GGS Spotlight: Amy Harski

By GGS
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amyharski-297x375Name:   Amy Harski
Age:  31
Location:  Irvine, CA

What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
To me, being a Girl Gone Strong means that I don’t live my life by anyone else’s standards. I choose what I do because I enjoy it and it’s rewarding to me,  not because I feel like I need to based on the silly propaganda in some women’s magazine.

How long have you been training?
I’ve been athletic my whole life.  I was a gymnast from ages 6-16 and then pole-vaulted until I graduated from college. I did some weight training with the track team in college, but never really learned to lift properly until I became a personal trainer 5 years ago.

What does a sample workout look like for you?
Admittedly, I don’t follow much of a program because I’m not training for anything specific right now.

I work out because I enjoy it and pick what I feel like doing that day.

I usually warm-up with some animal flow and activation drills, then squat or deadlift, do some single leg and upper body strength work, and maybe finish with a short met-con (interval training) depending on my mood.

I like to play around with new movements and teach my body to do new things. I also do Fitwall workouts 2-3x a week and will play ultimate Frisbee if I get a chance.

Favorite Lift:Snatch (barbell, although I like kettlebell and dumbell varieties as well)

Most memorable PR:
64 kg snatch. I also did a 203-pound one-handed kb deadlift the other day that I was pretty pleased with.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
I don’t have one. I only bring an iPod on the rare occasions I go on a run and then I just steal my husband’s and listen to his old playlists from like 2008.

Since I’m usually working out with other people I don’t tend to wear headphones. Plus, I’m remarkably good at getting caught up in the wires if I try to.

amyharskisquat-450x302Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym/in your gym bag:
As long as I have a hair tie that’s really all I need. And clothes, I guess. I imagine it would be hard to deadlift heavy with a breeze on one’s nether regions. Those are hard to forget though because I live in gym clothes.

Do you prefer to train alone or with a training partner? Why?
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I like to zone out and not talk to anyone when I train, but most of the time I prefer to workout with my husband (hopefully he reads this – he thinks I don’t like to listen to him) and brother-in-law.

It’s just more fun to train when you have someone to joke around with and/or get ideas from. Unfortunately, I haven’t really had a female training partner since I moved away from St. Louis.

Most hilarious pick-up line you’ve heard at the gym:
My favorite recent one was actually a non-pick-up disclaimer:  “I’m sorry I keep staring at you.  I wanted you to know that I’m not being perverted. You’re just very strong. It’s really impressive.”

What's the most recent compliment you've received?
Unfortunately, bro at the gym yesterday told me I had an amazing body. I need to step up my “don’t talk to me face" game.

What's the most recent compliment you've given?
My most commonly given-out compliment is on snazzy tights which I am a big fan of, but the most recent training-related I’ve given compliment was to a girl at 24 Hour who was putting up some good weight on a deadlift.

Favorite meal:
Plantains fried in coconut oil with maple chicken sausage and over-easy eggs. It’s like candy.

amyharskidrag-on-sand-450x300Favorite way to treat yourself:
Walk on the beach or lay in the sun and read a book.

Favorite quote:
The best way to cheer yourself is to try and cheer someone else up.” - Mark Twain. Really, most anything Mark Twain has said. He is endlessly witty and amusing.

Favorite book:
Jane Eyre. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I’ve read it like 8 times.

What inspires and motivates you?
I don’t have any big external motivator. Mostly, I just want to stay healthy and enjoy life.

What do you do?
I work for a small studio-based fitness concept called Fitwall. I have a training background but currently I'm working in franchise relations and support.

What else do you do?
I enjoy creative pursuits in general. I dabble in photography and like making things like crazy halloween costumes. I also enjoy spending time outdoors hiking, going to the beach, or even just laying in the sun. Any time I can just curl up and read a good book I’m happy as well.

amyharski-fitwall-450x300What does a typical day look like for you?  (From waking up to bedtime)
That is a hard one. I tend to be a very regimented person, but my job at the moment demands a lot of flexibility.

I work for a fitness startup called Fitwall,  so one of my biggest struggles lately has been trying to figure out how to be flexible but also take care of my own needs. That being said, my day could go something like this:

• 6:00-6:30am:  wake up (usually no alarm) If my husband is still at home, harass him and steal his coffee.  If I’m working from home, quick jog on the beach and jump in the ocean to wake up. If I’m at the office that day I’m probably already in the car.

• 7:15ish Breakfast!

• 7:45ish to 12:30ish: Work. I’m either on the computer or teaching classes at the gym.

• 12:30ish: Lunch!

• 1:30 to 7pm: more work

• Somewhere between those times depending on my schedule that day: take an hour break for a workout (usually either 10am or 3pm-ish)

• 7:30ish: Dinner! Then hang with the hubby, relax, watch TV or read a book.

• 9:30 Bedtime. I like my sleep.

Yes, the whole day is heavy on the ish

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from lifting heavy?
My butt, if this is even possible, sticks out some more.

Next training goal:
40kg get-up and an archer pull-up. Maybe since I just wrote that I will actually train for them.

Tell us about a time when you faced fear or doubt, how it turned out, and what you learned from it.
When I was 23 I was set up to teach English for six months at a school in Caracas, Venezuela. About a month before I was supposed to leave I stopped hearing back from the school — no emails, phone, nada. I had been very excited about the trip (albeit a little nervous, given that I would be there by myself and my Spanish was less than awesome), but when I was unable to get in contact with the school I started to worry and questioned my decision to go.

I already had my plane ticket and work visa, however, and I just though to myself “When am I ever going to be able to do this again? What’s the worst that can happen? If I just show up at the school I’m sure they’ll let me work there… ” So, without telling my mother or anyone else that I had no point of contact upon my arrival I got on the plane and headed for Caracas.

Luckily, once I arrived and found the school (a whole story in itself) they did know who I was and expected me. Apparently the woman who coordinated the program for foreign teachers had been on vacation for the last month, and no one had been tasked with answering her emails or phone calls in her absence. Venezuelans take their vacation seriously, and responsibilities less so.

It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. Venezuelans are very friendly people, and they embraced me whole-heartedly. I had more adventures and interesting escapades than I can recount and greatly improved my Spanish skills, to boot. In the end, I would say the biggest takeaway for me is that if the idea of some pursuit excites you and makes you feel alive, sometimes you just have to go for it and trust that you can make it work. And if not, really what’s the worst that could happen?

Three words that best describe you:
Creative. Genuine. Goofy.

How has lifting weights changed your life?
I can’t say that lifting weights has caused any giant life metamorphosis, as I’ve always worked out in some capacity and been strong and capable.

However, I think it’s helped shape the trajectory of my life by giving me the tools to remain fit and healthy and the know-how to adapt my training to whatever my circumstances and needs are at the time.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training?
It may seem intimidating if you’ve never lifted before, but getting started is the hardest part. Find someone who knows what they’re doing to teach you and take baby steps if you need to.

I promise you, the first time you pick up a weight you initially thought was impossibly heavy your excitement will be through the roof and you’ll be so grateful that you made the decision to start on this journey.

The confidence and power that come from being physically strong have a remarkable capacity to translate into other areas of your life.

Feeling inspired?

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About the author:  GGS

GGS is an organization dedicated to empowering women. We do this by creating world-leading resources, and educational materials that help women, and health & fitness professionals who work with women, take their skills and knowledge to the next level.

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