#WCW STRONGWOMAN INTERVIEW
with Cathy Brohman
After a post I made about growing up with a disability, Cathy touched base and a conversation ensued about the ups and downs of being different.
A few months’ pass, and she shares with the world of Facebook her new accomplishment:
I was floored that a) someone would think that I’ve been a player in their progress and; b) in sharing this progress with the world, the world would answer back with such support (see the comments to her post).
In creating Strongwoman Aimee, the goal was to share my story in the hopes of sharing my message and my passion for something I believe in. The more I think of Cathy and her progress, the more I realize that inspirations come from stories. We read books, watch movies, go the theater, attend a lecture to hear brilliant and inspiring stories. We want to reflect a part of ourselves, our vision for ourselves through these the characters and their lives. What’s interesting about social media is that these characters are real people. The characters are people we’ve known, met, seen or heard of; their stories are real, attainable and even more inspiring because we can share with them how hard they work, share their struggles and their eventual victories. Cathy has a story.
Here is where our story started together:
CATHY: Hi Aimee, You made a comment that caught my attention…well you’ve made many…but on your latest post you said you were deemed “disabled” as a child…I wonder what you meant by this. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which has really impacted by fitness level and ability to lose weight and be healthier. I always thought that it was something that was not achievable for me and looking for some inspiration…
ME: Thanks Cathy! This is a good question that resonates with my own experiences. What I’ve seen in the “disability” world are 2 things: “I will beat this” and affirmation: “I have xx syndrome”. Both are dangerous in my opinion. Trying to rid oneself of their disabilities is no different than rejecting a part of oneself. That said, it’s too easy to put a label on dysfunctions, though one can live with a disability, one should not be defined by it. You are not your syndrome. Weightloss is a byproduct of being healthy, a disability can be a valuable teacher in telling you if you’re walking down the right path. A mentor of mine calls this: the pain teacher. I have a congenital curvature of the spine and live with Celiac. Movement is healthy, eating consciously is healthy, when I’m not making good choices my pain teachers will let me know. Not sure how advanced your Ehler-Danlos is, my guess is that you still move every day – you may not be doing strongman any time soon but bodyweight exercises paired with some preventative work and nutritional strategies that promote healing (in and out) will bring you a long way. My mantra is always: Don’t do what you think the world expects of you, do what you thought you couldn’t do. This funny thing called life eh?
CATHY: Wow. Very powerful. There is a video I posted a few times about an injured man (I believe he was in the military) who was told he would never walk unassisted again and made this amazing transformation, loss a ton of weight and eventually was able to run and do some very advanced yoga training. Every time I watch it I’m inspired but get quickly discouraged. You’re truly inspiring. I wouldn’t even know where to start!
ME: Ah… that’s because you’re focused on the destination, not the journey. It’s like art: the masterpiece is a glimpse of its many layers, yet remains incomplete to the artist. Every single optimal choice is a step in the right direction. Society glorifies fitness and it’s a little out of control in my opinion and establishes a shift in mindset along the lines of “I want but can’t have” vs “I can have but don’t want”. Watching that video and having conversations like these are the fuel you need for your fire – surround yourself with things that will help you live your dream. It all comes down to purpose in the end. If your, Cathy’s vision, is to be happy and healthy and a good mother and role model… then every choice you make in your life will help you embody that. It won’t be easy or fast, but if it were…everyone would do it. Every day I look at myself and see a strong woman, most of the time I make choices that embody that.
…Fast forward to this week:
CATHY: I’ve changed my lifestyle to one that focuses on all aspects of my health, physical and mental health! Exercise and diet has made a huge difference in my mood, energy level and self-esteem. And it’s only been a couple of months! When I started I could only do 20-30 minutes of cardio and now I’m doing 6 days a week for 60 minutes. Started running RUNNING! Lost 17lbs so far I’m super flattered that you want to share my story. I have a long way to go (I was 211.6lbs now 194.4lbs) something I was so ashamed to admit and made tons of excuses for! I’ve not seen under 200 in years but I’m making choices every day towards my goals. If I can inspire others in the process, that’s just amazing. Just know that what you have shared with me and following you has changed my life.
How amazing is this story?!! You need to be brave, to be a strong woman/person, to face your vulnerabilities and share your story with others. Go ahead! Be human!! I dare you!
Here’s what will happen:
1. Do something amazing.
2. Share your story with others.
3. Inspire someone to do the same.
People who have chapters in my story.
Many years ago, when I felt lost and seeking something I didn’t know existed – I reached out. I reached out to Krista Schaus when I wanted to do bodybuilding. I saw her picture from a bodybuilding thread and thought she was the iconic image of female strength I sought to achieve. She answered, here were her words:
Thanks for the kind words, but don’t put me on too high of a pedestal. The air is thin up there. I enjoy bodybuilding and may get back on stage, but who knows when / where / why… my primary sport / love is powerlifting and I am now applying all that I gained from my bodybuilding experience to the lifting platform to help hopefully make me better.
I have a meet on Saturday. Some of my recent lifts are on YouTube… just search Krista Schaus. That’s more “me”. I can (am) pretty, feminine, graceful… but first and foremost I like to be strong and empower / inspire women to be their best… from the inside out.
Bodybuilding takes such selfishness that it’s hard on the self, the family, the spirit, the body, the soul… I found a way to do it as balanced as possible but really you are simply managing imbalance. There’s no healthy way to take your body to extremes.
The best advice I got when I was first getting into it was from Lisa Wilson, a National Champion from the mid to late 90″s. Her physique even today is fierce… and feminine… what I aspired towards on stage. She said “Get in – win a few titles, and get out”. That’s likely what I will do … or have done. Not sure yet.
Thanks for the discussion!
Sound like something that may forge the path to becoming “strongwoman”?
Then came Diana Chaloux LaCerte after my first bodybuilding rebound:
To answer your question, I had a good fitness foundation already. I was working as a personal trainer for four years before I got serious about competing. For me it was about taking charge of my nutrition, I already was consistent with the strength training side of things and just had to step up the cardio a bit more….the eating was the part that held me back for a long time. I used my first competition as my deadline to get in shape, I do very well with deadlines and when I knew I had to get my booty on stage in front of judges, that allowed me to get in a “no excuses” mind set. I didn’t rebound after the first show, I actually kept my eating super clean because I was planning on competing again, and I worked SO hard for 18 weeks there was no way I was ever going to go back to the old Diana. Competing changed my life completely, it changed how I eat, it changed how I look at life, it made me believe in myself, so gaining back a bunch of weight is just not an option for me.
Nowadays I maintain a weight that is close to what I would do photo shoots at, and I never gain more than 8-10 pounds from what I would compete at, that way there is little stress come competition time!
Hope that answers your question.
I endlessly reach out to people who inspire me. As an entrepreneur I now look at fitness professionals. I’ve received countless replies from professionals/role models: Ed Coan, Kristen Rhodes, Christmas Aboott, Elliott Hulse, Kathy Smart (to name a few). I surround myself with teachers: my clients are my teachers, my friends are my teachers. My teachers inspire the next chapter in my story and I never know what’s around the corner.
I love hearing stories like Cathy’s. Let the ripple continue and share your story with the world, because the world loves a good story and some day, someone will share theirs with you!!