GGS Spotlight: Maria Lara


Name: Maria Lara
Age: 42
Location: San Antonio, TX

What does it mean to you to be part of the GGS Community?
Girls Gone Strong is an amazing and diverse community of ladies I’m proud to be a part of. There are so many different types of ladies on their own journey, and we can support and cheer each other on. Having like-minded friends and support is always great to have.

How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
I have been strength training on and off since I was in middle school. For several years in my 20s, during college, a friend and I were consistent enough to lose some weight, but we didn’t maintain it, and soon parted ways.

Around 2009 I discovered kettlebells, and I was amazed by this incredible tool. I tried to use it with little instruction, but I knew something wasn’t right because it would make my back hurt. In 2013, I was in introduced to Lean & Lovely by (GGS co-founder) Neghar Fonooni. This beautifully muscular lady had created a program for ladies with my new favorite tool! I was hooked and happy to have proper instruction.

Shortly after, I was curious how many other strong ladies there were out there using kettlebells. I ran across Artemis Scantalides, StrongFirst Team Leader, and followed her for a bit before subscribing to her workouts. Everything then became StrongFirst, and I learned more about the organization.

In summer 2017 I asked Artemis if she thought I could do the Tactical Strength Challenge with StrongFirst in October. She said, “Maria, YES!” She wrote a program for me, and in less than 12 weeks I increased my deadlift by 50 pounds!

My husband and I drove down to Hardstyle KBJJ owned by my friend, Hector Gutierrez, Senior SFG, in Corpus Christi, TX. That day was magical because I felt the support and camaraderie of the StrongFirst instructors and students around me and was ready for more! I remember filling out the “Athlete Form” thinking I’ve never been an athlete in my life! Hector said, “You’re an athlete now!”

A few short weeks later I had the pleasure of meeting Karen Smith, StrongFirst Chief SFB, Master SFG, at the one-day kettlebell course in Austin. I had a blast and learned so much. I knew I had to pick a date for my certification and go for it.

Working with both Artemis and Karen, with additional help from Hector and other SFGs, I’ve been training for my kettlebell instructor certification for almost a year, as I prepare for the weekend of December 7-9, 2018 in Dallas.

What does your typical workout look like?
Warm-up with T-spine and lat mobility, foam rolling. Kettlebell get-ups, swings, presses, cleans, squats, and snatches in some variation. A few other exercises to increase strength and endurance.

Favorite lift:
Kettlebell swings and deadlifts.

Most memorable PR:
231-pound deadlift (105 kg) in October 2017 at the StrongFirst Tactical Strength Challenge.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
No specific songs, but usually Tiesto, Depeche Mode, Ricky Martin, Prince, with a little comedy from Gabriel Iglesias and Bill Engvall.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
Water, music, and chalk.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I train alone at home. I’ve gotten used to it and it helps me focus. If I have everything I need at home, I don’t have to drive to the gym, and I can train anytime.

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
I am seeing a chiropractor for an old childhood back injury that flared up. He was checking my movement and asked me to squat. He asked, “Do you have any weight training background or anything? Because you have great squat technique!”

Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
“That color looks good on you,” to a random person at the grocery store.

Favorite meal:

Favorite way to treat yourself:
Massage, pedicure, and relaxing.

Favorite quote:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”
“Love each other.”
“Do to others as you would like them do to you.”

Favorite book:
The bible.

What inspires and motivates you?
My family, friends, other badass ladies.

What do you do?
Neurology research at a military hospital. We work with service members who have had a traumatic brain injury to try to improve their quality of life post injury.

What else do you do?
I love food, eating and cooking, but I’ve always enjoyed baking. I love dogs; they are my kids. I also enjoy crochet and other creative things.

Describe a typical day in your life:
Get up, get dressed, pack lunches for my husband and myself, cook us a quick breakfast, then off to work. After work, home to cook dinner. I like to plan out my meals every two weeks so I can speed things up. I train in the evenings after dinner is done.

Your next training goal:
To earn my SFG certification.

For what are you most grateful?
My family, friends, and my relationship with the Lord.

Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
I value education, so anything I’ve learned, whether formally or informally.

Which three words best describe you?
Caring. Thoughtful. Tenacious.

How has lifting weights changed your life?
I can do more things, and I have better endurance. My husband asks me to help him lift things like his kayak. It hangs on the wall when not in use, so it takes two to hang it and take it down.

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
Just being stronger is pretty cool! Feeling that kayak getting lighter.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
Find a good instructor and learn basic movements first. You certainly don’t want to get injured. Strength is awesome, but it’s important to do it safely.

Don’t be afraid to try. I’ve often shocked myself when I looked at the weight and thought, “I wonder if I can lift that?”

Once you’re comfortable with the movement, pick up something challenging. It won’t do much if it’s not heavier than your purse. And most of all, enjoy the stronger version of you!

You can connect with Maria on her Facebook page!

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