Babes & Barbells

By Sommer Brugal – April 1, 2017
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

Cristina Rodgers

Athlete at GRIT Strength and Conditioning & Hyde Park Gym

Cristina Rodgers decided to make a life change while sitting in the drive-thru at Taco Bell. Heeding a friend’s advice, she began lifting weights at Gold’s Gym.

“For nine months, five days a week, I did the only sets I knew how to do,” said Rodgers. Since then, she’s lost over 60 pounds from lifting weights at Gold’s Gym, CrossFit, Hyde Park Gym, and GRIT Strength and Conditioning.

Each gym helped her overcome hurdles along the way. Rodgers continues to lift at Hyde Gym and GRIT, where she attributes a great deal of her successes to Tye Pierpont and Stephanie Twohey, respectively. For those who are just starting out, she stresses the importance of finding a trainer who can push you.

When she began lifting, Rodgers’ food habits changed slightly. “But I quickly realized that to make big changes, I needed to break it all the way down before building it back up again.” In the process, she cut out sugar and dairy.

Looking back at her transformation, Rodgers notes that her perceptions on being fat have changed. “I used to think I was wrong [for being fat],” said Rodgers. “I used to spend a lot of time making myself feel bad for being big.” Now, Rodgers uses her experiences to support other women.

“I sometimes drop into an all-women’s class at GRIT,” said Rodgers, “and I make it a point to tell [other women] to be kind to themselves, to be patient, and to trust that they’ll get there.” For Rodgers, being around women actively trying to make a change is inspiring.

On a personal level, Rodgers is proud of how far she’s come. She says it’s nice to feel like she has something long-lasting—to feel comfortable in her skin.

Emily Ammon

Trainer at Austin Bouldering Project

Emily Ammon instructs the Liftin’ Ladies class at Austin Bouldering Project. The female-only class is an introduction to weightlifting, focusing on the necessary techniques and basic movements required before getting into heavy lifting.

Liftin’ Ladies meets weekly for four weeks, with each class building on the previous lesson. While the first class teaches basic movements like hip hinges, the next few classes incorporate moves like squats, bench presses, and accessory lifts. The final class teaches students how to build their own workout program.

Ammon, an avid weightlifter and former personal trainer, began climbing at a higher level than most. “A lot of my girlfriends who were new to climbing would ask me how I was able to excel so quickly,” she recalled. “When I told them it was because of lifting, many asked if I was willing to train them.” And that’s how the Liftin’ Ladies class was born.

Just last year, Ammon was lifting five to six times per week. Today, she lifts just three times weekly and climbs at ABP on her days off—a change she says she made for the better.

“When I was lifting alone, I was focusing a lot on myself and my appearance,” said Ammon. “It negatively affected my self-esteem.” Taking a step back and opting to help train those in the [ABP] community, not only changed her relationship with weightlifting, but also boosted her confidence.

When asked about the future of Liftin’ Ladies, Ammon is happy with where it is right now. “All I want is to hear from women in the class—and in the gym—that they knew what they were doing, why they were doing it, and that they felt comfortable seeing it through.”

Jen Shaw

Co-Owner and Women’s Fitness Coach at Travis County Strength

Jen Shaw wakes up every morning at 4:40 a.m. It’s an early wake-up call, but Shaw says it’s what she’s meant to do. “Everything that’s happened in my life has brought me to this point.”

Though Travis County Strength is a coed gym, Shaw only trains women. She decided to focus solely on females after noticing a general lack of motivation toward women in weightlifting environments. Shaw recalls that the first time she experienced that kind of support was at CrossFit—a feeling she yearned to share with other women when she founded TCS. The rewards of doing so, Shaw says, have been abundant.

“Women are connectors,” Shaw described, “and [through my work] I get to be connected with powerful, amazing women.” Shaw’s classes welcome all fitness levels into a special environment that’s inclusive, safe, and comfortable.

After a year of hearing requests for a women’s weekly lifting class, Shaw launched TCS’s Women Weightlifting Crew this past February. She wanted to prove that lifting with women is just as powerful, if not more so, than lifting with men.

“It was created to invite ladies from all over town to lift together,” Shaw explained. To her surprise, the class was well received. The first four-week session sold out in three days and is sold out through April.

When asked about the future, Shaw has no plans to shake things up—she likes where WWC is. The only additions she hopes to roll out are pre- and post-natal lifting classes, though. “Right now, we’re just having fun.”

Linda Saucedo

Athlete at CrossFit Jääkarhu

Linda Saucedo began powerlifting in high school, but by the time she was in her early 20s, her fitness routine had shifted to long runs around Lady Bird Lake. After bumping into a friend who trained at a CrossFit gym, Saucedo decided to give weightlifting another try.

“I had never snatched or done a clean and jerk before,” she laughed, “but I was so interested [in CrossFit] that I signed up after my first class.” Saucedo says her goals quickly shifted from running long distances to becoming the strongest girl at her gym.

Saucedo now trains five times per week, resting on Thursdays and Sundays. She also works with a gymnastics coach and makes a point to focus on personal goals and growth in her own time by fitting in extra workouts at her home gym.

To further improve her performance, Saucedo keeps a strict diet. She eats three ounces of protein, three ounces of rice noodles, and as many vegetables as she can two hours prior to hitting the gym; she repeats the same meal forty-five minutes following her workout.
For Saucedo, CrossFit is more than just a place to work out. The gym has not only opened the doors for weightlifters to have a space to grow and train, but it has also enabled women to change perceptions surrounding weightlifting—a movement Sauceda is proud to be a part of.

Despite her growth, Saucedo says it’s taken four years to get to where she is today. “I’m about 20 pounds heavier in muscle mass [than when I started working out], but I’m still nowhere close to where I want to be.”

At the end of the day, Saucedo loves her strength. She uses challenges—mental and physical—as motivation to move forward. “Sometimes, it’s just about getting to the gym and committing yourself to the workout.”



Related Articles