High Heels, Deadlifts, and Attitude – Oh My! Part I

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I haven’t had a lot of female specific content up as of late, so I figured I’d change gears today (and tomorrow) and post an interview I did recently with personal trainer and competitive powerlifter, Molly Galbraith.

Molly (that’s her squatting to the left) has bursted onto the scene with a vengeance in the past year, and after reading a few of her articles over on elitefts.com not too long ago, I had it in the back of my head to try to get her to come on here ASAP.  You see, much like myself, Molly is constantly fighting the upward battle of trying to convince the vast majority of women out there that it’s perfectly okay to lift something heavier than their purse.

Unfortunately, much of the mainstream media falls under the notion that frailty = femininity.  This was never more evident than a few weeks ago when, under the promise that we would go see Thor afterwards, I was walking around Newbury St in downtown Boston with my girlfriend, walking in and out of various designer stores – handbags, shoes, make-up, you name it, either way, my testosterone levels were non-existant for about three hours.

We’d walk in, I’d make eye contact with a store employee and pretend to shoot myself in the head, and then I’d linger and peruse a few magazines while she went off to do whatever it is that women do when there’s a sale rack.  When flipping through the magazines, however, I couldn’t help but notice a disturbing trend – every…….single…….model looked like a anorexic meth addict.

These are the types of images that women see on a day-to-day basis, and it’s no wonder that many (not all) feel that that is what’s ideal or normal or what society expects of them.  What’s more, you have the likes of People Magazine dicussing someone like actress Kate Hudson’s beauty secrets, and you find out that all she eats is celery sticks and Gogi berry juice, and performs yoga and upwards of two hours of cardio every day.  Lifting appreciable weights, of course, is out of the question!  You’ll end up looking like the Hulk!

No wonder woman are scared to step foot in the weight room.  Well, there’s that, and the fact that most guys walking around the gym floor smell like Old Spice and garlic, and sound like they’re passing a kidney stone every time they grab a barbell.  That certainly doesn’t help matters.

Anyways, like I said, it’s great to have women like Molly out there fighting the good fight, and letting other’s all over the world recognize that it’s okay to lift (heavy) weights and look faaaaaaaaabbbbbuuuuuuuuuulous at the same time.

Without further ado, I’ll shut up now and let Molly take over.  Enjoy.

An Interview with Molly Galbraith

Tony Gentilcore:  Molly, for those who may not be familiar with you and your background, please feel free to brag about yourself here.  More specifically, if you could include the part where you deadlift more than most dudes, that would be awesome.

Molly Galbraith:   First off… thanks for having me!  I am extremely flattered although I have a sneaking suspicion that you just felt obligated to have me on after you stole the Pina Colada protein shake recipe that I wrote for the Get Fit section of Kentucky Bride Magazine last year.  It’s OK… I don’t blame you… it’s a killer recipe! =)  But seriously I am very excited to be doing this interview.  I guess I will start from the beginning.  

Note from TG:  a few weeks ago, I shared what’s pretty much considered the best protein shake recipe ever stolen invented  Thing is, Molly apparently beat me to the punch.  Little does she know, I’m an avid reader of Kentucky Bride Magazine.  Tricks on her! 

I was a relatively athletic child, I did gymnastics competitively from the time I was 7 until I was 12.  The following year I started high school and made the cheerleading squad (yes, I started high school the month after I turned 13… I started early and skipped a grade, so that made me EXTRA young).  

I cheered for two years and then decided I wanted more of a social life.   After I stopped cheerleading (or being active whatsoever) my terrible diet caught up to me.  By the end of high school I was a little chunky.  I fluctuated throughout college and ended up at an all-time high of 185 my junior year of college in February of 2004.  At this point I was so mad at myself I could hardly see straight. 

I had good grades, worked full-time, fully supported myself financially and had most of my life pretty together, but the one thing I could control (my weight) felt so out of control.  At this point, knowing virtually nothing about training, I hired a local trainer.  I couldn’t afford much, but I trained with him off and on for about 4 months.  I saw small changes in my body, but nothing extreme.  

Shortly after that I started dating a different trainer at my gym.  He competed in Bodybuilding and Powerlifting and was relatively knowledgeable and I learned some from him, but the best thing he ever did for me was to introduce me to T-Nation and Muscle with Attitude (the female version of T-Nation).  My love affair with strength training began. 

FYI to Readers:  for those interested, one of the better articles I have ever written was on Muscle with Attitude:  4 Things Your Girlfriend Should Know.

TG:  Yeah, much in the same way, when I was first introduced to sites like t-nation.com, my world was flipped upside down – “what do you mean to tell me we don’t always have to do 3 sets of 10 on E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G???  And, what are these things you call deadlifts?”

Anyways, tell us how you got into competing.  How did you go from figure competitions to powerlifting, of all things?

MG:  Yes, discovering sites like those opened up my eyes to a whole new world regarding training.  I was able to expose myself to the opinions and ideas of men and women who were actually training people and getting REAL results for a living!  It was awesome!  Plus it helped me develop what I like to call a “filter” for new information.  You know, there are amazing strength coaches from all over the world who are extremely successful and have wildly differing opinions on everything from post workout nutrition to de-load weeks to carb intake to cardio to intermittent fasting. 

If you never develop that filter, you will run around more confused than ever, spinning your wheels and changing your philosophy with each new article that you read.  When you DO get that filter, you are able to understand where each Coach is coming from, when their information might be applicable, and then you can use and apply new knowledge as you see fit in an intelligent way and keep what works and discard what doesn’t. 

This is why great trainers’ methodologies evolve over time.  If you are doing the exact same stuff you were 15 years ago, that’s NOT a good thing.  But I digress…

Over the next several years I read everything I could get my hands on in regards to strength training.  I also spent as much time as I could in the gym and around people who knew what they were talking about.  I was also very active on several forums and even began training some people in person and online.  During this time I did an impromptu push/pull powerlifting meet (only the pull portion and at the suggestion of the trainer boyfriend) and I pulled 285 with less than 2 weeks to prepare for the meet.

I also competed in Figure a few times over the years although I was never hugely successful in competitions as I had a hard time getting extremely lean and there were certain things I wasn’t willing to do to get there, like taking illegal drugs, eating <800 calories a day, and doing 2+ hours of cardio a day. 

Something just didn’t feel right about pushing my body that hard in that manner.  Obviously I have incredible respect for people that can and do push their bodies to that limit… but it wasn’t for me (something later confirmed by my Doctor). 

It was after my last competition in 2008 that I gained a ton of unexplained weight and began to feel like total crap.  I was gaining weight, feeling foggy headed and fatigued and very out of sorts.  I went to a great Functional Medicine Doctor and she ran numerous tests on me.  Turns out that I have Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and Adrenal Dysfunction… no wonder I struggled to get extremely lean, right?  During this time I wanted to focus on something other than aesthetics so I turned back to Powerlifting.

I spent 4 months getting ready for the NASA KY State meet in May of 2009.  At that meet I lifted raw and benched 148, squatted 237 and pulled 341.  I was pretty pleased overall considering it was my first full meet and for the 4-5 months before the meet I had been battling debilitating fatigue.  

EASY!

About six months after the meet was over I realized that if I were going to get any stronger, I would need to fix my weak links and who better to help me do that than Mike Robertson?  I have been working with Mike for 18 months now and I am setting rep PR’s all over the place.  Hopefully when it comes time to max out again, those will be TRUE PR’s that I am setting all over the place (my goal is to pull 405 raw this year =D).

TG:  Whoa!  I know a lot of guys out there who would kill to deadlift that much weight – and they don’t look nearly as good in high heels as you do!  If you don’t mind divulging a few trade secrets, what does a typical training week look like for you?  And, be honest, knowing that you could dominate the guy squatting to half depth with 185 lbs on his back next to you is a pretty cool feeling, right?

MG:  Absolutely!  Especially when the guy thinks that he’s a bad-ass!  I try not to crush too many egos but there was a guy in my gym deadlifting several months ago and I walked over to the platform and started to set my stuff down and wait for him to finish.  He gave me a look like, “what are YOU doing over here?”  After a couple of minutes I asked if I could work in with him (he was only using 135 and his form was HORRIBLE!).  He said “sure,” and started to take the weight off.  I proceeded to tell him, “Oh that’s fine…you can leave that on.  I need to warm-up.”  He looked at me in disbelief and of course I pulled 135 for 10 super-fast and clean reps and asked if he was OK with going up to 185. 

He said yes and so we put 185 on.  He did 4-5 hideous reps and I followed him with 6-8 nice clean, easy reps.  Then I asked if we could go up to 225 so I could start my work sets.  He promptly told me he was done and I could just have the platform.  Thanks Man! =) 

Like I said, I don’t do that often… but occasionally it’s fun (and necessary) to put a guy in their place.

Note from Tony: And that will do it for today.  Tomorrow, Molly will go into a little more detail on her current training schedule, as well as discuss some of her pet peeves when it comes to women and strength training.  Lets just say that she’s not a fan of the pink dumbbells!


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  • Domenic

    Awesome interview! Love the get strong mentality for women its amazing you still have to hear the get bulky crap these days.

    Molly that was a fantastic story about the deadlifting. I find it funny people think they can know nothing about deadlifting correctly and perform it while we, as trainers work hard on it. Outstanding!

  • http://www.niashanks.com Nia Shanks

    Great interview, Tony! I love Molly – she is amazing and incredibly strong.

  • R Smith

    Maybe it's just me, but there are few things I find more appealing than a woman who (a) deadlifts serious weight with impeccable form and (b) a woman who looks like she lifts serious weight.

  • Gwen

    Great interview. Molly is a beast and a beauty!

  • http://unblob.blogspot.com/ Cort the Sport

    Super! I can't wait for part 2. I hope she will touch on her approach for bench, I am such a slow gainer adding only about 5 lbs per year to my max bench (http://unblob.blogspot.com/2011/02/got-135-lb-monkey-off-my-back.html)

  • Mike

    Great stuff TG – Molly is pretty A-Ok in my book :)

  • http://adamrees.blogspot.com Rees

    That is awesome

  • Caitlin

    Hey Tony, I've been reading regularly since you wrote for a Boston-based newspaper (I live in Napa), but I've never commented. I like seeing female-centric content on your blog. So at the expense of owning up to my internet creeping, I wanted to say thank you. And thanks to Molly for the inspiration! Looking forward to part 2.

  • Laura

    Wow, great to have another inspirational female stregth athlete. Great interview.

  • http://www.heyjoob.com Juliet

    GREAT interview, I am really interested to see the second part of this! I love it when I can outlift the huffy puffy college guys that take over my gym during the school year, though my numbers are not even close to MG's. (What does that say about the guys I'm outlifting?!)

  • Paula DeMarkey

    LOVE the Molly story!!!!!

    I may feel like I need assistance with my form on my trap bar deadlift( because still not accustomed to it) but my barbell deadlift feels great and I don't need anyone watching my form……except for the guys who wish they could do it:)….how's that for an attitude adjustment TG?!!!!

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