Name: Megan Matal
Location: Mountain View, CA (one of the cities in Silicon Valley)
How did you find out about Girls Gone Strong?
Several years ago, I noticed one of my friends had followed the Girls Gone Strong page on Facebook. I was drawn to the uplifting messages which were in stark contrast to another fitness page I followed that primarily shared fitspo. Upon finding GGS, I unfollowed that other page.
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
Owning my choices regardless of whether those choices take me further away from or closer to my goals. Lifting other women up and surrounding myself with individuals who don’t tear me down. Persisting in spite of setbacks and fear.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
My job falls under the umbrella description “rocket science.” I work as an engineer for a large defense contractor primarily doing missile system design, modeling, and analysis.
I love doing CrossFit, hiking (day hikes and backpacking), traveling, reading books (sci-fi and fantasy novels as well as various non-fiction books), watching movies, playing online video games, and spending too much time reading about current events on the Internet.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training?
I was introduced to CrossFit as a concept around 2004. It wasn’t until May 2008 that I actually started trying to lift heavy weights. I joined a CrossFit gym in August 2008, and have been loving it ever since.
Power cleans. I love ripping a heavy weight off the ground and having it end up on my shoulders. It’s an awesome feeling.
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
I don’t have a top three, just a top one: my custom jump rope that is sized to my height. It makes double-unders possible!
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I really like the community aspect of CrossFit. I enjoy everyone cheering each other on and celebrating the shared successes.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
A few months ago, another woman complimented me on how fast and fluid my burpee-box jumps were. This compliment came as a huge surprise, as I generally consider burpees to be one of my worst movements. I recognized that I was indeed moving pretty well that day, so the compliment was a nice reminder that when we work on our weaknesses, we can turn them into strengths.
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
To the woman working hard doing wall balls beside me during a workout: “I noticed you did the prescribed weights for that workout. Good job! Very impressive!” Obviously, I said this after the workout was over. I would never want to interrupt a woman in the middle of her workout (like so many other people seem to think is OK to do).
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Getting a professional massage.
Three words that best describe you:
Analytical, good-humored, balanced.
What inspires and motivates you?
I’m inspired by women in their 70s and 80s who are still physically active and/or active in their communities. I want to be like them when I’m that age.
When it comes to choices about my health, fitness, and experiences, I try to keep the long view in mind.
Describe a typical day in your life…
6:30 a.m. — Wake up, throw on gym clothes, and arrive at the gym a few minutes before class starts so I can foam roll.
7–8 a.m. — CrossFit. Drive home, shower and get ready for work. Eat breakfast, which usually consists of a banana, two eggs, and coffee with creamer.
9:45 a.m. — Get to work.
1:30 p.m. — I get hungry around this time, so I eat lunch, then continue to work.
3:30 p.m. — Go for a quick 5-10 minute walk (because I’ve likely been sitting all day and am getting restless).
6 p.m. — Eat a small snack like some nuts, or a slice of an apple.
7 p.m. — Leave work.
7:45 p.m. — Make and eat dinner, then watch a TV show for an hour with my boyfriend.
10 p.m. — Try to get to bed and be asleep by 10:30.
Note: This only describes a day in which I go to the gym on a work day. This (work and gym) only occurs twice per week. I could not maintain this schedule every day. I also go to the gym on the weekend.
When and why did you join Strongest You Coaching?
I joined Strongest You Coaching in June 2016. I had looked into it in January of that year, but balked at the price. Between January and June, I tried working on things on my own, but I fell back into the only habit I knew: restrict my diet based on the Paleo framework, and when that became too restrictive for me, binge for a week on all “forbidden” foods. I just couldn’t keep doing that.
Also, around this same time, I realized the difference in caloric needs for my weight at the time and my preferred weight was only 67 calories per day. I could easily maintain my higher weight, but I needed to learn how to maintain the lower weight. I didn’t need a diet plan, I needed a maintenance plan that I could practice for the rest of my life.
What has been your biggest challenge in the Strongest You Coaching program?
I almost quit due to the vegetable habit! Because I’m analytical, I did the math on how many meals I could “fail” to practice the habit, and I felt consistently nailing the habit would be impossible. Also, I was eating mostly vegetables at dinner so the measure of success for the habit felt unfair. But my coach explained why getting vegetables at more meals was important and how to measure success (I didn’t have to eat a salad at every meal. Also, French fries don’t count.)
This habit has become a lot easier over time. In fact, I think I had some mental blocks that prevented me from being creative with the habit due to my mindset regarding my understanding and desire to still abide by the rules of Paleo. My coach helped point out the ways in which I could be more flexible and break out of my old mindset. For instance, I thought having a sandwich for lunch would prevent me from getting enough vegetables (without also getting a side salad), but my coach pointed out that I could load up my sandwich with vegetables, and that would be adequate. This type of thinking was revolutionary to me.
What has been your biggest success in the Strongest You Coaching program?
I am really proud of some of my fitness gains — specifically, my deadlift and push-ups. In early 2009, I pulled my old deadlift PR at 240 pounds. In April 2009, I broke my left humerus while attempting a muscle-up. Between 2009 and 2016, every time I tried to deadlift close to my old PR, I would injure my back and be in pain for a week. Then, thanks to the SYC program, I hit a deadlift of 265 pounds in October 2016 without any pain! As for push-ups, my left arm had a long recovery after the fracture, including hoping it would heal properly on its own, the working of scar tissue, and a year of shoulder impingement. In March 2017 I completed an unbroken set of 20 pushups. It just demonstrates what is obvious: good coaching and putting in the work will allow you to reach your goals.
What do you like best about the Strongest You Coaching community?
It’s a really supportive environment of women with diverse experiences who draw upon those experiences to give advice and encouragement.
What is the habit you’re currently working on most?
Staying mindful while eating. There are so many distractions that I have to constantly remind myself to stay present and pay attention to my food. I cannot go through life on a cycle of binging, restricting, guilt, and stress. Continually practicing moderation and mindfulness is my key out of that cycle and the promise that I don’t have to go back.
How has Strongest You Coaching changed your life?
It really has healed my relationship with food. I have learned how to do moderation (though it is still a work in practice). My favorite phrase has been “I can have that!” with the caveat that if I don’t like it, I should not continue eating it. Or if I do like it, savor it and eat it slowly. When I only knew the “on diet-off diet” cycle, moderation sounded insane. But, with a lot of work, I changed my mindset, and it feels really good to be out of that cycle.
What would you tell a woman who’s nervous about joining Strongest You Coaching?
I’m really glad I finally allowed myself to get help. I consider myself strong and independent, and as such, I don’t always listen to the advice of others. It was really hard to accept that I didn’t have all the answers. So, I signed up, listened to my coach, and did the hard work. Then, miraculously, a few months into the Strongest You Coaching program, I suddenly felt a sense of peace with food and my body.
This peace of mind was worth every penny spent and more.