GGS Spotlight: Pat Pope


Name: Pat Pope
Age:  53
Location: Ohio

How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
I seriously started strength training March of 2017. Before that, like 30 years ago, I used to work out with my brother who was into bodybuilding at the time, but I didn't stick with it. Then over the years I would, from time to time, take a Body Sculpting class — but again, only for a period of time. Otherwise, I was pretty sedentary.

However, in September 2016, I started walking and loved it. I was doing it several times a week, increasing my speed and distance over time, then eventually added in a video workout. I lost 23 pounds, but when I hit a plateau, I knew I needed something more and so I joined a gym and began strength training. To date, I’ve lost 59 pounds.

What does your typical workout look like?
Three to four days a week, I lift weights preceded by either the elliptical or treadmill. Two days a week I do a circuit class.

Favorite lift: 
I don’t have just one. I enjoy bench pressing and the deadlift, but I really enjoy pretty much anything where I can exert strength.

Most memorable PR:
Finally being able to do deep squats. In fact, I’ve moved from doing them with no weight, to using a wooden stick, to now using a barbell. This is a recent development and I’m proud of it. I can remember when I started out, marveling at people who could squat deep. I always felt so stiff and like I could only go so low, but with time and practice, I finally got there. Still working on perfecting it, but I’m a long way from where I started.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist: 
I don’t have a playlist. I live in my head, so I don’t listen to anything while I’m working out. Just me and my thoughts.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
A towel is a must as I sweat a lot and easily, a water bottle, and gloves.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I like a mix. I’m a solitary person, so I enjoy working out alone when I lift, but I do enjoy our circuit classes where usually one to three or four other people participate. While you are working out with other people, you’re each working on a specific exercise within that circuit alone, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds to me.

Most embarrassing gym moment:
Well, there’s been a couple, but one that my trainer and I still chuckle about is the day I overestimated the width of the seat on the little bench where you do shoulder presses, and I toppled right onto the floor. Thankfully, I didn’t have any dumbbells in my hand when I did it.

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
Being told that my weight loss and dedication has inspired someone. I’ve never thought about being an inspiration; I just set my mind to it and quietly got to work. That’s generally how I approach anything once I make my mind up to do something.

Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I told someone what good shape they were in and they shared how they’re always working to improve and their method for doing so. I found myself listening to her and really feeling inspired by the way that she shared and didn’t pump herself up.

Favorite meal: 
Hmmm… I can’t think of any one meal that I love, but I do love chocolate.

Favorite way to treat yourself: 
Shopping — clothes shopping in particular since my weight loss. It’s opened up a lot more options and is more enjoyable to me now. I have to actually contain myself because sometimes I want to buy all the clothes. But it’s not just the weight loss (I was buying new clothes months before I even started working out); it’s about indulging myself for a change after putting others before me for so long and also creating my own personal style as well as buying things that I want without others’ opinions about them.

Favorite quote: 
I tend to collect quotes and one that I’ve read recently was meaningful to me and reflects well where I am currently in life.

Know when to tune out, if you listen to too much advice you may wind up making other people's mistakes. — Ann Landers

Also, from On This Day on Facebook, is this post that I made four years ago, and it’s still true today:

“I heard a sermon last week on Luke 6:46-49 (the wise and foolish builders). The pastor said something to the effect that, ‘A house will be limited by its dimensions.’ So, I ask, how far are you willing to stretch your own mental and emotional dimensions to accommodate new ways of being and thinking?”

What inspires and motivates you? 
In terms of motivation, it would have to be my continued transformation, whether it’s in the area of weight loss, added strength, increased stamina, or just general self-improvement. Sometimes when I hear people ask about what to do when they’re lacking motivation, I would have to ask, “how big is your why?” In other words, the reason that  you do it. How big is it? How important is it to you? Does it drive you? Has your why become a non-negotiable? Those are things to consider when wondering about how to get or stay motivated.

What do you do? 
I’m an IT Analyst for a large insurance company. Mostly reporting and communications, so no, I cannot fix your computer.

What else do you do?
When I’m not working or at the gym, I enjoy going to the movies and reading.

Describe a typical day in your life:
I generally get up around 7:15 and am out the door to work between 8 and 8:15. I usually get in a lunchtime workout, then leave work around 4:30. After living with and caring for my mother for three years, I absolutely love and look forward to coming home to a quiet and peaceful house and I cherish my time alone. Evenings that I’m not at the gym usually consist of running any needed errands, cooking dinner, watching television, and catching up on Facebook including the GGS Strong Women Lift Each Other Up group.

Your next training goal:
Next is to master the front squat (I just started working on that), start incorporating some powerlifting, continue to increase strength, and lose at least another 22 pounds. Once I do that, I’ll determine whether or not I want to lose any more weight, but it will depend on how I look and feel. I also am working on building more muscle and decreasing body fat, so I’ll be cleaning up my diet a bit more.

For what are you most grateful?
It would have to be my personal freedom. Although I have always been a strong person, there were many times in my life I that I would just go along with something to appease others.

It feels good to put myself first and to live life on my own terms knowing that what I think and feel matters and it’s not dependent on others’ opinions.

We often have the power to do things, we just don’t utilize it or feel we need to ask permission or seek others’ validation first. In fact, sometimes the things people insist on you doing, are merely them projecting their own fears and insecurities onto you. Once you realize that, you can take in what others say but know that you have the final say as to how you live your life.

Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
It would have to be my weight loss. I’ve gotten there through a lot of dedication and hard work, and because I chose to do it and took the steps on my own to make it happen. It’s also been a time of self-discovery and dropping a lot of baggage, both physical and emotional.

Which three words best describe you?
Dedicated. Serious. Thoughtful.

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
Just seeing what my body can do. It’s neat to see the gains in strength and endurance. I can now do things that I previously didn’t see myself being able to do like deep squats, regular pushups, box jumps, or short warm-up jogs and seeing how the work I’ve been doing has paid off. It’s just like one day everything clicked and I was doing some of these things either for the first time or doing them better than before because of the gains I made in training.

Another side effect for me, is just the way I push past limits. I’ve spent a great deal of my life around some people who could be negative and easily defeated. In some ways, they could drain my energy.

For me, to push oneself past a perceived limit is empowering.

In fact, when I’m working out, I can often be heard saying, “Let’s go!” and it’s just my little pep talk to myself knowing there was a time that I would have held myself back because of my exposure to negative people in my life. That’s what worked for them — the easy way out. But that’s not who I am.

I’m a fighter and there have been times that I have literally been pushed so hard in workouts that I was on the brink of tears, but I kept going. There’s a lot to learn from that. I also feel more alive when I’m working hard.

On a lighter note, there’s also the cool side effect of having the cashier ask you if you need a cart when they see how many bags you’re carrying, but you don’t need it because you can carry them with little effort.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
Don’t be. I think it’s ingrained in a lot of women that lifting weights — and heavy weights at that — is a male thing, because traditionally it has been.

There’s no rule, and never has been, that women can’t lift weights. It’s just one of those things some have bought into without questioning it.

But women do not need to fear it. It’s all about what your goals are and training towards those goals. If you want to build muscle mass, you can do that. If you simply want to lose some weight and tone, you can do that. If you want to get into powerlifting or bodybuilding you can do that also.

Each one of these goals requires a different strength training regimen, so just simply lifting weights is not going to make a woman “huge,” “bulky,” or “like a dude”.  You can still be as feminine as you want to be. No one gets to define what that looks like for you, but you!

Do you struggle with body image? Have you ever…

  • Felt anxious about clothes shopping or wearing certain clothes?
  • Dreaded going to an event (like a reunion or a wedding) — or even skipped the event altogether — because you felt too self-conscious about how you looked?
  • Found yourself not wanting to be in pictures or videos, or hiding behind other people in the picture to shield your body?
  • Scrolled through social media and felt worse and worse as you went?

If these sound familiar to you, you are not alone.

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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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