Name: Fabienne Marier
Location: Montreal, Canada
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It means being part of a movement that is positively changing the game for girls and women everywhere. It means owning my voice, and using it to speak up about the things that matter. It means working at lifting other women up, because we can all benefit from it. A rising tide lifts up all boats.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training?
Back in the early 80s, my mother was an aerobics instructor, and I’d tag along when she was teaching classes. I was always fascinated by strength training, but the myth according to which women shouldn’t lift heavy was very pervasive! I also danced from the time I was a toddler until my late teens. Back then, the focus in dance culture was on getting smaller, not stronger, and disordered behaviors were rampant. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I found the courage to walk over to the free weights section of the gym, and started to try to figure out what to do!
With so much contradictory information available, I spent several years navigating some very confused waters. Girls Gone Strong was created around the moment when I was pregnant with my son, and I was immediately drawn to it! Women passionate about strength—it felt like a revelation! As soon as my son was born and I was cleared to start exercising again, I started my strength training journey in true form!
What does a sample workout look like for you?
I like to have a dedicated workout period on a daily basis, so I typically alternate between strength training days and yoga days. On strength training days, I’ve recently been focusing on one big lift (i.e. bench press – 8 sets of 3 @85%), followed by a metabolic conditioning circuit, often with kettlebells. On yoga days, I stick to 60-minute flows. I like how yoga and strength training complement each other, both mentally and physically. I think my yoga practice has been enhanced by getting stronger. Yoga, in turn, has helped me cultivate the patience required to get results, as well as the playfulness required to try new things.
Most memorable PR:
A very memorable PR came quite unexpectedly at the first Women’s Fitness Retreat in 2014. Jen Sinkler was leading a hands-on clinic on Jefferson Deadlifts and, after the event, I saw that there was a picture of me performing the lift. Only then did I realize that I’d lifted a weight much greater than what I had told myself I was able to lift, and that really opened up something inside of me. I understood that I’d been feeling constrained by barriers which were only inside my head!
I also burst into tears the day my squat broke into the three digits!
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I typically like to train alone, in my home gym. As an introvert, training time is also recharging time for me, so I’m very happy to be in my little bubble.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
Being told I was inspiring. I figure that if I can bring something positive to the world, even if it’s just to a single person’s life, then it’s all worth it.
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
Telling my 6-year-old daughter how much I admire her spirit. I really do.
Most embarrassing gym moment:
Two equally embarrassing moments come to mind! The first one happened two years ago, when I was working out in a corporate gym. The trainer in charge of the music also coached rhythmic gymnastics to little kids, and suddenly her playlist switched to extremely loud marching band music with superimposed cartoon voices. Everyone on the floor burst out laughing, myself included, except I was in the middle of a dumbbell fly set, and I totally got stuck. I also recently managed to hit my pubic bone with a heavy kettlebell while performing a (clearly ill-timed) goblet clean. I was VERY happy to be alone when that happened (I managed to walk it off).
Give me pretty much any meat-and-vegetable combo, and I’m a happy lady! I’m not only passionate about food, but also extremely curious, and I love to taste new things. Furthermore, my husband and I are—I say this very unabashedly—terrific cooks, which means that we make sure most of our meals are fall-off-your-chair good. The latest home-cooked meal with which I fell in love was lamb shanks braised with tomatoes, carrots, dates, chickpeas and mushrooms, served over mashed potatoes.
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Uninterrupted time alone to read fiction for pleasure is a rare treat! Getting new equipment for my home gym also usually makes me kind of giddy.
My mantra is “Think and act from a place of love, not from a place of fear”. I came up with it at the beginning of 2015, and it’s been guiding me ever since.
What inspires and motivates you?
Knowing that mindset is one of the most determining factors of the way we can experience life. Once you start digging, the opportunities for growth are joyful and radiant.
What do you do?
I’m a professional writer and communication specialist, and I’ve just gone back to doing freelance work after having spent the last decade in the corporate world. It’s quite the adjustment, to be perfectly honest, but I’m grateful that I was able to make the move. Things are equally exciting and terrifying, but I know it was the right thing to do. I’ve also started my own blog, Wholly Fabi, where I discuss mindset matters. Having the opportunity to write authentically, in my own voice, is incredibly fulfilling.
What else do you do?
I’m working on getting certified as a personal trainer and mindset specialist, and I’m hoping to increasingly integrate these aspects in my professional life. I’m also a parent to three kids—my son is 3, my daughter is 6, and my stepdaughter is 15. There are honestly very few dull moments!
Your next training goal:
Perform an unassisted bodyweight pull-up! It’s been a long-time goal of mine, but I have to be extremely patient with my progress. I have hypermobility in most of my joints, which means that lot of stabilizing work is required before I can safely move to higher loads, even if it’s just my bodyweight!
What are you most grateful for?
So much! Since I’ve implemented a rigorous gratitude journaling practice in late 2014, gratitude is what fuels a lot of my thoughts! I could go on for ages, because the things for which I’m grateful range from being able to raise my family in a peaceful, accepting place, to having the opportunity to spend entire days without wearing pants!
Tell us about a time when you overcame fear or self-doubt.
I’m a self-professed recovering perfectionist, and I missed out on a lot of opportunities because I was afraid of putting myself out there. Then, two years ago, I decided to shave my head for a pediatric cancer fundraiser. It forced me to actually (gasp!) ask people for support, not to mention taking what many considered to be a pretty radical action. From that moment on, I decided that I would approach life differently, and seek out opportunities rather than shying away from them. This has led me to attempt sports I’d never considered trying, like curling (which I love) and sumo soccer (which I don’t love), to travel alone to conferences and events and be ok with not knowing anyone there, to apply for workshops and mentorships in order to increase my knowledge and expertise, and even to take part in social media fitness shenanigans. It’s been fantastic. I think that choosing to go forward despite the fact that you may actually fail is one of the most freeing things one can do!
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training?
My relationship with my body has changed: being stronger has given me more independence, which has also translated into increased confidence. It makes me want to celebrate my body instead of hiding it. Another great side effect is that it’s helped decrease my incidence of chronic pain and injury! I spent most of my twenties and early thirties dealing with serious knee and hip issues. Gaining strength and adopting better movement patterns has definitely helped alleviate this!
How has lifting weights changed your life?
Lifting has strengthened both my body and my soul. It has allowed my mindset to switch from “I can’t do this!” to “Can I do this?” (and sometimes I just can’t… yet!). Lifting has helped me realize that strength isn’t reserved to people of a certain age, size or background—it’s for everyone! It has forced me to finally work with my body, instead of against it. Lifting opened up my world to a whole new universe, full of wonderful people with whom I wouldn’t have crossed paths otherwise. It has allowed me to foster deep connections with amazing women, and to find my own voice in this conversation.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training?
Come over to the dark side, we’ve got cookies!
In all seriousness, though, I want women to know that embarking on a strength training journey can have surprising, joyful repercussions in all areas of their life, way beyond the physical aspect of it!