With the buzz from the FTM Fitness World Annual Conference still ringing, lots of trans guys are thinking about how to up their game and renew their dedication to fitness. For some, that quest will include hiring a fitness coach.
When it comes to transforming your body, who could better understand your goals and motivations than a transgender fitness coach?
Meet Cole Timonere, a man on a mission to help trans men build a body that matches their inner ideal. After getting into weightlifting in college, Cole discovered CrossFit and never looked back. He started coaching CrossFit in his spare time, competed in several competitions, and went on to win 1st place in the Men’s scaled division at the 2014 Revolution Games CrossFit Competition in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Oh, and he’s transgender.
After living “stealth” for 12 years, Cole told his story to the world in an interview that appeared on Pride RX, a LGBT CrossFitters website. More recently, Cole launched Trans Force Fitness, a personal training and nutrition coaching business. Knowing all too well what it feels like to want to transform your body, and because that means different things for different people, Cole creates personalized fitness and nutrition plans–just for you–to achieve your fitness goals.
We thought TransGuys.com readers would appreciate getting to know Cole a bit better so we asked him to sit down for an interview. Read on for Cole’s thoughts on being stealth, his passion for CrossFit, Chloie Jonsson’s legal case against CrossFit, plus Cole’s advice for trans men who want to get fit. [hr]
After living stealth for 12 years, you came out as trans in a PrideRX Athlete of the Month profile in August 2013. How has your life changed since then?
Dramatically. Once the profile was published, to make sure that it was shared with all of my friends from past and present, I posted it on my personal Facebook page and commented that “the day had finally come…to thine own self be true.” It was a saying we all hear and one my mom has always repeated to me. I guess it just took me a bit longer to digest its sentiment.
When I posted the article I immediately closed my laptop and went to dinner with a friend who knew all the details. After dinner I opened up my computer and was shocked by the out pour of support and positive attention my post had received in only about an hours time. Before I knew it my phone was blowing up with texts, calls, and emails from people that didn’t even have a Facebook, but had heard the news from others. Everyone who contacted me offered nothing but support. I finally felt a sense of peace, and went to bed that night a new man. For the first time in my life I felt truly alive and had a whole new confidence come over me. I was exposed and the world was OK with it.
I still struggle at times with when and how to tell new people who enter my life that I am transgender. But overall, since coming out I have had more confidence, better relationships with people, and a more positive outlook on life.
I had a therapist tell me once that living stealth can be dangerous, psychologically speaking. What do you think about this?
I couldn’t agree with your therapist more, and after over than a decade living in stealth, I am a huge advocate of living life openly. For me, failure to do so leads only to darkness.
When I was 17 and finally told a therapist of my gender identity, he urged me to share my truth with the world, but I chose not to listen. I was very fortunate to “pass” almost immediately, but mistakenly, thought this was a blessing. Throughout the years of living in stealth I had many different therapists, and all of them shared the same hopes of me coming out with my secret and living free from the strain of hiding, but I refused. I became very good at lying to keep myself hidden, and felt that I had no consequences as a result…until I did. Mid way through my twenties I began to learn more about myself and started to see the distance I created between others and myself due to my continual lies. This caused a lot of suffering and I found I had to do a lot of soul searching to get to the point where I could finally be free from my secret.
Prior to CrossFit, you did weightlifting 4-5 times a week. What are the differences, physical and mental, that you’ve noticed since switching to CrossFit?
CrossFit awoke the competitor in me. As a young kid growing up I competed in triathlons around the state and was a nationally ranked inline speed skater, but in my high school years I shifted my focus more towards schooling, and the rest of my energy was spent wrestling with the emotional issues that come with being transgender. It was around college that I began lifting weights to change and sculpt my body. Physically, I was getting strong and defined, but mentally I was bored. Four sets of 10 reps on all the traditional equipment, with no competition did not stimulate my mind. However, I knew I was there for the big picture results, so I learned to grin ‘n bear it. In 2013 when I found CrossFit I knew it would be a game changer. Not only was I lifting the big boy weights, I was also stimulating my mind by the “constantly varied” component of CrossFit, and I was taking part in a healthy competition…not just against my fellows, but me against me. There was a short and long term goal with CrossFit. The short was to finish fast (with proper form), and the long was to “get fit.” I noticed changes in my body almost immediately. I was getting bigger, stronger, and leaner, all at the same time. My mile time reached an all time low, while my squat load reached an all time high. I had found my passion, and the vehicle that would help me to achieve inner peace.
As a CrossFitter, law school graduate, and trans man, what do you think of Chloie Jönsson’s law suit against CrossFit Inc.?
I am personal friend of Chloie Jonsson, and met her well after the suit had already been filed. Chloie contacted me after seeing my athlete profile in Pride RX to inquire about my experience of “coming out” to the world, as she was afraid the suit may expose her gender status in the near future. I support her decision to pursue legal action, as I believe her rights were violated. In fact, my own rights are violated by the current guidelines. According to the rules as they stand, if I expose my transgender status to CrossFit, I too will be barred access to compete in the Crossfit Open in the male class. Further, I would be disqualified to compete in female class (my birth gender) because of my testosterone count. Although my count is not as high as a genetically born man, it is too high to be allowed to compete against women. So, I have no options to compete across the board. The reason that this is a non-issue for me is that I still compete in the men’s class, and CrossFit will probably never have an issue with it because I will never, no matter how hard I train, be able to get to the level of the elite male athletes who compete in the CrossFit Games. This reality is not because I do not have faith in myself or because I lack the mental or physical toughness, it is because genetically, it is impossible for me to reach that status with the body I was given. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy competing, or that I can’t win local competitions, because I do, and I have. It only means that I must accept that I will never be able to compete in the CrossFit Games based on both my lack of ability, and currently stated CrossFit rules.
You’ve been athletic all your life. What 3 pieces of advice would you give to a trans man who doesn’t have a history of athleticism but is committed to transforming their body?
I have trained several transmen that have no history of athletics, so this is a concept with which I’m familiar. Often times I find that transmen have the desire to make a change, but have a strong fear about going to the gym, or feel that based on their present state, it would take too long and too much effort to transform. Here’s my advice to transmen sincerely dedicated to the transformation.
- Be accountable to someone other than yourself. I say this because it is a tough road and there will be times you want to eat that box of donuts and miss that workout. Choose someone who is dedicated to your cause, and wants you to succeed. Not someone who will let you off the hook if you have a rough day.
- Keep your eyes on the prize, and stick to the facts, not the stories. I promise you that no matter how you look or feel today, you can achieve the body you desire. Thinking you are “big boned” or that you’ll never have a flat stomach or that being overweight runs in your family are all stories. The change starts with you, and the facts are that you can naturally sculpt your body to any shape you desire with the right nutrition and fitness regimen.
- Set goals and never quit. Although you may have never ran a mile in your life, today is a new day, and today you will not quit. You have the unique opportunity to experience a lot of firsts. Write down small goals for yourself, and keep a log with your progress toward each of the goals. This will give you a sense of accomplishment, and soon enough you’ll look back and see how far you have progressed over just a short time. Most importantly…never quit. Transmen are made from tough stuff…so let’s show that to the world.
Do you plan to attend and compete at next year’s FTM Fitness World Annual Conference in Atlanta?
My website is my first attempt at being more involved in and entering the trans community. Having said that, I have never heard of the FTM Fitness Conference. However, I plan on looking into it, as I am always up for a competition. [hr]