Name: Jaya Dixit
Location: Calgary, AB (Treaty 7 Indigenous territory)
What does it mean to you to be part of the GGS Community?
I want to be part of a movement — a collective of powerful and change-seeking women who want a better world, and who embrace strength training as a metaphor for so many other things in life and society. Women in this group are truly showing up for one another — with advice, empathy, humor, inspiration, constructive discussion, and solidarity.
Like anyone else, I’ve faced and am still facing my fair share of challenges (injury, weird ideas about body image and training intensity, etc.), but I really see GGS as a brave space for support, evidence-based information and progressive ideas around the infinite number of ways a woman be can “be” in the world.
The more I learn and feel my way through the strength and fitness space (online and in real life), the more I realize the value of this community for normalizing challenges and pushing forward complex conversations. What can’t women achieve when we come together?
How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
My first steps in to a “real” gym were at age 15. I was becoming more serious about sport (field hockey), and I had a great friend who showed me around the gym, shared great knowledge about basics, and encouraged me to explore that physical edge. Within few years, I was shifting from strictly-for-fun movement into more sports-driven training. Being a student-athlete brought opportunities to train with great CSCSs, and to test my mettle.
Twenty years later, my body and my movement look really different, because, so does my life! A lot of my journey through strength work since then has been a process of un-learning that unrelenting, regimented way of training, and making more space for instinct and fun along the way.
What does your typical workout look like?
Right now, my singular focus is to rehabilitate and rebuild my body, eight months after giving birth for the third time. Nothing feels better and more important than taking the opportunity to re-evaluate and improve every foundational motion, right down to (and especially) breathing with integrity to power those movements.
This just involves asking myself a simple question: “What would make me feel awesome today?” Lately that looks like invigorating hill walks, climbing a huge staircase to a fabulous rocky mountain vista (the other kind of “Stairway to Heaven”), or doing some deep water fitness in a warm therapy pool. Six months ago, my typical workout consisted of three 10-minute walks around my neighbourhood. I’m thrilled with where I am at, and excited for where I’m headed!
After so many years of using food and training in ways that did not make me happier, healthier or more in touch with my spirit, I’m finally in this cool mental space where I’m through with chasing a particular body shape or workout. I’m all about chasing the great workout feelings — the movement that gets me there naturally fits where I am at. If and when I take up heavy lifting again, I want all of my fundamentals to be rock solid.
Clean and press, goblet squats, chin-ups.
Most memorable PR:
Other than birthing three beautiful, healthy humans? I’d have to go with maxing out at 13 proper chin-ups one year at training camp.
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
- Bad Girls, MIA
- Rock the Casbah, The Clash
- Rebellion, Arcade Fire
- Vicarious, Tool
- Human After All, Daft Punk
Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
My whole exercise experience is really stripped down. When I’m lifting, I often train in my basement, where just some chalk, water, oxygen and grit do me just fine.
I love leftover salads. This is a kind of jumbled up meal made by mixing up the better-next-day leftovers, throwing them over some crunchy greens, and drizzling over a fresh dressing that just lifts and enhances every latent flavour to a new level. Bonus points if there is any kind of crispy potato involved.
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Late-night baking in the company of a fantastic playlist.
“The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.” — bell hooks
Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa.
What inspires and motivates you?
Older folks! I absolutely love sharing fitness spaces with seniors. They’re some of the most committed, sustainable movers out there. So many of them show up with the most beautiful balance of serious and fun. They don’t take any of this fitness stuff too seriously, but they are incredible role models to me — people who move for the joy and privilege of moving!
What do you do?
I have three sweet little humans, so my primary work is to love, nurture and care for them.
My paid work draws on my education is in political science and sociology, and training in conflict resolution. I work as an advisor to graduate students facing complex or difficult issues that impact their academic success or progress. It is such privilege to meet with and support students from all of the world.
I also keep one toe in the research world, contributing to qualitative (mostly sociological) research about (visual) discourses of health and food, and projects of self-improvement.
What else do you do?
Raising three little kids in a town just a stone’s throw from the Rocky Mountains means snatching up every chance to escape to mountain summits, glacial waters, and explore winter wonderlands.
Your next training goal:
Increasing the vigor of my movement! I’m loving the exercise I’m doing right now, and I am slowly and steadily working my way toward lifting closer to my threshold in the next year or two. Six months ago, my threshold was just a dozen or two minutes of walking every day. Today, I’m stretching back into a regular yoga practice, treading up ever steeper inclines, and exploring where “what feels good today?” will take me.
For what are you most grateful?
The sheer, dumb luck of being born into an amazing family, in a great country.
Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
Re-discovering my curiosity. Talking comes naturally to me, but listening — real, soulful, engaged listening — is something I have been cultivating with great intention and purpose in the past few years. I am always striving to be a more patient, empathetic listener, but to take in words and the world without judgment or assumption has brought me a sense of connection to people, with whom I might have otherwise felt completely at odds.
Which three words best describe you?
Striving. Empathetic. Optimistic.
How has lifting weights changed your life?
We face resistance and challenges, no matter the path we walk. Strength training is a perfect venue to practice coming face to face with all kinds of big stuff: transformation, resistance, power, breath and heart, and (dis)belief. That amazing sensation of transcending an imagined limitation — pushing or pulling something heavier than you believed possible — talk about feeling transformed!
Now that I’ve experience that sensation, I feel that I’ve stepped into this awesome alternate dimension, and suddenly anything feels possible. This whole physical practice is a moving metaphor, and even abstaining from exercise during periods of injury has taught me so much you can learn and grow during seasons of rest and stillness. Some of my greatest lessons in self-love and acceptance have come from necessary breaks from the iron.
Lifting and moving gives me the space and chance to turn every contrived dichotomy inside out, and upside down.
You can push against weight, or you can push into it. You can master something outside of your own body, but struggle against the body itself. It’s such an amazing metaphor for how we can lean in — just enough to keep something in motion, but still assert something powerful.
Kettlebells in particular are amazing to think of as an extension of the body — they aren’t something to work against, but through. When I think of the implement (barbell, dumbbell, etc.) as an extension of my own body moving in space, notions of separateness, division, antagonism, conflict become illusions, and resistance fades into flow.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
To move the body against resistance (water, gravity, iron, itself), is to train the mind, heart and body to face resistance in life — and ultimately, to decide how you want to show up in those moments. I’ve encountered dark corners and bright lights within myself, come face to face with demons, traveled to a brighter brain space. Those moments when you go beyond yourself and what you know — so much movement through such a small range of motion.
The most practical application of these awesome side effects was childbirth! Years of strength training gave me the tools to commit to work and rest across contractions (functional interval training!), to keep my mind still, my will strong and my belief in myself absolute.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
Strength training has really facilitated (for me) a mindset and a zone that challenges every bogus stereotype about women and sets the stage for us to create a new narrative of strength, power, grace, integrity, mastery, and individuality. You get to decide how, when, why, what, where and with whom.
Moving your body in the way that best expresses you — your abilities, strengths, passions, moods — is a radical act of self-determination.
It is a way to re-possess your rights: to define your gender, to freedom of movement, and joy, health and strength on your own terms.