Name: Mandy Farnham
Location: Iberia, Missouri
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
Being a Girl Gone Strong means I was strong enough to stop what I was doing before and change my thinking. Lifting heavy amounts of iron has been a life-changing experience for me. I spent so many years being like so many other women out there: doing what we thought was right and trying every diet; believing that cardio was the only way to lose weight. I was on the path to letting my daughters start seeing the negative side effects to all of it. I had poor self-esteem when it came to my body. I always thought I was too fat.
Now I am strong enough and confident enough to lead by example for my daughters and hopefully be a positive role model to others.
How long have you been training?
I have been doing heavy strength training for a little over a year. I was probably “doing it wrong” for about six years before that.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how has it changed your life?
A friend from college introduced me to Tosca Reno and the Eat Clean Diet about seven years ago. I finally felt like I was on the right track. I got some dumbbells and a Jillian Michael’s video and tried to stay motivated. I lived along a gravel road and walked and ran my little heart out. However, I was a single mom at the time and motivation was hard to come by. As a result, I was never consistent on my progress.
In 2010, I met Scott who had been lifting weights for over 20 years. Even though he tried to help me see what I was doing wasn’t working, I refused to listen. I kept doing it my way and putting a lot more emphasis on cardio. I was definitely a “Cardio Queen!” In January 2013, I had our son, and I weighed in at over 180 pounds. I was on a weight loss roller coaster. I was still obsessed with cardio, and I was eating a lot of carbs. I was miserable.
Finally Scott had enough of my whining. I stomped my feet and crossed my arms in August 2014 and started listening to him. I started full-body-compound movement-I-will-learn-to-love-squats training. Darn it! Would you believe it? It worked! I learned to eat carbs in a way that worked for me, not against me. I learned that lifting heavy weights burned fat right off of me. I am definitely hooked. I can’t believe how much I love lifting. I have lost over 20 pounds, and I have no idea how much muscle I have gained.
I am in the best shape of my life. And the mental shift is more than I ever bargained for. Eating crow wasn’t that bad.
What does a sample workout look like for you?
We had been doing an “Old School” workout similar to Paul Anderson, Ernie Franz and Reg Park-style workouts: compound movements, three days a week. Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Repeat. We started using Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program at the beginning of November, and so far we are loving it!
Love to Bench!
Most memorable PR:
135-pound Bench Press. Having a plate on each side and seeing it coming up from my chest was awesome!
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
Our gym is right outside our back door. So I wouldn’t know what to do without...
Do you prefer to train alone or with a training partner? Why?
We are a family that trains together! I am honestly not sure how I would begin to train alone. Scott and I train with our daughters. Addison, our 11-year-old, competes with us. Allison, our oldest at 13, is into basketball. She just finished her ball season and is back to training with us. Even our 2-year-old son, Coyer, grabs a broomstick handle, puts it on his shoulders and starts squatting! It is hard to whine and want to quit when your family is out there being awesome! Even with all the distractions we seem to endure, I love our family training time.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
“I love your hair!” a random lady said to me at one of my daughter’s ballgames.
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
One of my co-teachers is expecting a baby any day. I think she looks awesome, and I try to tell her that often!
Most embarrassing gym moment:
I hate when I end up grunting when I lift, especially at a competition. I feel like I am back in the delivery room when I delivered my kids naturally.
Healthy answer –Steak, baked potato and a good salad.
Honest answer – Biscuits and gravy, bacon, fried eggs and hash browns.
Favorite way to treat yourself:
A cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera
“The real things haven’t changed…it is still best to be honest and truthful, to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures and have courage when things go wrong.” Laura Ingalls Wilder
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I could read it every year and get something new out of it.
What inspires and motivates you?
My family! My husband, Scott is passionate about lifting and he is passing that love on to us. He is 51 years old and squats over 600 pounds! He is setting World Records in the American Powerlifting Association. I am fascinated watching strong people! My daughters do the same thing. At our first meet, Addison set World Records in her division. She was a little beast. Allison has a dedication to school work and sports that just floors me. She always tries to do her best. Coyer is not quite three, but he is pretty big motivation to be a fit mom. I may never set any world records, but my family is amazing.
What do you do?
I teach fourth grade in my hometown at the same school I attended!
What else do you do?
I am getting ready to take my final exam to become a Certified Personal Trainer! I am continuing on after that to earn an Associate’s Degree in Exercise Science. I love teaching, but I want to keep my options open and be able to help other people.
What does a typical day look like for you, from waking up to bedtime?
5:00 Up and enjoy quiet time with Scott and coffee.
6:00 Get kids get up and start on morning chores.
7:30 Out the door and headed to work.
8:00 Teach tomorrow’s future.
4:30 Leave work and pick up Coyer at daycare.
6:30 Fix dinner and hanging out with the family
9:00 Lights out!
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from lifting heavy?
I used to hate looking in the mirror. It was a reminder of all my flaws. Now it is cool to look in the mirror and notice all the changes my body is going through. I find more muscles coming out in my arms, back and legs.
It is fascinating to see what training does to your body.
Your next training goal:
I am going to have a 600-pound+ total at a competition—soon!
Here's Mandy deadlifting 225 pounds at a recent powerlifting competition:
What are you most grateful for you in your life?
I am most grateful for my husband. Scott is truly my best friend and has changed my life in a way I can’t describe. I think I spent a majority of my life trying to please everyone but myself. He helped me see something different. He showed me how to put myself first. This has made us very strong partners in marriage, in training, and in work. Life is hard sometimes. I am just thankful that I have someone to help me see through the drama of everyday life.
What life accomplishment are you most proud of thus far?
My three children. I could not be more proud to be their mother. I work in a job where you see kids growing up in some pretty bad situations. I try hard to be a good mother to my kids and not be their friend. I am so glad they are training with us because I want them to learn how to be strong young women and help prepare them for a great future. Coyer is just a blessing. He has helped me to slow down and appreciate how fast life goes. He has a great role model in his daddy and I am excited for the young man he will become (and the weight he is going to lift).
Three words that best describe you:
Tell us about a time when you overcame fear or self-doubt, and how it turned out:
Learning to squat. There were several times that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get low enough. The weight intimidated me horribly. It took a lot patience and perseverance to get through it. I am squatting around 170 pounds now—double the weight I started with.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training?
Believe in yourself that you can do it! I think we tend to forget as women how strong we are and what we are capable of. We owe ourselves the healthiest life possible. I know how hard it is to feel that you have to take care of everyone first and yourself last. I just wish women understood how worth it they are and to stop being so hard themselves. Put yourself first and put some weight on your back!
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