sports performance

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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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.

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).

Enjoy!



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!


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