Read how King went from crash cardio and yo-yo dieting to VP of the Women's Strength Coalition.

By Lauren Mazzo
November 22, 2019
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Credit: Marley Rizzuti

Lifting weights sparked such a major change in Chrissy King's life that she left her corporate job, started fitness coaching, and has now dedicated the rest of her life to helping people discover the magic of a heavy barbell.

Now the vice executive director of the Women's Strength Coalition (a nonprofit dedicated to building stronger communities through increased access to strength training), King's current role is "the perfect marriage of women in strength, but also diversity and access and inclusion in sports for all people," she says.

Cool, right? It is.

The coalition hosts events such as Pull for Pride (a deadlifting competition in ~10 different cities that benefits the LGBTQA community) and runs the Strength For All gym in Brooklyn, New York (a strength-based workout space where all people feel safe regardless of their background, gender identity, or financial status—they offer sliding scale membership options). They're also working on an affiliate gym program that'll help people find inclusive, safe-space, welcoming gyms nation-wide.

Nowadays, King can crush it in the weight room—but it wasn't always her happy place. Read on to discover how she found powerlifting, why it changed her life, and the wellness tools she uses to feel good and reset.

Her Journey to the Barbell

"I did not work out while growing up in elementary and middle school. I wasn't into sports or athletics at all. I enjoyed reading and writing and that type of stuff. Then, at the age of 16 or 17, I started yoyo dieting. And, honestly, it was just because I had gained some weight. My parents were going through a divorce, so it was a difficult period in my life. It didn't actually bother me until someone at school commented on it—in front of a bunch of people, a boy in my class commented on how 'he could tell I'd been eating good.' And it made me really embarrassed. So I thought, 'oh my God, I need to do something about this.'

The only thing I knew to do was to go on the Atkins diet, because I heard my mom's friend talking about it and how she'd lost a bunch of weight. So I drove to the bookstore and I got a book, started following it religiously, and did lose a lot of weight. Then everybody at school said 'oh my God, you look so great.' And I was just getting a lot of external validation over having lost weight. So, in my mind, I thought, 'oh, I need to always focus on making sure I keep my body small.' And so that started me yoyo dieting probably for the next decade.

I did all these extreme diets and extreme cardio, but then I couldn't maintain it, gained the weight back, and just went through these cycles. What really changed for me is that, at one point, my younger sister decided to join the gym because she wanted to get in better shape. So I joined the gym with her, we both got trainers, and I remember I told my trainer that my goal was only one thing: I wanted to be skinny. And she said, okay, cool, let's go to the weight section. I was really resistant to it at first because in my mind I said, no, I don't want to have big, bulky muscles.

She was the first person that really taught me the value of strength training for physical change, but through that process, I realized that my body could do things I didn't think it could. It was really challenging at first, but eventually, I grew stronger and could do a lot of things I never thought I was capable of. Through her, I actually ended up at a small strength and conditioning gym, and that's the first place where I saw women using barbells, benching, squatting, and deadlifting, and that was brand new to me. I'd never seen women doing anything like that. (Related: Common Weight Lifting Questions for Beginners Who Are Ready to Train Heavy)

Eventually, the owner of the gym encouraged me to try heavy lifting. I thought there was no way I could ever do those things, but I was really curious. I eventually tried powerlifting, and it clicked right away. I had a natural affinity and really loved it. I kept powerlifting, eventually started competing, and ended up deadlifting more than 400 pounds—things I never thought I could do."

The Transformational Magic of Getting Strong

"Through my own experience and through the experience of being a coach, I've come to really strongly believe that strength training is so transformative for people. What I've noticed the most in my clients (and myself too) is that a lot of people have undergone physical transformation and change, but that's not the part that is the most impactful for people.

What's most impactful for people is the strength they gained in the gym and how it translates into other parts of their lives. I've seen that for myself and for all of my clients as well, and also I think it has so much power to help you see your body differently."

Coaching Body-Positivity for Life

"A lot of my clients come to me because they want to lose weight or for physique-focused things, which is not bad—that's just where people are. But I think they walk away feeling more confident in their bodies and their skin regardless of if they lost weight or not. Feeling really confident in your body is so important, and that's why a lot of the mindset work I do with my clients is around body image.

The reality is that our bodies are forever changing. You don't get to this goal weight, and think, 'I'm going to be like this for life!" Things happen; maybe you have kids, maybe you have something life-altering happen, you're not going to be able to maintain the same body. So the goal for me and for the people I work with is to think long-term and to love and appreciate the comfort of their body in all its different iterations. I think strength training is a really important component in that because it also makes you see what your body is capable of more so than just what your body looks like."

Putting Mindfulness Into Her Morning

"My morning is really important to me—when I don't do it, I really notice a difference. Here's what it looks like: I start with meditation. It doesn't have to be a long time; sometimes it's only five or 10 minutes, or if I have longer, I love a 20- or 25-minute meditation. Then I do a gratitude journal, where I write down three things or people I'm grateful for, and then I'll quickly journal whatever else is on my mind. It helps me to get things out of my head and onto paper instead of just keeping them in my head. Then I read a book for maybe 10 or 15 minutes while I drink my coffee. That's my go-to way to start my day, and everything feels better when I'm doing that first." (She's not the only one with an A+ morning routine; see the morning routines that these top trainers swear by, too.)

The High-Low of Her Wellness Routine

"In January 2019, my dad passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly, and it was really challenging for me. It was really hard, and my normal routine just wasn't feeling good. I'd been thinking about Reiki for a while and had never tried it, so I finally went, and even after my first session, I felt so much more at peace with things—to the point where I was said, 'I have to never stop doing this. It's great.' So I try to go once a month. It makes me feel at peace, at ease, more grounded.

But also, I can't stress enough how great walking and water are. When I have a headache, if I'm really sluggish, if I'm just not feeling great that day, I just need a 10-minute walk and some water. It's so simple, but makes such a big difference." (Related: 6 Reasons Drinking Water Helps Solve Every Problem)

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