fluid hand-to-hand transitions, smooth receipt of the kettlebell into the rack position, and heavy single kettlebell movement.

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Love to Lift Challenge - Day 51 of 100

Lots of power moves today.

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Impose Boundaries for More Creative Workout Programming

When it comes to designing your workouts, too many options can distract from focus.

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Subscription Eating - Not Your Mother's Take Out

A variety of pre-measured ingredients, complete with recipe cards, can be delivered to your door, but what does that mean, really?

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Invest Your Summer in Play and Skill Building

There's never a better time of year to get out of your routine and enjoy your fitness.

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Why Stretching Something That Hurts Isn’t Always The Answer

It seems like when something hurts the most common advice you get is to stretch it.

At face value, this makes sense. When something feels stiff and sore, it’s easy to assume that short muscles are to blame, and the obvious solution would be to try to lengthen them through stretching.

However, research is finding that the underlying causes of pain are more complicated than short muscles, and stretching isn’t necessarily the best option for tight hamstrings or a sore neck.

What are can cause pain and tightness?

While there has been a lot of debate around this topic, it’s currently thought that pain is a signal from the brain warning of a perceived threat of instability or weakness around a joint that may or may not correlate with actual damage to the tissues. A great resource with more information on this topic is the book Explain Pain by David Butler and Lorimer Moseley.

On sale now! Save up to 40%!

The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.

When this signal goes out, the brain tells the nervous system to tense the muscles around the joint to protect you from going into a range of motion you can’t support.

Understanding this, it then makes sense why tightness and pain are poor predictors of what the problem is.

Pain could stem from restriction in the connective tissue after trauma, an unstable joint that your brain is trying to protect, or a muscle that’s functionally short from overuse.

For instance, many of people experience tight IT bands and hip flexors, especially after a challenging workout. In this case, the IT band and hip flexors often feel tight, and that could be because deeper smaller muscles around hips, which are also known as hip stabilizers, are weak.

In this scenario, the IT band and hip flexors are overworking, because they’re having to do their job along with the job of the hip stabilizers. This is turn tells the nervous system that the hip is unstable, which can result in hip discomfort and pain. Since the IT band and hip flexors are compensating for weak muscles or instability, stretching them wouldn’t address the underlying problem.

So, while stretching isn’t inherently a bad option, it may not always be the best option, especially if the pain is due to instability. Stretching might feel good in the moment, but long term it could make you feel worse, because the pulling would signal further instability to the nervous system, which would tell the brain to create even more stiffness and in turn, discomfort.

What happens when we stretch?

Studies are suggesting that while stretching does improve range of motion, it’s not because muscles are getting longer.

Researchers from Graz University in Austria tested ankle mobility after a six-week program focused on static stretching of the calf muscles. They found that while mobility improved, there were no structural changes to the muscles and tendons around the ankle.1 It’s believed that the increased range of motion or tolerance to stretch was a response of the nervous system as a result of stimulation of the nerve endings in the muscles and connective tissue.

What to do about joint stiffness and pain

First, if something has been bothering you for more than a week or two, even after rest, it’s best to consult a physical therapist who can evaluate you and create a comprehensive treatment plan if needed. Getting help in the early stages of an injury makes for a quicker and less complicated recovery.

Sometimes massage can help, but because a massage therapist can’t diagnose you, it is better to start with the physical therapist who will be able to tell you if massage will be beneficial, especially if you’ve been experiencing pain for a prolonged period of time.

Strategies to address minor stiffness or discomfort

As previously mentioned, instability is among the more common causes of stiffness and pain, so one of the best things you can do is strengthen your stabilizers.

If you’re not familiar with the term, your stabilizers are the smaller postural muscles responsible for holding your joints in good alignment. They work with your big “mover” muscles to create efficient movement.

To return to the above example about hip stability, when you lunge, the gluteus maximus and quadriceps are among the big movers that create the physical movement. However, for you to perform that lunge without compressing your joints, you will also need to engage the gluteus medius, deep lateral rotators, and deep core to stabilize the pelvis and lower back.

Since stabilizers are postural muscles, they ideally remain gently engaged for long periods of time, even during sedentary periods like sitting. As a result, they’re best targeted by performing exercises in sets of higher repetitions with lighter loads.

Instability and pain are also associated with a lack of movement in certain areas, so mobility drills can be effective for improving range of motion and decrease pain.

Mobility drills can be thought of as a more dynamic means of stretching, because they help you explore fuller ranges of motion and decrease stiffness. It’s believed that much like stability work and stretching, they improve range of motion because of how they stimulate the nervous system.

However, because mobility drills are gentle and don’t involve holding a posture at end range the way you would with static stretching, they’re less likely to irritate something that hurts due to instability.

For functional, pain-free movement, both stability and mobility are needed, so these exercises pair well together. Molly Galbraith’s article on dynamic warm-ups demonstrate a great way to combine stability and mobility work.

Researchers from the Rush University Medical Center found that an increase in proprioception or body awareness and quadriceps strength correlated with a decrease in knee pain in people with knee osteoarthritis.2

This suggests that strength training in conjunction with stability and mobility work can also reduce instability and the corresponding discomfort. Before using heavier loads be mindful that you aren’t loading an already irritated joint and that you’ve mastered the form and have good mobility.

When should you stretch?

When it comes to static stretching, the jury is still out on the best application, but if done thoughtfully and with good alignment, it can be a good way to explore new ranges of motion, enhance mobility, and calm the nervous system.

However, if you’re hypermobile, have a known instability, injury or trauma, or you’ve recently had surgery, it is best to avoid stretching the affected areas unless your doctor or physical therapist has recommended it.

Coaches’ Corner

How do you know if your client should stretch an area that hurts? We all have clients who come in with the occasional ache or pain, so it can be tricky to know when stretching will be beneficial or if you should suggest that your client sees a medical professional before working with you.

As fitness professionals, it’s out of our scope of practice to diagnose or treat pain.

The first thing we should always ask a client who comes in with pain is if they’ve been to their doctor or physical therapist for it. If they say yes, the next step is to find out if they were given a diagnosis and what they’ve been cleared to do, because stretching can be beneficial for some injuries, but not for others. For example, if a client is hypermobile, stretching isn’t recommended.

If a client hasn’t been to the doctor, but they’re otherwise moving well, you may be able to have them stretch avoiding the painful area or movements that cause pain for that session. If they continue to have pain after a week, even after rest, it is wise to refer them to a medical professional for evaluation, so they can get the best treatment possible and the most out of their training sessions.

If the pain resolves within a day or two with rest and a client is able to return to their normal activities, then light to moderate stretching is mostly likely okay, as long as it doesn’t create a recurrence of pain or discomfort.

 

References 

  1. Konrad A., Tilp M. Increased range of motion after static stretching is not due to changes in muscle and tendon structures. Clinical Biomechanics. June 2014; 29(6): 636–642.
    http://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(14)00098-9/fulltext
  2. Shakoor B, Furmanov S, Nelson DE, Li Y, Block JA. Pain and its relationship with muscle strength and proprioception in knee OA: results of an 8-week home exercise pilot study. J Musculoskeletal Neuronal Interact, Jan-Mar 2008; 8(1): 35-42. http://billnordt.com/EXERCISEINTERVENTIONPROGRAMS/Painanditsrelationship.pdf

 


A message from GGS…

At Girls Gone Strong, we want you to feel confident knowing that what you’re doing to look good, feel good, and feel healthy and strong is not only based on tested, reliable, and safe information from trustworthy sources, but also that it is effective and efficient.

That’s why we developed our flagship training system, The Modern Woman’s Guide To Strength Training (AND IT’S ON SALE RIGHT NOW! UP TO 40% OFF!)

We’ve cut through all that noise and the BS with a sane, sustainable, and efficient approach that will help you achieve maximum results, whether you’re brand new to strength training, or a veteran in the weight room.
With four different 16-week programs—that’s 64 weeks of training—you get over a year’s worth of workouts, including progressions to ensure that you continue making progress. You’ll also get a training manual, exercise glossary, progress tracker, a bonus conditioning manual, plus a video library with over 70 high-definition videos breaking down each exercise, step by step.

We believe fitness should enhance your life instead of become your life. If you exercise in a way that you actually enjoy, staying fit and strong won’t ever feel like a drag. You’ll look forward to it for years to come.

If you want an entire training system that will help you look and feel your best, The Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training is for you!

Learn more here!

The post Why Stretching Something That Hurts Isn’t Always The Answer appeared first on Girls Gone Strong.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Frog Fit Challenge - Day 1 of 3, Week 11

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. That's your workout clue for today.

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The Push-Pull-Swing Challenge - Day 11

Today, we put a little bit of a twist into our pull ups.

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Subversive Fitness: Day 130 of 360

This is a sprint, not a jog.

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Love to Lift Challenge - Day 50 of 100

Congratulations on making it to the halfway point in this challenge.

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The Tribe of the Kettlebell

The founder of Chicago Primal Gym chats with Coach Shane Trotter about the methods and mindsets that create a sustainable, healthy life.

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Do You Even Science Bro?

It is easy to find research that will support, or that can be manipulated to support any ridiculous claim.

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The Rules of Pain Free Hypertrophy

If your goal is to get big safely, the number of plates on the bar isn't the most important thing.

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

High Intensity Training vs. Olympic Weightlifting: How to Have Both & Get Strong

It is not unusual to find a divide when it comes to what style of training is best. A classic battle exists between High Intensity Training and Olympic weightlifting. Why not have both?

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GGS Spotlight: Janae Marie Kroc

Name:   Janae Marie Kroc (Kroczaleski)
Age: 44
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It’s about empowering women to pursue their passions (even if goes against what society may deem appropriate for women) and deconstructing the absurd ideas that somehow strength (both physically and psychologically) and muscle are things that are contradictory to femininity and should be reserved for only men.

You describe yourself as “nonbinary” and “genderfluid.” Can you explain what this means to you, for folks who may be new to those terms?
Non-binary means that I exist outside the rigid binary boundaries of the male and female genders. While I do identify as a woman and exist legally as one, my gender identity just isn’t that simple. Figuring this out was extremely frustrating and took many years in large part because I never assumed there were any other options, and I had to pick either male or female and be defined by society’s definitions of those labels.

Genderfluid means there is a degree of fluidity to my gender and that it changes. For me my gender presentation and expression may change based just on how I feel that day or by whom I interact with and the situation. This was also something that took me a long time to understand. It was very frustrating for me, and I couldn’t figure out why I just couldn’t feel comfortable all the time by picking a single gender and adhering to society’s idea of how that gender should act to be accepted by others.

How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
Strength training was just something I was immediately drawn to as a young child. I remember seeing someone big and strong when I was very young and just being blown away. I immediately thought “Wow, that’s how I want to be!”

At nine years old I made my first set of homemade weights out of milk jugs filled with sand loaded onto a bent bar I found in the woods and constructed my first bench by laying a long 2”x12” board over two cinder blocks. Every year for Christmas I would beg my parents for a weight set. In fourth grade I received dumbbells and trained religiously with them for a year. The following Christmas I received my first real bench, with barbells and dumbbells. I have been training consistently ever since.

You intentionally lost a lot of muscle after you came out as trans, and then just as intentionally put some back on. Can you tell us about your thought process as you experienced this, as it relates to our expectations of femininity and muscles on women?
Initially, I fell prey to the same societal pressures that many women do concerning body image and what is socially acceptable. I just assumed that if I was going to be a woman I had to live up to this unrealistic ideal of what media and society says a woman should be. I initially planned to lose more than half my bodyweight and had planned to go from 272 pounds of muscle at 5’9” all the way down to 135 pounds.

Initially I dropped weight like crazy, losing 40 pounds in the first month and 72 pounds in the first several months getting all the way down to 200 pounds, a weight I had not seen in almost 20 years. At this point I found myself getting very frustrated and confused. On one hand, I liked that I was blending in much easier in public and being able to wear new outfits that I felt I never could have pulled off before felt amazing, but at the same time I was really missing the heavy training. I hated losing so much strength, and the prolonged dieting was making me miserable. I was obsessing over food more than I ever had, even when I was competing in bodybuilding. The entire situation was making me very unhappy.

I put the weight loss on hold for about the next six months and then after much soul searching just decided to do whatever made me happy without worrying about what anyone else might think about it or what it meant concerning my gender identity. One thing that helped me tremendously was getting to know many of the women in the strength training world much better. As I became closer with them, I realized so many of them struggled with the same issues I did, namely wanting to get bigger and stronger but feeling pressured that this somehow was contradictory to our femininity. Realizing I wasn’t alone in this struggle was huge for me and helped validate my feelings.

I resumed training hard and heavy, increased my calories and just focused on what felt right to me. Over a period of six months my weight climbed all the way back up to 254 pounds, and I was beginning to get a bit “fluffy.” I switched gears and focused on leaning up without losing muscle mass. I brought my weight back down to around 230 pounds, and I feel pretty good there. It fluctuates some, and I’ve been as light as 217 and as heavy as 237, but in that general neighborhood is where I seem to feel best.

I try to let how I feel and can perform in the gym or on my mountain bike dictate my weight more so than how my body looks.

I find that if I make how my body looks my top priority I will always find some way I could look better and this results in excessive dieting and unhappiness.

What does your typical workout look like?
In the gym I still follow a program that is centered around the three basic powerlifting movements, but with additional days for the remainder of my body and increased overall training volume. A typical chest day for me would start with bench pressing, often for something likes five sets of five reps, followed by inclines for sets of ten, maybe a little dumbbell work, and then often pushups or dips with body weight until failure. Leg day would start with heavy squats, followed by Bulgarian split squats or lunges, sometimes front squats, with a couple hamstring movements and calves.

I mostly stick to basic compound movements with lower rep ranges (1-5) and then higher (10-20 reps) for my assistance movements. I program my training in cyclic four-week waves with increasing intensity for three weeks followed by a fourth week with increased rep ranges and volume but decreased load intensity. Each successive monthly wave is heavier than the preceding month for a 16-week period. After I complete those 16 weeks, I will reassess and start a new training cycle. This keeps me both growing and getting stronger while preventing overtraining and psychological burnout.

Favorite Lift:
Depends on the day but squats, bench presses, and deadlifts are still hard to beat — especially when you’re making progress. Few things feel better than hitting a PR in any of those.

Most memorable PR:
Pulling a 40-pound deadlift PR to move from fourth to first at the WPO Arnold Classic qualifier in 2005. The lift was the single hardest deadlift I have ever pulled and likely took a full ten seconds for me to grind to completion. I actually felt my right acromioclavicular joint separate half way through the lift but kept pulling for all I was worth.

My PR going into the meet was 716 pounds, and after my second attempt I told my handler I was good for 733 maybe 738, if I absolutely needed it. My training partners did the math and came back and told me that I needed 755 for the win. I told them to put it on the bar and I would make it happen. I knew my lockout was strong and that if I could just get the bar to my knees I could complete it, and that was all I focused on as I tried to rip the bar from the floor.

When I locked the bar out the place went nuts! My training partner ran out on stage and lifted me in the air. It was a surreal moment like something out of a movie exactly how you always dream about winning a big meet, but what really makes this something I will never forget is that my handlers actually miscalculated how much weight I needed to win, and I still ended up getting second. Everyone was afraid to tell me at first, but when I found out I wasn’t mad at all. I knew I never would have pulled that weight if I hadn’t believed it was for the win, and we all had a good laugh about it.

How has estrogen therapy affected your lifting?
The difference estrogen makes in regard to gaining muscle and losing body fat is undeniably huge. It was almost two years ago when I stopped testosterone and started estrogen and my strength immediately plummeted. Every week I was losing ridiculous amounts of strength, sometimes 20 to 40 pounds in a single week. I would load the bar with the same weight I had used the week before only to find out there was no way I was going to be able to complete the desired number of reps, it was crazy. Fortunately after a couple of months the strength loss leveled off, but the effect was dramatic.

Estrogen therapy also had the same type of effect in regard to gaining body fat. I was eating like I was prepping for a bodybuilding show and still having an incredibly difficult time staying lean. We had titrated my estrogen dose up quite high (8mg per day) to hopefully achieve more breast growth but at that level the increased body fat was too much for me so we backed it down to 4mg per day, which still puts my blood levels in a normal female range and allows me maintain a reasonable level of body fat without feeling like I am starving every day.

I think the most interesting thing to note that is prior to stopping testosterone and starting estrogen I was among the strongest men in the world for my body weight. After almost two years on estrogen and without testosterone my strength levels now are very similar to the strongest women in the world at my body weight.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
For training I still prefer the fast, heavy stuff that really gets me in the right place mentally especially when a big squat or dead is scheduled. Bands like Korn, Marilyn Manson, Ministry, Rammstein, old-school Metallica, and Disturbed often populate my training mixes, but I have a wide range in music taste including EDM, dubstep, alternative, classic rock, punk, and even the cheesy pop and hip hop stuff too. I also find songs with a theme about fighting against the established norm to be motivational.

Some of the stuff you’ll find on my current training play list includes:

  • Take Me Down by Genevieve
  • Bad Reputation by Joan Jett
  • Gucci Coochie by Die Antwoord
  • Fear by Disturbed (my favorite pre-deadlift psyche up song)
  • Clown by Korn
  • The Reflecting God by Marilyn Manson

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
Powerlifting belt, knee wraps, chalk.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
All depends on the training day and what my goals are at the time. I have been fortunate to have a lot of amazing training partners over the years who are still some of my best friends to this day. The camaraderie that is built by sharing experiences under a heavily loaded bar lasts a lifetime and as a competitive powerlifter no one reaches the top alone. However, some of my most intense and focused training sessions occurred when I trained alone and would just go deep inside my own mind, facing and overcoming my own doubts and fears.

Most embarrassing gym moment:
OMG, I can’t believe I’m going to share this in a public interview but I will, because I know I’m not alone. I had “an accident” as I strained with everything I had during my third attempt deadlift at a meet. I left the platform and headed straight to the restroom hoping no one else noticed! To be honest, over the years, that has happened numerous times in the gym under heavy squats and deadlifts and while embarrassing, that’s what can happen when you push your body to its limits.

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
Recently, it would be the numerous compliments I have received from other women about my body and how they admire what I’m doing. It feels really good to know that they support me, because my biggest fear when I came out was the ladies of the strength training world would feel I didn’t belong and would see me as an imposter. The reality has been that I have been welcomed with open arms, and the support I have received has been overwhelming. I have made so many new and amazing sisters in strength training that alone has been worth all of the sacrifices I have made.

Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I try to make it a point that whenever I think something positive about another woman I share it with her. Just yesterday I told a woman for whom I have a lot of respect in the strength training world how much she amazes me and how I admire her. She is a multi-sport athlete and her incredible strength, amazing physique, and especially her awesome attitude epitomizes what a Girl Gone Strong is.

Favorite meal:
For an everyday normal meal, as boring as it sounds, I eat a lot of plain old chicken or steak and rice seasoned with garlic and various spices. My boys actually beg me to make this all the time. Cheat meal would have to be pizza and ice cream.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
A relaxing but also adventure-filled vacation to somewhere tropical accompanied by a close friend or partner. I am way overdue for one of these.

Favorite quote:
“In order to achieve what others cannot, I must be willing to sacrifice what they will not.”

Favorite book:
He, She, and It by Marge Piercy. This is a great sci-fi novel that also examines gender roles and stereotypes.

What inspires and motivates you?
To be better than I was yesterday, to help others who for one reason or another have always felt like they didn’t belong, and more than anything, to lead by example for my three amazing sons.

What do you do?
I am licensed pharmacist by trade, but I am also involved in activism including writing and speaking about gender and sexuality. I am currently working on an autobiography and in the final stages of completing a documentary about my life, titled Transformer, which will air in the fall.

I definitely keep busy, but my hobbies include muscle cars (I own a ’67 Camaro that I have dubbed the “Krocmaro” that has its own Instagram page), mountain biking (planning a trip to Whistler in British Colombia this summer), and makeup (I love YouTube tutorials and the transformative power makeup can have).

I love hiking and biking with my three sons and this summer we are planning a trip to Yellowstone for the first time, which we are all very excited about! I love the outdoors and especially water. I have always felt drawn to water, and whether it’s a river, lake, or ocean it doesn’t matter to me. I am also an adrenaline junkie (hence my love for fast cars) and have been skydiving, rappelling, and plan to start racing two of my cars this year.

Describe a typical day in your life:
Due to recent unexpected developments, I am currently attempting to leave the 9-to-5 world and pursue activism full time, so my days have changed a lot and also vary greatly from day to day depending on whether or not I’m traveling.

A typical day while at home usually looks something like this:

7 a.m. — Morning cardio. Typical activities include sprints at the track, running stairs, or biking.

8 a.m. — Breakfast, most often oatmeal with a piece of fruit, almond milk, and protein powder.

8:30–11:30 a.m. — Check and respond to important emails, work on articles, interviews, or other writing projects. I also still write training programs and diets for clients.

12 p.m. — Lunch. I typically have a shake around 10am or so and lunch around noon. Lunch most often consists of standard bodybuilder fare like chicken and rice, lean red meat and a salad, or sometimes fish for a different protein and sweet potatoes for a different carb source.

12:30–3:30 p.m. — If I don’t have a local speaking engagement or meeting to attend, then I am most often again working on some form of writing or work on my computer.

4 p.m. — Gym training session. Right now I train with weights in the gym five to six days per week, and I try to get in two to three rides on my mountain bike per week if both the weather and my travel schedule permit it. I am lucky enough to have a full training facility in my basement so I can train at any time day or night. Depending on the day’s schedule I sometimes train first thing in the morning or even late at night, but in the afternoon prior to dinner is more common during the week while in the morning prior to breakfast is more common on the weekends.

6 p.m. — Dinner. I always consume a large intra-training shake consisting of cyclic dextrin and hydrolyzed casein but still eat my largest meal immediately after training. This is most often lean red meat with a complex carb source like rice or potatoes.

7 p.m.-Midnight — I am a morning person and prefer to do my work early with the hope of relaxing a bit in the evening, but my evenings are still often filled with Skype conferences and working on projects I wasn’t able to complete during the day. Still, I try to finish every day by having a last meal usually watching Netflix while snuggling with my kitten, Dawkins, on the couch. It’s a perfect way to unwind before going to bed.

Your next training goal:
Now I am just focused on being a better all-around athlete. I am in my mid-forties and I have begrudgingly accepted that my days of my absolute best athletic performance are behind me. This has not been easy to accept, and I will always be a competitor at heart but now I want to maintain as much strength as I can, be in good enough cardiovascular shape to do all of things I want to (hiking, mountain biking etc.), and maintain good overall health.

For what are you most grateful?

Without a doubt I am most grateful for my three amazing sons. The bond of unconditional love that we share is something I never could have imagined, and their support throughout everything has been absolutely amazing.

Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
While setting the all-time world record in powerlifting was the number one goal of mine for many years, and hugely satisfying, I have to say I am much more proud of being open and honest about whom I am in the face of immense pressure to do the opposite. Every time I receive an email or message from someone stating that my being honest about who I am has helped them, I am reminded how important visibility is for the transgender/gender non-conforming communities (and anyone who feels different in their own way), and how you can save someone’s life without ever having met them. I have said since I first made the decision to be honest about everything, that if my being out can help prevent just one suicide or stop one parent from rejecting their child, then any sacrifice I have to make is more than worth it.

Which three words best describe you?
Honest, complex, determined.

What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
The biggest risks I’ve taken recently have been undergoing both Voice Feminization Surgery and Facial Feminization Surgery. I have been researching both of these procedures for many, many years and greatly desiring the results. For me, it is just about taking steps to finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Every time I have heard my extremely deep voice or seen pics of my face, the masculine qualities of both have always made me cringe.

Even though there was no doubt I wanted to have these procedures performed and had done all of my homework ahead of time, there are still no guarantees that things will turn out like you hope. As with any surgery there is always a chance of complications, that the results will be less than desirable, or that you could be putting your own health in jeopardy. I was talking about my voice and face, two things that affect my life greatly on a daily basis, especially as I try to transition into a career of speaking and activism.

They are also extremely expensive and not covered by insurance at all. I had to spend tens of thousands of dollars, and I felt guilty doing so. I couldn’t help but think how that money could have been toward my son’s future college tuition or other seemingly more vital endeavors. The recovery process for both was daunting as well. I wasn’t able to speak for eight weeks after voice surgery, and anyone who knows me will tell you that was a fate almost worse than death for me!

For my facial feminization surgery, the bone in my forehead and jaw required extensive reconstruction and work was also required on my nose, cheeks and eyebrows. Recovery is very painful with significant swelling, bruising, and it will be weeks before I can eat a normal diet of solid foods. Still, I knew deep down there really wasn’t a choice, and these were things I absolutely needed to do to have any kind of peace internally.

I had the voice surgery performed in January in South Korea, and while it can take up to a year to experience the full increase in pitch the change already has been significant although I am still hoping for an additional increase. I just underwent my facial surgery in Los Angeles on April 25th, and I’m still extremely swollen and bruised. I lost twenty pounds due to the limited diet and difficulty while trying to eat. As the swelling is beginning to go down, I am starting to get an idea of how I am going to look and so far it appears to be very good. I honestly can’t wait to see exactly what I’m going to look like a couple months from now.

How has lifting weights changed your life?
As an adolescent I was a good athlete and very confident, but when junior high hit, things took a huge downward spiral for me. I got shunned by the same group of friends I had grown up with, I was struggling in silence with the growing confusion surrounding my gender identity, and when everyone else had big growth spurts, I did not. All of these things combined to strip away my self-confidence. Because of my complex gender identity and not liking the face I saw in the mirror, I accepted the fact that I was ugly and that no one would ever be interested in dating me. I never had a serious relationship in high school or while in the Marines, and because I felt so uncomfortable trying to play the male role I never went to a prom, Christmas dance, or any social events like that.

Fortunately, through strength training and competitive powerlifting I slowly built my confidence back. First I learned to believe in my ability to achieve any goal I set on the platform, and then I learned how to apply that same confidence to the rest of my life. I often say with absolute sincerity that my success in powerlifting prepared me perfectly for coming out as transgender in the public eye. My belief in myself by that point was unshakeable, and I was already used to being scrutinized and degraded on Internet forums. I was well prepared for the backlash from the strength community that followed my coming out.

Without a doubt the confidence I gained from strength training that has impacted every area of my life in a positive manner.

There are quite a few resources and an active online presence for trans men and transmasculine folks who strength train. Have you found any such community for trans women?
Unfortunately I have not, and I have been contacted by numerous trans women who strength train wanting to talk to someone who can relate. Just like we often see with women from other communities, many trans women attack other trans girls who weight train and question their femininity, it’s sad and unnecessary.

How would you address the concerns some women have about bulking up or appearing “unfeminine?”
First of all, bulking up and adding significant muscle mass takes years and years of extreme dedication and hard work, especially for women. It doesn’t happen overnight, so that shouldn’t even be a concern for anyone who doesn’t have those goals. But more importantly, who has the right to say what is “unfeminine” and how do we even define what that means? The definition is completely arbitrary, changes over time, and varies greatly from one culture to another. For example what it means to be feminine and is acceptable for a woman in the United States is drastically different now than it was in the 1950s. Even today, in a progressive country like Iceland, what is considered feminine and acceptable is radically different than in a country like Saudi Arabia where women have very little rights relative to other cultures.

I am big believer in only the woman herself getting to define what femininity means to her. I have witnessed just as much strength, determination, and mental toughness in my female friends as in any of my male friends. The idea that all men should be strong and all women kept weak is harmful to everyone. Not every male is strong and women aren’t weak. No one should ever be pressured by society or anyone else to be anything other than what they are, and by trying to define and enforce rigid gender roles (especially outdated patriarchal based ones) anyone who doesn’t naturally fall within those definitions is harmed by being forced to live a life that is not entirely their own. So let each and every woman define her own femininity and may she be free to be all of whoever she feels herself to be.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
First of all I’d like to say that I am all for anyone pursuing anything that makes them happy as long as it doesn’t harm someone else. If weight training is something you think you might enjoy then absolutely, one hundred percent go for it! Many women find strength training empowering and love how it changes their body and their health.

Also, never let someone else discourage you from ever pursuing anything that makes you happy. I know there are still a lot of men and women out there who discourage women from lifting weights by pushing outdated ideas about how strength and muscularity are only for men. Sometimes men find strong women intimidating or threatening, and other women may not understand, but those are their problems, not yours. Strength training is not contradictory to femininity, and the strength training world is filled with amazing women of all shapes and sizes. If you’re a woman and you’re even the tiniest bit interested in giving strength training a try, by all means please do! You may find it to be a life-changing experience that impacts not just your body but your mind as well, and benefits you in all areas of your life. I know so many women who have had that experience, myself included.

If you’d like to connect with Janae online, you can find her on: Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

The post GGS Spotlight: Janae Marie Kroc appeared first on Girls Gone Strong.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Do You Know What Your Core Really Is and What it Does?

The following movement screens will allow you to assess your core stability and conduct core strength tests to see how you measure up. See if you actually know how to use and move your core.

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Frog Fit Challenge - Day 3 Of 3, Week 10

It's benchmark day. After 10 weeks it doesn't get any easier.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Push-Pull-Swing Challenge - Day 9

Today we use our kettlebells to add something extra challenging to our push ups.

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Subversive Fitness: Day 128 of 360

We like slam ball. It's energizing but also a kind of therapy. Get's your mind to unload all that crap and channel it in a positive way.

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Love to Lift Challenge - Day 48 of 100

The first time we're seeing the dead stop back squat in today's workout.

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How Drinking Vino Protects Your Brain

Low to moderate wine intake can prevent neurodegenerative diseases (like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's) from setting in.

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Speed Up Recovery with Compression Socks

Compression garments are the latest "in thing" yet they're also one of the most misunderstood items in the gym bag.

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What to Eat Before Bed to Build Muscle Overnight

Meeting your protein needs isn’t as boring as you think.

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Injury Can Be a Beautiful Thing

Unwilling breaks from your routine never feel joyful, but they provide an opportunity to understand who you are outside of your fitness journey.

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Gender 101 and How to Be An Ally

At Girls Gone Strong we believe there is no wrong way to have a body and recognize that everyone who identifies as a woman is a “real woman.”

 

As someone who works with and advocates for transgender and gender nonconforming youth, I really value this particular statement from the GGS mission.

GGS believes in helping women become our best, most authentic selves, and in uplifting other women to do the same. Understanding the complexities of gender and gender identity can be a critical part of affirming someone’s authentic self.

Though transgender and gender nonconforming folks are more visible in the media, pop culture, and American political landscape than ever before, not everyone spends a lot of time thinking about the complexities of gender. There is a lot to unpack from behind the words “gender” and “gender identity,” and we aren’t generally taught these things unless we take a women’s studies or gender studies course.

This means it’s likely you’ve heard people use language and terms related to gender that you may not understand. That’s okay! Language is always evolving in the LGBTQ community and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. 3

So let’s delve into Gender 101 and break some of these things down.

Learning the Language

When we’re born, we are assigned either male or female identity (what we usually just call “sex”) based on medical factors such as hormones, chromosomes, and the appearance of our genitalia. This is called assigned sex or sex assigned at birth. 1

If you’re talking about a transgender person (in this example a transgender woman), instead of saying “She used to be a boy” or “She was born a boy,” it is preferable to say “She was assigned male at birth.” Using this language clearly demonstrates that the sex assignment was another person’s decision and not related to how someone feels inside, or their gender identity.

We all have a gender identity, every single one of us. This is our internal sense of being male, female, a combination of those things, or none of those things. 6

Though “LGBTQ” is an acronym that lumps together sexual orientation and gender identity, the two terms do not mean the same thing. Sexual orientation (such as being gay, bisexual, lesbian, or queer) is about our attraction to others. Gender identity is about who are are inside. 4

A transgender person is someone whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. It’s okay to use the term trans as shorthand for transgender. (Note that “transgendered” is not grammatically correct and shouldn’t be used.)

Being trans is not a phase. Assume that trans folks are as sure of their gender as you are of yours.

We are probably most familiar with either male to female transgender people (sometimes shortened MTF) or female to male (FTM) transgender people. Though plenty of trans folks have the experience of transitioning from one gender to another, there are many who have more complex gender identities.

This could mean that their gender identities are fluid and change over time. They may not see themselves reflected in the gender binary of male/female identity or may reject the idea of gender altogether. Such folks may refer to themselves as nonbinary or genderqueer and use gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them. 1

You may have heard trans folks telling their stories and saying they were “born in the wrong body” or want a “body to match their brain.” This is the experience of some trans folks, but not all! And not all transgender folks elect to transition medically. Though some may use hormones and undergo surgeries to create the desired changes in their bodies, some trans folks do not choose to do this. Medical transition can also be expensive and inaccessible to many.

Transgender people who don’t transition medically are still transgender and should be recognized as such. There is no such thing as a “full” medical transition, and surgery is not a measurement of who is trans and who is not. 6

It’s important to note that not everyone who exhibits gender variance is a transgender person. Think about the women in your life: some may present in a more masculine or “butch” way, some may present in a much more feminine way than you do. Gender expression is vast!

Cisgender (pronounced “sis-gender” and sometimes shortened to “cis”) is a term that means, simply, that one’s gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. It means not transgender. If someone refers to you as cisgender or cis, do not take offense. It’s just a way of saying that you do not share the experience of being transgender. 7

Our society expects that if someone is assigned male at birth, they will express their gender in a masculine fashion and engage in traditionally male interests and activities. Conversely, we expect that if someone is assigned female, they will express their gender in a feminine way and be interested in typically “girly” things. The way that someone expresses their gender to the outside world is gender expression. It is safe to say that people do not always easily conform to the aforementioned expectations, and that endless combinations of assigned sex, gender identity, and gender expression are possible.

At GGS, all women are welcome — regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth, and if their gender is fluid. The mission statement says “…we recognize that everyone who identifies as a woman is a real woman.” I would take it one step further and say that transgender women don’t just identify as women. They are women.

It’s okay if new language and terms feel clumsy to you. Language evolves and changes all the time. If you’ve never done it before, you may feel strange using gender-neutral pronouns to refer to a singular person. While it may not “feel” right grammatically, it’s okay and important to use language in new ways!

Also truth be told, we use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to singular folks all the time, for example someone whose identity we don’t know. Such as “Oh, the delivery person came? Where did they leave the package?” And the Associated Press Stylebook recently recognized the use of “they” as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun2

The importance of respecting a trans person’s pronouns cannot be overstated. If you’re cisgender, it’s your responsibility to work through your own discomfort with the new language.

Though you may be hesitant, it is not offensive to ask someone what their pronouns are. Always ask if you’re uncertain. Folks who are trans, or whose gender expression may not match their assigned gender, will appreciate this.

If asking feels uncomfortable, perhaps lead by introducing yourself and your own pronouns. “Hi, I’m Erica, and my pronouns are she/her.” Practice going out of your comfort zone!

Being A Good Ally

So it’s okay to ask about pronouns, but what should I not ask a transgender person? Great question! There are definitely a few things that you should never ask about. They include:

  • Whether or not they’ve had any surgery or are using hormones
  • What body parts they have
  • What their old name was

A good rule is to ask yourself: would I be comfortable if this person, possibly a stranger or acquaintance, asked me about my medical business, body parts, and private history? Most likely the answer is no, so don’t ask! 5

Also avoid asking transgender people to speak for all transgender people, or to provide you with transgender-specific resources that you could find yourself by doing a quick search online. Trans people get asked these questions by well-meaning allies all the time, and it’s not work they should have to do for us. Using the internet, it is not difficult to find resources ourselves. 

There are many practical ways you can move forward as an ally to transgender folks:

  • When you’ve learned someone’s pronouns, make a strong effort to correctly use them.
  • Briefly apologize and keep the conversation moving if you accidentally misgender someone. It’s likely that at some point, you will mess up someone’s pronouns. Do not be offended if they correct you. There is no need to stop the conversation for a long apology that could make things more awkward for the trans person — just keep it brief.
  • Refer to folks only using the language they use themselves or the language they’ve given you permission to use. For example, don’t call someone genderqueer unless they’ve explicitly asked you to refer to them with that label.
  • Take care to not out someone. This means don’t talk about someone’s status as a transgender person unless they’ve given you permission to discuss it with others. It can be dangerous for a trans person if they’re outed. 5
  • A good (and easy!) rule is to use gender-neutral language whenever possible, especially when you’re addressing a group. Try “hey, folks,” “hey, everyone,” or “hey, friends” instead of “hey, ladies” or “hey, guys.”
  • Be open to learning and growing with regard to these topics. There really is no end to learning about how gender works and how good allyship works. Even people within the LGBTQ community are learning all the time.

Here is more information on being an ally to the transgender people in your life.

If you’d like to know more, these are some helpful resources.

References:

  1. “Answers To Your Questions About Transgender People, Gender Identity, And Gender Expression”. American Psychological Association. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
  2. http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender.aspx
  3. Easton L. “Making a case for a singular they.” Associated Press Blog. 2017. Web. 24 March 2017.
    https://blog.ap.org/products-and-services/making-a-case-for-a-singular-they
  4. Finch, Sam. “Transgender 101: A Guide To Gender And Identity To Help You Keep Up With The Conversation – Everyday Feminism”. Everyday Feminism. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
    http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/08/transgender-101/
  5. “PFLAG” N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
    http://www.org
  6. “Supporting The Transgender People In Your Life: A Guide To Being A Good Ally”. National Center for Transgender Equality. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
    http://www.transequality.org/issues/resources/supporting-the-transgender-people-in-your-life-a-guide-to-being-a-good-ally
  7. “Transgender Terminology”. National Center for Transgender Equality. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
    http://www.transequality.org/issues/resources/transgender-terminology
  8. “The True Meaning Of The Word ‘Cisgender'”. com. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 May 2017.
    http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2015/07/31/true-meaning-word-cisgender

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The post Gender 101 and How to Be An Ally appeared first on Girls Gone Strong.