Pull For Pride Athlete David Holland: "Encourage everyone. Introduce yourself. Welcome people in."

Name: David Holland

Age: 49

Pronouns: He/him

Pull for Pride location: Atlanta

Favorite song to listen to while training: <silence>

Favorite post-training meal: Hamburger and French fries

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

I’m a gay man and a physician who specializes in infectious diseases and public health. My main work is Chief of Communicable Diseases for Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia.

I’m also a recovered meth addict, and powerlifting is one of the ways I try to make myself a stronger, better man every day. It has also given me an opportunity to give back to the community by helping novice lifters get introduced to the sport. I helped form the Fantastic Beasts LGBT Powerlifting Club aimed at helping individuals who may be intimidated by lifting get started with the sport.

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

As someone who used to feel really uncomfortable in athletic environments growing up and even into adulthood, I love the fact that we have organizations like Pull for Pride trying to make strength training available for everyone completely independent of what your body looks like.

Powerlifting is necessarily unrelated to body aesthetics, and Pull for Pride extends this concept to gender inclusivity.

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

I got introduced to powerlifting through CrossFit, where I discovered that I wasn’t very fast or coordinated – just strong. Although I still do CrossFit for general fitness, I’ve found a lot more satisfaction in powerlifting, both for myself and introducing other people to the sport.

What do you find fulfilling about training?

As a masters lifter, I like the fact that I’m still getting stronger and hitting lifetime PRs. I also like the fact that some of the college-age lifters look at me to feel encouraged that they can continue lifting throughout their adulthood.

What do you find challenging?

Recovery time is getting longer, so I have to be extra careful and spend a lot more time on mobility. I tweaked muscle means days out of the gym, so even though I try to push myself hard I still have to reel myself in a little more now.

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?

Find a coach, someone with experience in powerlifting or weightlifting. I found mine through CrossFit, but barbell clubs will have access to good coaches as well. If you’re in Atlanta, come join the Fantastic Beasts Club and we will definitely help you get started right.

If you are trans and/or queer, do you have any words of encouragement or insights for other trans and queer folks for navigating gym environments and approaching training?

Search around until you find a gym that you feel comfortable in. There are so many options for workout environments – there is a place for everyone. If you’re new, it also helps to find a coach to teach you proper technique and to get a plan – that really helps you feel a lot more confident and comfortable in the gym. That way you know you are making progress even though you might not be lifting the same weight as people who are more experienced.

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?

Encourage everyone. Introduce yourself. Welcome people in. If your gym is all cis men, ask yourself why that is. It is likely that the same things keeping cis women out are keeping the queer and trans folks out as well.

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

My friend Keith Cunningham. He’s a few years older than me and still deadlifts 600 pounds. Beyond that, he exemplifies the type of confidence and friendliness that I aspire to have. (He also has abs to die for, but that’s another matter.)