olympic weightlifting

Meditation For Strength Athletes

"Amber when did you become a new age guru?" When my body gave up on me and I died inside. So since I was born. Hey ohhhhhhhhh.

Kidding. I've been "meditating" for almost three years and I've found it helps me in my daily life and on the platform. The most important part of lifting is the mental aspect of it. It can make or break an athlete let alone a single performance.

You don't have to make your own granola, burn incense, and go to a temple to meditate. Let me share my meditation practices and you can see how easy it can be. Bear in mind I'm not a meditation expert. I'm just a girl who makes videos of herself doing weird things, dresses up her catdog, and will fight you if you disrespect Lady Gaga.

See A Movie In A Theater

I love any excuse to see a movie. The smell of popcorn, the delicious Blue Icee, and a $5.50 Kiddie Pack (popcorn, drink, AND fruit snacks?!) are my favorite part of the movie experience because let's face it: I'm a perpetual fat kid. And apparently cheap as balls.

But what I love about seeing a movie in a theater is the fact that you become fully engrossed in it. It's not the same watching a movie at home. I don't know about you but aside from NOT feeling 22 (whaddup T-Swift) I get distracted at home. Or I feel like I need to be productive and working.

When I've paid money for a ticket, I'm forced to put the cell phone away and just watch the screen. I'm transported to whatever activity is on the screen. It's one of the few times I am completely still and my mind is quiet.

Guess what? A still mind is meditation. I like to go with friends but more often than not I go alone. Why? For starters I tend to be the only person who wants to see the film. I also like to go on cheap days (Sundays and Tuesdays are half off in Jackson at Regal Theatres). But most importantly it's "Amber time". Plus, you don't have to share your snacks.

Take A Hike

I'm 29 going on 79 because I live for nature walking (forest, trails, beaches, the backyard, and even city sidewalks--don't get snobby; nature is outside. Simmer down Basic Betty).

Why? I get to see birds (have I mentioned I've been to bird watching meetings and checked out field guides from the library?), squirrels, random bugs. I get to see the flowers and shrubbery. The sky. I can focus on smells and sounds regardless of whether it's hot as hell or it just rained.

Another plus? No cell phone usage. You're focused on your surroundings and being in the present. Your mind will wander but you'll be present in those thoughts.

Some folks prefer to run or bike. I don't run because, uh, MURICA but I bike on occasion. However if I'm biking, it's going to be on a mountain bike trail and my mind is focused on not eating dirt or bark. It's fun but not relaxing.

Walking forces me to really focus on what's around me and not on how fast I'm going to get there.

Ditch Your Electronics

The main take away for a good meditation (in my opinion) is to disconnect from electronics. Ditch your phone and your social media. Don't worry you can always take a picture of your meditation practice and post it later with some really original and cool hashtag. You can listen to music but it shouldn't be your main focus. I prefer the lights off and maybe a candle if I'm going old school. Even an essential oil diffuser is cool.

Meditate Your Own Way

While there's no right or wrong way to eat a Reese's, there's also no right or wrong way to meditate or find peace. Do what works for you, boo. Your mental game on and off the platform will improve. Don't stress about it. It won't be perfect but it will be something you'll benefit from.

Here are some ways I like to meditate. Some are conventional. Others, not so much. Some days it depends on what kind of peace I need. Do I need to zone out completely? Do I need to dig deep? Is crying allowed? What about singing? Seriously.

  • Conventional meditation: Lights off. Candle blazing. My hippie oils diffusing (sidenote I love aromatherapy). And sprawled out on my back on an old Simpsons blanket. See? It couldn't be THAT conventional if I'm doing it. Yoga mats make me feel restricted but I do like the space of a blanket. I close my eyes, focus on my breath, and let my mind wander where it needs to go. I usually end up talking to God in my head. And going through my feelings and why I feel that way. But I have to breathe and focus on clearing my mind before that can happen.
  • Shower meditation: I try to only think about the cleansing aspect of the water when I shower. Focus on how it smells. Focus on how it feels. Focus on the noises. Just be present. Hippie and weird but it works for me. Sidenote: my showers are super fast. Because thinking is hard. And also we ain't got time to waste gallons upon gallons of water y'all.
  • Talk meditation: Ok, this is where I'll lose some of you. If I'm having an irrational feeling or just can't understand WHY I feel some type of way (hello old internet phrasing), I talk it out. Out loud. To myself. Sometimes I film myself. Sometimes I voice record. Sometimes I just talk. I say things like "I feel insecure. I feel insecure because I was rejected. I feel rejected because Johnny Tsunami didn't call me back. Johnny Tsunami not calling me back isn't on me. That's on him. But I feel this way. I shouldn't feel this way. Why shouldn't I feel this way? Because I have XYZ going on for me, people don't validate me....blah blah blah...and then somehow end up at EFF EVERYONE I AM AMAZING SUCK IT HATERS."
  • Singing: Horribly. To songs no one else likes. And record them and just say it's some kind of karaoke. For me, it's just fun. And freeing. It also instantly improves my mood.
  • Listen To Thrash/Speed Metal: Head banging and "dancing" is an out of body thing for me. It's just something I do. Randomly. Or while listening to music. I HATE dancing in public but put me at a metal show and it's game over. I think it's just something about the noise. Fight me but metal is the new classical.

How do you meditate? Have you tried it before; did you like it or was it pointless for you?

If you want a program, personal training session, or to schedule a clinic or meet, message me.

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How To Kill Your Passion 101: Weightlifting Edition

Step One: Use It As An Outlet

When I started Mississippi Barbell years ago, it was my metaphorical baby. I don't think anyone will ever understand how much sweat, tears, and our own money went into starting the program. Not to sound like a martyr but starting an organized sport in a state that didn't have it was very hard. It's still hard.

I was going through some rough transitions at the time we started it in 2013 (2012 if you count before we got the club sanctioned). And in the periods that followed. Ending law school, relapsing an eating disorder, injuries, mental illness, sexual assault, going broke, and lots of failed (and toxic) relationships.

The club, and the sport, was my outlet from all of those things. I used it to ignore those issues or as a means to channel my frustrations. It also became something I could control (that wasn't my eating).

More than any of that it was my (self-imposed) job. Networking, book-keeping, fund raising, meet directing, recruitment, seminars, social media, website... I spent hours upon hours working on it all. Don't get me wrong I had help from my business partner along the way but it was my choice to do A through Z.

But when you spend 5 hours on Christmas Day re-working a website and schedule sessions at all waking (and non-waking) hours of the day, you have a problem. Or you are on the fast track to burnout. Especially if you keep that pace for 4 years.

Step Two: Don't Ask For Help

Asking for help isn't my strong suit. I've gotten much better at it the last ten months though. But that was only spurred because I had a giant mental breakdown after a trauma, quit my job, and was having suicidal thoughts. Whoa, we just took a giant turn here didn't we? Don't freak out: they were just thoughts. Never actions. I'm medicated and see a professional.


When I was depressed, and injured (because why get massages to repair yourself when you've had chronic pain for over a year?), I didn't like going to the gym. It was mainly the depression but it was also burn out.

Not asking for help with coaching, social media, event planning only made matters worse. I'm also a perfectionist, an ENTJ, and inefficiency makes me rage. If I did ask for help (outside of my business partner), the help was denied, put on the back burner, or never came to fruition (looking at you Fundraiser Planner and One Guy Chicken & Steak).

My love for the sport, and my resentment, was beginning to build. There's only so much one person can do. It felt like the weight of the (local) weightlifting world was on my shoulders. I became Google and everyone seemed to just want free advice. Everything was being taken and hardly any one was giving back (note: this is NOT directed at my core group of gym friends and other clubs. You guys know who you are).

Step Three: Think National Recognition Means People Will Care

Fast forward and I started to hate everyone and everything. I hated myself. I hated that I couldn't make the Club more money. I hated that I couldn't get people more interested. I hated that no one (seemingly) cared.

After all in the last few years (and especially the last year) we had accomplished so much (see the full Mississippi Barbell history here):

  • We had been featured on USAW multiple times.
  • I'd been nationally published repeatedly.
  • We had the first kids and teams to attend National events.
  • International medalists.
  • Hosted the only USAW meets in the State (repeatedly).
  • Brought the sport to the Coast (thanks to my ride or dies at GPX, Gulfport Crossfit).
  • Sold shirts designed by local artists to help raise money.
  • Coached youth. Coached adults. Coached beginners. Coached advanced athletes.
  • Did things for free for so long (check out the Barbell history time line here).
  • Volunteered an entire weekend at a national event for a mentor where we had one athlete (seriously, the entire weekend' I absolutely do not regret this at all as it was a very dear mentor and I know how hard it is to staff events. It just occurred at a time where my assault PTSD was high and my medications were new).
  • It's not uncommon for us to coach athletes who aren't even ours at events if they ask for it or look like deer in headlights.
  • Offered our services to schools (I seriously wrote personalized emails, notes, and letters with brochures to every, single, school in our area. I sent over 50).
  • My favorite part is people name-dropping to other coaches across the nation in hopes of getting their foot in the door or getting a job. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it. I only mind when you were an athlete who quit out of the blue (and didn't say anything to me) or were someone who has literally never spoken to me or attended any event I (or Barbell) hosted. Fun fact: Coaches message other coaches about you. And we speak the Truth. But thanks for using my name and efforts without permission.

I just didn't understand why no one seemed to care. I wanted them to care because I cared so much.

But it was demoralizing and frustrating when I was putting my entire heart and soul into something only for marginal success. We were literally working at least 15 hours a week in the gym and about 8-12 hours outside the gym on growing it as well. Without getting paid.

Remember, I'm a perfectionist. I must be making a gazillion dollars and continuously improving to be a "success". Hilarious, I know.

Step Four: Call Set-Backs Failures

Recently things happened with our facility and we were left homeless with no notice. Our core group of supporters opened their doors to our gang to lift (thanks CF 601 and Res CF for that). I had to cancel a scheduled meet and an event because of it (which is something I DO NOT DO).

So to me, I had failed. I failed because no one seemed to care about what we were doing. No one understood (in my head anyway) Tyler and I weren't making money. No one understood how hard it was for us to balance life and coaching (for free because hey the little money we make goes to our athletes and their needs; grants weren't rolling in). What else do people want?

I got bitter. I'm still a little bitter. Is it because we don't have half naked people on our team? Is it because I'm perceived as a cunt? Yea, I said it. It's true though. Was it my fault we "failed"? Did I not work hard enough?

I can't answer those questions. I can't make people give two s**ts.

I sincerely wanted to step away from it all. I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit coaching. I wanted to quit the club. It wasn't fun. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

But all of these things were just momentary set backs and not failures. I am nothing if not persistent and I just needed a little break.

Step Five: You Ignore Who You've Helped And Disregard Your Successes

My turning point was when a local gym (CrossFit Flora) reached out for a private group weightlifting session. I was still bitter about everything. But as soon as I started coaching, the love and pure joy I get from it came flooding back. It energized me and encouraged me to push through all of this. Just with a much more level head and a set of checks and balances in place.

And guess what? MS Barbell still exists. We still lift. We still support weightlifting in Mississippi. We've had to move a lot in our small time due to space or rent issues. We haven't quit. Luckily I have Tyler who isn't injured and always on site. I kept the Youth program and train the kids in their parents' garage or gyms with our equipment. We have just had to adapt how we offer our "services" and that's ok. Two years ago we didn't have a Youth program.

I've had at least 4 people in the last six months (here and across the country) reach out to me for help in starting their own programs. From California to Florida, Mississippi Barbell had a hand in helping those programs get started. Not to mention the fact the reach my national publications have had that I don't even know about (is that egotistical)?

Meets still happen. Because we started them here. We still have our state meet set for June 3rd 2017.

Clubs still continue. When we started we were the first ones to exist. As of this publication there are five other clubs in the state.


Regardless, I'm like Cher or a cockroach. I'll never die (just on the inside). Since I won't die then that means the club will never die either. Nor will the passion for the sport. I've been lifting since 2003. You don't stay in the game this long if you don't sincerely care about it.

I stayed here after law school to start and run this program. I've had a lot of people chastise me for it. It may have been silly to do it considering i wasn't get paid. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. I just regret that I tried to make it mean anything to anyone else. What other people think matters in this day and age. You can't convince me otherwise. Social media is the Devil but it's a necessary evil. I quit caring about trying to make my own personal account anything for anyone else and I lost 50+ followers and set it to private. Don't want to see cat pictures or me doing karaoke? Don't follow me.

But when you have fallen down a million times, you dust yourself off. The Club, and the sport, isn't a way to make money or make a name for myself. It's a passion that we worked so hard to get started.

We'll never die. We'll just keep designing more and more alienating shirts.

Have You Killed a passion before?

What was it? Did you ever come back from it? If so, how?

Share your stories in the comments below along with any topics you wish to hear about as well.





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: Why You Need A Local, Licensed Nutritionist

As a recovered exercise bulimic and binge eater, I never thought I would ever have a healthy relationship with food. I went through three nutritionists before I found one that meshed well with my personality and my mind. Before you get up in arms, the other three weren't bad at their jobs at all (and Sarah is my spirit animal). My brain wasn't in the right place to actually make any changes. Once I entered consistent therapy, got on medication, and made a very conscious effort to address my underlying issues, then I was able to make a lifestyle change.

But I couldn't have done it without my spirit animal, food guru, and friend Constance Shelby, CEO and owner of Perfect Fit Nutrition.

Who knew fruits could be so funny? Constance Shelby did. Perfect Fit Nutrition will get you healthy and keep you smiling. Seriously!

Who knew fruits could be so funny? Constance Shelby did. Perfect Fit Nutrition will get you healthy and keep you smiling. Seriously!

1. Accountability

Real accountability. It's no secret I remotely train clients but I've never shied away from the fact that seeing someone in person consistently is better than analyzing a few lifts here and there.

Nutrition works the same way. Constance has face-to-face consultations and follow ups. You can't cheat your logs. You know your meeting is coming up and it helps keep you on the primrose path.

Also included in some packages? Unlimited email and text check ins and contact. I once woke up at 11:00 am one day (I think I went to bed at 5:00 like a wild woman) and was like "Um...do I skip breakfast? Do I skip lunch? Do I eat everything now? HALP". I texted her and she shot me an answer back quickly. And without judgement.

2. Personalization

Sure, you can pay $25 to follow a cookie-cutter template for whatever you think your goals are from some Instagram celebrity who only has an online certification from Diets Are Us (I made that name up so if it's real it's a coincidence. Don't sue me, please).

But are you going to see real results? Probably not. Everyone is different so we all need different things in our diets. More than that, we all work differently. Someone may be able to count macros but someone else may need meal plans only because numbers send them into a tail spin (*raises hand*).

Constance will use whatever system works for you to help you achieve your goals without you going insane.

3. Credentials

"I lost 50 pounds and now I'm going to tell you how to do it" is NOT a credential. Also, most states have laws against people without credentials and state licensure creating meal plans and giving advice.  Spoiler alert: Mississippi is one of them.

I love Constance for many reasons but one of them is the fact she has worked with EVERY population out there. Seriously. Folks with diabetes and heart disease. Those who wanted to lose weight. Others who wanted to gain weight. Juveniles and adults.

Did you know she was the Health & Wellness Director at a nonprofit for 5 years? Or that she was recognized as the 2015 Young Dietitian of the Year? She has a BS and Masters in her field?

So, yea. Constance knows her stuff and will keep you healthy without ruining your metabolism and mind.

4. Improved Sports Performance

Local sports teams, functional fitness athletes, triathletes, and olympic weightlifters have used Constance to gain an advantage on and off the competition field. Each sport requires different fuel so sit down with her to iron out your goals to get you on top the podium. I lost 25 pounds but my muscle mass continued to increase as did my bench press.

That's actually me in October after only 8 weeks. Hay girl hayyyyyyyyy

That's actually me in October after only 8 weeks. Hay girl hayyyyyyyyy


5. Combat Genetic and Lifestyle Diseases

I personally have a family medical history that includes everything under the sun: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke risk, diabetes, and Alzheimer's. Constance worked my plan so I could offset those concerns.

But if you are currently suffering from health concerns, it's not too late to work with a trained professional like her. You need the correct information and strategies to make sure you stay healthy for the long run.

Plus, paying for medications all the time is expensive. I can't promise she can ween you off all medications but I know she has kept me off medications so far. And a lower dosage could mean less money that comes out of your pocket. We ain't made of money! (Well if you are please consider buying training packages or donating to Mississippi Barbell)

6. Budget Friendly

You don't have to pay an arm and a leg for professional nutritional advice. Perfect Fit Nutrition has options for every sized wallet.

I'm not rolling in dough (oh like you didn't know. A criminal defense attorney, weightlifting coach, and nonprofit owner? Please. I'm like Robin Hood without the cool hat. Or being a fox) but I was able to find a package that worked with my budget and lifestyle. You get what you pay for.

7. You Won't Starve

Probably my favorite part about working with Constance and Perfect Fit is the fact I wasn't deprived of the things I loved. I love cheese and dessert. So guess what? I get both every single day. And I still lost weight and had a beautiful mindset about it all. Gone was the guilt and shame associated with foods. She taught me foods aren't good and evil: they are food.

Quit playin, yall. Get you some cheese and live your life!

8. She Is A Real Human Being

If I were blonde and enjoyed being social, then I like to think I would be Constance. She is my spirit animal in the fact that she is as real they come. Seriously. Don't let her bubbly personality fool you. She'll give you tough love if you need it BUT she will do it without judgement. And with a smile on her face.

She's a wife, a mom, and a business owner. She knows what it's like to run around like a chicken with her head cut off most days. If you need meals on the run, you aren't going to have to live out of a Tupperware container. She added in days where I could eat Chick Fila and Newks when I was running around. Once again, no shame. No judgement. Just delicious food.

Also, if you don't follow her social media, you really should. She cracks me up.

9. You Will Learn Something

If your nutritionist or dietician hides things from you then they just want your money. Find someone who empowers you. Like Perfect Fit Nutrition.

Once again, just another reason why Constance is head and shoulders above some peers. Rather than just throw a meal plan your way, Constance sits down and tells you WHY she wrote it that way.

She has Education only sessions in some packages as well. Learn everything you want to know about food and how it fuels your body. Her Fitastic Challenges (the private facebook group) do just that--- every. single. day.

10. You Want A Lifestyle Change

I know in this day and age everyone wants quick results. You can go on crash diets, slap caffeine patches on your body, or give in to whatever Shake of the Week gimmick is on facebook and get those results. Then gain the weight back.

Working with Constance will get you long-lasting results. They won't be super quick but you will see changes. And they won't leave you quicker than your paycheck does when you go to Whole Foods.  By promoting healthy and consistent eating habits, you will feel better and begin to live your life again.

Is there a local business you'd like to see promoted in a Tuesday Ten? Comment below or send me a message.

Have you ever had a nutritionist before? Did it work? Tell us your personal stories (you can remain Anonymous if you'd like).



Pro Tip Thursday: 12.29.16

Nothing says the holidays like eating your bodyweight in foods you really don't care about just because you're bored. I use that apathetic energy, bloat, and self loathing to create more Team Infirmary Pro Tip videos for all you strength and conditioning, powerlifting, and olympic weightlifting nerds out there.

Enjoy the last two week's worth of videos (I know you probably missed last week's while you were preparing your body for stale popcorn and brownies) below.

Spoiler alert: this week's compilation (12.29.16) has me dancing and singing. And trying on homecoming dresses.

In case you missed last week's Team Infirmary Pro Tip mashup because you were busy stuffing your face and waiting on Santa, check it out above.

This week's compilation of Pro Tips for all powerlifters, olympic lifters, and sports performance connoisseurs. 

New videos are uploaded daily in my Instagram story (@sheppardstrength) but I put some extras into the YouTube channel to reward you sad, souls who plow through them. I'm kidding, you aren't sad. You are actually validating my existence.

Post your own videos online, tag me, and use #TeamInfirmary so I can see them.

Is this a subject you need advice on and want to hear my Pro Tip about it? Comment below or shoot me a message so we can address it this week.

Tuesday Ten: Stupid Questions You Shouldn't Ask Your Coach

Your elementary school teacher used to say, "There are no stupid questions." Well, she was wrong. There are stupid questions and if you ask your coach one of these ten questions, you're likely to get punched in the face (results may vary).

1. It says Snatch. Does that mean full snatch or power snatch?

It means I hate you.

2. What am I doing today?

Learning how to read your program apparently.

3. Did you see (Instagram Loser Name Here)'s video? He/she posted it at 11:43 am.

No I was working. Also, I don't care.

4. Should I compete at the event we are hosting?

If you want to remain on this team you will.

5. If my back hurts on squats then I should just keep squatting, right?

You should keep on walking right out the door and into a chiropractor's office.

6. Can I max out today? Everything feels so easy! I mean I know I'm competing in a few days but I want to.

Sure. But I'm not coaching you at your meet coming up BECAUSE YOU JUST RUINED MY LIFE.

7. Is it cool if I don't pay you this month?

Only if you don't want a program this month. I know your 18,000th pair of shoes and 6,000th shot of Patron this month was worth it.

8. Why does my form suck? I only missed two months of practice.

Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200.

9. Do I have to stretch?

Nah. Just injure yourself and complain about it for 3 months.

10. Why aren't you coming to my meet?

Because you signed up without telling me, told me three days before, and it's 12 hours away.

Have you said any of these things?  Heard any better "stupid questions"? Let me know what they are in the comments!

Purchase programming and training packages in our new online Sheppard Strength store.

As always you can comb through the Archives to see some past Tuesday Ten gems, read some of my national publications, or check out some before and afters of Sheppard Strength clients.

Music Monday: Pantera, "Drag The Waters"

This week's Music Monday pick isn't as polarizing as last week's tune but it'll still fire you up to lift, compete, or negotiate like a boss. Listen to the lyrics closely and you'll be uncomfortable but that's what happens when society is cray.

Drag the waters means uncover the Truth. See? Metal can be deep too, haters.

Drag the waters some more
Like never before
— Drag The Waters

Sound off on what you thought about this week's song below in the comments or on facebook.

Would you have picked a different Pantera song? Let us know!

Music Monday: Slayer, "Hate Worldwide"

Hide your wife. Hide your kids. Slayer's making errybody's ear drums bleed. This pick is a stark contrast to the melodic 80s song of yesteryear from last week but it's my jam.

Is it the most well known Slayer (or SLAYERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) song? No. Do I like other Slayer songs better? Yep. Should you listen to this at work or around children? NOT AT ALL.

But it's my go-to song lately. I use it pump myself up before the gym, getting ready in the morning for court, or when I have crippling social anxiety and need a little boost.

Before you listen to the lyrics and start stoning me....it's just a song. I don't sacrifice lambs and I'm a good human being.

My scars insane, my life profane
I deny, defy, and spread a little hate, worldwide!
— Slayer

I know y'all have some opinion so sound off in the comments below, on facebook, or shoot me a message.

Check out older Blogs, read some of my national publications, and see what fancy services we have to offer these days!

Pro Tip Thursday: 12.15.16

I know this is the only reason you guys follow me. This week's Team Infirmary compilation is live on the YouTube channel and below for your viewing pleasure. If you're at work keep the snorting to a minimum.

Every day I post a new "tip" on my Instagram story which usually isn't a tip at all, references feeling dead inside, or features my catdog being weird.

Each Thursday I compile the previous week's Tips and will be posting them here (and on my YouTube channel).

What did you think of the tips? Were any helpful? Did some jokes fall flat? Comment here, on facebook, or on the YouTube video and let us know.

Join in on the fun and make your own Pro Tip videos! Tag us @sheppardstrength and #TeamInfirmary so we can see them on Instagram. Friend us on facebook and tag us there too so we can make sure we see them.

Maybe we'll repost some of them in a compilation video next week.

Have any questions? You can always message us. If you watched the video you can see we clearly have no life.

Tuesday Ten: Why Pure Barre Isn't Just For Rich Snobs

Last week we talked about the Ten Meet Essentials you needed to have a successful meet. This week we are doing a 180 and talking about my new obsession: Pure Barre.

Hold your horses. Before you roll your eyes, ask me my Lululemon size (10), and question my sanity, hear me out. As a member of Team Infirmary I promise I won't steer you wrong.

1. Not Everyone Is In Head To Toe Lululemon

First of all, there is nothing wrong with wearing head to toe Lululemon. They have breathable fabrics and they last forever.

But I show up in tie dye cat shirts, rolled up pants, and get compliments on them.

2. It Isn't As Expensive As You'd Think

Yes, it is pricey if you compare it to a chain gym. But half of you reading this pay an arm and a leg for functional fitness gym memberships. Most studios have unlimited packages (which can be expensive dependent on your budget) BUT they also offer 5 or 10 package classes as well so you can spread them out as needed. Plus you find money for what you really want (within reason).

3. It's Not All Stick Thin Humans

Body shaming in any form is ridiculous. Big or small: people are people. Genetics are genetics. Sit down.

I'll be honest. I felt self conscious the first time I went. I was bigger than the regular clientele but no one batted an eye. Plus, I can do the push ups on my toes. I am the 1%.

4. Fancy Sticky Socks Aren't Required

I wear mismatched socks half the time. Or big obnoxious white socks. Do I slip on occasion? A little but it's only on the :90 planks and I welcome the rest so I'm not complaining or buying more socks.

5. The Music Doesn't Suck

I've totally danced around when the beat drops on occasion. The beats can be boss. But that's coming from a 28 year old nerd who likes Moby Dick Concept Albums.

6. Those Tiny Movements Suck Out Your Soul And Replace It With Structural Balance

You may scoff at the ballet/Pilates fused class thinking it's easy and people don't work in it.

Image credit: https://i.imgflip.com/1bbr8l.jpg

The class will burn out whatever muscle you are working and it's typically all unilateral movements. My quads and glutes burn like fire. Your abs, which you think you work now, are going to get an intense workout too. Your lifts are going to thank you for them all.

7. Women Aren't The Only Ones There

It isn't 1804. Men and women are both taking classes just like men and women both lift weights.

If you are a woman who constantly posts about how women lift weights too and it won't make them bulky then don't let me see you talking s**t about men in Pure Barre. Guess what? Men need structural balance too.

Bye Felicia.

8. It Isn't Just Cardio or Strength Training

It's a little bit of both. They also offer Platform: a cardio based, higher intensity strength training class. I sweat in both but my lungs and muscles scream in Platform. Pick your poison and enjoy both.

9. Instructors Aren't Stuck Up And Rude

I know as a group instructor, you have to be "on" and nice all the time. But I can smell a disingenuous human from a mile away. So far, I've been greeted by each instructor at the door, they repeat my name during class, and again when I leave.

Yes, I know that's Rule 101 for instructors/sales but not everyone actually does that. Or means it. So far, so good.

10. I Go There

Seriously. Y'all know I don't roll around in dough, Lululemon, or walk around with my nose up in the air. I pick up coins off the ground, wear Old Navy pants, and walk around taking pictures of my catdog.

The class is fun & different for a strength nerd. Plus it doesn't hurt my injuries.

Let your unique flag fly and check out a class.

Have you tried a Pure Barre class? Comment what you thought below. Do you want to try a class? Why haven't you yet?

In the meantime 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.

Music Monday: Soft Cell or Marilyn Manson, "Tainted Love"

Say what you want about this 80s classic but it has stood the test of time. The Manson version is what I work out to but the Soft Cell version is still amazing. "Tainted Love", let me count all the ways you are awesome.

Amanda Smithers, eat your heart out.

First of all, look at that album cover.

Secondly, this song is two songs in one and merges seamlesly into "Where Did Our Love Go".

Third, just admire this lyric. ADMIRE IT GUYS.

And you think love is to pray
But I’m sorry I don’t pray that way
— Soft Cell, "Tainted Love"

The Manson version proves the original's lyrics are still as amazing as ever.

This video proves what a hot mess the early 2000's, Manson, and Not Another Teen Movie was. The movie is streaming on HBO right now (as of 12/11/2016).

What do you think of the Sheppard Strength Music Monday Pick Of The Week? Is Tainted Love not your cup of tea? Do you jam it weekly? What would you have picked instead? Sound off in the comments!

Want to see more Music Monday picks? Follow the Music Monday tag below!

Check out older Blog pieces in the Archives and read some of Coach Amber's national publications here.

Pro Tip Thursday: 12.08.16

I've been injured for a few months so I decided to poke fun of myself and internet "fitness gurus". I created "Team Infirmary" as a joke--it doesn't actually exist in real life....just in injured folks' hearts.

Member Of Team Infirmary Since 2008 When A Van Ran Me Over And I Had An Eating Disorder

Member Of Team Infirmary Since 2008 When A Van Ran Me Over And I Had An Eating Disorder

Every day I post a new "tip" on my Instagram story which usually isn't a tip at all, references feeling dead inside, or features my catdog being weird.

Each Thursday I compile the previous week's Tips and will be posting them here (and on my YouTube channel).


What did you think of the tips? Were any helpful? Did some jokes fall flat? Comment here, on facebook, or on the YouTube video and let us know.

Join in on the fun and make your own Pro Tip videos! Tag us @sheppardstrength and #TeamInfirmary so we can see them on Instagram. Friend us on facebook and tag us there too so we can make sure we see them.

Maybe we'll repost some of them in a compilation video next week.

Have any questions? You can always message us. If you watched the video you can see we clearly have no life.

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.

Music Monday: Mastodon, "Naked Burn"

There's more to life than lifting weights...like finding music to lift to. Every Monday I'm going to post a different song that I use while I train, program, or prepare for events.

This week's Music Monday pick is my current obsession (next to gumbo but that's a topic for another day): Mastodon's "Naked Burn".

Don't be scared by the title. It's appropriate for work and a child's ears. If the child likes metal, concept albums about Moby Dick, and being confused.

Save yourself
Don’t wait on me

What is your current jam? Post it in the comments or send me a message to let me know. I'm always looking for new music.

Until next Music Monday....

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Tuesday Ten... 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. #ShamelessSelfPromotion

5 Ways An Injury Makes You A Better Person

I can hear y'all now: "Amber, how much booze did you consume on Thanksgiving to say that?" Answer: none. I'm just incredibly delusional and insane from only squatting and benching the last six months.

Whatchu Know 'Bout Injuries, Amber?

In all seriousness, if you've been in the sports world for any extended amount of time you're going to suffer an injury. When you've been in the game 14 years, you may or may not have suffered quite a few.

  • Premature birth meant my shoulder bones didn't fuse all the way together and BAM! lots of dislocations and separations before I got it under control.
  • Exercise bulimia caused me to run 7 days a week and left me with 4 bulged discs that sidelined me for 10 months before the pain ceased.
  • Being a nerd studying for the Bar exam in 2015 caused me to develop a nasty desk slouch that has wrecked my subscap/neck, and trap...and forced me to only squat, bench, and act like I enjoy cardio the last six months while we fix it.

5 Ways An Injury Makes You A Better Person

1. You Actually Do Preventative Maintenance

Yea, yea. We know we're supposed to always stretch, mobilize, and see the chiropractor or massage therapist even when we aren't injured. You know-- to PREVENT injuries. But most of us are lazy creatures and don't do what we're supposed to (maybe I'm just projecting?). If the dentist can't convince you to floss regularly then it's safe to say your coach or healthcare providers may not be successful in getting you to do XYZ.

But when you're injured all of a sudden everything they say suddenly sinks in and you become Mr. Mobility. After you're healed up, you'll never want to suffer that injury again so you'll actually keep doing those stretches and drills.


2. You Promote Your Local Economy

This goes hand in hand with number 1. You actually set and KEEP appointments with your coach, massage therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, nutritionist, and whoever else you run to to heal your broken soul during an injury.

You may even keep the local ice cream parlor or coffee shop in business.


Regardless, you are the reason your town is thriving. Way to go! You are truly a god among mere mortals.


3. You Volunteer More

Or you should. If you're injured and can't compete, then I fully expect your butt to be in a chair, at a table, or helping coach at local (and national) meets. Seriously. You aren't dead to the community just because you can't snatch for the time being. Well, you may be dead to me but it isn't because you can't lift. It's just because I'm a jerk.

But seriously. If you don't volunteer for your organization, then you can't complain about anything. Even your injury. Ok, that isn't true, but just don't be a s**t human being. Our federations run on volunteers so give back even if it's for one session.

Jill Of All Trades at the first USAW meet on the Mississippi Gulfcoast, The GPX Open Presented By  Mississippi Barbell .

Jill Of All Trades at the first USAW meet on the Mississippi Gulfcoast, The GPX Open Presented By Mississippi Barbell.


Trust me, if I'm having to announce, do cards, side judge, and tell the loaders what color plates go on the bar, and I see you Instagramming in the crowd, I will despise you and probably call you out on the mic. Don't even try to tell me "You must be a horrible meet director for having to do all of those jobs at once." You try and grow a nonexistent sport in a state that never had it and get back to me. SOAPBOX SALLY.

4. You Get A Life

Hopefully you already had one. But 9/10, an athlete doesn't have one outside the gym. Then when they get injured they have an existential crisis and spend hundreds on counseling..... Wait, was that just younger Amber? Awkward.....

When you're injured you may start to try new activities you never had time for before. Reading, socializing (lololol what's that), trying new exercises that don't hurt you, cooking...whatever you kept avoiding. Maybe you even go on dates and look like a human. But as Shrek's Cousin, I wouldn't be able to advise you on that. HEY OH!

Shrek's Cousin washed her hair, went to Vegas, and saw Celine Dion like a 78 year old woman but hey--it still counts as a life.

Shrek's Cousin washed her hair, went to Vegas, and saw Celine Dion like a 78 year old woman but hey--it still counts as a life.


You could actually buy a suit and step back into the courtroom like a real attorney. Your parents will be really proud of you even if you have linebacker shoulders and have to have everything tailored.

5. You Create Hilarious Videos

This one is specific to me and I'm 99.99% sure I'm the only one who laughs at them but I needed another item on the list. And a way to shamelessly promote myself.

Enter: Team Infirmary Pro Tips. What started as a one time goof on an Instagram story has turned into daily therapy sessions for me. I just like to be as dark, troll-like, and hilarious as possible. Even when I'm healed I will forever be on Team Infirmary.


If you want to join me during your injury, post your own Team Infirmary Pro Tips on Instagram! Tag @sheppardstrength and #TeamInfirmary so I can see them. Fuel my ego and give me something to look at while I drink a glass of my own tears.

I post a new Tip daily @sheppardstrength on Instagram and combine a week's worth every Thursday for Pro Tip Thursday (on Instagram and Facebook). Add me as a friend so you don't miss out!

Did you learn something from this blog? Make sure to let us know in the comments or share it on your social media accounts.

Did you hate it? Let us know! Seriously. We're open to comments, criticisms, and any feedback. Extra points if you can make us cry or use a good meme.

Want to hear about a certain topic? Tell us! You can use our Contact Form or drop us an email. Don't be shy!

Inability To Outsource Could Lead Your Gym To Failure

Every gym owner feels his gym is the best on the block. That's not a problem; be proud of your work. But if you think you know everything & couldn't benefit from another set of eyes or ears then you're letting your ego stunt your growth as a coach. You are also stunting your athletes' growth.

Doctors bring in outside help all the time. An orthopedic surgeon isn't going to try to do brain surgery: he is going to call in a competent neurosurgeon ( I can't guarantee he will look like Derek Shepherd though).

If other professions call in hired guns when they need help, why can't some gym owners seem to pick up the phone and do the same? We explore that issue below and discuss why they can harm your facility.

1. Pride/Fear Of Failure

Some coaches want to be seen as infallible. They feel like they are looked down upon if they attend an event they aren't an expert in or ask for another coach's advice. That's the farthest thing from the truth. Anyone worth their salt would view asking for help when you need it as an attribute to being a successful coach, not a failure.

Knowing your limits as a coach doesn't mean you can't continue to hone and build your skill set. You want to bridge those limitation gaps with education & knowledge.

But if your athlete has outgrown your coaching level, be man (or woman) enough to find some help. There are certain athletes I could only help so much with where I was; in order to not hinder their growth as an athlete I helped find a new coach who could do more than I could at the time.

If you are just starting out and need help with your business model why wouldn't you seek counsel of someone who has done it before? There's a lot of trial and error in business ownership but by seeking guidance you can lessen the falls you have to take. When we first started Mississippi Barbell we had plenty of mentors, including 2004 US Olympic Coach Gayle Hatch.

Image Source: Daniel McKnatt

Image Source: Daniel McKnatt


Utilizing someone to do your day to day tasks like media posts or website content, just like you do for bookkeeping, can help free up your time to focus on coaching. Otherwise you'll burn out quickly and some things will fall through the cracks.

Don't let your ego stand in the way of your business.

2. Inability To Recognize Peers

Certain sports pride themselves on community. While that may be true for some businesses and athletes, it's not true for all. In towns with dozens of gyms a gym owner wants his to stand out. There's nothing inherently wrong with that.

But if you're a gym located in an area where there are experts in a field you aren't strong in, why wouldn't you learn from them? If an athlete wanted to become really great at ring work and your main focus is weightlifting, then you should help find them someone in the area who is great at gymnastics.

If your athletes have issues with the olympic lifts, then why wouldn't you team up with an organization that focuses on those? Either shadow their coaches or set up a clinic in your facility.

Listening to peers or offering your own advice (like seen here at Mississippi College School Of Law) helps grow the community

Listening to peers or offering your own advice (like seen here at Mississippi College School Of Law) helps grow the community


Either way, the coaches involved should be able to recognize the value of the other coach. There is an opportunity for both to learn in either situation. So long as they are professional they have an opportunity to have a "skull session". When coaches continually refuse to better their athlete then that athlete may leave their facility. That coach can then develop a reputation of being hostile.

3. Inability To Allow Current Staff To Grow

As a gym owner you should never discourage continuing education. While there should be an in house curriculum for your trainers, there are also many opportunities to learn and grow outside your walls.

If a coach asks to shadow you or another trainer in your facility I hope you've been saying yes. If not then you need to seriously ask yourself why you're in this field.

You can't be an expert at everything so don't discourage learning from someone else. And don't be upset if you refuse your potential staff and athletes shadowing opportunities and they go elsewhere.

A true leader will want their staff to grow and do better than they have. Seriously.

Shadowing International USAW Coach Danny Camargo, along with Tyler Smith, at my first National meet as a coach

Shadowing International USAW Coach Danny Camargo, along with Tyler Smith, at my first National meet as a coach


Stunt their growth and you'll find your coaches will be leaving you to form their own gyms. In some instances it may be inevitable but that doesn't mean they have to leave with the bridges up in flames. If you do your job right and earn your staff's respect and don't stunt their growth, then they will continue to represent your brand in a good light throughout their career. I still mention my high school coach and mentor (Chris Lachney) and it's been a hot minute since I studied under him.

Coaches lead their athletes by example. If you want your athletes to listen to you then you should be willing and able to listen to others. Outsource tasks that aren't necessary for you to do, allow them to seek help from other coaches in fields you don't excel at, and continue your own education yearly. Your members will thank you by staying and referring you to others.

Looking to shadow a coach or want to schedule an consultation? Email us at sheppardstrength@gmail.com and follow us on Instagram @sheppardstrength