GGS Spotlight: Polly Hawver


Name: Polly Hawver
Age: 36
Location: Olympia, WA

How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
Ten years. I was never athletic and I have been somewhere on the fat spectrum most of my life. My family was working class and there was always more important things in life than exercise.

My experience was limited to PE in school, and I absolutely hated it. It wasn’t until I was much older and I realized that there are many different ways to move my body. Because I was bigger, I knew I was strong and I thought it might be fun to try weightlifting. I joined a local gym known for its meatheads and I was immediately hooked!

I could deadlift over 200 pounds pretty easily and that made me feel proud of my body. I gained confidence almost immediately.

It has completely changed the way I view my body. For the first time my body was celebrated for being larger. It has changed who I am forever.

What does your typical workout look like?
I have been struggling lately to stay motivated (it happens to all of us!) I am learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so I show up to the gym and attend classes. I also just reintroduced the 100 swings in 5 minutes. I’m telling myself that I always have 5 minutes and I’m being gentle with myself as I fall in and out of a routine.

Favorite lift: 
Turkish get-up.

Most memorable PR:
I’ve achieved many PRs I’m proud of, but when I completed my StrongFirst kettlebell certification, we had to complete 100 snatches in 5 minutes. This was something I never thought I would be able to achieve. I ended up submitting my test via video because I didn’t get it during the certification weekend. I have never worked so hard physically in my life. It was a HUGE accomplishment!

Top 5 songs on your training playlist: 
Mostly cheesy metal music: Metallica, Def Leppard, Faith No More, System of a Down. Super dude music.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
Music! I can do without anything else but if I don’t have music I am pretty uninspired.

Most embarrassing gym moment:
I think just being new and not knowing what I was doing. I felt pretty awkward until I hooked up with a training partner who could show me the ropes.

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
I am told often that I make a difference for my clients and that is the greatest compliment I could ever receive. They mean the world to me and I feel so fortunate to be able to empower them to being more powerfully themselves.

Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I practice appreciation often. I thank people consistently for showing up, being authentic, being kind. I genuinely appreciate most people on some level.

Favorite meal: 
Ice cream — not a meal but my favorite food hands down.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
Turning off my phone.

Favorite quote: 

“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final” — Rainer Maria Rilke

Favorite book:
Everything by Pema Chödron — it saved my life quite literally.

What do you do? 
I am a strength & life coach. I’ve been a coach informally for what seems like forever. Growing up I knew I wanted to be in a role of service, it just took until age 32 to decide exactly how I wanted that to look.

I became interested in strength coaching for LGBTQ and larger-bodied individuals because they were communities I was a part of and both are groups I consider to be underrepresented in fitness and health communities.

I have always rejected the notion that strength training was for those looking to change their bodies, make them more stereotypically attractive or to fit in the confines of our society's boxes.

I love coaching individuals both in strength and life. My approach is one of insight, play and compassion and little bit of no bullshit. I am not a hardass — that’s never been me. I have learned that I make an impact when I show up authentically as who I am. I am sort of like a koala drag queen.

I want to see you show up fully, in your power, embodied, living a fulfilling life. That’s what I strive to create with my clients. I’m not interested in six packs or competition. Life is short and I try to focus on what really matters.

What would you do if you couldn’t fail? Who would you be? What impact would you have? That’s what matters to me.

What else do you do?
I love traveling with my family. I am learning to play the guitar and practicing BJJ. I love hiking with my hiking club and exploring the PNW. I love being in the mountains, away from people and technology. I love seeing things I’ve never seen before.

Describe a typical day in your life:
Wake up obscenely early (4:30 a.m.), meet with clients, rest a bit, catch a BJJ class, come home and have dinner and hopefully be in bed by 8:00 p.m!

Your next training goal:
I’d love to learn how to successfully do all the rolls (forward, backward and each side!) in BJJ and maybe someday a cartwheel!

For what are you most grateful?
So many things! I had a mother who worked very hard to make sure I had enough, my amazing clients, my wife, my resilience, my playful spirit, my rescue pup,

Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
I experienced a traumatic event and I kicked ass to heal and make peace with the situation. It is still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

To this day when something feels hard I always look back on that situation and I know I am strong enough to do anything and to do it with a gentle open heart. It’s made me who I am today.

Which three words best describe you?
Insight. Play. Light.

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
No more back pain (seriously!) and moving through the world with my head high, literally and figuratively.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training.
I don’t understand being nervous about getting stronger. Being a badass and taking up space and owning your power is literally what you’re here to do. You do no one any favors being playing small and trying to take up less space on this planet.

This world needs you to own your strength. Now more than ever.

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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