sheppard strength

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?

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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: 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.

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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.