Tell the GWPL community a little about yourself.
Hi, I’m No Pants Sammi aka Sammi Johnson. I have been powerlifting for 2.5 years and I am currently ranked 3rd in the World in the 198 weight class and Classic Raw division.
I’ve had the most unconventional life you can imagine. I’ve moved 22 times and have lived in 5 different states. I have a bit of a gypsy soul and a mind of my own. I’ve had almost every job you can imagine from physical labor to working at a staffing agency to now owning my own business that is focused solely on new lifters who want to get started in powerlifting. Life’s path has directed me to exactly where I need to be.
I love being strong and powerlifting has changed my life in so many ways. It has presented me an amazing platform to connect with so many others and has brought me to a place where I can help women who may have been afraid or intimidated before to pick up heavy things. I love being able to promote the physical as well as mental benefits of heavy lifting.
When did you get into powerlifting and why?
I started powerlifting in August 2013. Call it luck or fate but I got into powerlifting by complete accident. About a year and a half before I started powerlifting I was competing in the NPC. I started with Bikini, then Figure and was on my way to Women’s Physique when I got a job offer for a Nutritional Supplement company that required me to move to San Jose, CA. I decided to put my prep off because I wanted to focus on my new position.
During the first few months of work I started working out at a Gold’s Gym near by, I always saw a group of guys powerlifting and was intrigued by it. One day two of the guys, Dave and Thomas, came and asked what I was training for and I said nothing, just working out and Dave invited me to come train with them. I eagerly accepted! Come to find out I was the first and only woman that ever agreed. There were 4 guys and I and one of the guys George wouldn’t even talk to me for the first month. I had to prove that I was serious and I was there to work. I did my first meet 12 weeks later and set State and American records on all of my lifts.
I was very fortunate to have my NPC coach because he trained me like a strength athlete and pushed me to lift heavy no matter what. That started my passion! But I never felt I fit into a category in that industry. Bikini I felt weak and frail, Figure I felt too big…I just didn’t feel like I fit in. Taking the job in California was one of the best life choices I have made because it led me to powerlifting and without that I may have never found my true passion.
Best meet total to date?
IPL Worlds November 2015 1,190 lbs total (S451/B242/D496)
You exude confidence, something that's pretty difficult for many ladies. How did you get to being so happy with yourself and your body?
It has honestly come from people walking out on me in my life. I’ve learned to never depend on anyone to make me feel good about myself, make me successful or help me get through a tough time. I depend on myself and deal with almost everything in my life internally.
My first serious relationship was one major life-changing event that really got me to focus on myself and find out who I was. I was 19 and still naïve to some of the cruel realities of the world. We were together 5 years and I’m pretty sure he cheated on me the majority of it. At that time I thought I hit the jackpot, he was tall, athletic, handsome, smart and had a great job. He seemed so confident in himself and made me feel lucky to be with him.
After our first year together in Arizona we moved to Colorado to be closer to his friends and family. I was in an unfamiliar place with no friends and relied heavily on him. I can remember so many times that I felt as though he was out doing things he wasn’t supposed to and when I would ask it was always reverse psychology and in the end I felt as though I was in the wrong. My gut was telling me he was cheating on me but my heart said to stay because I would never be able to find a man as good as him. The first time we broke up it was my decision and I remember it was like a switch and I was done with the relationship, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I moved out and eventually moved back to Arizona.
About 6 months later we decided to give a go again and this time we would be all in. So I believed him and moved my life across the country to Florida where he had moved while we were broken up. I remember feeling as though everything was perfect this time and he was dedicated to me. Later that year we got engaged and I thought this was going to be the man I will spend the rest of my life with. Two months later I woke up to him telling me we weren’t right for each other. I spent two days crying in bed thinking we would get back together and work this out. After two days of him not coming home or even entertaining the thought of us talking it out, that switch flipped again. I called my mom and two days later we packed up my life and moved across the country back to Nevada where I grew up. A week later I found out he had been cheating on me for quite some time.
In less than a week my life completely changed and it was up to me to get my shit together and figure out what to do next. I had to learn who I was without him. I spent a lot of time trying new things, going on dates and enjoying life. I got in touch with my inner self and got to know my likes and dislikes. I became selfish with my time and energy. Looking back on who I had become with my ex was sad to me, my self-esteem was so low, I was never allowed to go out without it turning into a huge fight and then I would usually just stay home, I stopped going to the gym so I could make sure that dinner was ready before he got home. I was the typical girlfriend who lost herself in trying to be perfect and please her man. I didn’t understand what a healthy relationship was.
I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing and I don’t regret getting back with him. It has taught me to live life with no regrets and be all in or not at all. If you half ass your effort that’s when the regrets and doubts creep in and you’re more likely to back track. In lifting, relationships, careers, everything I’m all in and if it doesn’t work out I know I put 100% of myself into it and I keep moving forward. A successful life is about continual progression and growth, once you become stagnant you start to settle for a life that isn’t everything you want.
I have always been hard headed when it comes to my life path and I have followed my gut feeling on many decisions and even though some of those paths hit a dead end and were detoured it has all brought me to where I am in my life. I don’t believe in mistakes or failures, I believe in lessons learned and personal growth.
Explain the No Pants Sammi thing
I just simply hate wearing pants because my legs and butt don’t fit…joking, joking. It all started right around the time I started powerlifting. I was a soft and fluffy 200 lbs, the heaviest I had ever been in my life and I didn’t care because I was lifting heavier than I had ever lifted in my life.
I started to really pay attention to the effects that fitspo accounts had on me mentally and how they made me feel about myself. I unfollowed every account that promoted the “perfect” body and I started to focus on strength accounts instead. In the process of really reflecting on the message those other accounts were portraying I found that a ton of women feel bad about themselves because they don’t look perfect like those women and would get down on themselves because it seemed impossible.
I wanted to show women that you don’t have to look like them to be sexy and feel confident. You are your own person and your body is unique to you. You will never look like someone else, that’s just the reality of it. So how about focus on your own body instead of unhealthy fantasizing about another woman’s body that may not even have the same structure as you.
I wanted to be a place of inspiration for others to feed off the positivity that I was trying to exude about self love and being confident in your own skin not matter your weight. I want people to see the scale as a tool and not an indicator as to your self worth. A main goal of mine is to get people to stop focusing on aesthetics and start focusing on strength and allowing your body to follow. I post what I post so others can use it to become exactly who they want and start finding their self worth from within and not other’s opinions or views on what they should be or do.
Who's your biggest inspiration, lifting or otherwise?
My Dad has been one of the biggest influences on my life. I grew up attached to his hip and was a daddy’s girl. We competed in rodeo together, traveled together, went shooting together…everything.
My parents got divorced when I was around 10 and my Dad lost everything and ended up having to file bankruptcy on his very successful business. He had to sell everything, my childhood home I grew up in, almost all our horses, he lost all his retirement. I watched my Dad go through more than any child should see their parent endure. All the while I stuck by his side because we needed each other to get through this.
A few years later my Dad decided he wanted to do something he’s always wanted to do which was move to Arizona. He always wanted to live somewhere warm, we lived in Northern Nevada where it’s colder than cold. He moved out there, found a place and a good high school for me to go. I moved with him on Christmas Day of 2001 and to this day it is the best Christmas present I have ever received.
I watched my dad take one the most negative times in his life and turn it around to create the life he wanted to live, the life that would make him most happy. Some of my most valuable lessons were learned in that time of my life. We didn’t have much money, we both had to work our asses off for everything we needed and wanted but in the end we were happy.
I take those lessons with me in every venture I pursue. To say I had to grow up fast is an understatement but I feel as though I was prepared to take on life when it came time to go out on my own.
What's your approach to nutrition?
I eat clean 98% of the time because I feel better and my body performs better when I do. I am on a macro based plan and I pretty much eat the same thing everyday; gluten free oatmeal, greek yogurt, apple, ground turkey, ground beef, jasmine rice and green veggies. I like the convenience of being on a plan and knowing exactly what I need to eat everyday, the less I have to think about it the better.
When I was in prep for my NPC figure competition I developed an eating disorder. I can recall so many times where I went over to my Mom’s house and I would shove my face with candy, cookies, peanut butter and all sorts of crap and then realize what I just did and would go make myself throw up. Sometimes I would even go do cardio after that. It didn’t take me long to recognize how unhealthy that was.
For me personally I realized when I restrict myself from everything, I want everything and get bad cravings. When I don’t restrict and allow myself to eat off plan foods if I want to, I never crave them and I hardly eat them because I can whenever I want to. Nutrition was a huge mental game for me and I had to find out what worked best for me. I still struggle with getting all my food in, I am a natural under eater but understand that to perform at the levels I want to this is what I have to do.
How do you combat the "lifting makes you manly" criticisms?
By posting what I post on social media. As explained in the No Pants section I am not your normal “fitspo” account, I am a 190 lb thick, curvy, muscular woman who lifts heavy shit and loves herself. If I can keep being exactly who I am and showing others that it is perfectly fine to love your body no matter what social media and society deems as “ideal” then I have won.
I can’t convince every naïve person and those uneducated on the importance and positive effects of lifting heavy that lifting heavy is one of the most beneficial activities you can add to your life. It’s just not going to happen. But if little by little I can show people that just because women are strong doesn’t mean all of a sudden we are going to look like a male bodybuilder.
But when it really comes down to it, it’s about doing what makes you happy regardless of what others think or perceive. Someone could tell me today that I look manly and I would just giggle. Others opinions of me and what I choose to do is irrelevant because I do what I want with my life, I love what I do and I love being strong.
If you could go back and give young Sammi one piece of advice what would it be?
Eat cupcakes whenever you get the opportunity! HAHA just kidding but not bad advice…
Follow your dreams, do what you love, stay stubborn to your goals and always, always trust your intuition!
I’m a firm believer that your life takes you exactly where you’re meant to go but it is up to you to seize the opportunities in front of you. Don’t ever be afraid to take risks and never be afraid of failure because it’s an opportunity to grow and learn. Every time I’ve been faced with a tough time my dad always told me “It builds character.” Well let me tell you, I’ve got a shit ton of it and wouldn’t change a thing that I’ve gone through and have no regrets for anything.
3 tips for newbie lifters
- Don’t be afraid of the weight! Don’t even think about the number on the bar. Approach the lift knowing you will succeed and lift that shit.
- Don’t ever feel like you’re not strong enough to compete. I have so many women tell me they’re not strong enough to get on the platform. There’s no starting point you have to be at. Powerlifting is about you vs. you, you trying to be stronger than the previous you. So take the leap, find a meet and get on the platform!
- Have fun and enjoy the process. We sometimes forgot to look at how far we’ve come and get frustrated when we feel we aren’t progressing as fast as we should. Powerlifting is a longevity sport, not a race. Take your time, remain passionate and continue getting more badass one session at a time.
What get's you through the tough training sessions?
I’ve been on the verge of tears during a training session more times than I can count and I’ve been laid out on the floor with nothing left after a session. Whenever I feel like quitting I think of the people in my life that are no longer able to do what they love and it puts everything into perspective real quick.
My Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about 4 years ago and watching her go from a spunky, high energy Portugi to a fragile woman battling a horrible disease everyday has been one of the hardest things I’ve experienced.
One of the gyms I used to train at had two men that were paralyzed from the waist down and they came in everyday, lifted weights and you never once heard them complain or even ask for help. So who the heck am I to complain about being able to do exactly what I love?!? I made the decision to powerlift, I make the decision to put myself through what I do. I remind myself to be thankful for the opportunity I have to be healthy and strong. I will never take anything for granted because of how hard I’ve had to work to get where I am, not only in lifting but in life as well.
Follow Sammi on Instagram