Blog 40 – FORTY! 

Blog 40 – FORTY! 

I probably start every 10 blogs out by stating, “when I started writing these, I didn’t think I would make it to X blogs.” And yet here we are again! FORTY!

Since this is clearly a special occasion, a blog-iversary if you will, I’ll save you from another blog about Fall Goals (but seriously talk to your coach, check out the goal pole, etc.), and instead I’ll go back to one of my favorite dead horses – REST, BABY!!!!!

If you were fortunate enough to check the website on Tuesday or show up for Group Strength on Wednesday, you may have had a mini freak out/fit of rage/any other “WTF, Nigel?” meme-worthy reaction at the thought of squatting for 20 reps (It’s going to be ok). But before I get back on my soapbox of rest, let’s take a minute to reflect on all of the things that the return to programmed strength cycle signifies:

  • Normalcy/regularity
  • Some sort of guarantee (albeit not exactly in our control) that we will be in the gym, lifting heavy shit for the foreseeable future – a special thank you should again be passed out to every member at the gym for doing our best to keep the community safe no matter how sweaty our masks get
  • FUCKING GAINZ – After all, “thick thighs saves lives…” according to Lizzo

For those of you who have allowed me to assault your eyes and brains with my words in previous blogs, you could end your reading here. You know what I’m going to say. We all work out plenty, and don’t recovery enough. And the only thing that tells you that you need to “work harder” is a bullshit fitness industry that continues to cycle and appropriate language around wellness to continue hold a false control over our bodies in order to prioritize the monetary growth of an industry over actual health and wellness.

Now, if you’ve made it this far in the blog, I’m going to validate my claims (without much fact-checking or research of my own) by quoting a doctor. “Which (or “witch” because ‘tis the season) doctor?” Dr. Paul Cooley, of course. 

If you were perhaps on Instagram, and also follow St Johns Physical Therapy (@stjohnspt), you may have also found it apropos that on the same day that Nigel decides that it’s a good day to thrash our legs, Paul also decides to post his on soapbox (pyramid, really) about all things recovery. (Some may say it’s coincidence, others – namely, just me – would say that the universe works in mysterious ways.)

That quote I mentioned earlier, subsequently forgot, and then remembered again after my tangential paragraph above was, “Whether training hard or suffering an injury, all tissues have their own timeline to recover, and the simple things matter the most.” Those simple things were then at the foundation of his pyramid soapbox and started with Mother Nature and Father Time, Nutrition and Hydration, Active Recovery and Sleep, and Passive Recovery. Gimmicks, Fads, and Quackery (or, to lean in to my artistic license to interpret – Bullshit) were at the top, depicting a minimized role in things that actually matter. 

In summation, Nigel has set us on a quest for thick thighs. Paul tells us that the only path that will get us there is to recover properly. Both are topic experts in their own right. And I’m writing this blog to acknowledge that all of us are continuously influenced to follow unfounded bullshit in the name of health. 

The bottom line being – If you want the most of this impending cycle, you also have to grant yourself permission to recover appropriately. 


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More on Goals

Blog 39 – More on Goals…  

So not to beat a dead horse, but we are ramping up our fall activities with all things gym. That includes defining and understanding our own personal goals. This is now my 3rd blog in 4 weeks on the topic, and I’m going to re-stress how personal I believe your goals should be. I (and every coach at PDX Strength) do not get to dictate what is best for you or the path that you should go down. But while we can do the best we can, sometimes failing and learning like everyone else, we are all influenced in some way by the system or culture of fitness. While we have all benefitted from the socialization of exercise, we have also been harmed in some form by what Ilya Parker, founder of Decolonizing Fitness*, calls “toxic fitness culture.” 

Here is a working definition from Parker in his blog “What is Toxic Fitness Culture?:” 

…Social characteristics, language and habits that promote/reinforce ableism, fatphobia, racism, classism, elitism, body shaming/policing, LGBTQIA+ hatred under the guise of fitness and wellness.

Toxic fitness culture relies on two distinct groups to be situated on opposite ends of the fitness spectrum. One group consists of the able bodied, thin/toned, (edit: conventionally) attractive, young, cisgender, heterosexual people who are assumed to be the gatekeepers of what it means to engage appropriately in & embody fitness.

The other group consists of folks who carry marginalized identities that drastically remove their bodily agency limiting them from accessing fitness in ways that meet their needs and feel supportive to them.

Toxic fitness culture is rooted in white supremacist ideals regarding health, ability, size, gender, age and beauty. Toxic fitness culture and diet culture are intertwined, with both placing blame on an individual for the ways their body shows up in this world….

From a different blog by Parker, “Some Example of Toxic Fitness Culture:”

  • The promotion of fitness the sole purpose of weight loss.
  • The belief that fit has a look.
  • Personal trainers unwilling or unable to modify exercises that support your unique body.
  • The belief that you’re not working hard enough if you haven’t achieved thinness.
  • Personal trainers who aren’t registered dietitians giving diet advice.
  • Personal trainers who don’t believe you when you need to stop and encourage you to push through pain.
  • The belief that beating your body up makes for a good workout.
  • Only being seen as an “expert” because you are in a smaller body.
  • Having a limited view of what fitness is.
  • Believing working out is more important than listening to what your body needs.
  • The belief that your body has to get smaller/toned when you engage in fitness and if it doesn’t you’re doing something wrong.
  • Being coerced or shamed into working out.
  • Thinking diet and exercise is the only way to take care of ourselves.
  • Cultivating fitness spaces that AREN’T accessible or affirming to a diverse group of bodies.
  • Making fitness overly complicated to show authority or expertise.
  • Personal Training Certifications that don’t offer education on working with body diverse populations…

So, why do we need to be aware of this, especially when defining our goals? Because it is easy to fall into cycles of self harm in the name of fitness, exercise, and all things wellness. We may feel compelled to move towards a specific goal, and even argue with ourselves that we would never fall under a spell to such influences. But, again, if our goals are not deeply personal, we will NEVER achieve the outcome we think is on the other side. So, again, I’ll ask you – what are YOUR goals?

– D

*More information about Ilya Parker and Decolonizing Fitness can be found at, on the Decolonizing Fitness Podcast ( – also available on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud) or other recent podcasts such as or 

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Fall Schedule

Blog 38 – Fall Schedule – Thanks!  

Well, we’re mostly through the first week of the new schedule. We’ve moved indoors for the foreseeable future due to many factors – most notably the weather – AND we’ve added a number of new classes to accommodate the limited class size. Fear not for those still enjoying the zoom classes, those are still available and recordings have been posted on the website and social meeds. 

This real purpose of this blog is to be a shout out and thank you to our members. You’ve done a great job finding a new routine, staying connected with us, and generally making the most out of a really funky situation. I want to also give a special shout out to the folks that have come in to the gym this week. 

Logistically, the coaches are trying to come up with plans of action that keep you safe and follow the recommended guidelines of indoor activity, but the best plans don’t always come to fruition. We never know how the flow of class will interact with or disrupt our intentions. And for any folks that cam to Nigel’s little “welcome to conditioning indoors with masks” burpee and rowing WOD, you have a really good understanding of what GSC classes will look (and feel) like throughout the fall. 

For those of you that have yet to come in yet, I would encourage you to do so if you’re wondering about how it all plays out – even if that means you just come for a visit or just to pop your head in to check it out. I, for one, have been skeptical about how all of this will go down; trying to be relatively cautious through the whole thing with my own health conditions to consider. I do feel more comfortable after seeing how committed our membership as a whole have been to maintaining the order of the gym. I shouldn’t be surprised that all of our members have been very gracious; helping clean their equipment, keeping their own distance from other members, and generally working towards making us, as a community, safer.  It hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it’s very much appreciated. 

I know that I’ve made a large “everyone is happy” claim here, and I’m aware that that isn’t likely the case. So we always want to leave the line open for feedback here too. Please let us know about all things new schedule, cleanliness, protocols, etc. 

Happy October! 


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Fall Goals – Cont’d

Blog 37 – Fall Goals – Cont’d

Inevitably we’re going to come up with at least one goal that we’ll have no clue how to reach. While I could end this blog by saying, “ask your coach” – again – that’s not really why any one is here. So we’ll go down another road, perhaps the one less travelled… or whatever literary cliché you prefer. “What road is that?” you ask. 

Well, sometimes “the hardest part, is deciding where to start.” (No, my friends, that’s not another Robert Frost reference it’s an Olive Garden commercial.) For example, I was having a hard time figuring out what to write this blog entry about. First, I assumed that many folks would come up with a strength-based goal so I was going to share all sorts of resources on different periodization methods and blah, blah, blah, but then remembered there is a such thing as too much information AND many of us really don’t give a shit about the technicalities of programming. So rather than write something that would likely only add to the confusion, anxiety, and likelihood of steering you farther away from your goal, I took inspiration from Kimmy and, yes, an Olive Garden commercial, and just started writing. 

Now, is the blog perfect? Nope. Did it start off reading like a person wrote it with no clue about what they were going to say in the next sentence? Yep.  Are there typos, poor grammar, and whatever other mistakes that could be made along the way? Sure are. But you know what else there is to this point? Most of a blog. And that’s really the goal here, write ( see what I did there?!?!?)? Sure it doesn’t look like I thought it would. Nor would I necessarily recommend writing a blog in the same way that I do. But it works for me. 

And THAT, my friends, is ultimately the way that we will all accomplish our goals. By just starting. By exploring. By making time to dedicate yourself toward your craft, or pull-up, or conditioning, or whatever you’ve decided to work towards. When we create time for our intentions, it somewhat doesn’t matter how we spend it. I know some of you will inevitably be chirping that you can’t just think about doing a pull-up. In which case, you’re absolutely right, but that’s not what I’m trying to get across here. Yes, you have to do something in relation to the your goal in that time, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to look like your neighbor or the Instagram influencer or whatever. It just has to look like you working toward your goal. 

Over time, with continuous effort, you’ll reach your goal… much in the same way that I’ve reached the end of this blog. 

More confused? See how I could have ended the blog in the second sentence. 


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Fall Goals

Blog 36 – Fall Goals 

Welp. The smoke is clearing. Fall colors have appeared in Forest Park. And we’ve rotated the schedule and added more classes/options at PDX Strength starting next week – just in time for the fall rain to drive us inside. With all these changes, we’re also going to start talking about goals, or as the last blog called them, beautiful beaches and lagoons. 

We do this every-so-often at the gym, sometimes we all have a group goal or others we allow you to select them yourself. This fall is going to err towards being all about you, with perhaps weekly and monthly challenges for all of us – a la the wildly successful team challenges that we started at the beginning of the shut downs (Results are still being calculated, if you are wondering which team “won.”).

I’m going to avoid repeating the SMART formula here. Not because I don’t think there is value to it, which there is, but I assume you already know the formula AND I assume you’ll hear it from someone else. I could be wrong in both of those assumptions, but now I assume you’re reading this on some device that includes Google. No, this blog is more or less going to be a list of questions to ask yourself as you think through what’s a good idea AND what’s particle. This, to me, is the crux of goal setting (it should also surprise no one at this point that the only thing structured goal setting does for me is structurally plan for shit that just isn’t going to happen.)

So in light of that, I’d rather let you have an open dialogue with yourself or, perhaps, your coach around the following – This is not an extensive list:

  • Why do I want this goal? 
  • What will achieving this goal allow me to do? 
  • Could I achieve this in a different way?
  • How will I have to change my current routine to reach this goal?
  • Am I willing to change what I am currently doing to prioritize this goal?

After you’ve filtered your thoughts through these questions, you should have a smaller and more attackable list of goals. At this point, go nuts with whatever structure you need – SMART formulas, color codes, phone reminders, et al. 

More questions? You know whom to call. 


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