Pull For Pride Athlete Vanessa Gale: "Love Is Limitless, And I Refuse To Hide In The Shadows."
Name: Vanessa “PrettySTRONG” Gale
Pronouns: I, Me, They, Them, You, She, Her.
Pull for Pride location: Atlanta, GA
Favorite song to listen to while training: Favorite Artist currently: Wardruna
Favorite post-training meal: sushi and a cider
How do you identify? Tell us a little about yourself:
I identify as Vanessa Gale.
I happen to be a polyamorous, bisexual woman.
I’m a mother of a toddler, a doctor of chiropractic, a powerlifting coach, and on a mission to help people tap into their authentic selves by bringing more awareness to their bodies through reorganizational healing.
What does Pull for Pride mean to you and what's motivating you to participate?
I was drawn to participate in this event because my partners and I recently came out to our families about being polyamorous. And while it was freeing, it’s been tense and difficult for our parents to accept. On the other hand, my peers have been overwhelmingly supportive and I want to give back to the LGBTQ+ community for paving the way.
Love is limitless, and I refuse to hide in the shadows to love whoever I want to love. My goal in doing this meet is to bring about more awareness of different types of modern families and showing the world there is greater happiness in being authentic.
When did you begin barbell training and what inspired you to start?
I began barbell training in high school, but I began competing eight years ago and fell into coaching shortly after that. A coach is one of those things I just became when people began seeking direction, and I had the experience and knowledge to share.
I was originally inspired to powerlift after my first trip to the Arnold Sports Festival. I was there to compete in Kettle bell (GS) Long Cycle. After my competition was over, one of my partners at the time said, “Let’s go watch some powerlifting.” My mindset immediately shifted from lifting light weight many times to lifting a ton of weight one time. It just seemed like more fun to me. I never really looked back after that.
What do you find fulfilling about training?
Hitting PRs is an obvious highlight, but when you’ve been lifting for a decade or more you aren’t always PRing in the gym week after week. So, I find joy in lifting comfortable weights faster, beltless, or for more reps. This year I benched my bodyweight for 10 reps. That was a pretty cool moment, and then I did it again and again and again.
I also enjoy coaching a group of newer lifters and seeing their movement patterns improve week to week. I like PRETTY lifts… it’s not always about being the strongest lifter in the room. It’s about being the lifter with the most attention to detail because that is the lifter that will have the longest, healthiest career in this sport. Talented people come and go, but disciplined people stick around and stay healthy.
What do you find challenging?
I find it most challenging to give up time with my daughter to train. After a long day at work, I want to see her, play with her, and just enjoy every minute of this adorable toddler phase. I am lucky to have amazing partners and family to help me achieve my lifting and momming goals.
I still sometimes find it challenging to go to meets with multiple partners because not everyone knows or understands polyamory. I don’t expect everyone to get it. My partners are lifters too, so when we are all together it can be tough for people to understand our dynamic. This is completely normal for us, and I find myself wanting to say things like,
“I’m not cheating on my husband.”
“Yes, he’s also my partner.”
“Yes they know about each other.”
“We’re actually all friends.”
“Our daughter is lucky to have so many loving adults in her life.”
“She is not confused by our situation.”
“You might be though, so feel free to ask more questions.”
But more often than not, people don’t ask. They just assume the worst and gossip. So that is challenging, and I hope to shine some light on the world of possibilities within polyamory.
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?
I always recommend getting an experienced coach. Not a coach who started lifting three years ago and won their first meet. There are basic strength training principles you can apply to your training for a very long time before you plateau, but having a knowledgeable eye to help develop a plan through all the stages of lifting is the most valuable investment you could ever make.
It’s more important than fancy lifting shoes, belts, wraps, gear, etc. Also, short rant: PROGRAMMING is NOT COACHING. Coaching is systematic and needs to be a synergistic relationship between the athlete and the coach.
Another tip: Hire a coach who has a coach. Someone who thinks they can look at their own training without emotion attached is kidding themselves. It’s ok to trust the process and let the mad scientist make a plan for you to just execute.
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?
Find your tribe. This can be hard, but if you are committed to being your most authentic self, people see that and can’t help but be attracted to that energy.
Authenticity is the sexiest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. Overcoming the fear of rejection and hate is tough. I know I fear telling some people in the gym who my partners are for fear of being judged, but you know what I fear worse? I fear marginalizing myself, and my partners to just “fit in” to the heteronormative nuclear family model. We fit in better when we stand out! So stand up strong with your deadlifts, people!
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?
The best thing you can do is treat people as fellow human beings. Connect to that thing inside yourself that KNOWS we are all universal souls on the same path to better this ball floating in the vast darkness of twinkle twinkles. If you see or hear some one displaying non-inclusive behavior, simply ask them to stop. You can address their concerns with them personally or bring it to the attention of the gym management. You can also use the first two sentences of this paragraph to help them understand that trans and/or queer people are not a threat, and they would appreciate the same courtesy.
Do you have a strength role model(s) in your life (this could be strength training or strength in other ways)?
Over the years I have had so many role models it’s hard to name just one.
What I can say here is that I look up to the people that smash gender roles by embracing whom they feel they truly are. The people that don’t fear changing their identity are the ones brave enough to change and continue to grow, while the others remain stuck in a cycle of complacency.
To avoid singling out specific person/s, I just want to suggest that if you look up to someone, tell them. Even if it’s for the smallest thing, letting someone know they lifted you to the next level, lifts them to the next level as well, and the cycle spirals upwards instead of on loop. Don’t idolize anyone, and learn from everyone. Be curious and genuinely interested in others because growth only happens when you step out of your box. Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable at times. I know answering these questions has my heart beating very fast knowing this is going out to social media land, but I have to practice what I preach.
Authenticity is HOT. Be unapologetically you.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I’d love to connect with more people on the coming out journey. Reading about it in books just isn’t the same as talking with people who’ve navigated it or want to navigate it. Please reach out if anything I said resonated with you.