Sometimes someone walks into our studio who is the "total package" client - a ray of positive sunshine, a hard worker, and an all around great person to have present. From her hunger to always improve, to her funky collection of deadlifting socks, Tabitha Walker is that client! Tabitha came to TrueFN with an interest in powerlifting, and she has taken her strength and her physique goals to another level since working with Elliott and Jenn. Tabitha shares her insights today in our latest TrueFN Client Spotlight.
TrueFN: How long have you been working with your coach, Elliott and your nutrition coach, Jenn?
TW: I started working with Elliott in January this year and then added nutrition sessions with Jenn about a month after that.
TrueFN: Why did you start working together?
TW: After thinking about it for a few months I decided to seriously take up powerlifting late last year. I knew that I needed an experienced coach to be successful, and found out about TrueFN through someone I know from my commercial gym, who is also one of Elliott's clients.
TrueFN: How has your physique, strength, and/or mindset changed since you started?
TW: I'm definitely a lot stronger, more satisfied with my physique, and even have better posture! Powerlifting has also helped me with my self-confidence too.
Training hard means more rest, so I learned to make more time for that. I also had to adjust my eating and hydration habits. For example, I do a lot more meal prep, carry more snacks when I'm on the go, and have a protein shake before bed; I also need more sleep and rest now than I did before, even on the weekends.
TrueFN: How many days a week do you train?
TW: Three. I'm on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule and I believe a fourth day is coming up soon. I train with Elliott on Mondays, at a commercial gym on Wednesdays, and lift with TrueFN Barbell Club on Fridays.
TrueFN: Life gets busy and people miss workouts, what's your strategy to stay on track?
TW: The online coaching I do with Elliott helps me stay accountable. I know that even when I'm not in a session, I still have to train and send him videos of the training! TrueFN Barbell Club is also really good because there are other people around to offer encouragement and advice.
TrueFN: How has your nutrition work at TrueFN gotten you further toward your goals?
TW: I was a little underweight when I started training, and have added about 9 lbs of muscle thanks to Jenn's nutrition coaching. Jenn gave me some pointers on how to time my meals so I don't get hungry throughout the day or tire out during training. She also advised me on supplements for recovery and sleep. I also learned about the right amount of protein, veggies and carbs to gain strength and maintain my weight. It turned out that although I was eating the right kinds of foods, I wasn't eating enough of them and in the right proportions!
Hydration is still a challenge -- sometimes I fall short of the 3 liters a day I'm supposed to drink -- and I occasionally struggle to meet my protein requirements if I don't feel like eating.
TrueFN: On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard do you work during your workouts?
TW: I do my best to make a 10 effort, even if I'm not operating at 100% capacity and my best effort only ends up being a 7 or 8 on a particular day. I let Elliott know ahead of time if I'm feeling unusually sore, tired, feel like I'm getting a cold, etc. which sometimes means we adjust the amount of weight and/or reps accordingly.
Training sessions are always challenging -- but I generally feel better after a workout than before. Jenn's nutrition coaching helps me get the fuel I need to get through tough workouts.
TrueFN: What is your favorite exercise?
TW: Whichever one I'm making the most progress on with technique and weight :) At the moment, it's the bench press, which used to be my least favorite.
TrueFN: How does being strong benefit other aspects of your life?
TW: Sometimes when some parts of my life don't appear to be progressing as much as I would like, I watch my old training videos and remind myself that I can put more weight on the bar or do more reps than I did a month ago, with more ease and better technique. I remind myself that what I'm now lifting as a warm up used to be a heavy, "can I really lift that?" weight. Then I suck it up and remember that I'm lucky to even be able to train at all.
I had chronic Lyme Disease for about five years -- at one point I was so sick and in such physical pain that I couldn't work and could barely walk, drive, or get out of bed. It took four years of sometimes very heavy antibiotics to get rid of the disease. Powerlifting was something I wanted to do to move past that time in my life. Now I'm Lyme-free, stronger than I've ever been, and am going to start competing in meets next year.
I love the resilient, no-excuses, stop-whining-and-get-it-done discipline that many people in the strength community have. I've always been that way and found it hard to meet like-minded people, so I think the sport will help me meet more of "my tribe."
TrueFN: What's your #1 piece of advice to someone who wants to make significant fitness progress?
TW: Start from where you are, with what you have. Strength isn't just physical, it's emotional and mental too. There will always be someone stronger than you, but that doesn't mean you can't become the best and strongest version of yourself!
For women in particular, strength training can be very intimidating. They worry they'll "get too big" or "look like a man" if they start lifting (ladies, we don't have enough testosterone for that to happen). You can be strong and lift weights and still be feminine! Since getting involved in the sport I have met a lot of incredibly strong female lifters who are beautiful inside and out. I encourage women to incorporate weights in their fitness routine, even if they don't take up powerlifting. You'll see an improved physique, more confidence, and your bones will thank you!
Coaches' Perspective: Elliott White and Jenn Stofferahn
TrueFN: Elliott, what is it like to coach Tabitha?
EW: Tabitha is great. She comes ready to work everyday, and always has a positive attitude. We say that 'Attitude is Everything' and Tabitha really embodies this mentality. She may not always feel her best, but she always puts everything she has into a training session. Her reps are intentioned and deliberate, and this leads to the fantastic levels of progress she's seen the only way that it ever happens; one step at a time. We started with the bar on her squat, and she is up to 5 sets of 5 at 135 (the "big girl" plates) at the time of this writing. This happens because she works hard, smiles to everyone, and gets everyone stronger around her. I'm so proud of what she's done and can't wait to see what's in store for her next.
TrueFN: Jenn, what is it like to coach Tabitha on nutrition?
JS: I love Tabitha :) Talk about a strong female, Tabitha embodies what we hope to encourage with all of our clients - a serious work ethic AND a genuine love of moving weight and getting stronger. Tabitha was in the unique position when she came to our studio of being a woman who wanted to specifically gain weight. Tabitha already understood that muscle is a desirable tissue, and that adding some to her frame would help increase her strength, her performance in her new sport, and her confidence moving through the world. Together we have implemented several strategies for intelligent weight gain (more muscle, minimal fat), and her physique change is both visually impressive and evident when she's under a barbell. I look forward to knowing Tabitha as part of our community of strength for years to come!