Tuesday Ten

Tuesday Ten: What I Wish My 12 Year Old Self Knew About Weightlifting

I started lifting when I was a twelve year old cheerleader. Pick your jaws up off the floor. Ya'll know I was a base (#BigMomma). Our school's strength coach encouraged me to try out for the powerlifting team and the rest is history (if you don't know the history then click here).

Working with two female youth weightlifters (aged 7 and 9) at Mississippi Barbell

Working with two female youth weightlifters (aged 7 and 9) at Mississippi Barbell

Since I work with a lot of youth weightlifters now I thought I'd share some of the same advice I wish I would have known when I was starting my journey. Even though my girls are starting at ages 6-12, the advice remains the same.

1. Don't Worry About Your Bodyweight

I won't say my eating disorder started as a direct result of participating in a sport with weight classes at a young age. I had a coach that was adamant we not worry about bodyweight or use unsafe methods to lose weight (diuretics, fasting).

But when you could only accept two girls from each weight class (at most), I became hyper-aware of my weight. Especially compared to all of the smaller girls. I didn't just want to be in my weight class. I wanted to be the smallest one in it. That logic is horrible by the way.

Fortunately my girls on Mississippi Barbell don't have to worry about that. It's never something we talk about or discuss. I'm not limited by how many Youth can compete. After all, as a kid, you just need to be focused on having fun and getting comfortable in your own skin.

2. No One Cares About Your Singlet

Young or old, this seems to be the thing that scares folks about from weightlifting. I spend the most time talking people off the ledge about it. I've even decided most of my local meets I host won't even require them just to get people to stop complaining and actually lift.

I never require my kids to wear a singlet. But I do encourage them to get one. The "big kids" wear them. In the gym the "big kids" are their heroes. They don't care about what their heroes look like in their singlets. And those little kids are our heroes. So we don't care either.

3. Go Easy On Yourself

I think girls are hardwired to be hard on themselves. I was...and still am. If a girl lifter is getting down on herself for a lift not being perfect, I have to step in and remind her we don't have to keep trying the lift over and over just because we perceived it wasn't perfect. It'll never be perfect. We can't be perfect. We just have to try and keep practicing. I like to think this will help bleed over into their "real lives".

4. Always Have An Opinion

We aren't allowed to say "I don't know" or "I don't care" with Coach Amber. My girls (all my kids) should always have an opinion. You do know--you probably know more than you think. And you do care.

Speak up. Be confident.

5. Don't Compare Yourself To Other Girls

You will never look like someone else because you aren't them. You're you.

You may never be as strong as someone else. Harsh reality? Maybe. But that doesn't mean you don't try to outwork them. It doesn't mean you are less of a person because of it. And it doesn't mean the other person is better than you.

The amount of medals, PRs, or attention someone else gets doesn't take away from your shine and uniqueness.

6. How Much You Lift Doesn't Define You

It's easy to get obsessed with kilos on the bar. But it doesn't define you. Lifting is just one part of your life. It's your hobby. An outlet. Something that makes you feel good.

Squatting 100 kilos or snatching 70 kilos isn't going to make people like or hate you. If you get injured people won't think less of you. If they do then you don't want them in your life anyway.

7. Don't Be Afraid To Ask Questions

You are just starting your weightlifting journey. Ask questions when you don't understand something. Ask questions about event rules. Ask questions about exercises. Speak up!

8. Find A Mentor

Having a role model helps. It doesn't even have to be a coach or a lifter. Just find someone you admire and trust. For me, I had a best friend's sister, my coach, and I looked up to an older lifter. Clearly I had no problem searching for inspiration.

9. You Can't PR Every Meet

When you start you feel like you PR at every meet. The longer you lift, you'll realize you can't hit PRs every time you walk on the platform. That's ok! Your weightlifting journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Always strive to get stronger and be better but don't obsess over your perceived failures or shortcomings.

10. Not Medaling Isn't The End Of The World

Everyone loves a shiny medal. Unfortunately not every one can get one. Does that mean you need to cry and stomp your feet? Absolutely not. Work hard and do your best. You won't always win. You won't always PR. But you will compete with dignity and integrity.


What advice would you give your 12 year old self about weightlifting or powerlifting? Did anything I say sound wrong? Let me know in the comments!

Share online if you feel like other coaches or parents would benefit from hearing this.

Tuesday Ten: Meet Essentials

Every Tuesday I'll be channeling my inner David Letterman with a Top 10 List for the "Tuesday Ten" blog post. Will it be exercises, recipes, lifters? Maybe my favorite memes? Only time will tell.

Top 10 Meet Essentials

"Gee, Amber. You really broke the mold on this one. What a cliche topic to write about..."

Look here, Sassy Pants. Those other lists didn't have the self deprecating, comedy gems Amber's list is about to throw at you.

So sit back, relax, and eye roll so hard you strain your retinas.

1. Waffle House Grilled Chicken and a Waffle

Why? There's a Waffle House (or it's step-brother equivalent Huddle House) almost everywhere so no matter where your meet is, you'll always be able to find one for your post weigh-in meal. What's even better is the waiter/waitress will think you're insane for ordering the chicken. But trust me, it's a life changer. #BlessedBeThyChicken

2. Reese's Fastbreak

No. Not a Reese's Cup. That's too much work to peel off the paper. Save your digits for that PR you're about to hit. Get the giant Fastbreak and thank me later.

3. Your Obnoxious Singlet

I have a Space Galaxy Dance Biketard. Don't snicker at me, that's what unitards with legs on them are called. $30 from dance stores. Suck it Adidas (just kidding!)

Fun fact: I actually bring an extra singlet with me to every meet just in case something happens. I actually even bring one when I'm coaching just in case my athlete forgets theirs after 7,890 reminders from me. I've let folks borrow a singlet at a meet I've been at before too.

4. Your Team Shirt

If you belong to a team, then bring your Team shirt for Introductions and lifting. If you're lucky enough to medal wear it on the podium.

If you belong to a Team and wear another company or gym's shirt then you just slapped your team, coaches, and team mates in the face. UNLESS you are under sponsorship obligations.

5. Your ID

You aren't famous. No one knows, or cares, who you are. Especially the weigh in official. Bring your ID with you. And don't get uppity if someone asks you for it; you aren't a special snowflake. Rules are rules.

6. Extra Set Of Clothes

If you're at a meet, then chances are you're going to sweat. If you don't we need to talk and you may need to a trained doctor to see what is going on with your body. But you'll sweat. Bring clothes (including your unmentionables) to change into you if you aren't going home after the event so your significant other doesn't disown you.

7. Headphones

No one wants to hear your music. It probably sucks. Bring headphones. The bigger the better. It tells the other lifters you hate yourself.

8. A Good Attitude

Have fun. Make lifts. Some folks take their meets so seriously. Don't get me wrong: be focused. But on meet day don't be a d**k to everyone. Don't yell at the officials or volunteers. Smile and be merry.

9. Your Attempt Selections

Have your openers ready to go at weigh ins (in pounds or kilos dependent on the federation). Have your warm ups and 2nd/3rd attempt plan written down ahead of time.

10. Your Dog

Check with the gym and event director on this before you do it. There's nothing magical about this but if I happen to be at your event, then I would want to pet it. Bring me all the puppies and I'm sure you will PR.


Did you agree with this list? Disagree? Comment below and let me have it either way. Want to hear about a certain topic next week? Let me know here or send me an email!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Wordless Wednesday... or go back in the Blog and check out older pieces. You can always mosey on over to the Archives to read my nationally published articles too.

Follow me on Instagram @sheppardstrength to see more comedic gems and the occasional training video.