Angela Desjarlais

I got an e-mail from Kat, who trains at CrossFit Regina. She told me that Angela Desjarlais is someone who stands out and portrays what it is to be 70’s Big.

AngDesj, as she’s affectionately known around our region is an amazingly strong and fierce chick, she’s a seasoned competitor, mother of 2 and a shift worker. She finds time to stay fit and strong at Crossfit Regina, Regina Saskatchewan and participates in the 70’s big Challenges regularly. We’ve held a tactical strength, shoulder press/deadhang pullup, and Supertotal and she’s come out 1st in all.

Here is a piece that Angela wrote for this post:

I started powerlifting at age 21. My dad (now a retired firefighter) had been competing for a few years already. A few years ago he won a World Record in Bench Press for Grand Masters at 399lbs in the 82.5kg weight Category in Drug Free Powerlifting, among many other Provincial, Canadian Records. He is currently training to get this title back. I had just started the Police Department and would work out with him. He put me under the bar and said, “see if you can bench that (I think it was 80lbs), it went up well and before you know it I was benching 135lbs (I weigh 148ish), a few months later. I guess it’s in the blood.

Over the course of a few years I started the other lifts. I competed in a variety of local competitions, some provincially and a national competition. I was at my leanest when I was powerlifiting and would not consider myself bulky whatsoever. Ballsy yes, bulky no (Editor’s Note: Proof).

Angela presses 110 pounds

My dad then suggests I compete in The Toughest Competitor Alive at the Police/Fire Games which has eight events. 5km run, shot put, 100m sprint, 100m swim, rope climb, bench press, deadhang pull-ups and an obstacle course. I have competed at the Police/Fire Can/Am Games and the Police/Fire World Games and medaled in both powerlifting, bench alone, and the TCA.

Again, my dad suggested I try CrossFit, to help me train for an upcoming Police/Fire World Games, which I won a bronze. So like a good little daughter I did. I loved it! It encompasses everything I enjoy, lifting heavy shit, running, various other bizarre exercises, competing, oh and I did I mention lifting heavy shit.

Interesting enough all my powerlifting lifts totally increased once I started CrossFit. All my equipped lifts turned to my best raw lifts. My raw lifts are currently bench press 190lbs, squat 280lbs, deadlift (my goat) 305lbs. CrossFit Regina Coaches/Owners, Aaron and Robin Maier focus on good form, proper technique, which was where I was really lacking. I suffered or rather still suffer from a back injury and an injured tailbone and when I came to them I started my lifts from scratch. Hard on the ego, but good on the body. I discovered my weaknesses – FLEXIBILITY — and worked on it. It has paid me back tenfold. I am still embarrassingly inflexible in my shoulders, I can bench press a grown man, but have difficulty with a muscle up.

I have also competed in 5km races, and some ½ Marathons, a beer drinking contest and a milk chugging contest. I won the beer drinking contest. My proudest achievement is I have two beautiful daughters, who see their Mommy lift, run, compete and enjoy every moment. They will grow up with the knowledge that woman are supposed to be strong and can wear lip gloss too.

I am motivated by the wise words of my Father: “Don’t suck”, “Don’t embarrass the family” and my favorite “Visualize what its like for me when I get all my medals”.

–Angela Desjarlais

Dad (Brian) and Angela; strength runs in the family


Rachel answered my call of women sharing their photos/videos/stories. She’s gained something like 20 pounds (she can explain) and hasn’t gotten “bulky”.

A Facebook status quote from some guy I’ve never met named Alex:
Dear Women Everywhere: unless you have big hairy balls, lifting weights will not make you bulky any more than it will make you grow a beard. In fact, lifting weights will make you beautiful. Your strength and confidence will arouse onlookers of both sexes, and your ass will be a shining beacon of hope to women who have… not yet seen the light. And if anyone fucks with you, you can break them. So lift.

A note to the Average Woman…

I wrote this for a friend of mine and some ladies she trains. I figured I’d post it here, because I spent some time writing it for the specific audience. I’m not saying there will be droves of women wanting to lift after I post it, but if you have any friends that should see it, print it out and show them.

Hi. I’ve heard that you are starting or thinking about starting a new exercise program. Your new exercise program may be CrossFit, P90x, boot camp, or any related intensity based conditioning activity. Your goals in starting this program will probably revolve around wanting to be sexy, healthy, and physically able to enjoy an active lifestyle. I commend you on your choice because it’s the first step in achieving those goals. Your program choice may even be the gateway to sport and/or athletic activity. In any case, there is a lot to learn regarding what is best to achieve your goal, because, well, conventional wisdom hasn’t been truthful to you.

Since you are investing time and money into an exercise program I’ll have to assume you are decently serious in achieving your goals. It’s perfectly fine to want to be sexier or healthier. However, “sexier” is typically interpreted as “losing weight” and “toning up”. What this ACTUALLY means is “losing body fat and having some muscle underneath it to have a nice figure”. Losing weight will just make you skinny. Skinny is not good.

Exhibit A. Skinny=Fail

Losing body fat to get sexy isn’t only about burning and eating less calories: you must alter your metabolism in the short and long term. Exercising in a way that forces your body to optimally metabolize fat and produce lean body mass is imperative for quick results. Nothing does this better than getting stronger through weight training. I realize weight training has a horrible stigma, so I’m taking the time to highlight some of the perks that lifting weights can provide on your journey to a great body and health.

None of the women I have ever coached gained body fat from lifting weights. In fact, they lost body fat while gaining muscle. This happens because lifting weights elevates your metabolism while you’re doing it AND for the rest of the day. A higher metabolism means you’re burning more calories. Doing cardio at a moderate intensity doesn’t elevate your metabolism at all after you stop doing it. High intensity based conditioning/cardio exercise has a similar, albeit lesser, metabolic effect when compared to lifting, but it doesn’t have the same strength and muscle building properties as lifting weights.

When you lift weights, you break up muscle fibers. Your body needs to repair them and improve them so they can either handle more in the future or handle that same load easier. That whole process elevates the metabolism, it makes you stronger, and it will increase the muscle tissue (a little). But you will NOT be getting bulky. You literally have one tenth the testosterone of a guy, and that means you won’t be building muscle very easily. If you haven’t been a muscular woman your whole life, why would you suddenly become “bulky” now? Unless you’re using some kind of steroids, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Lucky for you, muscle tissue is “metabolically active tissue”. This means that the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the better it will metabolize fat. Getting stronger means more muscle which means less fat. To top it off, you’ll be building muscle in your legs and rump, and this will garner positive attention from men and women alike. Whether you are skinny or a bigger gal, squatting and deadlifting shapes your booty in the most desirable way.

Lifting positively effects your metabolism for fat burning purposes and can help shape you into that appropriately curvy figure you’ve always wanted, but that isn’t all lifting is good for. More muscle mass and less body fat have tons of health implications. You’ll find that you don’t get sick as much, you’re able to handle viruses/infections easier, you won’t feel fatigued throughout the day, and you’ll start improving on all of those little tests doctors like to give you on your yearly check ups (not the gyno, the real, non-creepy doctor). Bone density will no longer be an issue because you’ll surpass the credentials for “weight bearing exercise” by training with a barbell. When you are stronger, your conditioning workouts will be more effective because you’ll be able to do more work, go faster, and/or go longer. If you are doing any of these three things, then you’re getting more worth out of the time you are exercising than you were when you were weak (i.e. you get sexier/healthier faster). If you’re going to invest the money and time, you might as well use it optimally!

Whether it be feeling better, getting in shape, looking better, or being more healthy, weight training will help get you there. As you get stronger you’ll be delighted to see your lifts increase gradually yet steadily. When you’re squatting 120 pounds, you’ll look back and think, “I used to only squat 45 lbs…I’ve come a long way.” All women who lift cite this sense of empowerment they get from lifting as an exhilarating feeling (in six months you’ll be able to lift more than most “men”). I’m not suggesting that lifting weights should be your primary training method, but when your trainer suggests or implements it, don’t give her so much hell. The fact that getting you stronger is part of her plan means you hired the right person.

Skinny Girls Still Exist

On my way back to Denver last week I sat next to a thin young woman who told me that she aimed to gain some weight. We talked throughout the plane ride and she said something to the affect of, “Wow, I didn’t realize everything I knew was wrong. I have so many friends that are skinny just like me.” Really? I forgot about this demographic. You can’t blame me since around 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. Girls typically are wanting to “lose weight” and “get toned” when they get involved in fitness stuff, so you don’t run across too many that are trying to grow.

Women like this need a sandwich

It’s hard for these women like this to actually grow, even if they are “doing weights”. Assuming they get the advice to lift some kind of weight, that advice is followed by recommendations to move 15 lb. dumbbells around a few times a week. I suppose that’s better than sitting on one’s ass all the time, but it isn’t going to help a skinny girl grow.

The principles are the same: get stronger with compound, full body movements and eat to have an abundance of protein and caloric surplus. Squatting, pressing, benching, and deadlifting are the foundation. Skinny girls owe it to themselves to gain weight for the sake of practicality as well as aesthetics. I’m not a woman, but I would think that a woman would want a curvy figure. Squatting and the related exercises help develop this wonderfully.

There are some problems that a skinny girl will run into. She’ll need help understanding why getting stronger will help, and why eating much much MUCH more protein is necessary. Compound movements that help make you strong cause some natural damage to muscle. This causes a lot of disruption in the body as well as in the relevant muscles used. In order to repair and help that muscle grow, an appropriate amount of protein is necessary along with adequate calories. “Appropriate” and “adequate” are much much MUCH higher than what Skinny Girl has been taught, and these fallacies need to be rectified. The gal I spoke with on the plane probably weighed 95 pounds. If she wants to be 110 pounds, she needs to eat like a 110 pound girl. That means she needs 110 grams of protein. I bet she was getting less than 30 grams before talking to me.

Females in general don’t eat enough protein, so having them plan their meals around their protein is the first step. Getting them past that “conventional wisdom” and “social barrier” of not eating a lot of food is necessary so that they will actually get enough calories to grow and…well…survive better. I wouldn’t place any dietary restrictions on a skinny girl if she was trying to gain weight. If after 5 or 6 weeks there is noticable bodyfat, then we can adjust things. But, I’m telling you, if she eats the minimum protein amount and is squatting three times a week, she won’t have any problem with bodyfat.

It’s actually quite simple, but the fitness and nutrition industries have fucked things up so bad, most women are handicapped before they even start their quest of gaining weight, looking better, and feeling better. I hope that we can help change this silly mindset one Skinny Girl at a time…

I know that was boring for a lot of you dudes, but it’s for the best. Hopefully the following video will entertain you. This was on the Friday before the Raw Nationals meet we went to in Denver a couple weeks ago. We had just gotten our rental car and I only recorded two clips, but they are worth watching. Brent is being his usual pain-in-the-ass self, Chris is exasperated by his behavior, Mike is saying random things that don’t make sense, and I generally don’t acknowledge any of it. Oh, and Chris apparently called shotgun right before I turned the camera on. I like how Chris and Brent are bickering from the get-go.