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Breastfeeding and powerlfiting: Interview with Katie Simmons

Interview by Ivy Knight

When you think about being a powerlifter, being a mom isn’t the first thing most people think of and yet, there are lots and lots of female powerlifters who are mom. But that really shouldn’t shock anyone because who are some of strongest people in the world? Moms of course! And Katie Simmons is one of those strong moms! I chatted with her about how she handled meet prep and competition as a mom. I’m inspired and you will be too!

Introduce yourself the GWPL

Hey hey! I’m Kate Simmons, or @FitMama_Kate on Instagram. I am a competitive powerlifter and strongwoman who often competes, trains, and coaches alongside my husband at Avenger Athletics located in Central PA. However, first and foremost, I am a mom. Since becoming a mama to three beautiful children, I decided to leave my job of 6 years to stay at home with my babies! If I’m not at the gym, you can usually find me at the local library, playground, or at home teaching my littles how to read, write, and differentiate between shapes and colors. 

When did you start lifting? Did you already have kids when you started lifting?

*TRIGGER WARNING: mention of postpartum anxiety and miscarriage*

I’ll be honest with you, I have struggled with fluctuations in my weight and body image issues for as long as I can remember. I had my first baby in early 2016 and didn’t care much about my overall health. Between pregnancy and severe (and untreated) postpartum anxiety, I was at my heaviest and was barely able to keep up with my little girl. In November of 2017, we found out we were expecting another baby. We were so excited to grow our family — but at my 10 week appointment, we found out that our son’s heart had stopped beating. I spent several months blaming myself and my body for this, despite others telling me it wasn’t my fault. 

Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of it being my poor health’s fault that my baby didn’t survive. I tried dieting, HIIT workouts, running, walking, adjusting my diet with multiple MLMs, etc. — you name it, I tried it. I finally said to my husband that I needed someone to push me to do better, I needed structure and consistency in my workouts and that is when we found our coach, Estreya Rosado, and started lifting in May 2019 in hopes of getting my body to a healthier place to carry another baby. After one month of working with my coach, we found out that I was pregnant. 

Scared is an understatement. Most days, I could barely breathe because the fear of losing another child was debilitating. With approval and guidance from my OB and my coach, I continued to lift throughout my pregnancy. I even battled with gestational diabetes and had a very healthy son 9 months later. Fast forward about 13 months and we were pregnant again and had another successful pregnancy (also with gestational diabetes). 

Over the last three years of lifting, the only time I didn’t lift was the two weeks postpartum after each child — don’t worry, it was 100% approved by my OB and my coach and I worked together to make sure I didn’t injure myself. The best advice I was ever given in terms of pregnant/postpartum lifting is to listen to your body! 

You recently competed, as a mom, tell me how you balanced meet prep and life?

I did recently compete! As a mom, leading up to the meet was definitely a challenge! My husband works long hours and our families lives 90+ minutes away. We largely fly solo out here with our kiddos, so meet preps can be a bit of a struggle. Leading up to our peaking cycle, my two oldest spent time playing with a plethora of toys and activities in a “kid’s play area” that our coach created in our gym! Our newborn would sit in a little baby rocker or in his pack-n-play on the gym floor simply because my two year old can’t be trusted to not climb into the pack-n-play with him. There is also a private room set up with a comfy chair that is just for women like me who exclusively breastfeed!

During our peaking cycle, however, I had a babysitter, AKA my best friend Dayna, for my two oldest children and continued to bring our baby to the gym with me. Honestly, if it weren’t for Dayna watching the older two, I probably never would have competed. Peaking consisted of long workouts and late nights, so having somewhere fun for my kiddos to go and play with someone I trust immensely was absolutely crucial. Whenever I was lifting, our baby boy was often napping or playing in his pack-n-play or being held by a member of our powerlifting team. This is honestly one of the main reasons why I love my gym; we are a family—one solid unit who looks out for each other inside and outside of the gym. If we see a fellow member of our team struggling, we lend a helping hand without question. 

Talk to me about the competition itself. How was your day?

The competition was an absolutely amazing experience! Both myself and my husband competed that day. Our two oldest stayed the weekend at my in-laws house about three hours from where we competed. With them being older, we knew they would be bored out of their minds hanging out at the competition all day, so we were very, very appreciative of the fact that they were able to stay there. This was definitely a struggle for me though as I hadn’t yet spent the night away from my 2 year old between him being a tiny baby and Covid, let alone there being a three-hour travel distance between us. A few FaceTime video chats and pictures of my littles helped ease my mind quite a bit! 

As for baby boy, I had set it up ahead of time that a member of our powerlifting team would be there to be with him while we were lifting. We had packed our pack-n-play, tons of toys, and a baby carrier for her to wear him if he became restless — and we were permitted to have him set up in the gym where we set up our belongings to warm up before each lift. 

It was a perfect set up! I could snuggle my baby (for good luck, of course) while simultaneously focusing on my lifts without having to worry about whether my two oldest were having fun or were eating and drinking enough. 

Overall, the meet was a wild success! I am now the current Pennsylvania state record holder for Classic Raw Open Women’s 110kg weight class in Squat, Bench, Deadlift, and Total! 

Because I know you already, I know that you had to breastfeed during the meet. What was that experience like? Did anyone make you feel uncomfortable? 

Breastfeeding during the meet was honestly easier than I had anticipated. I found a cozy little corner of the room near where we set up our belongings, rolled down my singlet, lifted my mom-hacked Avenger Athletics Powerlifting Team competition tee and fed away. No one paid me any mind, and if they had anything negative to say about it, they didn’t say it to me. Yes, at first I was a bit uncomfortable, but I think a large part of the discomfort was in my head. While I’m sitting there thinking “I hope that guy sitting across the room from me isn’t offended right now” — he was actually thinking “what a strong woman to be able to lift at a powerlifting meet AND breastfeed her baby between lifts.” I know, because he approached me when I finished up to tell me. 

There are certain anxieties that a mom will always feel when it comes to exposing herself in order to feed her child. However, what other people think and feel is trivial compared to how your child feels with a hungry belly, isn’t it? 

It definitely helped that I prepared my competition outfit with breastfeeding in mind prior to the meet! I will be posting a mom hack video on my page on how I successfully breastfeed at meets on my IG!

 

Katie is not only an amazing mom, she’s an incredibly strong powerlifter and coach and if you don’t follow her in Instagram you definetly should!

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