It’s been a lonnnggggg time since I did a health feature post and I figured it was time to get back on track with that. These are some of my favorite posts together because they feature regular people doing some pretty awesome things!
This month we’ve got Maggie. I went to high school with Maggie and we were both in marching band together. Even though I was a freshman and she was a junior, she was always nice to me and I have to say I was a little bit in awe of her. Her bubbly personality shone through and I don’t think I ever saw her without a smile on her face. She was always willing to help and was a great leader/role model in band.
I’m featuring Maggie today because I think her story is a lot of people’s story, especially women. So often we think that in order to be healthy we have to do the same thing over and over again or there is only one way to do things. Or if we slip up or fall off the wagon it’s over and we start from square one. Maggie is proof that isn’t true at all. She’s tried different things, figured out what works for her and doesn’t, and knows that just because she has an off day/week/month doesn’t mean everything is ruined. Plus, weightlifting and women DEFINITELY go together.
Without further ado, I’ll let Maggie take it away!
Name and age: Maggie Rimnac, age 30
When did you really start to focus on your health? My fitness journey really began in high school, but I feel as though I was solely focusing on weight loss/body image at the point in time. I don’t think I truly had a grasp on my health & well-being until after college. I started working for a nutritional supplements company, and it was then that I was immersed in the world of nutrition and wellness.
What did that look like in the beginning? In high school I was super involved in music & the arts, so that didn’t leave much time for team sports. Instead, I started running in my neighborhood (usually late at night, like 9 or 10pm after I’d get home from activities) as well as doing Tae-Bo tapes in my parents’ basement. I fell in love with Tae-Bo and the notion of martial arts.
I worked my butt off in that basement. I remember nights where I wouldn’t start the tape (yes, it was a VHS tape…) until 10 or 10:30pm after my homework was done. Sometimes I’d go run 2-3 miles and then do Tae-Bo. My mom would come halfway down the stairs, look at me, and just shake her head and laugh. But I always had a ton of energy, especially at night, so it was good for me.
In terms of nutrition, I was probably all over the place in the beginning. I ate a lot of Wendy’s salads and PowerBars. And Jamba Juice. For the most part, I didn’t worry too much about what I ate in high school, but I did start Weight Watchers when I was about 17. I did not need to join WW. But that was the only “diet” I knew of at the time, so that’s what I did.
How did it evolve over time? Gosh, it evolved… a lot. In college, I continued running, as well as regularly going to the campus rec center (which was conveniently located right behind my dorm freshman year). In addition to running outside or on the indoor track, I’d do some weights, like dumbbell shoulder presses or some triceps extensions.
Staying healthy on a college campus can be tough, though, and I certainly didn’t do myself any favors by consuming large quantities of alcohol multiple times a week (sorry, Mom). Not to mention the late night cheese fries that would accompany the liquor. Oh, and don’t forget the food we’d order the next day while hungover. (sheesh.)
When I finally moved into an apartment things got a little easier. I didn’t gain much weight my freshman year but later on, in college, I put on about 30 pounds (those cheese fries caught up to me, I guess). I rotated through Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and the South Beach Diet. I had still continued to run and go to the fitness center, but the weight just kept creeping on.
After college, I joined a martial arts gym to do actual kickboxing. I loved Tae Bo so much, but I wanted to hit something. I immediately fell in love with kickboxing & Krav Maga (Israeli self-defense). I had moved back in with my parents, so I was drinking less alcohol and eating a bit more sensibly. My kickboxing coach wanted to train me to fight, so I started focusing even more on nutrition (and consuming zero alcohol).
Through an odd set of circumstances, I became a personal trainer during this time. I eventually got certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and learned a whole lot more about strength training & fitness in general.
At that point, though, I’d still never touched a barbell. I felt “hardcore” doing high-intensity type workouts (the types of workouts I’d give my clients- you can thank Jillian Michaels’ book for that), but it was SO different than what I do today.
Then, at some point, my cousin started doing this new “scary” sounding workout called CrossFit. He suggested I try it, but it was too intimidating to me. I looked up the gym in my area and decided I couldn’t do it. All those jacked looking dudes throwing barbells around? No way!
When I started working at the supplements company, it ended up being right down the street from that CrossFit gym, and one of my colleagues was a coach there. She convinced me to try it, and I was hooked. The workouts, the people, the coaches… it was incredible. And that began my love & passion for lifting & strength training.
What were some misconceptions you’ve had about being healthy? I think the biggest misconception I’ve had (and I think a lot of people have) is that there is a definitive right and wrong way to get healthy. It has taken me a couple of years to learn this, but there are SO many roads to health and fitness, and everyone is allowed to take a different road. And that’s 100% ok.
Have you ever struggled with body image issues? Or lack of self-confidence? Absolutely! I go in and out of periods of feeling great about myself, to feeling like a failure because I let myself slip up or let myself fall out of a routine.
It can be kind of a vicious cycle, actually. I know a lot of people will tell me I look great regardless of how I feel about myself, but I think we’re all our own worst critics, you know?
In fact, it took me months to finish even writing this post because I took a little hiatus from lifting & focusing on my diet, and didn’t feel good enough to tell people about my health journey because I didn’t feel like I was living it out! How messed up is that? I’m learning that my lifting routine or what I eat doesn’t define me, though, so that has been helpful.
What influenced you to start strength training? After attending my CrossFit gym for a couple of years, I learned firsthand the benefits of strength training. I always knew that lifting weights was good for your bone density and that women need to have muscle before you can look “toned,” but I had never really ventured into barbell training before.
After really seeing how my body was changing and feeling stronger doing everyday activities, I decided to make it more of a priority.
How has your strength training changed from when you started to now? When I first started working out more seriously, in general, I always only did dumbbells or machines. Even when I worked as a personal trainer, I rarely (if ever) ventured into the barbell area of the gym. Now, that’s all I do!
I have definitely tried different types of lifting: back when I was more into CrossFit, I focused a lot on Olympic weightlifting (the clean & jerk, and the snatch). They’re very technical lifts so I had to work really hard at perfecting my form & technique before I could see results in strength.
One of the coaches at my gym got more into powerlifting (squat, bench press, and deadlift), and it made me curious. I was at the point where I wanted to give something else a try. So now, powerlifting is my focus and I absolutely LOVE it.
I think the biggest difference in actual training is that when I started, I didn’t really have a focus or a goal in mind other than to “look good.” Now, I work towards competitions and getting stronger. It’s been a refreshing change of pace!
How has food played into your health? Diet has always been a struggle for me because let’s be honest, I love to eat. But one of the things I’ve learned is that you can’t out-train a bad diet. (And by bad diet, I mean just overeating in general.)
Like I said earlier, I definitely have learned that there are multiple roads to health, and none of them are right or wrong. I have dabbled in a lot of different diets and I think the most healthy thing to do is find something you like – something that is sustainable for YOU – and be consistent with it. That is the real healthy way to do it, not to be in a constant cycle of yo-yo dieting.
Does how you eat now look different than a few years ago? Ask my husband about this one, haha. A few years ago I was eyeballs deep into the Paleo diet, eating only what the cavemen would have eaten (vegetables, meats, healthy fats, fruits).
It’s a very restrictive diet. Don’t get me wrong, it works incredibly well for some people. But it was not for me.
Now, I try to look at my macronutrient breakdown and base my diet off of that as much as possible. I’ll keep my protein level solid every day (or at least that’s the goal!), while varying my fat & carb intake depending on if I lifted that day. I try to incorporate a lot of vegetables at each meal, too. This system allows me a lot more flexibility (and makes my social life a lot easier!).
What have you learned about yourself? Gosh, there’s a lot I could say here. I think the #1 thing is that the number on the scale doesn’t define who I am as a person. Through CrossFit and powerlifting, I’ve been able to set goals other than fitting into a bikini or weighing a certain number. Now, I’m focusing on things like getting an extra rep in the gym or squatting a new max.
Additionally, I’ve learned that I personally need a routine or program that’s set out for me. I think that’s the reason I’ve always enjoyed fitness classes or training for races, etc. – there’s a program set out for me, and there’s really no excuse for me not to follow it.
Someone else has done the thinking; I just have to do the work!
What are a few of your long or short term goals as it pertains to your health? Real talk, my biggest short-term goal right now is to lose some body fat and get back into a more regimented routine. Focusing on this will help me get into a little healthier eating patterns. I just started a new powerlifting training cycle in July, so I’m already on track for that.
After this cycle is over, I will probably focus on pure strength/building muscle mass, and then choose another powerlifting meet to compete in.
I would love to qualify for USAPL (USA Powerlifting) Nationals one day, but I have a long way to go before then – one day at a time!
Who has been your biggest supporter or source of inspiration? I’ve had a huge support system via my CrossFit gym. I had a huge cheering squad at my first meet, and it was incredible! It was awesome throughout the day to see people show up and wait for hours to watch me lift for maybe 30 seconds.
Right now my biggest inspiration is Megan Gallagher, a national-level powerlifter and YouTuber. She posts all about her training on her channel and is just incredibly optimistic and all-around awesome. I’m also following a training program she wrote for me, so I’m a little biased 🙂
What has been your biggest struggle? Definitely balancing my diet with my training. It’s really important to eat to fuel your training as a lifter (read: eat carbs!), but if you overeat it can make you jump a weight class; you want to eat enough so that you feel strong and energized in your training, but not so much that you gain a bunch of unwanted weight.
Now, some people eat in order to put on muscle mass, and that’s cool. That’s just not where I’m at right now. It took me a couple of months to kinda figure out what worked for me.
How do you stay motivated? I follow a LOT of fitness/powerlifting accounts on Instagram, especially women, and I check them regularly. It’s incredible to see what people out there are doing, and it helps keep my goals top of mind.
What would your advice be to a woman who is looking to be healthier and stronger but is nervous about weight training? Rule #1: start small! Nobody wakes up one day and is just able to squat 300 pounds. (I wish that was the case!) Even if it feels super light to you at first, just get used to the feel of the movements.
Also, I would definitely recommend getting some outside help! It’s really important to focus on your form and technique when you’re lifting (to avoid injury), and it’s really helpful to have someone watch you make sure you’re doing it right. Find a friend who has some lifting experience, or book a couple sessions with a certified trainer to get some of the basics down.
Alternatively, educate yourself by watching some quality videos on YouTube, then video yourself, then compare the two. See how you can improve your technique.
If you’re nervous about getting “big”… let me tell you firsthand, your diet plays a big role in this. If you focus on your nutrition, you will likely not get big. Women have to work extremely hard to put on muscle mass, lifting and eating a LOT 🙂
Set some goals! Maybe you’re not into competing, and that’s ok. But maybe you want to work to get your first pull-up, or use a heavier dumbbell. Working with those things in mind can help you plan your workouts and give you some additional motivation!