No Deadlifts, No Dates - A 1 on 1 with Garrett Nicole Wood
Finding a like-minded coach in an overly saturated industry such as personal training can be surprisingly hard. With every coach out there looking to "stand out" - they often resort to crazy claims and unbacked science. Worse yet, they'll vertically integrate the clients who trust them with so much. Soon enough they start selling them supplements, skin creams, and moon rocks - anything in the name of business.
Thankfully, there are a lot of amazing coaches out there who care for their clients, and want to see them flourish in fitness and in life.
Enter Garrett Nicole Wood of Boston, Massachussetts.
She's a stahhh!
I was lucky enough to meet Garrett through the wonderfully interconnected world of fitness professionals that is the internet. I've seen her featured on the PTDC (The Personal Training Development Center), a website dedicated to highlighting articles written by trainers and coaches about a variety of important topics.
(I've even been very lucky to have been featured there too when they select their articles of the week.)
That is how I found her website. Which, meant that I found out that this blonde-haired girl was more than just a Barry's Bootcamp instructor. She was a competitive powerlifter, bikini competitor, coach to many clients, and a fantastic writer.
Holy shit, she is kinda cool. #Whatdoesntshedo
More importantly, she is a tremendous role model for women in fitness. It doesn't matter if you are just a girl who works out, a girl who trains for competition, or a girl who is a trainer and coach yourself - you need to pay attention to Garrett.
The industry as a whole has failed so many of you as the end consumer. When published ranking lists put an instagram hero and Dr. Oz above actual coaches and scientiests like Jen Sinkler, Alan Aragon, and Eric Cressey - we have a freakin' problem.
Thankfully, for females especially, Garrett is one of the good ones. She gets "it". She knows that she needs to lift heavy, eat healthy, and then do the cardiovascular work to look her best. Her own life experiences guide her with clients. She highlights her client's squat PRs, deadlifts for reps, and coaches them to kick ass in chin ups.
How lucky I am to associate with a rising name in this industry...
Read on to learn more about her, and please check her out at her website. I am not kidding when I promise you she is a rock star.
What Drove you to fitness in the first place?
Garrett: When I was in 7th grade I was on the chubbier side. I had quit gymnastics and was getting into junior high cheerleading. I was insecure. My mom asked me to go on a run with her one summer day and I hated every step of it. I could barely make it to our stop sign. On top of feeling like a crappy, sluggish runner, I never finished a mile challenge in any grade of gym class (until senior year of high school) because I had an asthma attack every time—to the point of going to the ER.
So, I wanted to be more athletic and feel proud of what my body could do. I also wanted to lose weight for cheerleading so that by the time high school came, I could be the flyer— it seemed fun and scary at the same time to be the girl who gets thrown up in the air.
PS: I loved my nickname “the powerhouse” but I wanted to feel strong and fit.
Why did it go from passion to career?
Garrett: As I graduated college I realized I was spending every second of my 45 minute train ride to work writing class workouts for Shred415, or group programs for the small group TRX classes I taught at Rebell conditioning. Every lunch break, coffee break, after work hours and before work hours was spent training myself, coaching classes or writing workouts. It was all-consuming. When I moved to Boston I started online coaching nutrition and strength, writing fitness articles to help people and teaching at Barry’s Bootcamp. It was my number one priority. From the moment I launched CROF it truly felt like a career.
What were your first experiences like in the gym, what did you do?
Garrett: The elliptical was the first piece of gym equipment I ever used at a gym that wasn't for for gymnastics or cheerleading.
Soon enough I tried the treadmill and group fitness classes with a body bar. I also loved kickboxing in high school. By the end of high school I was addicted to spinning and would be the only person under the age of 30 at the 5:30 a.m. spin classes.
Why does powerlifting work for you?
Garrett: It works for me because it’s so simple, yet so effective. I would rather pick up the bar 9 times (3x3) than run for 45 minutes. The effects of those lifts stay with me for 36 hours afterward. It also works for me because it builds my confidence.
My physical strength boosts my mental strength.
The final BIG reason is works is because it feels good. I used to log over 45 miles a week running in college and by the third or fourth run of the week I felt so much pain through my hips and ankles and knees. My mobility was terrible and I was constantly trying to outrun a bad diet. I was running more than ever and also eating more than ever.
With powerlifting I feel that it sculpts my body, empowers my mind and makes staying in control with my diet much easier— not to mention my muscles soak up all the carbs I eat and put them to good use.
Kevin's Thoughts: You gotta love the freedom to consume a few "junky" carbohydrates when fueling your strength. Personally, when I really want to deadlift heavy - I find myself a couple of cookies. Nothing crazy, but something light and high in simple sugars so that I can rip that bar off the flo'.
How did you feel when you first contemplated lifting really heavy? How has that
Garrett: I didn't get it. for a long time in high school I thought I needed to lift light weights like the photos of ladies in the magazines in order to have lean, toned muscles. I thought lifting heavy would make me big. However after having some superb mentors in Chicago at Rebell Conditioning who encouraged all clients to be as strong as possible and who applauded and respected all the women who lifted heavy, I was motivated to try and get strong.
Committing myself to the endeavor of being strong made time fly by. As time went by
and I was constantly lifting heavy it was like all of the sudden I woke up one day really
In reality it took about three months for me to see a difference, but by the time my body
responded I was already hooked on lifting heavy kettlebells and I knew that that would
never change. The side effects of getting leaner and toned were the icing on the cake.
The bikini competition - just talk about it...let's learn about your view of it before, during, and now.
Garrett: I never imagined I would do one. Then as I got stronger and leaner I thought about it ever so often. However I had read so many negative horror stories about the unhealthy side of competing that honestly, I was more scared to compete due to the negative mental side effects people talked about than fearing failure. I knew if I set my mind to something I would get it done.
The main reason I decided to do it was because I could lift heavy the whole time. It was my goal to see if I could bikini prep and stay strong. Lifting heavy is my passion and thanks to instagram, my eyes were opened to several very talented powerlifters who also competed in bikini competitions. I thought, if they can do it, so can I!
Knowing that I could do what I love would get me bikini-ready (in tandem with strategic work on my nutrition) was enthralling. I loved being my own coach and winging it. I think you learn the most when you go all in and give it your best shot, even if you feel clueless in the beginning.
During the prep I felt like I was baking a cake. If you know me, you know that I am a terrible baker because I stink at following directions—I like to wing things. This personality trait made the bikini prep hard. There was a lot of coloring outside the lines.
I kind of fell into an intermittent fasting lifestyle due to my odd schedule. I counted calories like I was on a kind of conservative budget. I still had some cocktails here and there and my four days of heavy lifting a week made it all more fun— especially because as you hone in on nutrition and get leaner you can see your strong muscles become more apparent on your body and it’s inspiring.
It breeds more motivation.
Growing any glutes was another huge aspect of the experience. I really needed to augment them to do well. I kind of felt like I was trying to bake a cake and cook a turkey all at once.
The cool part is that the sooner you start the sooner you will learn what does and doesn’t work. As you go through it you make corrections/adapttions and keep pushing.
Now I am prepping for my second competition! I cannot wait! This time around I know
what works for me and think it will be much easier. Okay, maybe not easier but at least
What is your message to girls caught in the "green smoothie and cardio" mindset?
Garrett: First of all, I personally do like green *protein* shakes quite a lot. But that mindset of
“eat nothing work your ass off on a cardio machine” is so depressing. You can get results in a much more enjoyable, sustainable way. For starters, if you are stressing your muscles with heavy weights they need carbs and protein to rebuild and repair. You can go to the gym and go get a healthy meal after, resting assured that the calories are going to good use.
Not to mention, you feel like a badass when you are picking up heavier weights— why not do something that is empowering?
Second, I know too many women who are so darn consistent with training it is impressive— they never miss a sweat session, however, that’s all it is. They log hours on the treadmill or stair master when they could be performing two or three circuits of two to four exercises and get even better results,all the while keeping their stress levels and hunger levels down. Also, to look toned you have to have muscles.
To build muscles, you must lift and you must eat.
Finally, if you are motivated to start lifting, make sure you lift before you do cardio. Almost all the women I work with tell me that their typical routine (pre-#daretomove program) is getting on the treadmill for 20 to 40 minutes and then grabbing some dumbbells and doing some movements with them.
The thing is, in order to effectively stress your muscles to affect change, you have to not be super fatigued (from a treadmill). If you are fresh you will lift more weight and tax the muscles appropriately to affect change.
Kevin's Thoughts: This is spot on. It is critical to put the majority of your energy towards challenging your muscles to produce high levels of force. This is going to get you stronger, more "tone", and probably leaner. Lift weights - get dates ;)
What are your favorite exercises that develop your back, hamstrings, and arms?
Garrett: For back, I love chin-ups… ALL THE CHIN-UP variations (insert buddy the Elf voice)!!! I like neutral-grip, wide-grip, clapping chin-ups, weighted chin-ups….!!!! But seriously, weighted chin-ups are the best. They make me feel badass and I only have to do a few reps and I am golden.
For hamstrings I like stiff leg RDLs. However I don;t focus on these too much. I have naturally strong and defined hamstrings (thanks Mom!) and I actually used to only use my hamstring when lifting en lieu of my glutes. For the past year I have been solely focused on flute activation and growing and strengthing my glutes. The hamstrings have more recently been afterthought.
Sidenote: teaching spinning does wonders for my hamstrings becasue I constantly
focus on the upward part of the pedal-stroke.
For arms, I love single arm kettlebell presses. I love the way they build my shoulders
and triceps all at once and my traps don't get too big.
What is your goal as a coach?
Garrett: To educate people so that they are confident in the movements that make them feel good and get results. I want people to understand the scientific aspect of training (or nutrition) to a point, so that they don’t feel lost in a gym on their own.
Kevin's thoughts: I think any great coach realizes that their ultimate purpose to make it so that those who train with them - don't need them eventually. A real coach teaches, guides, and empowers their clients to reach a level of independence. Garrett is spot on here.
What are your normal food routines? What simplifies the challenges for you best?
Garrett: I am a routine person. I have go-tos when I travel and at home. We are a product of what we repeatedly do and once I find a routine I find peace of mind because I do not worry that I am eating too much or too little. I find what works and crush that day in and day out.
Finding a protein powder I love was crucial for me. I have to have one I like in water (for on-the-go) and and one that mixes well in a blender with other things like fruits and veggies. I love Nutrology’s Tripact protein powder because it have probiotics, BCAAs, super greens and it tastes amazing.
Also, keeping it simple helps me stay on track. I often eat deli meat, apples, oats and egg whites because they are so low maintenance and easy. The easier the more likely I am to stick with it.
If could control the "fitness world" for one day, and change something about it forever;
what would it be?
Garrett: Everyone felt accepted, confident and challenged in fitness situations.
Kevin's Thoughts: I'd personally make pizza have zero calories, but I guess Garrett's answer is good too.
Let's have fun for a second -
Dumbest thing guys do in gym to impress you?
It’s been a while since I felt like anyone tried to impress me or flirt in a gym environement. However some guys ask me if I need help and that kind of bothers me because I feel like I’m being patronized.
The other thing that bothers me is when people don’t want to chit chat. I mean, maybe I’ve just gotten really good at the “powerlifter lean” in-between sets but I like chatting with others when I can, so sometimes in commercial gym settings I get sad when people don’t want to chat with me or they seem closed off.
What are you NETFLIXing?
Law an Order, Scandal and About a Boy.
Favorite exercise, food, and place you've traveled
Favorite exercise(s): deadlifts and chin-ups and OOOH! Front squats, I love those!
Food/snack: quest bars. I also love tacos and sushi.
My favorite place in the world is snow mass Colorado but I also love Wanaka, New Zealand.
Tha tha that's all folks...