5 Time IPF Open Class World Champion (63kg,72kg). 16 Time IPF Open class Raw World Record holder (including three current world records). Multi time USAPL National Champion (Raw/Equipped- Open, Jr., and Military). 28 TIme USAPL American Record holder (Open, Jr. Military). 5 Time Arnold Sports Festival Pro Deadlift heaviest deadlift & Wilks coefficient champion (2012-2016)
You once said, “I love powerlifting because it is a sport that allows any individual regardless of gender, age or physical stature to push their body to a physical limit previously undefined by that individual. It motivates people to continue to set new thresholds for what physical training their bodies can endure and adapt to, subsequently becoming physically even stronger over time. Secondly, I love powerlifting because it is a sport that has been known to not only shape the physical body of an individual, but to strengthen the mind and character of that individual.” I know you participated in track and field, cross country, baseball, and basketball. Out of all of those sports, would you say that powerlifting has the largest ability to “strengthen the mind and character” of an athlete, and if so, why?
I think all sports do. Regardless of what the sport is, you have to commit yourself to the actual sport. You have to take the time to dedicate yourself to the actual training. Understand what it takes to get ready for a competition, regardless of whether it’s individual, or team.
If anything else, knowing that when you’re preparing for a competition in whatever sport it is, you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, so you have to be able to understand that you’re going to have to adapt to those situations, and learn from those situations. It’s all about experience, and that’s what’s gonna make you better. That’s what’s gonna make you a better person, I feel.
In that case, what was it about powerlifting that drew you in more than other sports?
It reminded me of my previous number one sport, track and field. I never thought I’d find a sport I loved as much as track and field. What drew me in was the fact that I was able to consistently keep pushing the envelope of what I thought was possible, similar to track. I feel like with powerlifting, you will never have a threshold that you are going to reach. It’s a matter of if you can keep pushing yourself, and what you can accomplish.
What I also like is the trial and tribulations, like in life, success isn’t always going to be linear. With powerlifting or any other sport, you also have to understand that there’s going to be times where you’re going to have those trials and tribulations and what’s important, similar to life, is knowing how to get past them. When you get past them, you become a stronger person, mentally and, I personally feel physically, too.
That’s a perfect segue into my next question. How do you deal with training plateaus? You come across as very level headed about your training. Are there any times where you feel frustrated by slowed progress, physically or mentally?
By this time, where I am with my career, having been lifting for fifteen years: I know myself. Most likely, if something is going wrong, I’ll know why. Whether it’s something in my life like I didn’t get enough sleep, or I had a stressful day that made me exhausted. Or, if it was something in regards to strength; maybe I pushed myself too much and I just wasn’t ready to hit that weight. You just have to become more in tune with your body and ask, if things aren’t going well, then what will I do to fix the problem? It’s a series of troubleshooting steps I take, to figure out what I’m going to do next.
That’s why I don’t get frustrated. Like any other problem, you have to think to yourself: Ok. First thing, why did it go wrong? Once you figure out why it went wrong, (and if you don’t know, ask someone,) and then figure out how you’ll troubleshoot to fix the issue. Also, making sure that you give yourself enough time to actually implement that solution, so you can determine whether it works or it doesn’t work. I guess you could say that sometimes, it’s a series of trial and error, until you figure out what will be the ideal solution for you.
Do you have an example of a problem in training, where you were able to implement a solution?
Well, when I injured my QLs, I found that I couldn’t pull conventional. It was just too much stress on my lower back. So, what I did to temporarily alleviate the problem was pull sumo (in the course of my doing PT and MT), until I could get myself back to normal. Once my QLs healed, then I could switch back to conventional.
I found another way.
What was it like for you to be injured? I’ve talked to people who have had a back injury, for some it can be really scary. Were you scared at any point, or was it just a part of training that you had to accept and work through?
Honestly, the first thing that came to mind is: It sucks. It sucks having injuries. It slows down training. How dare you get in the way of training! I said, “Damn it, I’m going to have to come up with a plan to get around this,” and I just went straight to implementing it.
That’s one of the things we have to realize. With athletes, we’re the last people to go to the doctor, or the PT, or the MT, unless it’s something that affects range of motion, and we can’t train anymore, and then we have to see someone.
What helped was just telling myself, “Look, this is something that I can fix.” Just knowing that it’s gonna suck, because it did suck.
You have to surround yourself with a good support system that’s going to keep you grounded, and keep you moving towards full recovery. You’re going to have those moments where you feel like it’s not working. Or, “Damn it, why is it taking so long? I see people who seem to be making advancements in their training, but I can’t do it because I’m injured.”
Keep reminding yourself, “This is going to get better. I have a plan. I have to stick to the plan, and be patient enough, to let the plan work, so I can get back to where I need to be.”
That’s not always easy to do. I can tell you, yeah, there were a lot of sad, sucky moments. But with any other thing having to do with perseverance, you just have to get through it. Getting through it is the part that sucks. Getting out on the other end is the reward for being patient.
To prepare for competition, you’ve said that it is helpful for you to quell nerves by reminding yourself of the “hard work and dedication” you put into preparing for the meet, and by telling yourself that at that point, you’ve done all you can to prepare, and now it’s time to perform.
On that same topic, you said that nervousness is “something we create in our own heads because of anxiety from wanting to do well, and trying to compensate for the unknown. I’d love to hear you elaborate on the concept of anxiety being perhaps being fear of the unknown. Has that theory carried over into other areas of your life?
I feel like because sometimes we want to be successful at reaching a goal, we try to control every factor we can. What happens when you’re faced with something you can’t control?
You have that nervousness because it’s something you can’t control, and so you don’t know how you’re going to work through it, or what’s going to be on the other end of it.
You just have to do it. You have to let go.
Only focus on the things that you can do to get you through. If you start worrying about all of the things you can’t control in any situation, it’s just added stress on you mentally and physically.
If you have competitors that are aware of that, they will try to use it to their advantage to get in your head. They’ll do things like sit in front of you, or near you, or ask you what you’re opening with… or just try to be in the presence of you in order to do anything to throw you off your game.
You have to be confident and focused in knowing that you’ve done all you can, no matter what, for both the factors that you can control, and the ones that you can’t.
Has that knowledge, that you’ve gained from competing at a high level, carried over in any way? I, personally, have really bad anxiety. Have these ideas helped you in any way in life?
I think so. Look, I’m not going to be a hypocrite. I still get anxiety about things that I cannot control, but what I end up trying to do in order to be better about it, is telling myself the same thing that I do when I’m preparing for a meet. Even if it may take saying this sixty million times to believe it: “This is all I’m in control of, and I’ve gotta let it go.”
Even then I can tell you, 8 out of 10 times, yeah, it’s still bothering me.. But at least I’m trying to think about getting past it, and I think that’s half the battle. At least being willing to accept the fact that, this is something I can’t control, but I’m gonna focus on the things I can, and hopefully it’ll get out of my head. I just have to be honest. I’m not a Jedi.
Thank you. You do sound like a Jedi. In all of your interviews you come across as unapologetically yourself, and very self assured. Have you always been that way, or did you cultivate that over time?
I think I’ve always been that way, but more as I’ve gotten older. As you age, you become even more comfortable and confident with who you are… I feel like you just reach this point in your life where you’re like: “I know who I am, and whoever you’re going to be in my life, you have to accept me for who I am. Just like how I accept you.” It’s such a freeing thing to say, “I know who I am, and I’m happy with who I am. If you’re gonna accept me, you’re gonna accept me for me.”
Ok. That’s great. I’m looking forward to…
It feels pretty awesome, I can’t lie.
Ok. Good to know!
I’ve got just a few training and coaching questions for you. I read an interview of yours where you advised a lifter with long femurs to use their “own personal body mechanics to their advantage.” You stated that overall hip and ankle mobility are extremely important, as well as having a strong core. There’s so much about hip mobility on the internet already, I’m wondering if you have a favorite ankle mobility drill. And a specific core exercise readers can start doing.
Ok, ankle mobility. Alexis loves to laugh at me about this one. Put your foot 5 inches from the wall. Put your other foot behind you. Try to push your knees through the wall.
Similar to a standing calf stretch?
Confirmed by Kimberly:
Also I like to do alphabets with my ankle, like you may do if you sprained your ankle.
For core, this is my favorite that my PT has taught me. It showed me how to brace. You know how you may hear people tell you to “fill up your stomach,” or, “push against your belt,” and you’re like.. Well how do I do that?
Lay on your back, feet up in a 90 degree angle with your feet up on a chair or bench. Dig your heels in, and blow up a balloon. Put your hand on your stomach. As you’re blowing up that balloon, you can feel the pressure on your stomach. That’s what it means when they’re telling you to fill your stomach with air and push out. That’s what going to help you keep your core tight for squat, deadlift, and bench.
It took me this long to figure that out. It took him teaching me that! I never understood it. We have a tendency to set up for squat, take in air, and what happens? Your chest comes up, your back arches, and you’re not staying straight. If you learn how to push your air into that belt, it’ll keep your hips forward and your back straight.
I do three sets of five breaths. You can do it watching TV, you can do it before you train, and you’ll get to the point where it’ll be instinctive when you get under the bar. Especially when you squat, to think, “Ok, when I take my air in, I’m pushing out. I’m not letting my air in and just letting my back arch.” Is that making sense?
Yes. I feel like I still don’t know how to brace in my body.
I’m telling you, this is the one that worked. For me. I can finally understand the concept of bracing, and pushing the air out towards my belt.
Sent from kimberly:
You should definitely try this. It’s been a huge game changer for me, with regards to squatting and pulling. A huge game changer.
Thank you. I feel like that is really going to help so many people.
I mean, I’m even using my core when I’m picking up groceries now. That’s how serious it is. I’m making sure I have proper form. I’m serious.
I’m looking forward to trying it!
One last question. Where can people find you, or train with you? Do you still have your home gym?
Yes! It’s called OTG, “Off the Grid,” in the mancave that we converted into a womancave/gym. We train here in Bayonne, New Jersey, me and Lex, and we have friends that come here and train.
If people want to hit me up, they can do it on IG: @TrackFu or my name, Kimberly Walford, on Facebook. That works, too.
Do you have anything else that you want to add? To the community, or to new lifters?
First, new people, I’m happy that you’ve joined the sport. Be confident in yourself and in any goals you want to achieve in this sport. Take the time, and have the patience, to achieve those goals. Find a coach, and take the time to research that individual’s background. Don’t just take their word if they tell you that they are world champion, or a national coach. Even if someone’s been successful in the sport, they may not be a great coach.
Make sure you have a very good support system. Not just your family and your friends, but also your gym family. I can tell you plenty of times I’ve had late night trainer days. I’m talking 10:30 at night, and it’s just me and one of my buddies, who happen to be working late. Really appreciate those people, and support them, too.
Finally, you have to believe in your goals before anyone else does. Even if they don’t, so what? What matters is you believe, and you have a plan to achieve it. Don’t let any of the naysayers deter you from that. If someone starts, you have to throw them in that naysayer box, and focus on the people that support you. Similar to life, people that support you are going to say positive things to get you to where you need to be.
That’s my take on it!
Kimberly’s sponsors: SBD, SBD USA, APEMAN STRONG, PROMERA(CONCRET)