Cover photo credit: skipphotography.com
“I’d love it if I could inspire women to lift. That would make me happy.”
Those were the exact words used by Nicole Lim as we sat under a table umbrella at Baja Taqueria on Piedmont Avenue in North Oakland, California. Nicole agreed to chat with me while we refueled ourselves after a light Sunday training session. By the way, shout out to Baja Taqueria for the best Steak & Lobster burrito I’ve ever eaten! I had literally just gotten off the plane about two hours prior and I immediately Ubered to Strength Power Speed gym to meet Nicole, Big Mike, and the rest of the SPSGym gang.
If you are not familiar with Nicole or SPSGym, you should be. Nicole is an athlete with the California Strength (Cal Strength) team. I’m sure you’ve seen their training videos. If so, you’ve seen her training on the team. She stands at just five-feet tall and she lifts fearlessly right along side some of California’s strongest lifters.
SPSGym is Oakland’s newest gym, and Big Mike started it with the vision of being the “New Normal” in strength, power and speed training. Big Mike is an awesome guy with a huge passion for helping those around him succeed. If you’re ever in Oakland, drop by his gym, not because I said so, but because it’s the ONLY ELEIKO CERTIFIED FACILITY IN CALIFORNIA!
Because I live in Hong Kong, one of the most international cities on this planet, the first question I ask when I meet someone for the first time is “What’s your ethnicity?” Nicole is mostly Filipino, about a quarter Chinese and little French-Irish. Her petite stature, athletic background, and her grit are arguably the reasons why she’s such a great Weightlifter. At every national meet you will see Nicole in the A session battling with America’s strongest 48kg women. What you won’t see, unless you get to know her, is that she’s a dog owner, she enjoys Kanye West’s music, and, prior to Weightlifting, she received a gymnastics scholarship at Cal State University, Fullerton (CSUF).
My impression of Nicole was that she’s a very intelligent, kind, beautiful person, and a great weightlifter. She has a positive outlook on life and her future in weightlifting, and she continues to inspire women all over the world with her work as a lifter, coach, and awesome human being. When asked what she would like to be remembered by most, she said
I’d love it if I could inspire women to lift. That would make me happy.
Education and Sports
Can you tell me about your gymnastics background?
I initially wanted to be an ice skater. My parents enrolled me in gymnastics after my 8th birthday and I was competing at level 5 after 6 months. I was a level 10 gymnast and nationally ranked by my senior year of high school then I received a scholarship at CSUF. There, I competed mostly on beam and floor and loved every minute of collegiate athletics.
What other sports did you participate in before Weightlifting?
None! As a gymnast, I didn’t really have time for much else besides straight A’s. I found the stair master at 24 Hour Fitness then CrossFit not long after that.
In your opinion, what’s the best gateway sport to weightlifting?
In terms of exposure, four years ago I would’ve said CrossFit. Nowadays, weightlifting in youth sports and generalized fitness is becoming much more accepted and appreciated! In terms of athletic criteria, I might be biased, but gymnasts make great weightlifters. We have the musculature and the body awareness to do great things with a barbell.
Weightlifting: beginning, Cal Strength, Coaching, Women’s program.
How and when did you get started in Weightlifting?
I started CrossFit in August of 2011. I did my first meet at Cal Strength that October. I had no idea what I was doing, but my coach got me qualified for American Open and then I was hooked. How could I not take advantage of the opportunity to compete on the national level again?!
Who was your first coach?
The one and only Ruth “Red” Purdue at CrossFit San Leandro (CFSL). I really appreciated learning the lifts from an intelligent female. She had so much confidence in me, that I could be something special. She’s everything awesome.
Who are your biggest role models in Weightlifting?
ME. But seriously, I really have the most respect for weightlifters who train hard and make their own way doing it.
Favorite female lifter?
Let’s discuss the California Strength team:
Dave Spitz is the coach; how did you meet him?
I was going to Cal Strength about once a week to train with my CFSL team in 2012. I was electrified by the environment there. I knew I had to be a part of it.
Other than yourself, who were your most notable female lifters at Cal Strength?
Sandra Arechaederra is Cal Strength’s first female national medalist. We’re good friends now and she still kicks butt. Before I showed up, Lindsay Taylor and Jessica North were holding it down for the ladies on the team.
How did you become the women’s programming coach?
I wouldn’t say I’m the coach. Dave does all the research and programming. I’m just there to test, and represent and be a resource for the women doing the programming. We use Train Heroic to moderate and communicate with the athletes following our programs and I love reaching out and connecting with the girls.
Tell me about the coaching style, your programming, your technical model, and your coaching philosophy.
The women’s programming is pretty hardcore. Dave bases the model to average higher intensities and higher volumes than our male counterparts, with the idea that we recover better and faster and are basically the superior gender *winking emoji*. The programming is very comprehensive so that all levels can benefit. The model is based off percentages with linear progression for 3 weeks then a deload. We also did some testing to provide another option for the 4 week cycles, which includes a deload week during menstruation and then discretionary max week immediately after when we are believed to be our strongest.
How had this role benefited your weightlifting career?
Being so involved in the women’s program kind of sparked something in my training. I was on the verge of retiring. But I was reminded of how inspirational I can be for other female weightlifters. Since we launched the women’s program, I’ve become a smarter athlete. I’m more accountable for my training and recovery because I feel like some of these women are looking up to me for a positive response from the programs. What I really love seeing from the women’s program is that half the women signed up are moms or masters or work full-time but they just love weightlifting and trust us with their programming.
What other projects are you working on?
I write (or try to) small pieces for californiastrength.com. I try to come up with interesting topics that are specifically for women who lift weights. Its a fun little thing I like doing. It seems like an ongoing project to work, train, and coach on the side. You know what would be a nice project? A vacation!
What’s on the competition agenda for you this year?
I’d like to do the Caffeine and Kilos Invitational in September. They always put on a great event with great lifters. And of course, American Open, because Disney World.
Do you have a significant other?
Yes, Robert Blackwell (Cal Strength). 4 years strong.
You’re a dog owner. What’s your dog(s) name and what breed?
I have two four-year-old American Pitbull Terriers, Mamas and Petey. We adopted both about 1.5 years apart from each other.
How do you relax after a long week of lifting and everything else going on in your world?
I might have a mild (or moderate) case of OCD. So, I really like to clean my house. It’s therapeutic. On Sundays, I try my very hardest and very best to do nothing.
You just bought a home. Where at? What made you decide to settle down in that area?
I bought in Concord at the end of 2014. I work in skilled nursing facilities up and down Contra Costa County and wanted to stay relatively close to my facilities and the gym. Eventually, I want to move back to Oakland.
What’s your favorite food?
Mom’s Filipino cooking. I make special requests on weekends.
Warriors, duh! My dad always took me to games as a kid when we were terrible. I can’t describe how pumped I was when we watched Muggsy Bogues play!
Last good book?
I’m gonna sound really dorky on this one but I’m going to say Dragonbane by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I picked it up a couple months ago in an airport in the midst of Game of Thrones. You know, dragons. And magic.
If you enjoyed this interview and would like to read more interviews with other Weightlifters, please comment and we will reach out!
Be sure to follow Nicole Lim on social media: