Hey y’all! So I am doing something pretty unusual for my blog. I am doing an interview with an awesomely strong woman whom I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of months ago. I know her husband Dan from my training at IFAST, and I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to the AMAZING Natalie Brown!
She is a wife, mother and incredibly powerful Olympic Lifter. I am so excited for you all to meet her, but I’ll stop right there since I am sure she can do a much better job of telling you about herself than I can. Without further ado, here is Natalie!
1. Natalie, thanks so much for doing this interview! I’ve heard a ton of awesome things about you and your incredible Olympic lifting skills from your hubby, and the rest of the IFAST crew, but I would love for my readers to know more about you! Can you give us a brief introduction?
Thanks for having me, Molly! I have to say, I am the luckiest woman alive. I wake up everyday living the dream! I have an amazing husband who also happens to be my Coach. We have a wonderful little boy that brings us tons of joy, and we have the coolest dog ever! I am fortunate enough to work for Force Barbell, and I work my training into the full-time job of being a mom.
2. Could you tell me more about “working your training into the full-time job of being a mom?” I get questions from moms all the time about how they can find time for themselves away from their other responsibilities. How do you do it? Is there ever guilt there?
Molly, I am really glad to answer this question. I am a full-time mom, and wife, and personal assistant, and bookkeeper, and office manager…and the list goes on!
It is very stressful and in the beginning, I felt really guilty for leaving our son, even though it was with Pop-pop and Gaga (my in-laws). My son loves his grandma and grandpa and would rather be with them, but it was still horribly hard to leave him for the day.
However, if I didn’t leave him for a few hours, when would I train? When would I work? When would I have interaction with other adults?
The reality is my training time is either my alone time, or my time to interact with other adults. I have gained so much from training. I have made new friends, rekindled old relationships, and even met my husband through weightlifting. I made up my mind that Olympic lifting was too important in my life to let guilt stop me.
My husband loves to point out all of the positives in everything, and even though I don’t always see them, he is usually right.
One positive he pointed out was that by leaving my son while working/training he has grown really close to other members of our family. He always has fun and never wants to leave. He has gained a lot from spending time with them, and it forces my son to be comfortable in multiple situations.
As for the Moms and Dads who do not have family to watch the little ones…our good friend Mike Robertson and his wife Jess have a beautiful little girl that they take to day care a couple of days a week. They actually rave about how she loves to play with the other kids at day care. So when I stop and think about the guilt, I realize it is unnecessary. Sometimes as Moms, we think we are the only one’s who can bring joy to our kids, but our little ones actually get joy from so many different experience. And sometimes letting go a little bit helps.
My final thoughts on finding time to exercise when you have a little one is this: We owe it to our kids to set a good example. How are our kids going to avoid the obesity epidemic if we aren’t showing them how to lead a healthy life? I believe that when we exercise we are happier people. We maintain better relationships; we are better wives, daughters, moms, and lovers (Dan made me add that one ;-D)
To all the moms reading this, YOU CAN DO IT! Your children will thank you for it later.
3. How did you get into Olympic Lifting?
My husband introduced me to the sport. We had been dating about six months when he introduced me to the world of Olympic Weightlifting. It was something that was challenging to me and I was hooked from the beginning. I was so bad… I mean just terrible in the beginning, and that fueled me to get better everyday. I loved the challenge!
I really got serious about the sport when Dan and I moved in together and we built a platform in our garage. I had access to snatching, clean and jerking, and squatting twenty-four seven. I couldn’t get the lifts out of my mind I was so excited! Dan was literally telling me to stop training so I could recover. The garage gym was my favorite places to train and where I have some of my best memories.
During the garage gym days I was also training at Purdue University where Dan coached. I was very fortunate to be able to train there among the athletes. It was inspiring seeing some of Dan’s female athletes lift. I was especially impressed with some of the weights that the women’s track and field athletes were using. This encouraged me, and pushed me to get better. In some ways these girls were really positive role models for me even though my interaction with them was minimal.
(Note from Molly: hear that ladies? you NEVER know who is watching you in the gym and possible using you for motivation. So get after it, and always smile and be kind to the other ladies in the gym!)
4. What’s your training schedule like? How often do you train? How long do your sessions last?
This is the question I didn’t want to answer. At this time, I am training about 3 times a week and the sessions vary in length from 30 minutes to 90 minutes. This is not typical, but because Force Barbell (our gym) is opening a new facility Dan has been gone a lot and of course I miss him, so I am sacrificing my training time a bit to see him whenever I can.
Typically I will train 5-6 days a week. Again the sessions vary in length depending on what we have going on. Dan has us on a block-cycle so some weeks we back off, and other weeks we crush it!
I am interested to see how the training changes moving forward. Dan has convinced a few of us to train twice a day starting in January. He swears it will be done intelligently and not kill us, but I don’t know if I believe him! =)
5. Can you break down what a typical session looks like for you? From start to finish… what do you do? Since you’re hooked up with the IFAST crew, I have to wonder if you incorporate breathing, mobility, foam rolling, etc. into your program. =)
Dan started working for IFAST last October after transitioning out of the collegiate setting. After being there for a month we decided to start implementing a lot of what they were doing. I have to give Dan credit he stepped aside and letting Mike (Robertson) handle all of my warm-ups and breathing.
I will give you a breakdown of what I do, I am going to warn you, it looks like a lot but I move through it pretty well. Here it goes:
- Foam Roll/SMR (self myofascial release) from head to toe
- Mobility/stability drills
- CNS prep
- Lift warm-up
- OLY LIFTS
- Characteristic lifts
- Cool down, usually is more SMR or breathing
- Tiger Balm
That’s it! If I feel really run down I may just come in and do my SMR/mobility stuff, put on tiger balm, and leave. =)
6. Do you follow any particular nutrition strategies during your normal training and/or when preparing for a competition?
Yep, my nutrition strategies are pretty simple.
My plan is as follows: if I can get the food in nature, I eat it. If I have no meet in sight I simply eat as much as I want. Our family and friends like to hunt/fish so we always have a freezer full of meat. We eat everything from deer, elk, bison, crappie, bass, catfish, to the standard, turkey, chicken, beef, and tilapia. I do allow myself to have sweet treats every now again if I do not have a meet. I prefer to eat the good ol’ homemade stuff, (not that it is any healthier) but I like to make our treats from scratch and use real ingredients.
If I am getting ready for a meet I will start monitoring my intake 12-weeks out. After the first week, we usually manipulate something, either quantity or sugary foods are the first to go. I need to get with in 5 lbs. during the week of competition. That last week we use a water-dumping trick to make weigh-in. I am still dialing in that process but I felt pretty good for my last meet.
If someone reading this is looking for advice, I would tell them this. Eat from nature as often as possible. Don’t fool yourself by thinking you can quit every bad habit at once and every bad food at once. Be real, don’t be hard on yourself, and enjoy the process.
(Note from Molly: Great advice Natalie!!)
7. What has been the biggest challenge for you since you started Olympic Lifting? Learning technique? Trying to fit your training into your life? Holding back when you want to do more?
When I first started it was technique.
As we have added our son to the family it is definitely the struggle of fitting training into my life. My husband literally owns a gym and has always had access to a training facility and it can still be hard. But as I mentioned earlier, it is all worth it.
8. You mentioned that your husband is your Coach…I know several couples who use training to bond with one another, and several couples who absolutely cannot train together at all! What’s your experience been? Is it ever difficult for you having your husband as your Coach?
I would describe it as exciting, bonding, and challenging. I completely trust and believe in the path he puts me on. Dan understands me inside and out and always has my best interest at heart. Dan coaching me works well for us because when we have a training session we leave the husband/wife relationship at the door.
The times where I have told him, “No I am not doing that!” (typically when the prowler is involved), Dan has actually fired me. And when he says something, he means it. One time, he fired me and arranged for a trainer to come to the house the next day! I was so pissed!!
I will say this, I think Dan is harder on me than anyone else, but I think he is that hard on me because he sees things in me that I don’t see in myself. And at the end of the day, Dan is my number one fan. The first time I qualified for nationals I thought he was going to cry! Don’t tell him I told you!
(Molly: OK Natalie… it will be our little secret! Shhhhh!)
9. How has Olympic Lifting changed you, both mentally and physically?
Let’s start with the easy one. Physically I have gotten a ton stronger! I have squatted some pretty good weights and can snatch more than most men! The entire time my lifts have gone up, my body fat has done down and I love the added pounds of muscle to my body. There is a stigma that if a woman has muscle she must be manly. I am far from manly!
Mentally I feel better about myself. Not to say I had esteem issues because I didn’t its just knowing that I can take my physical body to places most people can’t; this gives me the ultimate confidence I love.
10. I know I get some pretty funny responses from people when they find out that I dabble in powerlifting. What kind of response do you get when people find out that you’re an Olympic Lifter? Any really funny stories?
I am so glad you asked. First off, people always confuse Olympic weightlifting with figure. It is not even close to the same sport! I wear a spandex singlet and complete three attempts at the snatch then three at the clean and jerk. They add the weights from my best lifts of each and determine a total. The highest total wins!
I could never walk on stage in a bikini and high heels, that’s just not me.
Now to confuse things even more.
Dan had a co-worker named Ross Bowsher who trains at the famous Westside Barbell. Anyway, Ross got it in my head that I should compete in a raw powerlifting meet. We also realized that I would probably set a world record in the squat if I did compete. So I competed in one powerlifting meet just so I could squat a world record. After that, everyone was confusing me for a powerlifter. Not that I am ashamed to have done a powerlifting meet or anything, I just better identify with the weightlifting community.
11. What are your best lifts in the gym and in competition?
Clean and Jerk: 66kg
Squat: 110 kg
12. What are your current goals?
I have two short-term goals and one long term.
In the 2013 competition season I want to re-qualify for nationals at 48kg.
Win 2013 Nationals at 48kg
In 2016 I want to go to Rio!
13. If a woman was interested in getting involved with Olympic Lifting, what advice would you give her?
Go for it… Take that first step and don’t look back.
14. Thanks so much for doing this interview Natalie! Anything else you want to add?
Molly on behalf of Force Barbell, I want to thank you and all of the your readers for giving me an opportunity to promote the sport that I love. And for changing the stereotype that women who lift look manly. It means a lot to me to have your support. I look forward to seeing what you and the ladies of Girls Gone Strong have to offer in the future.
15. Where can my readers find out more about you and Dan?
Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @Force_barbell. Also, if you have any questions you would like answered by myself or anyone else in the Force Barbell gang please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org