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NBSV 135


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 135

Powerlifter Rachel Lakey on veganism, and queer and trans inclusion in powerlifting

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan Podcast, episode 135. Rachel Lakey is on the show to discuss fueling strength training on 100% plants, vegan representation in strength sports, queer and trans inclusion in powerlifting, and much more.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina your go-to, no-BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. If you haven't yet connected with me on Instagram, please do, @KarinaInkster. I have finally been getting into reels, which include workouts you can do, and I'm always posting vegan recipes and strength training intel, and the occasional, well, actually the frequent, cat photo. So find me @KarinaInkster.

Today's guest is Rachel Lakey. Rachel is a Portland, Oregon-based strength coach and competitive powerlifter. They've been vegan for 14 years. Five years ago, they took a vegan women's introduction to strength training class with yours truly, and have been addicted to the barbell ever since. In their first year of competing, they broke multiple state records and lifted at the national level. Rachel is passionate about expanding queer inclusion and representation in powerlifting, and is involved in advocacy efforts around the Pacific Northwest.

They have two dogs and love to spend time outside camping and hiking, when they're not at the gym. We recorded this episode a few weeks ago, but just a few days ago, Rachel qualified for their first pro-power lifting meet, with a total of 1063.7 pounds lifted, and first place in their weight category. Rachel nailed a 418-pound squat, 203-pound bench press, and a 440-pound deadlift. Absolutely incredible. Huge congrats to you, Rachel. By the way, Rachel's favourite meal is vegan poutine, and I hope you enjoy our discussion. Hey Rachel, welcome to the show. Nice to speak with you today.

Rachel Lakey: Nice to speak with you too. It's so good to see you again.

Karina Inkster: You too. It has been years since we've caught up in person. We've been following each other and commenting and stuff on the interwebs, but this is cool to see you in person again.

Rachel Lakey: I know, it's amazing. We're reunited after I think five years. It's been a long time.

Karina Inkster: That seems about right. Yeah, we moved to Powell River four years ago, and I think a year before that, probably.

Rachel Lakey: Yeah.

Karina Inkster: So sounds about right.

Rachel Lakey: So it's really cool. You've done a lot with your life since then, so that's amazing.

Karina Inkster: Aw, well so have you. So let's jump in, for our listeners, can you tell your vegan backstory? So you've been vegan for 14 years.

Rachel Lakey: Yep.

Karina Inkster: And how did you come to it? Because I want to talk about veganism in strength sports, but just as a background, why vegan for you?

Rachel Lakey: That's a great question. Yeah, I was definitely a bit of a rebellious teenager, and I've always been curious about the world. And there was, at some point, I was 13 and I was reading a Wikipedia article, like researching something for school, and I came across an article on slaughterhouses, and it just changed me. I was like, this is information I didn't have before, and I want to do something about it. And I couldn't separate that pain and agony from the way that I was living my life. Always been a big animal person, always been really compassionate, and just drawn towards helping people, helping animals. It just made sense. And then my mom was like, "Well, sucks for you. I'm not cooking for you anymore." So I just learned to do that on my own and was able to pick out my own groceries and stuff like that.

I've definitely fluctuated a little bit growing up. I fluctuated a little bit back into vegetarianism in college, but for the most part, vegan for 14 years. I think maybe a couple of months there I ate some animal products, and I felt horrible the whole time. I love being vegan. It makes sense to me. And it's easier than it's ever been. I mean, heck, when I was 13, the only thing we could drink with coffee was soy milk. There wasn't even almond milk.

Karina Inkster: Oh, I remember.

Rachel Lakey: People weren't even talking about that yet. It wasn't even that long ago. I'm only 27, so it's pretty wild. But I'm definitely a very happy vegan.

Karina Inkster: Oh, that's awesome. And you're a great representation for vegan strength sports, which we're going to talk about. There's actually not a ton of vegan representation, in general, compared to endurance sports, other kind of areas. But first, we’ve got to talk about how you got into strength training in the first place.

Rachel Lakey: I know. And it was all thanks to you.

Karina Inkster: Oh my goodness.

Rachel Lakey: Really cool.

Karina Inkster: That is actually pretty cool. That is pretty awesome. Okay, so I mean, obviously we know the deal, but what is the deal for our listeners? How did you get into strength training?

Rachel Lakey: So I was living in Vancouver. I'm usually, or sorry, I'm originally from the US, from Oregon. And I went up to the University of British Columbia for school and started to make more friends in the activism community in Vancouver. And started going to the slaughterhouse protests at a poultry processing plant on the weekends. Made some friends there, and they invited me to a meet-up that you were hosting for vegans to try out strength training. And basically, I showed up to this gym one day, and you were there, and you showed me how to use a barbell. I was like, "Oh my God, this is the coolest thing I've ever done in my life."

I was totally hooked from there. I know we did a few sessions after that, and I felt like I had a good grounding to explore it a little bit on my own. Maybe eight months later I said, "Hey, I've heard of this thing called powerlifting. I saw there's a local meet, it's full, but I'm going to try to get on the waiting list." And I got in and a week out from the competition, they were like, "Hey, you're in." So I signed up, and I got second at my first powerlifting competition. It was really cool. And I've never looked back.

Karina Inkster: That's amazing. How cool is that? See, a lot has happened in the last five years.

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, it's true. It's definitely true.

Karina Inkster: So you mentioned that you have some, is it State records, and then you went to Nationals?

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, so I set some State records at Nationals my first time. So I was competing in Washington, because I had graduated at that point from college, and moved back to Seattle in Washington, and competed that year with USA PL, and got the Washington Deadlift State record for women under 23 years old. And since then, competing back in Oregon, I have also gotten the squat and deadlift state records. So bench will probably never be there, but you never know.

Karina Inkster: Hey, never say never. Yeah, you don't know.

Rachel Lakey: It's true. I'm really happy with it. So I'm definitely trying to keep those state records. I've competed with a couple different federations, and at this point I am training for my first, or to qualify for my first pro-meet, which would be in 2023.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. So what's the deal with pro-meet? How does that differ from what you've been doing so far?

Rachel Lakey: So when you compete at a pro level, it essentially means that you've surpassed some threshold of scoring, which is usually calculated between your body weight and the amount of weight you lift. There's different ways of doing this. So there's a calculation called Wilks. There's one called Dots. And typically if you're above a certain threshold, you get to compete among the best of the best. This usually means there's prize money, there's sponsorships. There's a lot more at stake in those competitions, because it at that point indicates you're on a career trajectory for powerlifting, and it becomes less recreational, and more serious. Although there's not much money in powerlifting. So I wouldn't be able to do it as a job. It's really cool to see, especially for women competing, that there’s starting to be more equity, in terms of payouts for awards, and representation there, which is exiting.

Karina Inkster: That's awesome. That's always been one of my gripes, and there are many, in the body-building world, where the prize money is still vastly different. It's ridiculous actually.

Rachel Lakey: It is. Yeah, I would say up until probably last year it was still vastly different, and there's been a lot of improvement this year, which is cool to see.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. That's great. So veganism in powerlifting, we've had a number of strength athletes on the show. We've also had a number, and probably more, endurance athletes on, who talk about fueling with plants, how well that works. But the deal is still now, that vegans, in general, are underrepresented in strength sports particularly.

Rachel Lakey: Absolutely.

Karina Inkster: So you're changing the face of that, which is awesome. But why do you think that is? Why are vegans so underrepresented, and so relatively common in endurance sports?

Rachel Lakey: That's a really good question. I think it has to do with a lot of stereotypes of what vegans eat. We eat a lot of carbs, which for an endurance athlete makes a lot of sense, that they need more carbohydrates to maintain their exercise for hours and hours at a time. And that's really one of the first points I learned about vegan nutrition too, is through Brendan Brazier and another guy named Matt, who is a famous runner who's done some cookbooks, and there's a lot of really good information out there. But for strength training, it's just different. I think there's a big overlap between bodybuilding and powerlifting in terms of diet type. A lot of people think you're just going to eat chicken breast, broccoli, and rice, and there's no creativity there, but people are getting a huge amount of protein, eating a ton of food.

And people think that with veganism, you can't get the same caloric intake, you can't get the same caloric density, and you can't get the same macro-nutrient breakdown. It is different. They're different foods. It's becoming a lot easier, I think, as veganism becomes more common, and there are more options at the grocery store. There are things that have better macro-nutrient breakdowns, but there's a lot of issues there.

So there's this normalizing of disordered eating in powerlifting and bodybuilding too. It's like, really, do you want to spend the rest of your life only eating chicken breasts and rice, because that's what you perceive as healthy and that's the only thing you perceive will give you the best strength gains? When really I think what's great about veganism, is you have to seek out a huge variety of food and nutrients to feel satiated, to feel energized, to feel powerful.

And that helps us in sports really have better recovery, because we're getting more vitamins and nutrients, because it's coming from plants, it's not coming from eating the same thing three times a day. Although I guess you could do that if you wanted to. It would just be a little bit harder. I have definitely noticed, among my peers, that I have better recovery and I have better digestion through my sets, and I'm able to last longer in my workouts. That's a big difference, because it's the difference between succeeding at a competition, or getting that 10 pounds on your total, or getting that 10 pounds on your squat. That can be the difference between being successful in the sport, and having it be more recreational. So it's definitely underrepresented. I've heard of ... There's a really famous Olympic weightlifter who's one of the best in the world, and I can't remember his name, but you probably know his name.

Karina Inkster: I can't think of it right now, but I know who you're talking about.

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, and he is like an icon for veganism, right? He's huge and muscular, and strong and powerful, and also breaking world records. And that's great. But he's the only one in weightlifting that you see really. There's none of that in powerlifting. It's just not discussed. And I think part of it too, like I was saying, is a lot of people in powerlifting really want to get bigger, and they think you can't do that with vegan food. They think it's not going to provide enough calories. And the fact is, we just got to shove it down and stuff our faces just as much as anybody else does to get those strength gains.

Then there's the other side of that too, with women in powerlifting, is that you're expected to be strong and get strength gains, but also maintain a certain physique. That can be really hard no matter what kind of diet you're on. Those expectations clash with each other. That you're supposed to look like a bodybuilder, society tells us that. At the same time, we're supposed to be setting records and getting better on our squat, bench, and deadlift, which is really hard to do if you're not eating enough. So there's just so many factors at play. But I would say that veganism has really set me up for success in this sport, and I have seen myself, especially with recovery and endurance through long, heavy workouts, really thrive compared to my peers.

Karina Inkster: That's amazing. I like what you said about veganism setting you up for success here. Our mutual friend, Zoe, who's my coach colleague with our clients, she always says, "Look, if you're going from an omnivorous diet to a vegan diet, every animal protein source that you're going to be replacing has five vegan options."

Rachel Lakey: It's so true.

Karina Inkster: So the variety of foods even, just that by itself is huge, compared to what someone might be eating before. I mean, I didn't know what half the foods were that I eat now, even when I was vegetarian, before I went vegan.

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it's so true, and it's so much more fun and diverse and interesting. I think that people think to succeed in these sports, you have to have the most bland, boring diet. And whether you're an omnivore or a vegan, hopefully you're a vegan, there's so much more that you can do to support your body, and to support muscle recovery and growth. That is easier to do with veganism, I think.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. So at what kind of level are you tracking or looking at your nutrition? Do you just go by feel? Do you track things, especially when you're getting ready for a really important competition? How does it look on a logistic level for you?

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, that's a really good question. So I know when we first started out, we were, you and I were also working on some nutrition breakdowns, and figuring out macros, and what good ratios are. If I'm completely honest, my mental health was really struggling at that point in my life too, when I got really hyper-focused on macros, and on what I was eating. I did that for probably the first three years that I was lifting.

I was really hard on myself about weight classes, of course, my physique, and that compared to how much weight I was lifting. And it just burned me out. That kind of dieting mindset, and having to gain and cut and then just constantly track. It wasn't a healthy space for me. So at this point in my career, I'm definitely just eating whatever I want. My weight has settled to a point where it's not fluctuating as much, because I'm treating it a little better, and I'm not being as obsessive about the foods that I'm eating.

I definitely try to eat as much protein as I can. Protein's a part of every meal. I eat a lot of meat substitutes just because I like the way that they taste, and I really like the way that fruits and vegetables taste. So that usually plays a part in everything too. And I've just been able to enjoy food again without the pressure, which has been a really great way to be able to advance my lifting without having to worry so much about the noise outside of it. I've seen myself succeed more in lifting without having to worry as much about dieting.

Karina Inkster: That's really cool.

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, there might be a point, maybe someday if I'm at a really competitive level, where I want to drop a weight class, or need to do something where I need to manipulate my body weight, and I might focus more on macros. But at this point I'm just eating to gain strength, and to have the energy to go to the gym every day.

Karina Inkster: That's really awesome. Yeah, this is why we don't have all of our clients track food. I mean, we could talk about this as a whole other podcast episode around how food is seen in the athletic world, and how mental health actually plays a really important piece in this. So tracking food on that detailed level, with calories and protein and carbs and fats is not actually healthy for a lot of folks.

Rachel Lakey: Exactly.

Karina Inkster: Mentally or physically, maybe both. So that's really awesome that you're at a place where you can do things intuitively, you know how the fuel is going to affect your training and your recovery. Clearly it's working for you.

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, so far so good.

Karina Inkster: Clearly, you're doing something right.

Rachel Lakey: Definitely. I would say that I feel like I'm getting enough. I mean, I've never had a problem with eating, or eating enough, and it's just really nice to be back at a point where I'm not so worried about it. I think tracking can have a purpose, and I think long-term it can just cause some mental health issues that may not support your goals.

Karina Inkster: 100% yep. I think it could be a short-term educational tool, especially for new vegans, or folks who have never tracked before. Maybe someone who's never lifted, and now they want to eat in a way that supports their strength training.

Rachel Lakey: Absolutely.

Karina Inkster: But yeah, it's not a must. There's no rule.

Rachel Lakey: It's a tool, not a lifestyle.

Karina Inkster: Exactly.

Rachel Lakey: Necessarily.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Awesome. Well, let's talk about inclusion. And so you are offering strength training, you're doing power lifting coaching, which is super exciting, in person and online. And the space that you're using sounds really freaking awesome, by the way.

Rachel Lakey: It's so cool.

Karina Inkster: So it's a queer-owned, non-profit gym. So these pieces are seriously intriguing to me. And I want to talk about this in terms of strength sports and powerlifting. So queer and trans inclusion within powerlifting. And this of course, could be a two-and-a-half-hour conversation because there's a lot of issues around not being inclusive, and we hear a lot in the strength world around rules, and just things that aren't working for folks to make things diverse and inclusive. So why don't I just throw it at you here. What are the problems right now? What are the challenges with inclusion within powerlifting?

Rachel Lakey: That's a great question and I could also probably go on a two-and-a-half-hour diatribe.

Karina Inkster: Yes, I would imagine.

Rachel Lakey: I would say the issues around inclusion in strength sports really stem from, one, where our society is today with gender and sexuality, and what that all means, as well as the origins of powerlifting. So I'll start with the latter. I would say that the origins of powerlifting are very white male-dominated.

Karina Inkster: For sure.

Rachel Lakey: It's just these huge guys in a basement gym, working out altogether, trying to get big, trying to get strong. And it started, what, in the '50s, '60s, '70s. So very white-oriented, male-oriented. Women didn't really start getting included into powerlifting until probably the '80s and '90s, and bodybuilding as well. It's just always had that bro-vibe. And that continues to this day. Only until recently, in the last couple years, have you seen women really be able to achieve their potential in strength sports. And now the top four, it's at least the top four - I know some listeners will probably correct me on this, there's probably more - but top four ranked powerlifting athletes in the world are all women.

Karina Inkster: Oh wow.

Rachel Lakey: And that happened in just the last couple years. So that's just dependent on body weight and pounds lifted. And that's incredible.

Karina Inkster: Yeah.

Rachel Lakey: You know, you haven't seen that. All the top names, and even still most of the most talked about names are still men in this sport. So we really just haven't given women an opportunity to showcase how much they're capable of. You're seeing this in Olympic sports, other endurance sports too, as we haven't had as long, over the trajectory of time, to train and to showcase what we're capable of. Now we're really starting to see that come out, which is really exciting. But that's just men and women.

So trans people in powerlifting is just a whole really serious issue that comes with a lot of transphobia, a lot of inclusion. And it makes me really sad. When I first started powerlifting, I was so excited by the community feel of powerlifting, and the camaraderie among everybody at the meet, even if you had never met them before. At the powerlifting gyms, at competitions, people are just there for you and they're really excited to cheer you on, and see you succeed. I wholeheartedly believe in that camaraderie, and I don't think that it should change based on your gender. But the fact is, for many people, it really does.

When I said the societal perceptions nowadays of trans people, non-binary people, and just our stereotypes around gender and sexuality, what's biological, what's not, how things change over time, these people have really been excluded from being celebrated in this sport, from being celebrated for their achievements, for their really hard work. It's hard to be successful in this sport. I've been training four or five days a week for three hours at a time, for five years, and I'm nowhere near the top athletes in this sport.

So many people do that, and they deserve to be celebrated for the hard work that they put in. People assume that trans people are cheating. They assume that trans men are using testosterone so that they can be as strong, or get the number one medal on the platform. And it just doesn't make any sense. Nobody's out there trying to cheat, nobody's out there trying to make competing difficult for others. They just want a place among everybody else like they deserve.

So a couple of years ago, in 2019, the first federation to really come out with an explicitly transphobic policy was USA PL. And at that point, being a pretty newbie powerlifter, I wasn't aware of all these different regulations and rules, and also having a lot of CIS privilege and a lot of white privilege in this sport, I just wasn't aware of the barriers that trans people were facing. I think that awoke a spirit and an impetus in a lot of us to say, "hey, this isn't fair. We want our trans friends, and the folks who are training with us alongside us at the gym, to be able to compete with us too, fair and square." And USA PL didn't want that. And so a lot of us left that federation, and we went with USPA, and I know all these acronyms sound the same at some point too. There's just a lot of politics around there, in terms of federations, and what's sanctioned and what's not sanctioned.

And then this past year, or maybe it was the year before, in January, USPA also came out with an explicitly trans-exclusive policy. So it's been really hard. A lot of other federations just have been mute on it. They haven't said anything. So it's hard to know if you're a trans person, and you go to that competition, are you going to be safe? Are you going to be in a crowd of people who might verbally or physically harass you, or assault you for trying to be there, for trying to compete among other CIS athletes?

It's really hard to say. Not to mention the non-binary folks, who don't feel like they belong in either the men's or women's category, but they still deserve to be there, and they've still been working hard, and they want to showcase their strength. So it's tricky. And there's all these rules about hormone levels, and what you're taking, and some federations are drug tested, which means that they test if you're taking performance-enhancing drugs, or doping.

But a lot of those drugs that are performance-enhancing drugs, are also 

gender-affirming drugs. So it's really hard for folks who are taking those medications, to, "prove," that they're using them to feel affirmed in their gender, not to just cheat their way to first place on the platform, or something like that. There's a really strange underlying assumption that trans people are somehow narcissists, and really just are trying to beat everybody else all of the time, and be the best at sports, which is just really problematic in itself. So yeah, it's really fascinating.

So I have been working really hard with friends, teammates, to come up with alternatives. There's a lot of politics around sanctioned versus unsanctioned federations. And sanctioned essentially means, "Do you have enough money to get a sponsorship? Do you have enough money to have a training program for judges and coaches and to have a specific banner at every meet, and then get your records up online?" That doesn't make unsanctioned meets any less legitimate necessarily, right? Because if you have experienced judges, experienced lifters, experienced volunteers there, it can be just as legitimate as a sanctioned meet.

So we're working in that unsanctioned space to build something bigger, to build something more inclusive. I've worked with a company called Fear Her Fight Athletics, as well as with a gym based out of Seattle, called Rain City Barbell Club or Rain City Fit. And I've volunteered at two competitions that have had a men's, women's, and non-binary gender category for competitors. We've had no drug testing. Of course, trans people are allowed to compete in whatever category they feel best, and no one's going to question them. They also don't have to tell anybody they're trans. They can just live their lives. And the community that I've seen at those competitions is incredible. That is why I started powerlifting. I'm getting chills just talking about it. The warmth, the friendship, the spirit at those competitions is amazing, and people are just there to have fun. They're there to get strong, they're there to be celebrated, and everybody deserves that. They shouldn't be faced with as many of the barriers as people are inventing and creating to keep trans people out of sports.

Karina Inkster: Wow. Well said. That's amazing that you're actually taking a stand here. Well, yes, of course, this could be a whole other episode. But it's pretty amazing that you're working with these groups, and creating community on your own, with other colleagues and lifters in this direction of inclusion. And celebrating diversity, and all of these things that actually need to be broken down in the fitness industry in general, maybe, especially in strength sports, but it's pretty awesome. So are there legit for, I don't know, lack of a better term, federations or organizations right now that continue to host meets like the one you just described? Are they ongoing? Is this something that's being built?

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, it's something that's currently being built. So Rain City Barbell Club or Rain City Power Lifting Union is working on becoming sanctioned, or legitimate, whatever you'd like to call it. So it's a matter of hosting more meets, getting a guidebook, a rulebook going and finalized, training volunteers, training judges, things like that. So it's in the works, which is really exciting. We're hosting a meet at my gym, Prism Moves in December of this year, which is going to be really fun.

Another federation that I can think of, it's not a full step forward, but it's a baby step, is called Power Lifting America. So USA PL, after they came out with their trans-exclusive policy, was removed from eligibility for the larger international body to compete. So that's called the International Power Lifting Federation, or IPF. So some folks who no longer wanted to compete there, but wanted to be eligible on an international level, started a new federation called Power Lifting America.

This one is trans-inclusive, with the caveat that it is drug tested. So technically it depends on the amount of drugs you're taking. It depends on how your hormone levels show up on a blood test, things like that. You can basically get a waiver if you petition for that as a trans person. For example, if you're taking testosterone as a gender-affirming drug, and how much of that is in your system. In my opinion, a lot of that is still arbitrary and antiquated in terms of how we perceive hormone levels in the body, in terms of not understanding how many people in this world are intersex. Or maybe they are assigned female or assigned male at birth, but they have naturally high hormone levels in the other direction. So it's just, it's not an exact science, but it's a half step forward.

They also don't have a non-binary category, but they're doing a lot better than other federations, in the fact that they said, "hey, we want trans people to come compete with us. We want to support you. Here are the rules that you have to abide by in order to do that, but if you can do that, please come compete with us, and also give us feedback on how we can do better, and to be more inclusive." So I've had a lot of friends who have gone that direction. Then there is one other federation that I know of, called the International Association of Trans Bodybuilders and Power Lifters, and that one's really cool, because it's specifically for trans and non-binary people. So it showcases them, and it's a whole meet full of gender-diverse people, rather than just the strictly CIS men and women divisions that you typically see.

Karina Inkster: Very cool. Well, so things are moving in the right direction, but like you said, some of them are half steps and sure it's something, but there's more to be done, I think, is the moral of the story.

Rachel Lakey: Exactly.

Karina Inkster: Yeah.

Rachel Lakey: Yes, absolutely. But the really cool thing is that we continue to see advocacy, we continue to see people supporting this movement forward. And I think it's going to continue to gain traction.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. That's awesome. So the whole concept around hormones, I mean, isn't there actually more variability in folks who don't take gender-affirming drugs than there is in folks who do take gender-affirming drugs? Isn't that whole thing bullshit anyways?

Rachel Lakey: It's complete bullshit. I mean, you have people, probably like Serena Williams who has obscenely high testosterone levels, because she's a professional athlete. She trains day in and day out. She has amazing athletic capabilities, and that's just her body. And maybe she's trained for that to be that way. And then there's some people who aren't athletes at all, who just have naturally high or low hormone levels in either direction. It's definitely arbitrary. 

Those regulations are based, for the most part, on international Olympic Committee guidelines, which is how the Olympic Games have allowed trans athletes to compete with them. But I would agree with what you're saying, that it's still bullshit, it's still arbitrary, and it's still based on science that came out 20, 30 years ago, that we can definitely say is no longer the most relevant or valid.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, that was my hunch. I mean, I'm no researcher, but it reminds me of the whole idea around plant estrogens, like, oh, the man boob thing from eating soy.

Rachel Lakey: Yes.

Karina Inkster: I mean, this is different, because it's not actually estrogen from a mammal that you're ingesting, but it's like, "oh, if this one thing maybe is seen as a performance enhancer, then if you naturally have more levels of it, maybe that is an unfair advantage." Where I think that's probably not actually the case.

Rachel Lakey: Exactly. So people think that if you're assigned male at birth, but you're a trans woman, you'll have an advantage over others, because you developed the bone structure of a man, and you have those naturally high testosterone levels, when really that's not the case for everybody, and it's not the case for even a huge amount of people. Again, those biological stereotypes are really just rooted in misogyny, they're rooted in whiteness, they're rooted in just this really binary system that doesn't make any sense for the world that we're living in, and for how humanity experiences the beauty of gender and sexuality on this huge spectrum.

Karina Inkster: Well said. Can you tell me about your coaching that you're doing? So you're working with powerlifters, you're also working with anyone who's interested in strength training, So how is that looking? I'm not a 100% sure, but it seems like it's a relatively new endeavour for you, and I'm super excited about it.

Rachel Lakey: Yes, it is a new endeavour for me. I'm also very excited about it. So I got a degree in political science and Spanish, and I've been working in the public policy sector for the last few years. And I lost my job in July, sadly, and just also probably chose my career path a little bit too early in life, and wasn't finding a lot of passion or intrigue in that. So I've shifted to coaching, and I just started about four or six weeks ago, and I love it. I've always trained really closely with my friends. I spent so much time at the gym, learning, observing, doing a lot of research on my own, and I find myself just a naturally good fit into coaching, and the general world of fitness. I love working with people, I love helping people. So far, it's a great fit.

So I'm working with general fitness clients. I'm definitely more drawn to gender-diverse clients, and people who don't traditionally feel comfortable working out in a toxic masculinity-type space, that tend to be power-lifting gyms or commercial gyms. So that's what's great about the gym that I work in and train in, is it's very queer-inclusive. We have free classes for Black, Indigenous, People Of Color, and we also have sliding scale. So people who can't traditionally afford the costs of coaching, or getting an individualized program can benefit from that still.

I'm really excited to be working with competitive powerlifters specifically because that's my passion. I love getting more people involved in this sport and seeing their growth, and their ability to see themselves actually get strong. 

Everybody is capable of getting strong in some way or another, and the science of adapting it to every individual is fascinating. It's intellectually challenging, and it makes it really fun. So I've loved the experience so far, and I can't wait to continue my career path forward with this.

Karina Inkster: That's super exciting. And so you're also doing online coaching, is that right?

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, so I've been doing virtual coaching. That's just been with general fitness clients so far. A lot of people who are runners, or who do other sports, and want to add some strength through weightlifting. But I'm excited at some point, hopefully soon, to bring on more power-lifting clients online too, to expand my audience.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. That's so awesome. Well, congrats on this career change. I'm not surprised.

Rachel Lakey: Thank you.

Karina Inkster: I have to say.

Rachel Lakey: Yeah, I think a lot of people aren't.

Karina Inkster: A lot of people aren't, yeah. And it was so great to catch up with you, Rachel. Is there anything else that we have missed, or anything you want to leave our listeners with?

Rachel Lakey: I don't think so. If any of your listeners have questions about inclusion and powerlifting or are looking for safe spaces to train at, or want some advice on making their gym or fitness area more inclusive, I would love to talk to them. I have a lot of experience in providing tips and techniques, or maybe just having conversations about myth-busting, just like you do. So I would love to talk to your listeners, and I'm really excited to be talking with you today and to catch up with you. So thank you so much, Karina.

Karina Inkster: Of course. Great to see you. Great to catch up. Awesome to have you on the show. And thanks so much, Rachel. Thank you again Rachel, for joining me on the show. And congrats again on your recent Pro Power Lifting Meet qualification. Make sure you check out our show notes at to connect with Rachel. Thanks for tuning in.

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