Girls Gone Strong | Women specific health and fitness coaching

Molly Galbraith was thrust into the world of health and fitness quickly after graduating from college. She was dating a personal trainer — a bodybuilder and a powerlifter — and in 2006 found herself competing in tricks competitions where she was constantly judged on her physique and muscle definition.

These competitions required an extraordinary amount of diet and exercise, and at age 24, she began to feel ill. His doctor diagnosed Galbraith with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that prevents the thyroid from producing enough thyroid hormones, which often leads to fatigue, weight gain and muscle weakness. She also suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome, as well as adrenal dysfunction.

“I didn’t have the language back then, but I also had very messy eating habits, deep body image issues and amenorrhea,” says Galbraith, now 37 and living in Arizona. “I struggled with all of that for the next five years.”

As she worked through her health issues, Galbraith eventually opened her own gym and began garnering an online following by writing articles and posting health and fitness news. She made friends with seven other women around the world who were as passionate about strength training as she was and felt that more women could benefit from body-positive programs that combined strength, nutrition and pregnancy education.

It started as a Facebook page and a website, and the community flocked to it. It was the humble beginning of Girls Gone Strong, a women-specific health and fitness coaching and certification company that now has thousands of certified trainers based in more than 100 countries, says Galbraith.

“When we started, Girls Gone Strong’s mission was to help women build physical strength, because we believed it translated into mental toughness and strength of character,” says Galbraith. “Over the years, this mission has evolved and expanded significantly.”

Redefining women’s health and fitness goals

The American weight-loss industry is worth nearly $73 billion, but Galbraith thinks the food culture is starting to falter with the help of organizations like Girls Gone Strong, who place little importance on to the numbers on the scale.

“Ten years ago it was virtually unheard of for women to have goals other than weight loss and today more women than ever are setting goals to get their first pull up, double their body weight, build muscle,” says Galbraith. “They use exercise to manage their mental health, to reduce aches and pains, to see what’s possible for their body.”

To realize this potential, women have specific needs and life stages that they must take into account: prenatal, postpartum, menopause, pelvic health, etc. Women also tend to struggle more than men with body image, eating disorders, and hormonal issues, all of which can influence how well they manage to get in shape and approach nutrition.

Girls Gone Strong’s instructor program also covers topics such as the pitfalls of social media comparison, the psychology of behavior change specific to women, and separate special pre and postnatal coaching certifications that cover pelvic floor dysfunction, respiratory and cardiovascular changes, the birthing process and postpartum rehabilitation. .

“Instead of telling their clients what to do, our coaches understand how to work with their clients to find solutions that align with their clients’ values,” says Galbraith. “The education they receive helps them understand how to help women at any stage of their life, whatever problem they are going through.”

Courtesy of Molly Galbraith/Photo by Jeremy Kramer

Strength before and after childbirth

Ellysia Howson is a former track athlete, now a Girls Gone Strong certified prenatal and postnatal trainer based in the UK. She’s been a trainer for about 15 years, but it wasn’t until she gave birth to her son in 2018 that she took a greater interest in helping women through pregnancy and postpartum.

“When I was 25, single and living in the city, I had no idea. I couldn’t understand why a busy mother breastfeeding at 5 a.m. would drop two kids off at the school, training, then going to work wasn’t able to make a scrambled egg and protein shake for breakfast,” Howson explains. “I didn’t get it. back.

Although more and more women are aware that when recovering from childbirth, they need to pay attention to their pelvic health when recovering from childbirth, many do not understand how this rehabilitation can differ according to various factors, such as having had a caesarean section or a vaginal procedure. birth, whether they experience any trauma or mental health issues from pregnancy or childbirth, or how they prepared their bodies before birth.

“The main thing people want to learn is how to exercise safely again and they often think of travel as linear, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” Howson says. “I know a lot of them want to run a 10k or do a marathon or cross fit, for example, but when they try [getting back into a workout routine] they feel a heaviness in the pelvic floor or suffer from incontinence. It can be fixed most of the time and they have no idea – they are led to believe this is how it should be after having children.

When Howson meets a new postpartum client, she begins with a conversation about pregnancy, the labor experience, the birth itself, and the ongoing healing process, before talking about end goals. She assesses their biomechanics, including posture and breathing patterns, before moving on to movement patterns and testing, like jumping without incontinence, before moving on to running.

Essentially, Howson and his clients put the “pieces of the puzzle” together methodically and incrementally, depending on individual circumstances – and having that kind of attention to detail can make all the difference to someone’s well-being through the years of procreation.

“We have to respect the fact and be proud of the fact that we are different…More often than not, physically our demands and needs are different from those of men,” Howson says. “We should be able to set our own bar. If we really take the time to tune in to our body, we can be capable of a lot.

help all women

Girls Gone Strong appeals to two audiences: the coaches they train and women looking for training programs. The company also has a few free courses on topics like body image available online.

Galbraith also emphasizes the organization’s core beliefs, including that all shapes, sizes, ages, races and ability levels are welcome – and that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and classism are women’s health issues that Girls Gone Strong addresses.

“There are major barriers keeping women in the LGBTQIA+ community away from gyms and fitness centers and that can be harassment in the locker room because of the institutionalized lack of belonging to same-sex families – it’s a women’s health issue,” she said. “The average life expectancy for a trans woman of color in the United States is 35. If that’s not a female health issue, I don’t know what is.”

Training coaches and fitness professionals on all of these issues through the program helps make health and fitness activities more accessible and welcoming wherever they serve. When redesigning prenatal and postnatal certification materials, for example, Girls Gone Strong brought together 21 experts from 12 fields of study, from five countries, who were also of different ages, races and religions, to create a program through an intersectional lens. .

“All of these women in the most marginalized communities are much more likely to experience discrimination or abuse in gyms, in the workplace, or in their communities, which negatively impacts their health,” says Galbraith. “We don’t want women’s health to be about survival, we want women to thrive. We want them to feel safe, strong, capable and at home in their lives and bodies.

Women who sign up for the 12-month Girls Gone Strong online program ($299 per month) get one-on-one access to coaches for help and questions, as well as a workout program based on on their individual ability level, fitness goals, and nutritional needs. To keep costs down, Girls Gone Strong offers discounts during registration periods and payment plans. You can also find a Girls Gone Strong certified coach or trainer instead of training Girls Gone Strong directly, which may be a better option for some women.

“We know there are many companies ready to tackle [women’s] insecurities, sell them the next pill or powder or gimmick to tighten their tummy or tone their thighs or whatever b——-,” Gilbraith says. “We help them clarify their personal values, what’s important to them, and what they think their life will be like if they achieve a particular goal…often aesthetic or weight-related goals fall away and they start to eat well and exercise because they love their bodies and want to take good care of themselves.

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