Pull For Pride Athlete Tom Biegeleisen: "Focus on gains on a scale of months and years, not days and weeks."

Name: Tom Biegeleisen

Age: 35

Pronouns: he/him/his

Pull For Pride Location: Brooklyn, NY

Favorite song to listen to while training (right now): Tycho SnowGlobe DJ Set 2017

Favorite post-training meal: chipotle chicken with quinoa and veggies

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

I identify as queer.  I never liked the label "gay" and queerness better reflects how I view myself in the world.

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

Training up until now has been a purely personal pursuit.  It came from a positive place, but it's still "selfish" in the sense that it's just for me. It feels amazing to be able to train and have it make a positive impact on others. What a privilege!

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

I started training maybe 5 years ago.  I used to be a long-distance runner, but tore my hamstrings training for the NYC Marathon in 2008.  That led to a period of self-reflection and recovery, and I eventually discovered yoga and completed a teacher training program.  During that program, I noticed my physical strength was out of balance with my flexibility (especially upper-body strength).  I had never seriously weight-trained before and decided that was a good time to round out my physical practice.  I started seriously training with a professional trainer one year ago.  He has totally transformed how I view training and myself as weightlifter.

What do you find fulfilling about training?

Through training, I always feel like I can better myself. Regardless of whatever else is going on in my life or in the world, if I can get to a gym consistently, I know that I'm working towards something and I feel grounded.

What do you find challenging?

The hardest part is working on the movements that you're the worst at (we all have them and know it!). I think that people are naturally predisposed to do the things that they do best and avoid the things that they don't do well, but with training you have to do the opposite.  For example, my weakest movement is incline bench.  On days when I have to do heavy sets on incline bench, I have to summon a lot of extra mojo to silence that voice in my head saying, "Ugh you can't do this!"

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?

First, ask someone who's been training a while for their advice, or work with a trainer. 
 
If you're going to work with a trainer, find someone who is really knowledgeable about programming and treat each session as a learning experience, not just "a workout". Ask questions, take notes, and always, always, always be selfless and open-minded. 
 
Training often means putting your ego aside and accepting things as they are. For example, if you're tired one day but have a big workout ahead of you, you might be better off waiting until you've had a good night's sleep rather than pushing yourself and increasing your risk for injury. Or if you're positive you know how to bench press but you're not progressing, you might need to accept that maybe you've been doing it wrong your whole life and start learning the movement again from scratch. 
 
These kinds of realizations are where the real growth happens: it's all about learning to work with your body and within your limits. Also: the human body is incredibly slow at building muscle mass, despite what people on TV and the internet will tell you. You have to focus on gains on a scale of months and years, not days and weeks.
 
 Finally, training is just one piece of the puzzle.  What you eat and how much you sleep are equally as important as how you train.

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?

The gym can be intimidating at first, especially if you're queer or trans, but one thing I would mention is that everyone feels this way when they first start training. I'm a cis white man, and despite the fact that I can pass as non-queer -- a privilege I am consciously aware of -- I still felt intimidated and uncomfortable when I started. Gyms are a public space where everyone is more exposed and vulnerable than usual. That being said, I realize that there are additional challenges that genderqueer and trans people face in these settings that I have never experienced. 

 

In my experience, most people who are serious about training will respect others, give people space to work out and focus on their own training, though this is sadly probably not a universal truth. Many gyms do have gender neutral bathrooms available and you don't have to use the locker rooms (I often don't). If you have specific concerns about facilities use, I would recommend first talking to other queer/trans people who train and asking them which gyms they'd recommend.  If that yields no positive results, you can also ask the management to give you a tour of the facilities.  Most gyms will do this on the spot for free if you're not a member and somebody is available to give you the tour.

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?

 Follow the Golden Rule, don't stare, be conscious of others and leave the whole "bro" thing at the door.

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

There's a guy who calls himself "Scooby" on YouTube who has put out hundreds of educational videos about strength training. His insight really changed how I view strength training, especially his constant reminders that most of us aren't predisposed to weight training and that consistent, hard work with good nutrition and lots of sleep is the key to success.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I'm incredibly grateful to have been introduced to this community!