Name: Katie DePoalo
Location: San Marcos, California
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
Being a Girl Gone Strong means more to me than simply a title. I almost feel as if my life experiences “earned” me the privilege to call myself a Girl Gone Strong. My long battle with anorexia and exercise abuse completely destroyed my life. At 24 years old, I never expected to find myself extremely sick (both mentally and physically) and spending my days sitting in a treatment center. It wasn’t until my health was at risk that I realized how truly precious life is. I knew I needed to be strong, overcome this disorder, and use the experience to find my purpose in the world. And that’s exactly what I did! To me a Girl Gone Strong is someone who has been through a struggle, and comes out on the other side a more empowered and confident woman.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training?
I have been strength training for about seven years, but it seems like forever! I remember being intimidated by free weights because I was unsure of proper form and technique. I would watch others working out in the weight room and be envious of the look of satisfaction on their faces.
They were testing their strength and celebrating their goals while I was reluctantly forcing myself to push through the last minute on the treadmill.
I decided to try a few of the machines, but it wasn’t until I picked up my first set of dumbbells that I felt the confidence strength training brings.
What does a sample workout look like for you?
I always begin with foam rolling, a dynamic warm-up, and five minutes of light cardio. I then do a total-body routine, using a variety of dumbbells, barbells, sandbags, medicine balls, and suspension straps. I love to end my workouts with a high intensity circuit including battle ropes and sled training. A lot of people underestimate the importance of recovery, but I truly believe it is critical to reaching your goals! I’ve found that my body has changed in multiple ways now that I allow myself two full rest days a week. Your muscles grow while you recover, not in the gym!
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I always think I prefer to train alone. It’s my “me” time, and I have enough willpower and motivation to push myself. However, I actually enjoy the class setting as well. I love being able to interact with others, which makes the workout more enjoyable.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
The most fulfilling compliment I received was in regards to “Curls For Girls”- a class I recently began teaching that is specifically designed for teenage girls. I implement it with the idea of helping girls become more comfortable and confident in a gym setting. My hope is that they will begin to view their bodies for all they are able to do, as opposed to what they look like. The feedback I have received has been beyond my expectations. I strive to educate the girls about proper equipment, exercise technique, and muscles, as well as lead group discussions about body image, disordered eating, nutrition, and self-love. The girls say they love the workouts and find they are really able to open up and talk freely about the issues young women are facing in today’s society.
Hmmm it’s definitely a toss-up between pasta with seafood or a huge cup of frozen yogurt with all the candy toppings!
What inspires and motivates you?
First and foremost, I can honestly say that all the women of Girls Gone Strong truly inspire me. I am constantly in awe of their amazing knowledge and expertise. They make me even more motivated to continue passing along this message to the young girls I work with. My mom is also a huge inspiration for me. She is a constant source of support, encouraging me and inspiring me to achieve my goals and be a better person.
What do you do?
I wear many hats! I am a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. I teach total body conditioning classes, as well as a boot camp at San Diego Premier Training in Carlsbad, CA. I am also the instructor of “Curls for Girls”, which is my proudest accomplishment right now. Lastly, I coach a parent-and-me gymnastics class for babies, toddlers, and their mommies.
What are you most grateful for?
This one’s easy: my health. I never realized how much I took it for granted until it was damaged. I had no choice but to face my issues head-on and pull myself out of this mess. My battle with anorexia and exercise abuse caused me to drop an extreme amount of weight. I was malnourished, losing my hair, always cold, and constantly in physical pain. I realized this was no way to live. Recovery was my only choice. I gave my body a break from all forms of exercise and began consuming a substantial amount of calories. With much patience and therapy, I was able to get myself to a healthy weight as well as a healthy mindset. I now strive to maintain the healthful lifestyle I’ve worked so hard to create.
What life accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the way I was able to overcome my eating disorder and come out stronger, more knowledgeable, and more empowered than I could have ever imagined.
No one can fight a battle for you. If it is something you’re going through, you need to face it and tackle it.
It took an extreme amount of courage and determination to get myself where I am today, and I believe it led me to fulfill this purpose in my life of mentoring young women who struggle to find a healthy relationship with food and exercise. I am also thankful to be able to share the coping skills I took away from the experience.
Three words that best describe you:
Driven, relatable, and grateful.
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
The biggest risk I’ve taken was to leave my home, friends, and career in New Jersey to start a new life in San Diego. I moved in August of 2015 and decided to pursue personal training, which led me to start my own business, Feel Fit SD. After some time I realized I still wasn’t feeling satisfied in my career. I had to look deep into myself to see what I want to be contributing to the community. It was then that I decided to create “Curls for Girls” with the hopes of helping young women all over San Diego achieve their fitness goals.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training?
The first thing I would say is “I’ve been there! I get it. I was nervous too!” It’s intimidating and scary to think of how your body will respond to strength training. However, I can assure you, as I assure all my young girls, lifting weights will change your life.
Are you feeling inspired by Katie? Read on to learn more about—and join!—our community of strong, inspiring women…