When it comes to the internets, genuine is hard to find but there are true diamonds in the rough. Amanda is one of those gems and if I didn't like her before this interview, which I did (don't at me) I practically fell in love with her after this. Amanda and I chatted about how she became the boss babe that she is today. Keep reading to find out! She's truly an inspiration to all of us.
Introduce yourself to the GWPL community
My name is Amanda Kohatsu, I am a powerlifter (67kg/148lbs), a trainer/coach, from Torrance, CA.
When did you get into lifting and why?
The when is much easier than the "why". I started training with weights around 2011/12, got a little more serious about it in 2014, and powerlifting in 2016. I started training hard after leaving an abusive relationship where I was not "allowed" to go to the gym. I honestly used the gym as an addiction replacement at the time as I had struggled with alcohol and prescription drugs.
Can you talk more about being in an abusive relationship?
From about 2008-2011 I was in a highly mentally/physically/sexually abusive relationship that I seemed to be trapped in. I tried to leave him multiple times and he would find me, threaten me, and I would return. Although it may be hard to believe that I was once afraid of a 155lbs man, I was petrified. I had very little self-esteem going into the relationship and every ounce of it was drained while in it AND THEN SOME. I was broken and I believed every terrible thing he said about me. I remember the last time I was "allowed" to go to the gym in 2011. By this time, I was never at the gym unless he came with me. He noticed a man speaking to me, waited until the man left, grabbed me by the arm and dragged me out of the gym, beat me, and finally locked me in a closet overnight. He canceled my membership that night and forbid me to return to any gym.
How did you get out of that relationship and how did it affect your life and training?
When I finally got the strength to leave (with the help of some strong sisters and my mom actually helping me obtain a new phone number/restraining order/new apartment), I woke up in my new studio apartment and RAN my a** to the gym at 6 am. I couldn't wait! I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but for once in three years I was going to do whatever the f* I wanted. I became obsessed with working out. The manager of the gym finally offered me a job as a trainer/group class teacher. At the time I had a full career in the cosmetics industry so I started teaching part-time for fun! My life changed fast. For once in my life, I was impacting others in a positive way. For 25yrs I had hidden in the background, tried not to draw attention to my body, and had been ashamed of my looks. Now, here I was TEACHING others how to workout and displaying my physique in front of dozens of people. My goals shifted when I realized I wasn't genetically a "skinny girl" LOL. I started to work with another trainer who was a female bodybuilder. I distinctly remember the first time I squatted two plates. I remember thinking about the weight of the ex-boyfriend/abuser who had made me feel so weak. I remember telling myself that I HAD TO LIFT that weight. I couldn't let anyone push me around, ever again. I remember thinking about him as I did weighted push-ups internally saying "he won't ever hold me down on the floor again". It was like every rep for the first year was a giant "f* you" to him and every other person who'd ever hurt me, devalued me or ignored me. Even more vividly though, I remember when I could walk up to the weight and NOT think about him. I remember the train ride home from the gym when I realized, I was finally just doing it for me.
What advice do you have for young women getting into powerlifting? Make sure you create a good base of size/strength before focusing on the "big 3". The biggest mistake I see now is people jumping right into SBD and either getting injured or getting really frustrated because they hit a HUGE plateau after the first three months. Outside of that, I'd say have fun and try not to worry about what anyone around you says or thinks as you learn a new skill. People are often intimidated by women or girls who are bold enough to try new and traditionally "masculine" things. Pay them no mind, they'll catch up.
You designed a shirt called "Strength Comes in All Sizes" with the brand Feed Me Fight Me. What was the ideology behind this message? I became pretty frustrated with popular brands in fitness misusing the "female empowerment" and "strong women" movements/ideas to repackage the same garbage marketing scheme-traditionally fit/sexy images of women who are always in ad campaigns to sell clothes that only women of the same body type can purchase. It actually infuriates me. I felt that those brands should stick to their script and not try to infringe on something that means so much to women in the industry who are truly trying to create inclusivity in fitness. So I designed the shirt with a simple message that I felt all genders, sizes, and ages could relate to. Then I donated a portion of the sales to an organization that helps the smallest athletes (the kiddos) have access to PE equipment and teachers in underfunded schools.
What is your approach to lifting/ what keeps you motivated? I am a goal oriented lifter. Regardless of competition or not, I always have a plan or goal. I don't consider myself a highly motivated person. I operate on routine/repetition/discipline.
How do you manage and balance training and "regular life"? (i.e. work, relationships, me time, etc.) Ummm, what is regular life? LOL, I honestly don't have a huge distinction between gym life and the rest. My friends are all lifters, my boyfriend is a lifter, and my business is lifting. I do have "off" days and "family" time for sure, but if you love something and want to be successful in it you don't mind becoming enveloped in it.
Do you have any specific goals in powerlifting? (i.e. totals, PRs, specific records you want to break) My current goal is to make it to my next meet LOL, I am training for a "push/pull" meet in February 2019. After that, I need to take care of a knee injury and hopefully, train for a couple more full power meets in 2019/2020. Numbers aren't as important as improvement to me. I know I am strong, I also know Eva Dunbar and Stacy Burr are stronger. I am ok with that. I just want to compete, because competing means I get to train HARD AF. Training is what I really love. I am obsessed with the daily grind. Competing is just a necessary "testing phase" for my training.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? Where I have no clue but I hope to be: A mom. A wife. A coach to people that love working hard. An advocate for those who do not have a voice/platform.
And this one is for fun... What's your favorite breakfast meal? ALL OF THEM. BFAST IS MY FAVORITE!!!!! Waffles/pancakes/all the bacon and ALL THE COFFEEEEEEEE.
Get to know Amanda aka Haparican a bit better in Instagram!
It was destiny that I read the newsletter today and stumbled on this young lady. I use to follow her on IG and then I took a break from IG and couldn’t find her. Low and behold here she is being all kinds of awesome and reminding me once again of all the reasons why I followed her in the first place. Amanda, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are truly amazing and inspiring. Right now I’m not lifting but now I’m seriously thinking about how to get back at it. Wishing you all the greatness and positivity in the world. You deserve it and I’m confident that you will get what is yours.