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you are not your weight

Weight's such a funny thing, don't you think? It's just a number but it can hold such power over us. In an instant it can can make us feel like we're on top of the world, or make us want to crawl into a hole and hide. And after nearly 37 years on this planet I'm done with it.

When I began my personal training journey at Iron North Studio this year, it felt different. Why? For the first time in my entire life, I was trying a new form of fitness without a goal body weight in mind. Without wishing for a smaller pant size. Without hoping for a flat tummy. Nope, none of that.

Why was I doing it? Because I wanted to lift heavy things. Over the past three years I've taken tons of classes at Iron North, from yoga to spinning to HIIT, and I discovered that what I loved most was lifting. I was eager to spend more time on technique and really see what I could do.

my personal training journey

Back in January I walked into my first personal training session excited and a little nervous. But Jenna, Iron North owner and personal trainer extraordinaire, put me at ease right away.

She explained that this first session was less of a workout and more of an assessment to see where I was at. She had me perform specific movements and a few basic exercises (nothing too intense) so she could evaluate my baseline functional movement, body awareness, and overall fitness.

I effing love that: measuring success in a fuller range of motion and a stronger more stable body, rather that a smaller number on a scale. Jenna told me she doesn't even have a scale at the gym because generally weight isn't a useful indicator of health/fitness. FRIGGING PREACH.

We spent some time talking about what I wanted to achieve through our sessions:

- increase my deadlift from 145lbs to 175lbs by December 2018

- improve my squat technique to avoid knee pain (I'm low on cartilage in my knees)

- lift 100lbs over my head any way possible

I told her I was curious about powerlifting thanks to my pal Mallory Rowan at LVD Fitness (follow her, she's AMAZE), and I mentioned I was cool with some metabolic conditioning since it helps make room for more pizza. Jenna took all the data from our chat and assessment and got to work programming my personal training regimen.

my progress

I've been training with Jenna once a week since January, and it's hard to put into words how much I love our sessions. Our Monday nights have become the highlight of my week, even going toe to toe with pizza night. I'm physically stronger than I've ever been in my life, and as a petite woman who's never been athletic that feels pretty frigging amazing. Here's an update on my progress:

My deadlift: I smashed my goal and jumped from 145lbs to 175lbs in our very first personal training session. For real. A coach worth their salt 100% knows what you can do better than you do, so when they push you outside your comfort zone have faith in their expertise. My heaviest deadlift is now 225lbs, and I'm toying with a stretch goal of 300lbs by the end of the year. Holy frig.

My squat: 9 months into training my knees are feeling great! Jenna provided me with excellent coaching for my squat, and the improvements in my form and my breath have helped me lift heavier - safely. I think my back squat is currently in the range of 150-160lbs, and I'd love to bring it up to 200. Also: knee sleeves are life!

100lbs overhead: I'm nearly there! This week I squeaked out 95lbs in a push press, and Jenna is continuing to help me refine my technique so I can get that 100lb load over my head.

Annnnddd... it makes me nervous to put this in writing, but I'm thinking of trying a powerlifting competition. Bench, squat, deadlift. I want to find a low-key meet where newbies like me are welcome, so if you know of any in Ottawa or elsewhere in Ontario please let me know!

meet the trainers

If you're thinking about getting a personal trainer, Iron North Studio has a pretty phenomenal roster -- 6 badass women to be exact. They're all fully certified and share a consistent approach to training, yet they each have different specialties to help you find the right fit:

Jenna Ladd: this self-proclaimed arts geek is a whiz at endurance coaching, kettlebells, rehabilitation, pregnancy & postpartum (yup, this spitfire is a mom), and heaps more. She was also the youngest Canadian (male or female) ever to run the Boston Marathon and I feel immensely proud to know her.

Lindsay Mustard: this ray of sunshine will greet you with a smile and kick your butt. She specializes in strength training, holistic nutrition, yoga, weight management, addressing disordered eating, and more. If you're wanting to explore both your food and your fitness, Lindsay's your girl.

Karen Lenarduzzi: barely 5'3" and affectionately known as Little Duzzi, she's a beast in the gym and has inspired the hashtag #DeathByKaren. And I love her fiercely. She's phenomenally gifted at coaching heavy lifts, not to mention kettlebell conditioning, functional fitness, personal and group training, and more.

Kristi Edgeson: running is Kristi's favourite way to sweat, so unsurprisingly she specializes in speed and agility, marathon training, functional movement training, HIIT, mind-body fitness, and more. If you want loads of cardio in your workouts or wanna get fast at your sport, book with Kristi!

Lacey Thompson: the first class I ever took at Iron North was yoga with Lacey, and I was floored to find such a gifted yogi at a gym. Lacey is both clear and compassionate, and she specializes in sport conditioning, strength conditioning, olympic lifting, yoga instruction, sport specific training, and more.

Brittany Gordon: Brittany is a frigging blast! She loves cats and Star Wars just as much as she loves nutrition and fitness. She's an expert in sports nutrition, functional movement, yoga, healthy life style planning and development, and more. She enjoys lifting heavy things and turning herself into a pretzel.

From left to right: Kristi, Lacey, Brittany.

personal training flash sale

If you've been pondering personal training for a while, now's the time folks. I've got a flash sale just for you. Now through Sept 16, use code "AMYLIFTS" for 15% off personal training packages at Iron North! You've only got a few days, so click here to choose your package and enter "AMYLIFTS" at checkout.

personal training with pals

This is super awesome: today Iron North is launching semi-private personal training! This is the perfect option if you're on a tighter budget or if you're intimidated to try it on your own. You can have 2-4 people per session, and each of you pays a lower rate than the usual one-on-one price.

Every first visit begins with a functional movement analysis for each individual, and different experience levels are absolutely welcome because Iron North's experienced coaches know how to asses multiple people at once. One thing to keep in mind: you'll need to be comfortable discussing your goals with your trainer and in front of your training buddy or buddies.

Click here to book personal training with your buddies, and you can use "AMYLIFTS" at checkout too!

Iron North will contact you within 24 hours of your purchase to set up your first sessions, and you'll be on your way. Have a few questions for their team? Send them a note at and they'll help you out and reserve your exclusive rate.

final thoughts on personal training

This has been a long one so thanks for sticking with me. To sum everything up, personal training has completely changed how I feel in my own skin. Do I have squishy bits? Yes. Do I care? No. Can I lift more than the bros who used to intimidate me at big gyms? Abso-frigging-lutely.

For me, personal training has been all about finding the right fit, and that's what I've found at Iron North. Case in point: Jenna and I finished our workout, got doughnuts, and drank some Lola. Amen, y'all.

All photos by the ridiculously talented Hello Lovely Studio.

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