Name: Erika Nicole Kendall
Location: New York City
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
To me, it means realizing that thinness isn’t the most important thing a girl can achieve. Going “strong” is about being capable, being able, being self-sufficient, being strong. I love that I have this as a goal to strive for, and that I can leave my gym feeling a little bit closer every day.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training?
Somewhere in the middle of my weight loss journey back in 2009, I realized I needed to do something besides walking and running, and since we had a fitness center in my apartment complex, I just started researching strength training from there. It’s been a part of my fitness journey ever since.
What does your typical workout look like?
After my warm-up, shoulder presses, squats, deadlifts, rows, overhead kettlebell presses, and assisted pull ups. And a brutal foam roll session. Oy.
Oh deadlifts. I could dead all day. It’s so funny, because my little guy just turned a year old (but is wearing Size 2 clothes because he’s grown so much), and I still wear him everywhere. People always ask, “He isn’t hurting your back yet?” I always say “Nope!” with a smile, and in my head I’m thinking “Thank you deadlifts!”
Most memorable PR:
Hitting 210 on my deadlifts right before I got pregnant. Pretty sure I heard trumpets playing in the background when I did that.
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
Dude, omg. I can’t even pick. Ahhhh! Okay, I love trap music. So, “Trap Shaker” by HPNTK and “All Deez” by Buku are on my list. I also can’t stop listening to “No Sense” by Justin Bieber (I knooooooow, I know *groans*) and “Good For You” by Selena Gomez—and, yes, I listen to them back to back on repeat because I’m that person. I also like listening to slow sexy-time music when I lift, because it helps me remember to breathe. So, if you see me in the gym and I’m completely zoned out, chances are high I’m listening to D’Angelo’s first or second album. That’s technically more like 30 songs, but you get my drift.
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
Cornstarch baby powder, a good headband, and a pair of wireless headphones.
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I think it depends. I love my spin classes because there’s communal joy in that room and we feed off each other’s energy, but I lift in isolation because that’s my time to recalibrate my energy, and I prefer to do that by myself. I spend all day up under people—my son, kids at my oldest kid’s school, meetings, whatever—my training time is for me to zone out, blast some trap music, look at myself in the mirror without someone yelling my name, and focus solely on myself. My time in the cage is my ME time.
Most embarrassing gym moment:
Man, it’d definitely have to be when a guy caught me looking at his package when he was on the bench press. It wasn’t my fault! His shorts were so thin, and he was going after it so hard, I mean…it was kind of hard to not notice.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
My husband told me just a couple hours ago about how proud he was that I get up and go after it every single morning, and that I leave my phone at home when I go. He said I inspired him. I still have warm fuzzies!
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I told my 10 year old, on her way out the door, that I was proud of her for burning the midnight oil to finish a project she needed to have done for school.
Everything. All of it. Nah, I’m kidding. (Sorta.) Honestly, it would have to be my mom’s collard greens and dumplings. Or my husband’s chana masala. Or maybe a pizza bianca. The whole thing, by my doggone self. See? I can’t decide!
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Manicures! I have a mean polish collection and I love nail art, so I keep my nails fresh.
Enjoy life one moment at a time.
The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler, former FDA dude. I can only hope my book will be as helpful for someone out there as his book was for me.
What inspires and motivates you?
Honestly? My daughter. I want her to have so much more and be so much more, and because I know she “wants to be like mom,” I look at bettering myself as the best way to mold her into the best version of herself.
What do you do?
I’m a full time blogger at A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, a personal trainer, an occasional columnist at The Guardian (US), and a stay-at-home mom to a 10-year-old and a 1-year-old (which is way more work than the other three combined.)
What else do you do?
I love to read. I feel like I devour books and articles all day. I also love to explore the city. So much of the world is at your fingertips in NYC, that it’s a crime to not get out and learn something new and different every once in a while.
Describe a typical day in your life, from waking up to bedtime:
It involves a lot of changing diapers and shielding my laptop from projectile toys.
I wake up at 6am and put on my workout clothes immediately, then go harass my daughter into waking up because LOL alarm clocks are a joke to tweens. I then go and make scrambled eggs for the little guy, and then get the dog ready to take her outside. I always walk my daughter out the door and give her a little pep talk and a hug, and multi-task while I’m walking the dog.
After Baby Sprout—the 1yo—finishes his eggs, we head out the door to the gym. He goes to the day care in the gym and I get my grind on—and a GOOD shower, omg—and I always take up a good amount of time to do it, too.
When we get back, that’s my time to read and write, and Sprout’s time to play. Sometimes, he’ll snuggle up next to me while I read to him about my research—I’m pretty sure his first big words are going to be “dopamine” and “serotonin”—and usually falls asleep there because Bubble Guppies would obviously be more interesting.
Once my daughter gets home, I help her with her homework or monitor her rumblings in the kitchen to make sure she doesn’t eat 5 hot dogs in a row again and spoil her dinner. Either Eddy, my better half, will cook dinner when he gets home or he’ll bring it home. And, when he’s here, I’m either reading or vegging out. I keep a super-busy morning because that’s when I’m at my most energetic. By about 5pm, I’m generally toast. He takes over and manages everything after that. Mommy’s done for the day. I’m putting my feet up and telling everybody to scram and catching up on what’s new in my Texture app.
Your next training goal: Honestly, to recover the gains I made before pregnancy. I took time off when I was carrying Sprout because it was a high risk one, and I took more time off after delivery because post-partum depression made it difficult to do anything, really. Now, I just want to get back to where I was.
For what are you most grateful?
Honestly, I’m grateful for a lot. Postpartum depression has this uncanny way of making you appreciate things we take for granted. I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for an understanding and supportive partner who helped me when I couldn’t help myself. I’m grateful for a job that allows me to take time to myself to recover and still make money. And I’m grateful for a community that considers empathy a core tenet.
What life accomplishment are you most proud of?
My daughter. I had her when I was a senior in college, and I was so afraid that I could never give her the life I believed she deserved. Now, she’s not only smarter than I was at her age, but she’s had more experiences, travelled more, and knows more about the world and what it has to offer. I’m immensely proud of her. She’s the best.
Which three words that best describe you?
Dedicated, passionate, resilient.
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
Well, right now, I’m writing a book about emotional eating and weight loss. To me, it feels risky because I’m making a scientific argument for a social phenomenon, and I’m doing it from the perspective of someone who lived with it, not a scientist. The risk of making an ass of myself is high, but it has been nothing but rewarding thus far. It’s changed the way I look at myself and my experiences with binge eating, and has allowed me to be more empathetic to myself as I find my way back on my journey to postpartum fitness.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training?
I feel like I walk taller. Like, I walk into rooms like I belong in them now, and it changed the way people talked to me. I feel like I can claim the air I breathe as mine, instead of feeling like I’m in borrowed space that I can be removed from at any time.
How has lifting weights changed your life?
My confidence in my ability to set a goal, meet it, and then continue to evolve in healthy ways has improved and, ultimately, changed the way I approach so many other situations in my life.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training?
There’s so much more to lifting than picking things up and putting them down. It’s literally about walking into a space, setting an intention for yourself, valuing yourself enough to take that intention seriously, walking yourself through moving towards that goal, feeling the burn of your dedication, watching the sweat and stress and anger at your kids and annoyance at your partner drip on the floor, leaving that space knowing you’re that much closer to your ultimate goal, feeling the improvement in your quality of life, knowing that something you’ve done for you will ultimately make you better, and then…feeling eager and excited to set aside time for you so that you can do this thing for you again. It’s not easy, and those of us who love it may overcomplicate it sometimes, but boy, it is an amazing feeling.
If you’re inspired by Erika, read on to learn more about—and join!—our community of strong, supportive women…