GGS Spotlight: Cara Turnquist


caraturnquist-jump-yellow-450x384Name: Cara Turnquist
Age: 37
Location: Salem, OR

What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It means I am strong inside and out. I means that getting strong has bled into all aspects of my life. It means that I love my body for what it can do, not just what it looks like.

How long have you been training?
I have worked out for most of my life. My parents were both really active and instilled the habit in me early. When I was 5 my parents and I biked across the country to raise money for a cure for diabetes. It was an amazing experience that got me hooked on fresh air, heavy breathing and family. Since then, training has often been my social life, my stress relief, my home. Despite this, I probably didn’t start seriously lifting until about 5 years ago.

caraturnquist-squat-deadlift-450x338How did you get introduced to strength training?
I happened upon strength training by accident. I was in graduate school studying Feminist Anthropology in NYC. I worked all day, went to school at night and stumbled into bed each night with about four hours to sleep. I was exhausted, overreached and had started to fall asleep during my classes. There was a gym across the street from my school and I decided to start lifting weights between work and school to see if the adrenaline would keep me awake in class. It worked! Since my usual friends the treadmill and the elliptical were often taken, I started to make new friends with the weights.

I was hooked! I loved the way lifting made me feel. I started to see changes in my body. I definitely stayed awake and alert in class.

In fact, my time in that New York gym inspired me to write my Masters Thesis on women, body image and exercise.

What does a sample workout look like for you?
I really love using Jim Wendler’s  5-3-1. It gives me the consistency I like in my main lifts while also giving me a lot of freedom and variety in my accessory lifts. Most of my workouts look something like this:

  • Warm-Up: I foam roll the areas that feel sticky. I do some kind of hip opener and/or thoracic spine mobilization. I also do some PRI (Postural Restoration) exercises each time before I lift.
  • Set 1: Core and Power
  • Set 2: Main Lift/Animal Flow
  • Set 3: Accessory Movements


caraturnquist-tgu-450x338Favorite Lift:
The Turkish Get-Up! It’s like dancing with iron. This lift makes me feel so strong and feminine at the same time.

Most memorable PR:
When I deadlifted 275 pounds at the last Tactical Strength Challenge. I’m still chasing 300! 275 was a 25-pound PR and it felt so good!

Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
Because I train with a partner I don’t actually listen to music when I lift. When I run outside I think it’s really important to be tuned into no music there either. But I like to dance in the car to these songs:

  • "What a Man" - Salt and Peppa
  • "Who’s that Girl" - Rihanna
  • "Get Into the Groove" - Madonna
  • "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" - Whitney Houston
  • "Girl on Fire" - Alicia Keys

Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym/in your gym bag:
Chalk, lipgloss and a sassy outfit

caraturnquist-withjill-laughing-450x338Do you prefer to train alone or with a training partner? Why?
With a partner. I believe in training partners so strongly that my best friend, Jill, and I started a business, called Movement Duets. I love having her support while working out. I admit that we do spend a lot of the time giggling but we just count that as extra core work! I also like having gym dates with my husband. He usually does my programming for me. He is an extremely talented trainer. There is something incredibly sexy about how he tries to boss me around during my workouts.

Most hilarious pick-up line you’ve heard at the gym:
caraturnquist-withhusband-450x338Oh dear. I don’t get hit on much at the gym. However, I do like a little inappropriate flirting with my husband while I’m there. I’d say the most hilarious conversation we had was about the snatch...and how the more you clean, the better you snatch. Mature stuff right there, people.

Most embarrassing gym moment:
I was doing Stuart McGill’s helicopter exercise to train for the hammer throw in the Highland Games. An exercise Jill and I coined the Hammercopter. It is only a 6-pound ball at the end of a rope. It took me down...right in the middle of the gym...on a busy I’d been hit by a bus.

Favorite meal:
Paleo fried chicken cooked in coconut oil, and brussel sprouts.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
I have a crazy leggings addiction.

Favorite quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” — Marianne Williamson

caraturnquist-hiking-lagoon-450x338Favorite book:
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

What inspires and motivates you?
Nature. I know...I’m turning into a full-blown hippie in my old age! Hiking with my family can be one of the most inspirational things I do. I am so moved by the beauty of this world and my ability to experience it. I’m so proud of how protective my son is of this world.

The beauty and wildness of nature is the reason that I am so motivated to move and eat and naturally as I can.

What do you do?
I co-own and run an online training business, Movement Duets, with my best friend Jill McLean. We help moms move naturally, eat primally and take unapologetic ownership of their place in this world.

caraturnquist-groupworkout-pregnant-450x275Movement Duets is also a part of the Mid Valley Birth Network and The Stork's Nest, LLC, in which we host workshops on core and pelvic floor restoration and help women have strong healthy pregnancies and integrate back into lifting postpartum. We plan to eventually take these workshops to the web. I also work part-time as a chiropractic assistant helping people move more like humans!

What else do you do?
Oh gosh! Sometimes I hardly feel like I have time for hobbies anymore! I would say reading. I’m constantly asking my friends what they are reading and adding to my list. I usually have a few books going at once. My other hobbies include taking my son to sports practice, cuddling on the couch with my husband and hiking with friends.

caraturquist-husbandandson-450x338What does a typical day look like for you?  (From waking up to bedtime)
I just recently changed my routine. I really needed a change and started to focus more on really living a life that I was proud of and that served me. So, most of this is new to me. No more super early mornings and daily grind. I usually wake up without an alarm clock, this is usually between 6-6:30 each morning. I spend some time reading articles or my book. When my older son wakes up we usually go over some of his homework or work on a project together. At 8:30 I walk him to school. This just might be my favorite part of the day.

Three days a week I head off to work at a chiropractic clinic where I work as a mobility specialist and a personal trainer. On the days I work at the clinic I also lift in the evenings. The other days I have more freedom. Sometimes I will take the dogs to the park and run the hill. Sometimes I will head into the gym. Sometimes I will come home and write blogs and work on the website.

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from lifting heavy?
Confidence. When you lift heavy you can’t help but shift your focus away from how your body looks, to what it can do.

caraturnquist-pregnant-deadlift-450x338Next training goal:
Get that 300-pound deadlift!

Three words that best describe you:
Passionate, Idealistic, Audacious

What’s the best compliment you’ve received lately?
Someone stopped me in the grocery store the other day to tell me how much she liked my blog. When you write...and post, you often never know who is reading your stuff. Many of the people you reach you never even know about. It was really great for someone to take the time to come say thank you and tell me that my voice made a difference to her.

What’s the best compliment you’ve given lately?
I believe my exact words were “Holy crap, Jill!” My best friend had just given birth to her son, Jack, and I was in awe of how amazing she was. I had never seen anyone give birth before and it truly is a miracle, a marathon, a messy feat of strength.

What is a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
About a year ago I was working at a job that I knew I didn’t like, but suspected that the stress of it was also making me sick. I took a chance and quit my job to pursue my true strengths. It was the scariest thing I have ever done. I feel for the first time in years that I am truly living within my integrity. I am helping people move better. I am helping women feel more empowered within their own lives! I am spending more quality time with my sons.

Doing something so scary helped me find more peace and balance than I could have imagined.

caraturnquist-sons-450x282How has lifting weights changed your life?
If I had never picked up a heavy weight I might not have ever graduated from The New School, and I would never have moved to Seattle where I met my ex-husband at the gym, and I would have never had my beautiful sons. If I had never lifted weights I might not have had the self-esteem and confidence to leave a bad marriage. If I didn’t lift heavy I wouldn’t have met my husband and the other “family that I choose.” Time at the gym has always connected me to good people in my life.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start lifting heavy?
Don’t do it alone. Find someone who can help or mentor you as you get started! If you’ve already made it to GGS, you’re headed in the right direction!


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