Article by Jennifer Proulx

Last week I got a call from my son’s teacher… in fact she called 3 times while I was out doing a makeover for Mary Kay and I couldn’t pick up.  For anyone who knows Kaylen – you understand my stress as I call her back.  He just started a new school – and is definitely the life of the party if he’s bored in any way.  I was surprised, relieved and honoured as our conversation unfolded to find out thatshe hadn’t phoned to talk about Kaylen.  It turns out, that during a speech he had given to introduce himself to his new class that he had spent a good amount of time talking about me, and powerlifting.  She asked me if I would come in and speak to her class about strength sports, women and weights – and what it has done for me.  She explained that she already has girls in her class (grade 3 and 4) who feel that gym class and sports are for the boys.  I love an audience – and any opportunity to speak about the sport I love, so I jumped at the chance… not realizing at the time how cool this experience would really be.

As the date got closer I realized that although I have told my weight loss story and transition into powerlifting adventure to many adults I had never shared it with children.  For the first time in my life I was actually intimidated to talk to a group of people.  Kids are brutally honest and will definitely let you know if they’re bored. So I asked Kaylen what he would think was cool to show the class.  I was a bit relieved when he had a laundry list.  I put together my video from my most recent meet (thank you, Vanessa, I am so not technologically inclined), a few photos to show the lifts, some strongman photos, and my body transformation shot… grabbed my gear bag (my back up plan was a game of “what’s in my purse?”) and off I went.

I only had about 10 minutes worth of content – including the 2 minute video.  This was PERFECT.  I explained a little about what I do and let the video run.  As the weights showed across the screen and grew as the attempts when on I started to hear gasps… and a “wow” or two.  Suddenly I was good to go.  I am by no means the strongest woman out there, but in that moment I went back to a recent conversation that I had with my coach, Paul, about Strongman.  He said that part of the magic of the sport is that no one sitting in the crowd can even imagine doing what you do.  Well, fortunately I was dealing with a group of grade schoolers and in that moment I was someone’s mom who could do what they couldn’t even fathom.

The questions started…  What an insightful group I must say.  They noticed things that were different than what they had seen in magazines and TV shows before – arched back bench for example.  They asked about equipment (thank God for toting my gear bag everywhere I go).  They asked about how often I train, what I eat,… and yes (of course) even how much I weigh.

 

Most insightful questions of the day:

  1. Why is one hand over and one hand under the bar when you pick the weight up off the ground? (we have alive one here! Obviously paying attention)
  2. Do all those people around you when you lift keep you safe?
  3. Do you get to eat a lot because you have a lot of muscle?

My favourite questions of the day: (and what I wanted to say!)

  1. Why does your face turn red when you squat? (Honey, I sure wish it didn’t. Do you know how many beastly Facebook pics people have posted of me?)
  2. Can you pick up my fridge? (Is it worth my while? Is there beer in it?)
  3. Are you stronger than my Dad? (Um… if you get your build from his side, probably.)

What had begun as a quick few minutes of explaining a sport turned into an hour long discussion about healthy lifestyle, confidence in yourself, competing against yourself instead of others, women being able to be strong and feminine… and of course, how often I get hurt and what I could pick up, pull, push and carry around in the class room and in life in general.

At the end of the hour the teacher asked the kids how many were inspired to ever join a gym, lift a weight, or just be healthier in general.  I beamed when the first hand to (very confidently) raise was the little blonde girl in the pink sundress  who had given me the “are you here to waste my time?” look when I started.  I left that room knowing that even if I hit home with just one kid – if I convinced one to go kick a soccer ball that afternoon instead of putting on a headset and grabbing a PS3 controller – that maybe in the end one less kid would suck at life and it was an hour well spent.  (Sorry, Paul, your suck at life expression is perfect here so I borrowed it.)

I left knowing that I wanted to do this again!  Like I said, I have told my story to countless adults.  Hell, I had the ultimate “coming out” about my weight loss and body transformation – in an ebook – so I have even shared my insights with strangers who track me down online.  However, I am constantly frustrated by taking the time to share my story and offer advice from what I have learned works and does not – even accompanying people to the gym if their reason for not going is intimidation by it all… only to find 2 weeks later that it was too hard, too restrictive, or too _______ (you fill in the blank with any sort of whining and it fits here!).  Kids are different.  They are young enough to not have developed the lazy, poor lifestyle habits that many of us have.  They aren’t set in their ways.  They’re far more willing to change than we are.  If you ever get the opportunity to share your story with children, I highly recommend you do it.  For that time you’re with them, you’re a Superhero.

I got my wish.  Teachers talk!  A couple hours later my daughter’s teacher called.  I am going back to the school this Friday to talk to Emma’s class (grade 6 and 7 this time).  They will understand even more about the importance of healthy choices.  I already know that it will be one of the most fulfilling hours of my week.  And I can’t wait…

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