Who Is Kimberly Walford?
York Barbell Hall of Famer, Steve Goggins, calls her “courageous”. Maliek Derstine, who has the third highest squat and the highest bench of any 198lb class lifter in the world, calls her “awesome”. Drug free lifter Perry Ellis Jr. who has the #2 ranked squat in the world, says she’s “Tenacious”. High praise from a powerlifting legend and two powerlifting legends in the making. That’s because Kimberly Walford is one of the most accomplished strength athletes alive. She’s ranked among the top lifters in the world both drug tested and non drug tested and has a 391lb squat, 242lb bench press and 556.1lb deadlift. All done drug free under the strict rules of the International Powerlifting Federation. Kimberly and I met at the 2015 Arnold Classic and then again backstage at USA Powerlifting Raw Nationals when we finally agreed to have a work related conversation. Kimberly recently started a basement gym in her townhome she calls Off The Grid Powerlifting so she could train according to her schedule and with her friends. I called Kimberly on Halloween Night 2016 to talk powerlifting and in between interruptions from trick or treaters, we had a great conversation about Feng Shui when setting up a garage training facility for multiple lifters, developing a powerlifting mindset in people you coach and creating a productive training environment. Let’s go Off The Grid with Kimberly Walford—
Kimberly! What’s up? It took a lot of prayer to do this interview because you deadlifted 556.1lbs the night after I had just pulled a personal record 555lb deadlift. And we had just met the morning before! I mean, come on! That was hurtful! After this interview you need to sit and think about how you’ve behaved.
Man! Ha, ha! I can’t believe you, you’re silly!
Ha! Yeah, when we say off the grid, it’s definitely out of the way for sure. I mean it’s off of 78 but you’d have to know where it is to come and find it. It’s in our house so from the outside you wouldn’t be able to tell that there’s actually a pretty cool gym in there. And the name actually came from Lexx it was her idea, she wanted to call it that and I liked the sound of it so I said, “Okay”. Don’t get me wrong, I still miss some of my training crews but they’re not here. So we just created a new family and what’s great about a home gym is my buddies that I’ve built this extended family with can come and train at my house.
You’ve got on the door to the gym, “Do it because they said you couldn’t”. You’re very approachable but you’re also a serious person. So I can’t imagine anybody meeting you and coming away with an impression of weakness. So who on earth said that Kimberly Walford of all people couldn’t do something?
Haters and naysayers. Comments that have been made behind my back; never to my face but behind my back. Comments left on social media.
Ah haters! Got to love them. Well, you’re very strong willed. How did playing a lot of different sports growing up develop you as an athlete?
Mental focus, discipline, being able to focus on a goal and knowing that there’s a process to getting it done. Knowing that there’s not always a straight to getting the goal; understanding that there’s going to be bumps in the road but realizing that you have to stay focused on what you want to achieve and doing everything that you can to get you there. If anything else the biggest benefit is the actual being healthy. If you’re training correctly, it should enhance your life overall not just physically but mentally. So I tend to feel like people who are athletes, we don’t retire; I tend to think that we just move on to other sports. And it stays with us throughout our lives.
I’m a big believer in Feng Shui. Don’t tell anybody, but I did take one semester of Interior Design in college and I believe that how you set up a room affects your mood, your productivity, everything. You’ve been lifting weights since you were 13, and you’ve been competing in powerlifting for 15 years at a high level. So when you go to set up a gym space, your thought process is different than somebody who’s just looking to put an ab roller in the corner. So what were some things you thought about as a lifter with many years behind you?
Well, believe it or not, the first thing that I did was I went online and I Googled floor plans for gym space. And I took measurements downstairs and figured out exactly how much usable space we had and then I started putting in equipment that I thought I would need for us to be able to have a functional gym. We even took it down to putting in the stall mats. Like, sizing them to see how many we needed to take up the floor space. And then from there, realizing what do we really need? Because we compete and based on our federation’s standards so I needed to find equipment that would work for that. So I looked for a competition combo rack, squat rack/bench set. I also looked for a regular rack. And the reason why is we use the combo rack when you want to get close to the competition and you want to have that feel of being in a competition style environment and that’s why we have that. And then we have the regular rack for those days when you necessarily may not have everyone over and you need to go heavy, it adds a little bit more protection. Having that heavier equipment, plus also having the pegs for doing band work as well as for pullups above. So those were the two main things. And then we were thinking we’ve got to have dumbbells but do we really have enough space to have sets from 5s to whatever, over 100? And we were like no, so we looked online and we found Bowflex. Bowflex made the adjustable ones so they went 0-90 and then I just bought an extra set of regular dumbbbells for over 100, so if you’re going over 100, we know that’s the set you only use for going over 100lbs. Everything we were doing was about creating space. Bought cubicles, stands, we bought cable attachments, we even got plyo boxes and of course old school bodybuilding and powerlifting equipment, we made sure to get a reverse hyper. Every gym I’ve ever seen, the real deal gyms have had one so I’m like we should have one!
And then of course we went a little new wave and got a foam roller; a mirror, even though you rarely look in it, for those rare times when you want to do dumbbell work and need to see yourself we put it in there right across from the deadlift platform. Initially we started it one way but because it’s limited space, we didn’t want it to feel like you were cramped when you were training, so we started out with one layout design where the combo rack was across from the regular rack then realized we could space it out a little bit more. It was like trial and error even though we had a set plan we realized after a few months that we could make one more change and make it even more of an open space.
I looked at pictures and it’s kind of tight but you have room for five people training at the same time?
The most we’ve had was seven or eight.
Everybody that I know who trains in home gyms in the New York, New Jersey area, is always talking about how they actually have to put their gyms in the basement as opposed to the garage because the winters are brutal. I just talked to a guy from Syracuse a couple of weeks ago and he said that he started out in his garage and ended up having to move it to the basement. So is that where your gym is in the basement or is it in the garage?
It’s actually street level, so the garage is in front and then behind the garage it leads to I guess, that would have been the man cave area? But we just decided, “Why do we need a large living room? I’d rather have a large gym. So we have a smaller living room upstairs and we just turned that into the gym.
You’ve met my 12 year old son, so you know I’ve got some younger kids who train with me, and sometimes if they’re going to a competition they get nervous. So I might have their friends come over and watch them lift. Because I want them to have to lift in front of people. I watched a movie, Bending Steel, about performing strongman Chris Schoenke and he had stage fright, so he drew people, complete with different facial expressions on a piece of cardboard and put it on the wall of this little closet he trains out of so he’s always looking at a crowd. For your lifters, what have you done to optimize the training environment for them?
If they seem nervous, what we usually like to do is love to have music, motivational stuff, high intensity stuff, there are however lifters who like slower genres of music, a particular song that gets them going we’ll play it. We usually crack jokes about it afterwards but we’ll play it. I love to put on motivational sports related videos in the background on the TV. I also love to throw on powerlifting meets, powerlifting documentaries anything to create an environment that’s all about powerlifting. If all else fails and I feel like they’re still nervous, I remind them of why they’re there and, you’re going to have to do this regardless of who’s around you. I just, I hate to say this, but I kind of tell them, suck it up! You’re here to compete right? But I can definitely say that we haven’t had an issue with too much nervousness other than lifters come by and they tell me that there’s something weird about lifting around me but I don’t look at it like that. I feel like if I’ve invited you to my house, we’re friends; I’m not looking at it like I’m any different than you; we’re friends and we’re training together.
How does Kimberly Walford maintain psychological intensity in a garage gym?
The intensity in a home gym, I think the best way is to equate it to your own personal platform. When you compete you’re by yourself. You don’t see anything; you don’t hear anything but the platform, so I’m just using the home gym as a medium to allow me to do what I need to do. And how I’m able to create the intensity is I remind myself of why I’m down there training. I remind myself for the goals I’ve set for the next meet, the goals I may have set for the next year or Hell! The goals I’ve set for my whole career! Remind myself of the people who support me and the messages you get from people telling you that you inspire them. I put things around me that cause inspiration. Anything that’s going to get me in that zone. And finally I tell myself that if I don’t do it I tell myself that I make it that much easier for someone to come after me and beat me.
|“If you’re training correctly, it should enhance your life overall not just physically but mentally” Kimberly Walford|
You spoke on My Strength book about creating psychological intensity. How do you avoid emotional burnout after 15 years of psyching up to train and compete?
Just knowing that each cycle has a purpose and you have to set yourself up to do a certain amount of things, and do what’s necessary to get those goals accomplished. But the funny thing that happens is that what happens at the end of a cycle is we normally compete. So from competition you always come away with lessons. Whether positive or negative or both. And I usually feel, not only for me because I hear it from others; you feel inspired with new goals! Because you’re like well I may have Let’s say you accomplished all of your goals for that meet, but you know, wait a minute there’s something else I wanted to do. So that means you have to train for another cycle and start all over again. And I think what it is to avoid burnout you have to keep your goals realistic, do what’s necessary to accomplish them, keep the right people around you so when you have those crappy days you have people to help put you back in the right space mentally. Keeping the negative people away from you because everyone seems to have an opinion about how you should do things. But it’s funny because some of those same people don’t have the experience or know you enough to be able to tell you what you need to hear. It’s those things that help me avoid burnout. Plus I tell myself that as long as God, my mind, my body and my family allow I’m going to keep pushing so I don’t have a reason to stop unless one of those things is compromised in the wake of me going after these goals.
You’ve got a home gym but even Batman leaves the Batcave. So when you travel and you travel a lot, before you even leave the state do you look for a gym?
Ha ha! You already know Brother! If I am training, I am calling ahead and looking on Facebook and Instagram seeing which one of my buddies are in the area, saying where do you guys train? I need a place to train! Then based on what they tell me I end up looking and checking it out to make sure it’s a place I can train. I need to make sure. You don’t have to have calibrated kilo plates; that’s just a blessing if you happen to have them. I just need to make sure that you have the bars that I need; you’ve got plates and a decent floor so I can pull off of the platform. But what I tend to do now is unless it’s a day that I really need to train, I try to turn it into a mini deload or just I’ll change my training schedule for that week so I can have some time to relax. We have to remember sometimes to relax. It just depends on where I am in the cycle.
I’m kind of a snob because if I go somewhere and they use spring collars, and the collars slide right off of the bar, I just leave.
Oh I bring my own collars!
Well, I use the collars as a test. Because look at how cheap a spring collar is! If you can’t take the time to keep good ones around, how do I know that something else isn’t shady? I’m just out. Anyway, how can people contact you if they want coaching or have a question?
Facebook: Kimberly C. Walford
If you’re a female interested in getting stronger check out Kimberly at an Iron Sisters USA training camp in 2017. The camps are a huge success with the attendees so you don’t want to miss this one! Sign up at ironsistersusa.com or check out footage from a previous camp here.