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About Laura Khoudari

Laura Khoudari is a trauma practitioner, certified personal trainer, and corrective exercise specialist. Widely recognized within the trauma and fitness communities, her work has been featured in Buzzfeed, UpWorthy, Outside Online, Medium, Tonic, and Girls Gone Strong.

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About This Podcast

Kathryn and Laura talk about using strength training to support people who are healing from trauma. Laura shares her personal story, and why she didn’t always love going to the gym. They talk about back pain, deadlifts, and progressively building your capacity to be able to lift the heavy things that life throws your way. Laura and Kathryn also break down what a more mindful and trauma informed approach to strength training looks and feels like.

Podcast Transcription

Kathryn Bruni-Young: This episode of the Mindful Strength Podcast is brought to you in partnership with Offering Tree. Offering Tree has set out to make digital marketing fun, easy, and most importantly for us yoga teachers, affordable. They are your one-stop-shop for your website, scheduling software, zoom integration, selling digital content like classes or courses, payment processing, email newsletter, and more. Stay tuned to hear more about them later in this episode.

Kathryn: Welcome back. Today on the podcast, I am speaking with Laura Khoudairi. This was such a great conversation. Laura has just written a book called Lifting Heavy Things: Healing Trauma One Rep at a Time. Obviously, I’m super into this.

I’m super interested in her work and I’m actually just really excited to see strength training coaches and personal trainers who are interested in trauma and more mindful strength practices. You’re going to hear a lot about all of that in this interview; how Laura got into training; some challenges that she had when she first started going to the gym; and then how she learned to use movement practice and strength training to really resource herself and build strength and feel strong and feel confident in the world.

I am all about this. I’m super excited to read her book. If you want to order the book now, you can do that. We’re going to have links to all of that in our show notes on the website. Before we get into the interview, I want to remind you all that the 14-day free trial for the Mindful Strength Membership is still in effect. And over the last couple of weeks, we have been receiving tons of feedback.

We sent out this big survey to everyone in our membership and so many people filled it out, which means that we are able to make the membership even better and we’re tailoring it more to the needs of the folks who are actually our active subscribers. This means that we’ve been able to modify the site a little bit, change a little bit of how it’s organized, and also add new classes that people have been requesting.

When you go to watch.mindfulstrength.ca you can see all of these incredible changes that we’ve made. We’ve got new live classes that are all scheduled, really specific themes. We have some new education and strength-specific series happening, and we’re putting out more of the shorter classes and really trying to tackle some more specific class themes.

If you’re interested in all this stuff that you’ve been learning about on the podcast and you want to put it into practice and you want to try out that, Mindful Strength Membership, you can go to mindfulstrength.ca. Click on membership. On that page, you can choose your sliding scale membership option anywhere from twenty-five to fifty-five dollars a month. You can choose your price. All of the prices include everything. We do this to try to make the membership more financially accessible.

And from there you get put into your fourteen-day free trial and you don’t get charged for anything until day 14. If you try it out and you decide that it’s not for you, you can cancel it. No big deal. We have tech support included. If you ever need help with your membership or your login or anything like that, you can email support@mindfulstrength.ca and someone will get back to you right away.

When you sign up for the membership, we now have a video on how to use the platform. I walk you through everything you could possibly need to know from how to get signed up, how to save our website on your browser so you can easily get logged in every time you want to practice, how to save classes to your favorites list all of that and more.

Again, if you want to try it out, go over to mindfulstrength.ca click on membership and you can also find all of these links, including the link to buy Laura’s book in the show notes.

All right, everyone, I hope you enjoy this episode. Here is my conversation with Laura Khoudairi.

Kathryn: All right, Laura, welcome to the podcast.

Laura Khoudari: Hi, Kathryn. It’s great to be here.

Kathryn: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to this. I came across your work a little while ago on social media. Of course, that’s where I meet all the coolest people. And I’m really looking forward to this. I’ve had a lot of conversations about trauma on this podcast, and usually, I’m talking to trauma-informed yoga teachers or meditation teachers.

I’m really stoked to have you here and have a little bit of a different conversation today about trauma. But before we get into that, do you want to take a few minutes and tell the listeners a little bit about the type of work that you do and maybe how you got into it?

Laura Khoudari: Sure. And I will try and keep that brief, but I am a trauma-informed personal trainer. My focus is on strength training.
I actually came to this work not as a trainer first, but as somebody who has a long history of hating the gym, hating exercise, having to exercise out of necessity for a chronic back injury…chronic back pain, I should say…falling in love with the gym. Then separate from my experience in the gym, then falling in love with barbel sports, in particular, Olympic weightlifting.

Separate from that, experiencing acute trauma, developing PTSD, and sort of the struggles I had in getting help for my PTSD…also with relation to my back flared up again. I sustained a very severe back injury, partially related to overtraining, which was related to my trauma response.

But there were a lot of things going on and I was having a really hard time finding movement that was even trauma-sensitive that was resonating with me. I had had a long yoga practice and at the time that was available and I tried different at the time called trauma-informed. Now it’s often called trauma-sensitive yoga and it was all really, really triggering. And I just needed to find a way to get back into the gym and move because I needed to move.

I needed that to feel good in my spirit and to get stronger again and start healing my back. But I couldn’t. I was having a really hard time finding anyone who understood how it would help me feel safe when I moved. And yoga, which is what was always sold to me and was something I had done in the past, was not cutting it. The gym I knew was the least triggering place for me. And I began to figure out how to train myself.

I have a background in nonprofit management. I really love the gym. I was aware that I had resources where I have been able to research and try things. I like to research. I like to write, I like to think, and I like to teach. I need to make this more accessible to more people. And I just began talking about it. I wasn’t really gaining a lot of traction in the traditional fitness world. I decided, “all right, I’m going to become a trainer and I’m going to get into the traditional fitness world and start banging my pots and pans”.

And it also seems to be that the timing of my doing this lined up with other people’s interest in the work and the spirit was out there, too, which definitely helped. That’s how I wound up becoming a personal trainer around thirty-nine years old.

Kathryn: Cool. I think probably a lot of people, particularly people who have done yoga practice in the past, have that same kind of relationship to the gym. Where they’re like, “I’m not really into it, can’t really get inspired there, maybe don’t feel safe there” for whatever reason.

I’m wondering, though, what were your reasons for not liking that environment?

Laura Khoudari: The gym environment? Oh, well, it’s interesting. There were things I struggled with always, and then there were things I struggled with after trauma. I do think there is a relationship between them. It’s just kind of a cultural thing. But for me, a lot of it had to do with body and body image.

And, you know, fitness professionals are often trying to tell you they’re selling health, but really they’re selling aesthetics.

There was a short period of time when I actually had an unhealthy relationship with movement. When I was dealing with my trauma, that I became very lean. It is the only time in my life that I looked athletic, shall I say. I’ve always been, like, just softer. I wasn’t particularly…I didn’t show natural sort of sports abilities growing up in school. I always say I fell through the P.E. cracks.

No coaches pulled me aside and tried to work with me so no one ever taught me to have fun in my body. And as I got older and went through adolescence, I had a lot of self-esteem issues around my body and a lot of struggle with…I didn’t like the way my body looked and I received a lot of messaging I I needed to change the way my body looked. I began to equate the gym with punishment for not looking a certain way and not fitting a certain beauty standard.

I was a teenager at the height of Kate Moss, who, you know, was very, very sickly thin and was not something I was ever going to look like. Yet I aspired to be like that. I felt like the gym was about punishing my body and not about celebrating my body, or being in communication with my body, which is, you know, I think when I shifted, it was about celebrating my body.
Now my approach is really about being in communication with my body.

Kathryn: I think a lot of people are going to hear your experience and really relate to what you just said and really connect with that. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Laura Khoudari: Of course.

Kathryn: OK, so when you got back into strength training and you realize it was going to be a good thing for you, what type of strength training were you doing?

Laura Khoudari: Sure. I’m from New York City. I live here now, but I was away for about 10 years. I lived elsewhere. When I came home, my mom was very insistent that I meet her trainer and start strength training. She said “he’s really good with us. You’ll really like him. His name is Big Ed” and I was like, “no”, But she wore me down. And so Big Ed, who’s Ed Williams. He has a background, you know, he’s a strength and conditioning coach, but he does have a background in corrective exercise.

I got in the gym and we were doing things you might be doing with a PT at first because my back was really bad. I was twenty-seven. I shouldn’t say it was bad. I was in a lot of pain, though, and moved really gingerly, even though I was only twenty-seven years old. I moved like I was always going to just about to be hurt.

We started with things you might see in a PT a lot of body weight, and eventually bird dogs and dead bugs and things you see in yoga too, which is something I actually talk about a lot.

A lot of strength movements…you know, this…strength movements and yoga movements, very similar. Warrior three is an RDL or a single-leg RDL. I started doing strength really to get my trunk stronger. I liked strength training. Now, here’s the thing. I was bendy. I did have this sort of proclivity to do yoga. I was also very strong. And that’s something I’ve always had. In fact, when I did have to do gym class in school, I was always happy when I had the option to train in the weight room.

It was just weight machines, no free weights. But it was a one-time like I was alone and I could just challenge myself and I am strong. I got to really tap into that and use that as a resource. And so, yeah, it’s just working with the personal trainer doing your traditional strength and conditioning. I was out of pain pretty quickly.

I remember I used to go away for like a week maybe. And if I didn’t exercise over that week, my back would start to seize up again.
I remember after a little while I was able to go away for a week and not worry about exercise. And when I came back to the gym, I had a moment like, “oh, my gosh, my back doesn’t hurt”. I got strong enough now that I didn’t have to constantly tend to it. I still have to think about it, but not all the time.

I was able to move freer and just feel free to exist. I had my daughter shortly thereafter. And so that was the big impetus for me actually. I wanted to be strong enough to schlep my kid around New York City. I really was, which was wonderful.

Kathryn: Yeah, I had a similar experience. I started to develop back pain in my early twenties. And, you know, I was working mostly with asana teachers at that point and they were telling me to “back off, back off, modify, modify, stop doing so much. You’re doing too much. That’s why you have pain”.

And then I just went for a totally different opinion and I started working with a personal trainer and he was like, “all right, let’s get you into the gym. We’re going to do some exercises. And basically, progressively we’re going to load you up over time and we’re going to strengthen these parts of your body that are currently hurting”. And, you know, at first, for me, it was so counterintuitive because I had heard the messaging for so many years that if something hurts, it means you’re doing damage and more damage and more movement will do more damage.

Obviously now we know this is not true. We’ve done so many podcast interviews on pain and pain science. But back then, it was so confusing to me that somebody was saying, “OK, let’s start to do some exercises and actually load that part of your body”. And similar to you, gradually over time, the pain started going away, I started to realize, “wow, I can do things and I don’t have to be worried about my back”.

I’m wondering, though, when you first started getting into that strength training, did it make sense to you that, like, “oh, this part of my body is hurting, I should start exercising it”?

Laura Khoudari: Gosh, it is so interesting. I don’t think I saw it as my exercising it. I am having two thoughts at the same time, so one is actually related to yoga. My back initially went out when I was 19 years old, and it was when I went to the orthopedist, he did some imaging and a herniated maybe an L-4 or L-5. I don’t remember. And my back was really seized up.

I saw PT and I went straight for…it was really interesting. He was a surgeon, but he didn’t say back surgery. He said do PT and then strength train. And I was like, “OK”. And I did PT and I did not strength train. I did PT. The PT was in the gym. There’s a lot of the elliptical. And I felt that that kind of managed it. What I did with the PT showed me how to if my back is starting to flare up, how to find relief.

That’s why I was kind of walking around gingerly for so long. I didn’t want to go to the gym because of what we talked about before. But I did find that actually some very gentle and daily yoga and it helped. I think that’s because I realized that when I moved, at least I wasn’t stiff.

Then when I started strength training, I didn’t feel like I was necessarily strengthening my lower back. We were really focusing on the whole system.

I think if Ed said to me, “OK, we’re going to slowly load up your low back”, let’s say if he said that, I think that would have scared me. But he never said that. I wasn’t thinking of it that way. And all I knew was that my abs were on fire, which is not my back right? That’s my front. I think part of it was I didn’t associate it with moving my back. And that’s lucky.

I think if I had thought of it as we’re loading up my back, I would have been scared. After my second return, when it was very clearly my back and now I’m a barbell sports person, I know that what I’m doing is loading my back. That scared me. But I knew if…like you were talking about it…we do it slowly and progress really slow. Without being immediately scared of pain, but like being in communication with pain that it would be good for me. Does that make sense? I think so.

Kathryn: Yeah, totally. I mean, the approach of your personal trainer totally makes sense. From a biopsychosocial perspective aside from the actual load of the exercises, it sounds like this person was just really skilled at helping you find a way to move without freaking you out, without talking about maybe the specifics of your injury, and just helping you feel confident and in control. Especially in the gym environment.

Laura Khoudari: Yes, absolutely. We’re still very close, actually. I just saw him like an hour ago. We’re still very close today. He’s done that for many people. That’s wonderful.

Kathryn: It’s amazing. OK, so what do you think makes a workout trauma-informed or trauma-sensitive as opposed to a regular workout?

Laura Khoudari: Answering will be different for different people. And so there is how I talk about it and very specific to my work. I wish there was more clarity around these terms, trauma-informed, and trauma-sensitive. Really quick.

The way I use those two is trauma-informed is going to be the work, which I’ll explain a little bit, what I do like one on one with a private client. Trauma sensitive is what I work on with people who are like “I want to do personal training, but I want to have a more of a trauma-sensitive lens”.

They’re not putting themselves out there as somebody who works with trauma, but they just want to have more awareness. As people are starting to learn more about trauma, we know that basically if you’re working with people, you’re going to be working with trauma in some capacity or another. Right?

I do think what I do, the trauma-informed approach strength-training differs from a regular workout. It’s the same in that it’s you know, there’s an individual program that’s designed to meet the goals of my client and go after muscle balance as much as possible without being obsessed with it.

Functional movement, really big for me and, the work I do, stability, strength, power, all depending on what’s appropriate for this client. Does his client want to be a powerlifter? Does his client want to carry their groceries home? You know, that’s what we think about. But I really think it’s important to focus on nervous system health when you’re saying trauma-informed. Right. Because the teaching a physical modality, you should be also thinking a lot about nervous system health.

That’s where we see a lot of the physiology of stress is on the nervous system. I want to help my clients increase their capacity to experience stress and then also recover from stress, make them more resilient so they can come back to their baseline quicker.

There’s a lot of focus on the nervous system health, which means a lot of focus actually on recovery. How to move between arousal from good stress, like exercise or outside of the gym, arousal from maybe bad stress, like a fight with your boss…into a more parasympathetic state more quickly in order to recover.

Then the additional level, helping my clients cultivate tools that they can use when they’re processing their trauma and therapy. When they are, you know, working on their interpersonal relationships, maybe that’s like repairing boundaries, putting boundaries in place. Also, we know when you’re doing a lot of trauma, healing work and you are shifting, that’s going to change your relationship with people.

All of a sudden, you need to have a lot of skills in place to be able to navigate all of the change that’s coming up for you and also helping people just really get in touch with their sense of agency. Then be in touch with their bodies so they can recognize what they need, not just like physically like, “oh, I need some water”, which is sometimes part of the work.

Maybe they need a hug. Maybe they need space. Maybe they’re coming against the boundary and being able to practice, taking agentic action to satisfy that need. So they’re less reactive in their everyday lives. That’s what I try to do.

Kathryn: OK, there’s a lot here.

Kathryn: I am going to take the next minute to tell you about our sponsor Offering Tree. If you are trying to get your teaching or your business online, I highly recommend you use Offering Tree.

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But you have to use our link, which is offeringtree.com/mindfulstrength.

All right, everyone, back to the show.

Kathryn: There is so much I could ask you about. The first thing I’m going to ask you is what type of trauma training have you done? What is the origin of some of what you’re saying?

Laura Khoudari: Yeah, no, that’s a great question.
You just had somebody on talking about trauma-informed movement, and I’m blanking on her name.

Kathryn: Laura Sygrove.

Laura Khoudari: Yes. I was listening to what she said and I was like, “oh, that’s really interesting” It’s kind of hard. I get asked a lot: how can I do what you do? How can I be trauma-informed? Well, that’s an interesting question, because there is not like a school you go to to get your certification in being trauma-informed.

In some ways, it’s the Wild West, which is bad and good. It’s good in that people can explore and do what works for them. But it’s a little dicey because how do you trust somebody has really gotten a lot of training? This is why I am sort of very upfront about the training I’ve had. People can look into it. But I will say most of the bulk of my work, what I think about, like the models that I use when I work with clients is a lot based on Somatic Experiencing.

I am in the advanced year of the Somatic Experiencing Training Program, you know, I’ve taken Movement for Trauma with Jane Klapp. I’ve taken a lot of workshops here in the northeast of the United States at Kripalu, and I’ve taken workshops with Bessel van der kolk, Licia Sky, and Peter Levine.

Dana Dana is next on my list of Polyvagal Theory and I read a lot. I’m also in school to get my master’s in counseling for mental health and wellness.

I study trauma in all the ways that I can and really think about the theoretical and practical models that I am given and all of these different environments, and how can I integrate them with exercise science.

Kathryn: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Sounds like you’re learning about trauma from many different perspectives, which is incredible. And then applying it to what you do with your clients.

Laura Khoudari: I guess that’s what I mean by like, it being kind of the good side of it. There’s not like this rote program. Like I went to the “whatever School of Trauma-Informed Movement” and did the program.

It allows me to go deeper where I want to go and really create a model that works for the clients who come to me.

Kathryn: Yeah, totally. And you know what, like there are schools. There is like a Trauma-Informed Yoga School. This is what Laura and I talked about in the podcast.

Even if you go and you do the thing at the school, I think that there’s always just so much right. Especially when I don’t know if this is accurate, but I’m going to say it. Some of these ideas are based on theory and different people have different theories.

How could there be one theory; trauma is not so concrete, Human adaptation is like we know how a human muscle adapts over time. We know that humans are going to have a very similar adaptation pattern from the perspective of the cells.

But when we’re talking about life and trauma and stress and humans and relationships and reactions, I don’t think it’s so concrete that there could be one school. One idea that could cover it all.

Laura Khoudari: No, I think it would be terrible. And you’re exactly right. It’s because there are all these theories. I find one of the reasons it’s so hard to talk about my work is I always want to say, “well, this is the definition of trauma I’m working with”.

“This is the definition of X, Y, and Z” that I’m working with coming from this theoretical background. Right? I always want to define all of that for everybody.

Kathryn: OK, so you said a couple of things about the nervous system. And just in case people don’t know what that means, you said arousal, you said parasympathetic and then you said nervous system health. I’m wondering if you could just walk us through really just basics of what you’re talking about with the nervous system.

Laura Khoudari: Wow. OK, sure. I’ll give it a shot. I like to use the window of tolerance model when I’m explaining the nervous system and this stuff. The nervous system, our brain is part of the nervous system. Our nerves travel throughout our whole body. It’s what controls all of our systems. Right. And that’s why I always think it’s funny when people talk about mind-body connection as if there are two things and we’re connecting them. Well, it’s all part of one thing in our body.

You could get lost in that conversation. It feels like such a big question to define the nervous system.
It would be helpful for me to just clarify exactly what you’re looking for.

Kathryn: Yeah. Yeah. OK, so in case people don’t know what, like arousal means, or people might hear that word and might think of something if they’ve never heard of these words in relation to the nervous system.

I’m wondering if you could just talk a little bit on a basic level about the nervous system and maybe what could happen during trauma and or what could happen during exercise.

Laura Khoudari: Sure. Yes. So we’ll work with two examples. Like, one, it’s like you’re exercising in the gym and maybe one is you’re stuck in traffic on your way to an important meeting.

In both of these cases, your body is having a physical response, right? Your heart rate is going up. Maybe your palms are sweating and you know, you’re doing some cardio workout. You’re feeling your heart rate go up. You’re feeling yourself sweating in the same way maybe you’re feeling that you’re stuck in traffic and you can’t get to this interview on time. This is a response to stress.

A lot of us have a habit of thinking of stress as a bad thing, but stress is actually just a thing and exercise is a form of stress. That’s how we drive adaptation in the gym. And then they’re less desirable forms of stress like conflict. Right?

When you have a nervous system that’s experienced trauma, a lot of the time you have a lot less capacity, a smaller bucket to hold stress or a narrower window…if you’re looking at the idea of the window of tolerance, which is a great model to explain the amount of stress that one can tolerate. We all have a certain amount and it can change over time.

If you are somebody who is currently experiencing a trauma disorder or even chronic stress, there are a couple of things that could be happening. One, your capacity for arousal could just be narrower in general.

Your nervous system was overwhelmed at one point or over time, depending on what kind of trauma we’re talking about. Now it doesn’t take much stress, good or bad, to make you start to feel like you’re going to be overwhelmed again.

That can look like intrusive thoughts. It can look like panic attacks. It can look like flashbacks, any sort of symptoms that we generally equate with anxiety, or like hyperarousal. That would be like aggression, anything that has to do with fight or flight or even kind of things that we maybe think of more like numbing out, spacing out, losing track of time, getting foggy.

These are more like moving down into a hypo-aroused state. When you’re overwhelmed, so you’re shutting down right now. The other thing that can happen, if you are somebody who is walking around with this unprocessed trauma is that your general baseline is just really close to the top or the bottom of your window. Right. Like you walk around chronically stressed.

You’re already kind of highly stressed. You’re already close to the edge of your capacity. A small thing is going to push you over the edge. And that small thing could be an exercise in the gym or an argument with a loved one. All of a sudden you feel so overwhelmed and you start reacting as opposed to acting. It can really go deep from there as to why.

But what we’re trying to do is help people increase their capacity to feel that stress actually by using small amounts of stress in the gym.

Kathryn: Yeah, I mean, this is a really, really interesting approach and one that I’ve thought about a lot. I actually started the somatic experiencing training and I never finished it, but I did the first few modules of it.

And this is what got me thinking about all this stuff. Previous to learning a little bit more about the nervous system and trauma and I guess even still, you know, most of the trauma-informed movement I see out there is really slow, really gentle, really quote-unquote, safe.

Rarely do I see somebody talking about let’s do hard things, let’s stand up and do fast dynamic or invigorating, or some people might say activating things in an attempt to build capacity for future arousal or future activation.

This is also why I’m so curious about your work because you are out there in the world saying these things out loud, which I think is wonderful. I also don’t want to mean to say that gentle or soft movement or relaxing movement is not helpful. Many times on this podcast we’ve talked about how those things can also be helpful and supportive to anybody.

But I’m really, really interested in this approach that you have using strength training to help people build their capacity to better tolerate all of the big, stressful, fast, dynamic things that they’re going to encounter probably in life.

Laura Khoudari: Right. You know, you mentioned SE and in SE, there are two big concepts that you can totally apply to personal training design, which are titration and pendulation, and that’s of the nervous system and arousal.

We talk about activation. Activation, for me, what’s going to be explosive for me is different than what’s going to be explosive for a client who just started working with me. Right. And that’s what we have to remember. General programming is sort of you have to think about the individual client and what is the right amount of arousal for them. When I started, it was very little.

You were talking about the back thing. For a very long time, I was actually able to do technique work for Olympic weightlifting…getting that bar overhead and squatting down and catching it overhead. And I was able to front squat very heavy. But as soon as I put that bar on my back, even with that weight on it, I got nervous. That’s activating. I didn’t need to then load up the bar on my back.

In fact, I stayed away from back squats for months after I was already really starting to train with the barbell because that too activating. That overwhelmed my system. I literally would have flashbacks. That was a signal like, “OK, I can move. The activation helps me. I feel strong and good and competent here, but that’s too much”.

When I first went back to training I didn’t do anything other than a goblet squat was like terrifying. So that was enough. I didn’t just jump into it…it would be like teaching somebody…having somebody come in for physical therapy, for a back injury. And it’s like, “OK, pick up this really heavy thing”. No, you would slowly start to strengthen the back.

It’s the same thing. It’s really thinking about the whole picture of what’s going to be activating for this client.

Kathryn: When you were going through this process on your own, you said that you built up a heavy front squat. You’re starting to put the barbell over your head. But when you came to back squats, you were getting nervous. And I’m wondering like, yeah, what happened next? Did you slowly start loading up that back squat? Did you incorporate other movements to try to load up the back? What happened?

Laura Khoudari: It was as soon as I get up on the back…I would go into an old pattern…I high-bar squat even because I went on to do powerlifting. But even with powerlifting, I just prefer a high bar. You get some extension in the back. I would really dip into that low back and it was like, “oh, OK, well, this is no good. This is why you’re nervous”. It was figuring out what was it?

Was it just because I got hurt or is there a pattern here that maybe needs to be corrected? And so there was a lot of emphasis on staying in my body, bracing properly was the big one. And to really feel…I would spend a lot of time just feeling myself, feeling my feet on the ground, feeling everything, sort of slightly engaged as I set up and then going very slow and only going as deep as I felt OK, right.

That’s again, like the titration. I could do a deep front squat, but I had to slowly show myself and be patient with myself. Eventually, my coaches were tired of me taking my time and so I said, “I’m going to go and kind of do my own thing for a while” and then eventually found a coach who got it. They saw person is not necessarily interested in winning lots of gold medals. They’re interested in lifting for other awesome reasons.

Taking my time with it and slowly being like, “OK, this is OK, this is safe” and checking in and having the support of a performance-oriented physical therapist at that time, too. That really helped; they to had a background in weightlifting. I had met lots of physical therapists who were like, “well, you just can’t squat”. I was like “well, that’s not going to happen because I love barbell”.

I found a physical therapist who was like, “yeah, we’re going to figure out how to get you squatting again” and just feeling like he was showing me how to stay safe. There was a lot of education about the proper way to move, not just queuing, but actually explaining.

Kathryn: That’s awesome. OK, the last thing I want to ask you about is your book. And tell the listeners a little bit about the book when it’s going to be out and what it’s all about.

Laura Khoudari: Sure. So, yes, my book that’s coming out. It is available for preorder now. And it’s pub date is May 25th.

It’s called Lifting Heavy Things: healing trauma one rep at a time. And it combines personal narrative and as well as research and has like a self-help component. And there are also practical exercises at the end of every chapter. It’s all around turning any movement practice into a healing movement practice.

Whatever exercise is your jam and we even talk about trying to figure out what that might be, if you don’t know what it is. That is covered in there. It really helps people create sustainable practice, whatever that looks like. That’s going to incorporate a lot of the more trauma healing aspects to really support them and support them in the work that they’re doing in therapy, or to support them in their interpersonal relationships and in the world. How they can sort of start to bring these practices in as they’re working out on their own.

Kathryn: I love the title of your book.

Laura Khoudari: I have a very hard time coming up with titles for things. But that was obvious to me. The book sort of came to me. I was trying to come up with a lead magnet and I was like “a free ebook”. And then I’m like, “oh my God, this is a multi-chapter book and I have to write it”. And it took me no time. I was like, “I think I’m going to call it lifting heavy things because that’s what I always used to say I’m going to go do. I’m going to lift heavy things”

Kathryn: Yeah, yeah. And dealing with trauma is like lifting and moving heavy things. I think just the title of the book and the book itself is going to give people who are interested in trauma a new perspective, which I’m really excited about.

I’m excited to read the book when it comes out in May and hold a copy of it in my hands. I hope other people go on to order the book. Yeah, I’m just really excited about your work and how it’s going to hopefully inform the conversation about trauma and about fitness and strength training.
I think it would be so interesting. I have a whole bunch of like gym owners maybe pick up that book and had a little look inside about making stuff more inviting and inclusive.

Laura Khoudari: Yes, I hope so, too. That’s definitely part of the reason why I wrote it.
I said there’s personal stuff in there. I talk a little bit more about my experience of coming to fitness as somebody who hated being in my body and didn’t want to have anything to do with exercise. How I’ve shifted my mindset and also why that’s like and what’s going on in gyms that makes that problem so hard for people to tackle.

Kathryn: Well, thank you so much for being here.
If people want to learn more about your work or the book, where should they go to do that?

Laura Khoudari: Sure, to learn more about my work, you can go to laurakhoudari.com and you can also follow the links to order my book there. But you can actually preorder my book or order my book from your preferred best seller. Bookseller rather, I’m hoping it’ll be a best seller. So that’s slipped out.

I just want to say something I learned fairly recently is that preorders really help with a book’s success. For anybody who you want to support out there, who’s writing a book, if you’re going to buy the book, or if you’re hoping to get that book from the library, either preorder the book or ask for librarians, preorder it. Those preorders carry a lot of weight going forward into the book’s success.

Kathryn: So true. All right, Laura. Thank you so much.

Laura Khoudari: Thanks for having me, Kathryn.

Kathryn: All right, everyone, I’ll see you next week.

Kathryn Bruni-Young: And thank you again to our amazing sponsor Offering Tree. If folks want to get started getting your stuff online, go to offeringtree.com/mindfulstrengh. All right, everyone. I’ll see you next week.
Kathryn: That’s our show. Thank you, everyone, so much for listening. If you’re listening on the Apple Podcast and you’re loving the podcast, please consider leaving us to review. All of the reviews really, really help. If you want to learn more about my work, my membership, my teachers’ course, or my new free course called Mindful Strength Foundations, you can head over to mindfulstrength.ca