The universe was plotting a bit of an intervention for me, you see. I had recently been let go from my role as General Sales Manager for a top radio station in Boston, a career I had cultivated for 10+ years. I was considering many options to jump back into Corporate America but I was feeling a pull to begin anew and follow a dream I’ve had for years. In fact, months before my career change, I had pressed "buy" to attend this retreat. As a lifelong fitness lover and health enthusiast, I wanted to begin a business to help time starved women create the healthy change they are seeking in their lives and this weekend was a chance to explore the viability of this venture.
After Day 1, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was my time to forge this new career path. This weekend away, the friendships created, the inspiration gleaned, the exceptional business and training content covered…I left more inspired than I had been in years. As I sat on the plane on my way back to Boston reflecting on my weekend and my vision, Be PowerFULL was born. Just one short month later, I launched www.jessicaoar.com. It's been an amazing first year of dedication, growth, challenge and opportunity and I feel so grateful that I said ‘yes’ and jumped.
But, there was another completely unexpected turn of events during my weekend in Venice Beach. My personal fitness path was forever changed when I walked through the doors of Paradiso CrossFit where Jen Sinkler and Jennifer Vogelgesang Blake (JVB) were about to engage us in a conversation about Deadlifts and Biofeedback, an intuitive training model.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t walk into that gym with a little bit of a competitive spirit that day. As a lifelong athlete, I felt confident trying new fitness training methods throughout the years; recreational teams, boxing, various bootcamp classes, flag football. I figured I’d pick it up rather quickly. I didn’t expect to be pretty much one of the greenest of green lifters of the group. In fact, let's be real, I wasn’t a lifter. I had barely touched a barbell before in my life. I was a runner, sprinter, triathlete, a queen of metabolic conditioning with moderate weights.
Here’s the thing about deadlifting: this is not a grip and rip kind of move where you jump in and see how it goes. I was immediately humbled, both because of the serious implications if I didn’t listen to my body and practice solid form, but also because lifting dead weight off the ground is god-damn HARD. But, oh so rewarding. Here’s a video of Newbie Jess doing my first deadlifts ever. I’ll tell you this, I felt my glutes and back the next day….like, whoa! (PS - how serious do I look?)
#1 Embrace Sisterhood
One of the first things I discovered in that gym that day was an overwhelming spirit of sisterhood. As a competitive athlete and salesperson, I was no stranger to approaching each situation positioning to be the best. But, I was surprised to find that there was not one woman in that gym that was trying to beat each other out. On the contrary, it was an environment of comradery and togetherness in strength. In fact, when I spoke up about my inexperience, many experienced lifters swarmed to help me learn the intricacies of the sport they love. One of the first to meet me at the barbell was JVB of Strong Is Fun. JVB, if you don’t know her, is a super talented and badass powerlifting coach at The Movement Minneapolis and creator of Unapologetically Powerful, an online powerlifting program.
#2 Train with Intention + Patience
When I got home from California, I got to work. That experience, seeing the power and confidence radiating from these women who had been training for years and years with heavy weight, it lit a fire within me. It was a different kind of fire than I had experienced before. I didn't want to train to beat anyone else, I wanted to get better for myself and step into my power to learn something new with discipline and self-compassion, similar to the journey that each of my clients go on as they begin anew. It's a journey that's entirely personal and about being more, and doing more, progressively, and believing that you are capable. This new fitness challenge was exactly what I was looking for.
My heavy lifting journey wasn't entirely smooth initially. I was learning from form videos on YouTube videos I had googled, there were times that I attempted way too much weight when my ego took over, moments where I wasn't lifting safely with the equipment, and where didn't have a clear understanding for how to progress my lifts and support my training in the three big lifts with other training. I knew I needed to enlist the help of a coach if I wanted to take my progress, and safety, seriously.
#3 Ask For Help
I then had the pleasure of working with Jen Sinkler and JVB in an beta coaching group for Unapologetically Strong. It was here where I really started to see my training soar and progress. I got access to these two super talented coaches who are the best at what they do and deliver feedback that just makes sense; every cue tip I received from them was on point and easy to understand. When I approach the bar, I think about Jen's cue of "squeezing oranges under my armpits" to really pack my shoulders and engage my lats in my deadlift. When I approach my squat, I stagger my feet, something JVB helped me to tweak so I can get lower in the movement. I also learned to use new equipment and became comfortable with the accessory moves that upped the ante on my lifts.
As Cardigan Mark at The Movement Minneapolis is quoted saying "If you want to be OK at something, do it yourself. If you want to be the best at something, hire a coach", and in my next phase, I did just that.
When JVB announced Unapologetically Powerful, her guide to strengthening your squat, bench and deadlift, I was in immediately. I outfitted my garage gym with a power rack, barbell, bench and plates and worked through her 12 week powerlifting program. Not only was it thorough, easy to understand and implement, but I PR'd like crazy using her guide. I'm also fully equipped with all the information I need to enter and train for my first powerlifting meet...which is absolutely my next step.
#4 Be Big
Perhaps, one of the most impactful lessons I've learned in my first year of powerlifting is that this sport is not about shrinking, in fact, it celebrates bigness in every sense of the word. It celebrates building muscle, but not for our appearance - although that's fun too - but for what it represents. Discipline, consistency, power, physical and mental strength, a strength that extends beyond the gym and into every aspect of our lives. As many fitness professionals are still talking about losing weight and getting smaller, powerlifting celebrates strength in all shapes and sizes.
I was beyond excited to see JVB announce her Unapologetically Powerful Virtual Powerlifting Meet (happening this week!). If you want a dose of inspiration and to see what this sport is all about, head on over to #upowerful and check out all the incredible women squatting, benching and deadlifting like crazy. I'm having so much fun participating and cheering everyone on! You get 3 attempts on each lift and it's all happening this week. I completed my submissions today, check out the video below to see my PR's in all 3 lifts!
If you want to get stronger than you ever thought possible, look no further than this program, Unapologetically Powerful. I heard that JVB is offering it half off through Friday, April 22nd as part of the virtual meet this week. This program is cowritten with Jen Sinkler, with valuable input from Movement Minneapolis founder David Dellanave.
Here's what's in the program:
- A comprehensive training manual that includes Beginner and Early Intermediate 12-week powerlifting programs, with a detailed introduction to biofeedback training.
- An extensive guide on how to compete for first-time powerlifters who want to step onto the platform.
- A complete exercise glossary with clear-cut written coaching cues and images.
- A massive video library of more than 140 exercise demonstration videos. Every movement in the program is in the video library, with detailed coaching cues to walk you through each exercise step by step.
- A 4-week pre-powerlifting program add-on written by David to prepare your body to safely train for the back squat, bench press, and deadlift.