Who Should Sponsor Me: A Definitive Guide

I’ve been a little too entertained by insisting that one of my hobbies within the sport of powerlifting–if it were possible to have a hobby within a hobby, and if it were possible to do so without asking oneself WHY one needs to have a hobby within the original hobby–is “not being sponsored.” Whenever I take the opportunity to declare this, it is obvious that I have something of a chip on my shoulder over it, and I’m entirely aware of that and ok with it because I am ok with looking a little pathetic. As for the chip in question, I’m not entirely sure why I want to be sponsored aside from having the distinct sense that being sponsored proves something. Indeed, I’m not really interested in adding more crap to the already cluttered confines of my apartment. I don’t need to add more shirts to the laundry that only intermittently gets done, and I don’t need the limited counter space in my kitchen any more devoted to unused bottles and tubs of whatever supplement than it already is. No, I just want to feel like one of the cool kids. Having realized that the likelihood that I will be welcomed into the “sponsored cool kids clique,” however, is somewhere in the 40-50% range, my next best option is to insist that I am above all that shit and feign coolness by feigning disinterest, but being really obvious in my feigning so people actually think that it’s slightly endearing how much I don’t believe my own bullshit. So in that spirit, yes, one of my favorite hobbies is not being sponsored.

   

The deadlift face that launched a thousand ships. Who WOULDN’T want to sponsor this sexiness?
 But if I WERE to be sponsored, of course I’d only want to be sponsored by businesses that produce things I actually use consistently in efforts to better my powerlifting career. A career that, although short, should be fleshed out a bit here so the reader doesn’t think I’m some one-meet newbie insisting they have done enough to deserve sponsorship. See, I haven’t done enough, but let’s also not forget that “enough” doesn’t actually have to be done if one can just fall back on sex appeal–and that’s heteronormative sex appeal to you, with only slight emphasis on the stuff muscle fetishists message me about somewhat regularly–to be “saleable.” I’m too much of a bitch for that, so let’s return to why me writing this isn’t a complete mockery of the concept of sponsoring athletes: I have earned elite totals in four weight classes, been nationally ranked in the top fifteen in five, been ranked in the top five in four weight classes in either total or single lifts or both, and have broken two all-time world records in the no wraps total at 123 as well as the deadlift at 123. Needless to say, I currently hold the #1 national ranking in the 123 weight class raw no wraps. I am not, in other words, without some accomplishment in under four years of powerlifting and something like six years of touching weights (although the first two of those years were pretty sketchy, non-barbell lifting self-lead wastes of time). So, like, damnit, someone should fucking sponsor me. Jesus. 

So let’s talk about who that should be. A supplement company? Nope, not a single supplement was ingested that day, or any day, because I just don’t really use supplements. But I still buy things, and some of those things support my powerlifting. A list of potential sponsors:

1. Hyvee: I go to this grocery store literally just about every single day. Dude! Shut up! I live near it and I don’t like making big grocery trips, it makes me anxious. And I don’t preplan my stupid meals right now, which, if social media is any indicator, is an extreme anomaly in the lifting world. What will I eat next? I DON’T KNOW. I actually deeply enjoy going over to Hyvee, being all “what do I feel like eating next?” buying the thing, and then eating it. I feel like Hyvee not only literally fuels me as an athlete, it serves as a sort of refuge, because walking its aisles and staring at food is very soothing. Get off your damn “I prepped these veggies five days ago, YUM” high horse and buy some chocolate that has brandy inside of it that I saw in the candy aisle with me.
2. Jethro’s Barbecue, either the Johnston, IA or Altoona, IA locations. Doesn’t it just make SENSE that a powerlifter would be sponsored by a barbecue place? I am very honestly surprised that this does not happen more often if ever. Also, this place is home of this fried apple pie monstrosity that I am really hungry just thinking about right now but also a bit sickened by. Gross, Janis. Let’s move on….

3. …To Sakura Sushi’s all you can eat sushi night, which is on Mondays. Speaking of being a bit sickened by myself, the amount I am able to ingest on these nights is disturbing. The fact that I can eat two deep fried rolls as part of that amount should ring some serious concern bells in someone, because I’m too far gone into the land of gluttony for them to be ringing inside of me anymore. The only thing that rings inside of me these days is the amount of tums I ingest to ward off the impact of Jethro’s and Sakura. 

4. Tums. Because of 2 and 3. 

5. Covergirl. No, seriously, makeup is deeply important to my existence as a powerlifter. Want to know how I prep for a lifting session? I put on makeup. I mean, I have to or people see me and throw up, but it’s also highly important for me to apply eyeliner, think about the lifts I will do in the next few hours, apply more eyeliner, think about whether or not I’m going to be pushing the weight on the top set or holding off today, apply more eyeliner, think about how I look like a whore now but it’s too late to go back, makeup remover is going to turn everything into a liquid black mess, apply mascara, go to the gym. I use a lot of different makeup brands but I figure my best shot is with a cheaper drugstore brand. I mean, if Rihanna is good enough to be a Covergirl representative, I have to be able to get in there. I bet I deadlift more than her. 

6. Unknown Brand: if a company ever manages to make a sports bra that fits me perfectly, I will hawk the shit out of it. So this is a hypothetical relationship, but I’m dead serious. Someone make a sports bra that doesn’t squish my back around in unattractive ways and I will be your athlete–good incentive to take the 50% risk of failure in starting a small business, right?  

  
So that’s about it. Until I pick up a contract with one of these, I’m going to continue to sponsor myself. It’s pretty great. 

I Accidentally Dropped A Weight Class and Other Misadventures

“This kind of feels like a spa treatment.” I watched my knees as the hot water in the bath closed and unclosed around them. I felt the hair at the back of my neck grow wet as I tried to submerge my body as fully as possible. The water distorted the image of the flesh lying beneath it–shortening an already short torso, warping the shape of my legs and arms into alien appendages. I wore a purple thong because Kyle, watching me step stark naked into the hot bath, suggested some sort of underwear as protection from the temperature of the water. Not sure cotton would protect me from the water’s heat–or that certain portions of my body really needed extra protection–I put the thong on anyway.

“Okay, let’s get out for a few minutes,” Kyle said, looking at his phone. It was my third trip into the epsom-salted water. My heart rate skyrocketed as I slowly elevated myself from my prone position in the tub to standing, watching for any beginning signs of faintness. Already dehydrated, I had to be careful about sweating out weight at this point in my weight cut. It wasn’t really necessary, but the half pound I lost in the water allowed me to eat an entire bag of almonds in the middle of my over 24-hour fast.

An hour or two before weighing in--notice how sunken my eyes are. Makeup application was pretty disturbing that day.
An hour or two before weighing in–notice how sunken my eyes are. Makeup application was pretty disturbing that day.

I’ve written a fair amount about weight classes and weight cuts in this blog. I am doing so again because I believe this is an aspect of powerlifting that remains mysterious, glamorized and almost fetishized–particularly when it comes to women doing it. When executed well, as my cut from 130.8 to 122 pounds was for my meet last weekend, performing a water cut is physically safe. Even when executed well–and absolutely certainly when not executed well–the likelihood a weight cut will impact performance in some way on meet day is a solid one.

I had not planned on cutting to 123 for my meet. Originally, I was coming into it weighing at or below the 132 weight class I had intended on occupying, and I was entirely ok with that. When Kyle informed me that I could potentially take the all time world record total and deadlift at 123, my usual “screw large weight cuts” stance shifted. Or rather, it didn’t, because I have said over and over again that weight cuts should not be pursued by novice lifters at all, and only pursued after some meet experience AND if there are serious records or rankings on the line. And I stand by my stance on this. I will also say that I did not intentionally drop weight/lean out leading up to this meet–a practice common among female powerlifters working to make a certain weight class. Two things happened that led to my accidental weight drop: I changed my diet and my level of activity changed significantly outside of my normal training. As far as my diet goes, I shifted from a “crazy deficit punctuated by weekly refeeds/cheat meals” to “an extremely small deficit with straight up zero deviation from the daily diet for four months straight except for this one day where I passed out while getting a tattoo and ate a huge sandwich and potato chips so I wouldn’t keep passing out.” Activity levels shifted from largely sedentary outside of lifting to for to five days a week of constant motion for three to four hours straight training other people. I saw my weight drop from 138 around the time I got married in April to 130.5 at the end of July at my lowest weight leading into the meet.

So there were actually some veins going on below the belt and I tried to get pictures of them because they looked like aliens but I failed. Instead, we get this scandalous image of my drawn-out, flushed face and abs.
So there were actually some veins going on below the belt and I tried to get pictures of them because they looked like aliens but I failed. Instead, we get this scandalous image of my drawn-out, flushed face and abs.

There was no magic dietary secret here to lose the weight. I didn’t force donuts into my macros and proudly post pictures of them everywhere–I ate foods that I felt best supported how I felt and performed when in training. And no, that isn’t donuts for me. Or cake. Or ice cream. As sacrilege as it is to say this currently in the fitness industry, I am entirely ok with eating “clean foods” 100% of the time for months on end because psychologically I don’t have a problem doing this. Some people do. And I give exactly zero fucks if someone is not mentally wired the way I am–I expect that to be the case, actually–but I refuse to be dishonest about my diet. This is what worked for me. It is very likely not going to work for the next person. It might work for the next person physically, but it might not be sustainable for them mentally. It might work for them mentally, but physically may not be in his or her best interests. One diet system, in other words, is not a panacea for everyone, because no two bodies or minds operate the same way.

So, I accidentally dropped a weight class. And I only decided to actually make that weight class one week before the meet in which I broke two world records in that weight class. It wasn’t a huge, huge deal for me to be a “123 class lifter” on a mental level–it was the right thing for my body at this point in my training career and I did it. I don’t define myself by weight class. I refuse to define myself by a number–especially one that shows up on a scale. I imagine that while I plan on lifting at 132 for the foreseeable future, who knows, I may go back down to 123 at some point. And I may lift as a light 148 a few times. I continue to believe that limiting oneself by weight class has broader repercussions for the scope one one’s athletic career. That’s a topic for another day, though, so instead I’ll leave you with a good idea of the “stages of a weight cut and recomp.” In this picture, Kyle does his best to portray the “bloated dude recomping after making weight” and I adopt the role of “woman who has not yet gotten to weigh in but is entirely entertained by the process of guessing how many months along the food baby is.”

kyleispreggers
Yes, I’m in my underwear in two pictures in this post. DEAL WITH IT.

Choosing Power over Pretty is a Process

Sometimes I feel like I have to make a choice–pretty or strong. That’s actually a lie–I definitively feel that I have made a choice, and it is to be strong. Your reaction to this might be one of indignation. I know that the enlightened, body-positive way to talk about body image as it relates to strength training is to say that your body has changed and wow, do you feel gorgeous. I have tried to adopt this mindset, but I find a major barrier to it comes in the form of a certain tenet that generates a contradiction I cannot ignore. This tenet is the idea what we should strive to erase the emphasis on physical appearance and the assignation of worth derived from physical aesthetics our culture systemically embraces and promulgates. In other words, there is empowerment in rejecting the stronghold physical appearance has on defining individual worth.

I think many members of the female powerlifting community grapple with this question in a more specified sense–embracing the action over the image, praising the numerical achievement over the subjectivity of physical “improvement.” But you see a wavering on the Instagrams of female powerlifters–and might I say male–a blurring of lines between the powerlifting community and that of the aesthetic competition community. This is in part because there is so much crossover between the two: some individuals compete in both physique competitions as well as powerlifting, and very often training methodologies overlap. Physically, share the same space, as training for both powerlifting and aesthetic competition takes place in a gym. Ultimately, you’ve got powerlifters performing lat spreads for the camera and figure girls trilling about a squat PR in their Facebook statuses.

I make it a point to emphasize action and activity over posing pictures on my instagram. Sorry, muscle fetishists, my instagram is not really for you.
I make it a point to emphasize action and activity over posing pictures on my instagram. Sorry, muscle fetishists, my instagram is not really for you.

But at the end of the day, especially at higher levels of competition–although not always, a la the feats of Susan Salazar–the two camps are different. And if you are a woman, the ability to drop and then keep your body fat to an appreciably low and train for maximal strength becomes contradictory. I would further argue that if you are in the beginning of your powerlifting career–say, five years or less competing–it’s not a particularly good idea to strive to keep your weight low for a variety of reasons.

Let’s turn back to my own experience. I am not nor would I ever make a blanket assertion that heavier women are less attractive. But at this point in my career as well as my personal history as well as my relationship with my body, I would be lying to you if I said that I feel I am more attractive at my current weight than when I was 110 or 115 pounds. For context, I’m currently, as of this morning, 135.0 pounds, a weight that is in line with my goal to actually gain a bit and be in a calorie surplus leading up to my upcoming meet. Now, am I exponentially stronger at my current bodyweight than I was 20 pounds ago? Yes. Without question, and even when taking relative strength into account, which you do if you are at all versed in what it means to compete in powerlifting. For my weight, I am much stronger than I ever have been at any bodyweight. It’s fantastic. It is absolutely fucking fantastic. I believe powerlifting is possibly the only thing in my life I have ever been appreciably good at or accomplished anything significant. Deadlifting 420 pounds as a 135-pound girl is the shit. It feels near-spiritual. And I choose to manage my body with powerlifting being the priority because I will support and preserve anything that has made me feel like that above all else.

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking “you don’t have to make a choice! You can be beautiful and lift! Heck, this is the message we WANT to get out there to women!” And I’ll tell you that I’m thinking “do we?” because given that I am aware that I don’t feel my most attractive these days, and it is in part because of decisions I’ve made prioritizing my lifting, my problem becomes grappling with this and attempting to reach some sort of resolution with it I feel good about. And what consistently gets me closer to this resolution is championing the idea that we must reject valuing ourselves and others by appearances.

You might think you have this down–like, oh my god, it’s so OBVIOUS and we are told not to judge and value appearances from when we are, like, toddlers on you guys–but it is when you truly begin to reject the death grip aesthetic obsession has on our culture that you realize how deeply embedded it is within yourself as well as others. I could be wrong, but I suspect this process takes years and is why you hear more women well into their thirties and beyond expressing more satisfaction with themselves than you do those who are younger. That is if they truly ever start to tackle this process themselves.

So from day to day I’m fairly ok with my body if I have to consider it from an aesthetic standpoint. LIke, it’s alright, I have really huge arms and shoulders, and I’m kind of weirdly lanky in relation to that mass. To be honest, this sort of self-appraisal is something I try to avoid doing when possible, and it usually is possible until I remember I have to put on a freaking wedding dress in under two months. After going through the process of planning a wedding, I don’t think I ever realized how extreme the pressure and focus is on how one looks on that day.The fact that months after blogging about it and then disappearing from my blog for a while, I’m blogging about it again should be a good indicator that I haven’t really arrived at peaceful terms with the idea of having to march around in front of people wearing a very nice dress that exposes a lot of my physique. It feels like signing up to do a modeling job would probably feel–an idea so preposterous for me that it’s literally laughable. But this wedding is HAPPENING and people expect me to look nice that day because all brides are supposed to look absolutely stunning, right? And I’m just over here like “I just feel so deeply fucking uncomfortable with this, can I have the rest of the wedding without the dress part?”

Sure, you can get a picture of me doing this, but not posing in a dress. Let's skip the photos part.
Sure, you can get a picture of me doing this, but not posing in a dress. Let’s skip the photos part.

The reason I’m bringing the wedding dress up here is because it is causing this huge hiccup in my quest to reject and devalue physical aesthetics, almost at a philosophical level. Somehow, I’m betraying my own pursuit of a more realistic and self-honoring relationship with my body by playing into the “pretty dress-up bride” schtick. And get this–I’ve recently decided to attempt to put ON a few pounds leading up to my meet, which is a month before my wedding. Powerlifting, for me, trumps the aesthetics every time, because when a woman says she’s looking to put ON weight for her wedding, that’s nearly news-worthy. So there you go. I’m choosing powerlifting over pretty. I’m prioritizing performance over image. And I would–and will–do it again. Except for the wedding planning part. Absolutely not again.