‘How Hormone Replacement Therapy Impacted My Strength Training’

I formally started strength training on a consistent basis my sophomore year of high school thanks to a coach who pushed me to work hard. Since then, I haven’t been able to put a barbell down. It has to be in my hands every day or I go a little crazy.

I also played sports throughout my childhood. I was playing every single sport under the sun and was a bigger-bodied little kid. I could not run or move or do the things that were generally expected of me. But it wasn’t until high school that I realized that this body can be used in different ways.

Playing football surrounded by huge, muscular dudes, I was able to be the smaller and quicker one, and it really taught me how to rationalize that anything’s trainable.

I spent almost two hours in the weight room every single morning.

After moving to Austin for college, I didn’t have much else to do. So, I worked out. I signed up for advanced weight-training class. I thought I was going in to learn how to squat, bench press, and deadlift heavier. It was so much more.

Within a month I was hooked. I just wanted to keep training. I ended up asking the coach if I could join the powerlifting team. I ended up formally joining in May of 2019 and trained with them all the way through until December of 2020.

I needed it more than I realized. To walk in and be in a close space with athletes who are already experienced, who were already in a mindset that I wasn’t in yet. I needed the exposure to other athletes. It’s really unrivaled.

There’s a popular term in weightlifting called a “garage mind,” and it’s really just that idea of ​​staying gritty, getting in, and getting the work done. We don’t need fancy tech. We don’t need fancy movements. We just need a barbell and our program and we’ll get it done. That’s what we did.

I realized I was trans in August 2019 and started hormone replacement one year later. When I started, I was struggling with lifts.

Even my coach was blown away. I skipped the first day of training on hormones so I wasn’t messing with my body in a million different ways on that very first day. The second day, I got back in the gym. I couldn’t lift what I was lifting two days prior, though.

From there, I saw a 20 to 30 percent drop in my lifting numbers. I had spent almost two years fostering this growth in Olympic weightlifting. Now it was all just melting off of me, it was it was really jarring. As the hormones went on, I got weaker. I got a little smaller, I got a little less athletic. But, I started to really feel like this is something I needed.

My focus was technical for the first six months while I struggled gaining strength. I figured my technique has to be perfect.

If I couldn’t pull the barbell off the ground with perfect technique, I wasn’t going to be the best I could be. It was new for me to focus on form, to not worry about the numbers anymore, but just worry about how well I am moving these numbers.

My testosterone was extremely low. It’s still extremely low. So it’s incredibly hard for me to make any gains, period, and especially in powerlifting. Over the course of a year, I put 20 pounds on my deadlift, and I put 10 pounds on my bench—a tiny increase for me.

To experience this total drop in how I gained muscle, how I gained strength, how I move about the world, it was very jarring. I wouldn’t say I was defeated by the end of my powerlifting stint, but it was brutal and it really humbles you.

My goal now is always to get moving every single day. Sometimes it’s about simply feeling good.

That’s a new thing for me too. I transitioned back to Olympic weightlifting in spring 2022. Now I spend three to four days a week lifting a barbell. On top of that I’m doing cardio. I’m doing extra accessories.

I’m doing extra glute work to grow my backside. I didn’t want to think about my glutes as a boy for my entire life. Now, as a girl, I’m realizing, Oh, there’s actual muscular dysfunction back there. The stair stepper actually helps me work on that dysfunction, paired with the band work and the dumbbell work that I do.

I get to go and really train hard and express my athleticism throughout the week. Then, those other sessions I get to clear my head and just feel silent.

It wasn’t until I found an inclusive club and visited other queer-focused gyms that I truly felt comfortable.

I discovered Liberation Barbell Club in Austin, which is focused on being a healthy and safe space for athletes and *all* people. The more I train there, I meet amazing people who don’t see me for what I am externally.

I was worried in the first few weeks because it felt as if all the men were staring at me. But it turns out they actually were just so impressed with me because, no matter what, no matter how my numbers are dropping, I was still there training hard and being myself.

I started lifting there a week after I started hormones. To have a community and a space that allowed me to walk in in tiny booty shorts and a sports bra in the beginning of my transition—when I didn’t pass for a woman at all—was a huge step for me.

Nobody will excel in their sport if they’re alone. You need people around you. Especially as a queer person and as a trans person, to have people who think the same way, who asked the same questions, who wonder about the world in the same ways, is unmatched on arrival.

If I didn’t have the ability to wear the clothes that I want and to feel affirmed in my space, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with lifting.

I’ve had a lot of issues with gender dysphoria. As an athlete, I spent years idolizing other strength athletes who were always training in tiny shorts and sports bras. These women are absolutely jacked and muscular. I idolized them and I wanted to wear that too.

Early in my transition, I bought the booty shorts online from a strength athlete-specific store. It really empowered me. To be a trans woman and bring the clothes into my house that I’ve seen on cis women for my entire life was a huge moment for me.

I consider my 440-pound deadlift a proud moment that showed how I put in the work.

In January, I ended up pulling 440 pounds at the very, very end of a meet. It was a number I’ve been looking for for a very long time. I was technically sound. I was so strong. My muscles were all engaged the way I needed to be.

I was so anxious, though. It was a moment I had to look at myself in the mirror and say you’re here because you love doing this. You’re here because you love everything about this. Right before that last deadlift, I went to the bathroom looked in the mirror and I told myself, “Go have fun. Go finish.”

It was a moment that truly showed me that no matter what happens in my transition, no matter what happens in the world around me, I still will seek weight training out and work hard.

But I am most proud of inspiring other people to pick up a barbell for the first time.

I could talk about PRs or accomplishments or big moments, but inspiring others ultimately stands out to me. I went to an event earlier in the summer in Seattle, Pull for Pride, an all-inclusive deadlift competition where anyone can come and lift. There were so many people in that room that I know for a fact would never have picked up a barbell if they didn’t have that opportunity.

Those lifters told me, “You helped me you help inspire me to do this.”

Sport is my anchor, and the thing I come back to no matter what. If everything else in my life is falling apart, I can still go to the gym.

If everything else my life is falling apart, I can still compete. When I was struggling in my childhood and teenage years and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and asking myself, “Why am I depressed all the time? Why don’t I feel good about myself?” Sports kept me going. Honestly, if I wasn’t playing sports and lifting, I’m not sure if I would be here right now.