Pull For Pride Athlete Ash Austin: "We’ve come a long way, but we have much further to go."

Name: Ash Austin

Age: 29

Pronouns: She/Her

Pull for Pride location: Brooklyn

Favorite song to listen to while training: Genghis Khan - Miike Snow

Favorite post-training meal: Any type of burrito bowl. 

Instagram: sayyestonew

How do you identify? Tell us a little about yourself:

I have been an LGBTQ+ ally since I was about 15/16. Being raised in Louisiana I knew a lot of people that did not agree with this community. It was easy for me to not be caught up in that mindset because people are people. We should all have access to the same rights no matter who we are.

A few of my friends at the time decided to start a GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) at my school and I immediately signed up to participate. However, we were met with much opposition. As the secretary of our club at the time I collected every local newspaper article and opinion piece that people submitted who thought we were doing the devil’s work. It was enough to fill a large 3-ring binder.

Despite the negative attitudes, we persisted and ultimately we were able to start and keep our club. At that time, it was so important to have an outlet to teach tolerance in schools. There was nothing like that and it made an impact on many students lives. I often think back to that time. I use that same resilience to support the community as it has evolved today. We’ve come a long way, but we have much farther to go.

What does Pull for Pride mean to you and what's motivating you to participate?

Pull for Pride is the perfect marriage of two things I’m very passionate about. In contrast to 5k’s and fun runs, few powerlifting meets are set up to support a cause. When I saw Pull for Pride last year was already sold out I marked my calendar to be ready to participate this year.

When did you begin barbell training and what inspired you to start?

I began training in January 2017. I had recently started playing around at my local YMCA when a gym in town, Berkshire Kettlebells in North Adams, MA, had opened up a small Women’s Powerlifting Club to promote empowerment.
Since starting my training there I have felt the strongest I have ever felt in my life both physically and emotionally. 

What do you find fulfilling about training?

I used to be a runner and I soon learned that I didn’t find chasing times fulfilling. With powerlifting there are so many different PR’s you can go after and the challenge is in the long term commitment. There is something to be said about sticking to something 3 times a week for over a year. 

What do you find challenging?

The thing I find most challenging is learning about my own body. It’s a machine and I’m constantly tweaking things to accommodate my goals. Just like in life, there is always something to improve. 

What message or advice do you have for folks who might want to start strength training but aren't sure how or where to begin?

Depending on your fitness level I would suggest seeking out a coach. Specifically one that isn’t just knowledgable, but also supportive. Find a coach that can help you grow as a person, not just in your numbers. It makes all the difference in the world.

Do you have any advice or encouragements for cisgender and straight allies who want to help make the gym a more welcoming space for trans and queer folks?

Creating a space that is about community, more then about individual PRs, is key. Support your peers in their journey and make your gym a place where people want to be because of the support system.

Do you have a strength role model(s) in your life (this could be strength training or strength in other ways)?

My husband is my strength role model in so many different ways. He’s disciplined, doesn’t chase numbers, and extremely focused. He’s always ready to face a challenge in and out of the gym while also helping others become the best version of themselves.