Author’s Note: Andrea Williams has been a member of Unapologetically Powerful coaching since August of 2017 and while you can already see how warm-hearted and enthusiastic she is in the photo above, her strength and tenacity should not be underestimated. A trainer herself, Andrea embodies what Jen and I call our favorite motto, “Always be learnin.” She is a genuine and enthusiastic cheerleader for her fellow coaching members, with lifting chops to boot: she has added 40 pounds to her squat, 20 pounds to her bench press, and 20 pounds to her deadlift. I simply adore this woman and by the end of this profile, I know you will too.
Take it away, Dre!
First, the basics! Your name, age, and where you live.
I’m Andrea Williams, aka Dre to my friends and clients. I turn 42 on March 28 and I live in Littleton, Colorado, just southwest of Denver.
JVB: Let’s dig right into it: what does becoming Unapologetically Powerful mean to you?
I’ve always been a head-strong person, accomplishing pretty much anything I set my mind to. The past few years, as I’ve matured and become more and more comfortable with the woman I am, I’ve felt less and less shy about expressing my thoughts on what it means to be a strong woman, both physically and mentally.
JVB: Everyone’s entry to powerlifting is a bit different: how did you find yours?
2 years ago I had a wild-hair idea that I wanted to compete in powerlifting. Spontaneous moves are how I like to do things, but I still kept my head because the very first thing I did was seek out a coach. I worked with a local coach, learned the foundations of the big three and gained a bit of strength. But when the meet I had my eye on drew nearer, I had to eat some humble pie: my body was just not ready. My knee was sore and I didn’t have the confidence I needed to go in and perform well. I took some time off over the summer of 2016, and jumped into Unapologetically Powerful Coaching with JVB last fall. BEST DECISION EVER because now I feel more than capable and strong all over.
JVB: Think about where you started and where you are now: what did you find most helpful when learning how to powerlift?
JVB talks about the negative consequences of “energy leaks” while executing a lift, and that concept was life—and lift—altering for me. I had a habit of dancing with my feet when I set up for my squat and not grounding my feet to the floor took more stability away from the lift than I had previously considered. When JVB pointed it out and I focused on rooting my feet to the ground my squat took off. I also learned how a strong grip on the bar makes a big difference—wrap your thumb around the bar and squeeze the hell out of it! Those two small cues helped me move much more weight, much easier and quickly.
JVB: Let’s talk about challenges. What was your biggest hurdle when you first started powerlifting? How did you overcome it?
A valuable life lesson I’ve learned is that if I don’t know something, it’s OK to admit that and take advice and cues from someone who does. Years ago, (and the result of another wild-hair idea) I attempted my first triathlon. I decided to train myself—hey, I can swim, ride a bike, and run, so why not?—and I was an epic DNF failure on race day. (DNF=Did Not Finish.) After I licked my wounds and my ego recovered, I found a coach. “Teach me,” I asked.
When I decided to powerlift, I knew that working with heavy weight was no joke, and good coaching would be important.
I’m a personal trainer but I allowed myself to be putty in the hands of my coaches. I also really learned to listen to my body, particularly after I hurt both my knee and my back before joining the Unapologetically Powerful coaching program. The biofeedback aspect of the UP program taught me that it’s OK to rest or take my workout down a notch or two on a particular day, if my body isn’t feeling it (and to go harder when it is). I advocate for that to my clients all the time—even the trainer needs to be trained from time to time!
JVB: In just three words, describe how you feel after a powerlifting workout?
Badass. As. F$ck.
JVB: All three are awesome, but if you must pick from squat, bench, or deadlift, which one is your favorite? What do you love about it?
This is a trick question! Not fair!
It varies week to week for me, but I have been loving on my bench the most lately. It feels pretty badass to shove a heavy weight off of my chest. In a dramatic movie sort of way, it makes me think I could escape easily if I were in a disaster and something heavy fell on me.
JVB: Time to get your PR pants on! Tell us about your most memorable personal record.
The day I deadlifted my own body weight for reps I danced around the gym and celebrated with a bacon maple donut. Squatting my own bodyweight is next on my list (and I’m close!). When I nail that lift, I’m going to drive to Voodoo Donuts in downtown Denver and get another (better) maple bacon donut from my favorite donut shop, not the grocery store!
JVB: OK, now a biggie: What is the biggest impact becoming UP has had on your life?
I naturally have a larger frame, the acceptance of which I’ve struggled with over the years. I’ve been a personal trainer for the past 5 years and I admit to having imposter syndrome about own body, and have felt like it didn’t live up to the picture being a personal trainer presents. I lead a very active lifestyle, I eat well, and I study and work with mentors to increase my knowledge as a trainer, but because of the shape of my body there have been days when I didn’t feel that I’m in a position advise others on how exercise.
But the Unapologetically Powerful program has helped me own my body, more than I ever did before. When I started powerlifting, I felt and saw changes in my body and I embraced the strength I was building. Now I think, “So what if my belly is a little bigger than it was when I was in my 30’s? My ass is much stronger and shaplier than it was then, too!” Being unapologetically powerful and proud of what my body can do is a lifestyle for me now, and self-doubt is much less frequent.
A big bonus is that my clients see my lifting videos on social media and are getting interested in lifting heavy for themselves. Yesssssssss: the message is spreading.
JVB: We know that improving your physical strength has a way of bleeding into every aspect of your life. In what ways are you Unapologetically Powerful outside of the gym?
I have always been a feminist in my beliefs but I didn’t always have the courage to speak my mind or stand up for what I thought was right. As I become more powerful in the gym, I find myself becoming more vocal outside of it as well. I believe women are a driving force in creating change in our country and world, and I am now more confident about adding my voice and power to the movement.
JVB: You’ve come a long way, baby! What has been the biggest contributor to your powerlifting success so far?
Consistency! Lifting 3 days a week for 12 weeks straight earned me gains I’d never seen before. When it comes to powerlifting, I truly believe you need to show up for your training consistently to see any sort of results. General strength training 2 days a week with endurance training mixed in was enough to keep my overall fitness level in check, but once I jumped into the UP program I was very pleased with the strength gain and progress lifting technique.
JVB: I know you love to do more than powerlift! Tell us about it!
Besides powerlifting I train and race with a local women’s triathlon group, Karma Multisport. My tri training focus is on sprint distance, in the Athena division. This year I’m branching out by attempting my first Xterra off-road race! Mountain biking is brand new to me — a sad thing to admit for a native Coloradan — and trail running is not my forte but I am excited and nervous to get on the course.
I totally live up to the Colorado stereotype of often venturing outside and into the mountains, hiking with my dog, husband, and friends. An admission — I don’t ski or snowboard! I prefer watching the snow from inside with a hot bevvie or craft beer.
JVB: Talk to the reader: What’s your best piece of advice for them if they’re interested in training for powerlifting?
Find a good coach you trust and who challenges you (in safe way!). Working with a coach has been my most powerful tool in making consistent progress. And when you decide to do it, approach the weights with confidence because you are in control. Embrace the strength you gain. Become a badass.
Do you love to lift and are interested in joining a community of like-minded lifters for a week of strength-oriented fun? The fourth #UPowerful virtual powerlifting meet is going on RIGHT NOW, and it’s not too late to join! Everyone of all strength levels is invited to compete, and no, you do not have to already be on a powerlifting program to participate. Once you join the team, the (free!) Unapologetically Powerful Ecourse will deliver everything you need to know about how to execute the big three safely and strongly, right to your inbox.
You can participate in this meet even while lifting in your own gym. That is the beauty of the #UPowerful meet: you’re able to participate from anywhere on the globe! (And you don’t even have to wear a singlet.) Join the team now!