Cassandra Kilkenny is a women's fitness & empowerment coach. She leads women into their strongest, most confident selves in and out of the gym. She strives to help women find and stay true to themselves in a world hungry for authenticity. Using her experience as a multiple business owner, and NASM certified personal trainer & nutrition coach, she coaches women to create a healthy and balanced lifestyle. She helps women “get it together” in all areas of their lives - from business, to physical, to spiritual & mindset wellness - to help women bring out the best versions of themselves and find inner peace and confidence in daily life.
“ If we can bear children, we can a hundred percent lift weights and test our limits.“
Why do you feel like everyone needs to build their body, especially women?
Cassandra: So bodybuilding is one descriptor I would call it. What it really comes down to and what we're really doing is strength training. We're resistance training. And for women, this is particularly important because this allows us to build our bone mass, bone density. And as we age, that's one of the first things to go. Our bones actually start to lose that mass a little bit. That's why women are so prone to things like osteoporosis. So by building this really good habit of strength training, and resistance training with weights, we're actually putting off those potential issues in our lives, in our health. You’ll feel great, but you're also able to complete your day-to-day tasks much more easily. Think about walking in with groceries. If you are in a place where you've been exercising a lot, your cardio is great, your strength is great. Bringing in the groceries may feel less painful, less tedious than maybe it did before you started working out.
How did you get into bodybuilding?
Cassandra: I actually grew up a competitive athlete. I was a swimmer and I cross-trained with running cross country, long-distance stuff. And despite being an athlete, I never had the confidence in my body that I've experienced with weightlifting. So I started weightlifting when I was in college and I was totally self-taught. I didn't have a coach. Once I started developing the strength, both inside and out, and realizing what I was capable of. My confidence drastically changed. I went from having no self-esteem to feeling really, really good about myself, who I was, my identity. And I realized that if I could go from feeling like a nobody and feeling like nothing to feeling so empowered, mentally and physically, everybody should be experiencing this.
What kind of advice can you give to people, especially women, who are pressured by society to look a certain way?
Cassandra: So I think the first thing I would actually do is ask them if they're happy. “Are you happy? Do you feel good in your body? Do you feel nourished? Does life feel lively for you?” Because when we're not eating enough and we're not at a hundred percent. It impacts our day-to-day life. It impacts our mood. It impacts our relationships with our loved ones, whether it's parents, children, siblings, partners. Check-in with yourself and ask, are you happy with your body? And if the answer is no, “What would happiness feel like for you? What would happiness look like for you?” As a coach, I can never tell my clients the right answer. I can provide them and empower them with the information, but I can't go in and do the work for them. So it's the same way with women who may be stuck in that mindset of, I have to look skinny. I have to be skinny. What if we forgot about skinny and focused on strength? Being strong can look different for everybody, but imagining what that would feel like inside and out for you and focusing on that.
Can you debunk certain myths about women being bulky lifting weights?
Cassandra: First and foremost, it is not possible for women to become bulky weightlifting without the use of performance enhancement drugs. It really comes down to a testosterone difference. So men get bulky because they have significantly more testosterone than women. We don't even have near the same level. Our range is so small compared to men. And so for that reason, hormonally, it just doesn't work that way. Now, the one thing that I will say is that women are going to have different ideas of what bulky looks like. So bulky for some women might look a certain way while for other women it's like, “No, no, that's not bulky at all, that's just strong.” And so ultimately, no matter what, whether you're lean and cut or bulky. However, you're defining either of these two things. It's always going to come down to nutrition. If you're eating in a massive surplus, you're going to grow. And I really want to add in the disclaimer that that does not mean being afraid of food. There's a place for cutting. If that's something you absolutely desire, you want to lean out a little bit, but remember that as women, we also have to have enough fat consumption for our hormone health and having enough fat on our bodies for our overall health.
How were you able to develop more self-love?
Cassandra: So I think the biggest thing that I experienced was realizing what I was capable of. And I think as women, we experienced a lot emotionally because we're extremely complex creatures mentally. It hasn't been as socially acceptable to test our physical limits, and the physical and the mental are always, always tied together. If we can bear children, we can a hundred percent lift weights and lift heavy and test our limits. If we can handle the emotional turmoil that we experienced in our lives, whether that's the generational trauma that we're trying to break or any slew of emotion that we're working through in our lives, we can lift the weight. It's just a physical manifestation of what we experienced internally. And when I first started, I was working out with a friend. She's the one who got me into it. We would be working out and I would say, “Oh my gosh, I can't do any more weight.” And she literally, one time, stopped me and was like, “Cassandra your body is so much stronger than you think it is.” And I kid you not, it was like a switch flipped in my head. And I was just able to tap into something deeper because I think that women have been told overtly and covertly we’re weak for a really, really long time. And to have somebody say to you you're way stronger than you think. You kind of question at first but then when you actually put it into practice and finish a set and you think, “You know what, I think I can do three more reps. I think I can do 20 more pounds.” And it hits so quickly in your mind, like, have I been sitting on my own strength this whole time and I had no idea? And that realization, I think, is THE moment for a lot of women when they're like, I can do anything mentally and physically.
How does your physical will transfer to your mental will?
Cassandra: It's really interesting because technically as humans, we all have different capacities. We really only have X number of willpower in a day, which is why, what a lot of people find is that willpower is easier in the morning compared to the evening. So knowing that willpower, you only have X amount, it's really important to optimize your energy. That's why I'm a big proponent of “follow a plan” because you spend less time thinking and you're just doing. And so there's less willpower in the sense of like, “What should I do next? Should I do another set? Should I do this exercise?” And the more you can go on autopilot for certain things, not everything, it just makes life easier. So as far as that willpower transference, it’s like when you're under a bar with a lot of weight, at least for myself, my motivation is I refuse to fail. That's what goes through my head. Do not drop this weight in front of people. Now important disclaimer, I don't mind dropping the weight. I am not afraid to fail but I don't want to. So for example, if I'm doing a set and I know this is a risky set for myself. Do the best I can, don't fail. I'm really, really motivated by other people's energy around me. When you're under a lot of weight, whatever that “a lot” is for yourself, in my experience you have this adrenaline rush and it's like, “I've got to do this. I've got to get it up, get it up, get it up, get it up.” And that willpower transfers from the gym into other aspects of life. “I've got to do this, finish it.” You complete this, find success in this. There's the masculine and feminine energy and finding that balance can be really, really hard sometimes. Obviously, we want to make sure we're not doing something that is going against what's aligned for us, but if it's aligned, that willpower can transfer from one aspect of your life to another.
What do you believe is a good balance of when to say no and when to keep going?
Cassandra: I think the first thing and most important thing to do is check-in with yourself. “Does this feel aligned for me?” See the big picture. In the day-to-day, it's very easy to get caught up in “Oh, I don't feel like it,” but if we just didn't do things, we didn't feel like we probably wouldn't make progress the way we want to make progress. So ultimately, reconnecting with the “why” behind everything that you're doing. “Is the ‘why’ right for me?” Is how you ultimately determine “is this the right path?” My “why” at the time was, I want to see what my body's capable of. So when I realized, when I got on stage, it was like, “Okay, this is stupid. I don't care.” Like I want to win, but ultimately I don't ever want to do this again. So why does it matter? But I was able to complete one aspect of my “why,” which is I want to see what I look like under everything with that level of effort and work. But I think today, my “why” is that I want to be as strong as possible. Because I lost 10 pounds after getting COVID for a week. My goal is to build back to a weight that I feel really, really good at. And that's what feels aligned for me. That's what keeps me going. I also love the process. I love being under the bar. I love holding the weight in my hand. I love as egocentric as it might sound watching my body work in the mirror. I'm literally able to do this because my brain is telling my muscles, “Do this, do this action.” And I think that that's so motivating and inspiring. Because again, it circles back to what is my body capable of?
Learn more about Cassandra
Follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iamcassk/
Her Website: https://www.cassandrakilkenny.com/
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