GGS Spotlight: Fabienne Marier


Name: Fabienne Marier, aka Fabi
Age: 39
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, while constantly challenging myself to go further, to dig deeper. 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! My movement options were limited during this pregnancy, so I basically followed everything vicariously, biding my time until I could join in on the fun. 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 try to move every single day, and typically alternate between strength training days and yoga days — I find that they greatly complement each other, both mentally and physically. I believe 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.

Favorite lift:  
I absolutely love the elegance and the perfect mix of strength, balance and poise that the Turkish get-up requires.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Whether I’m in my home gym or at the kettlebell studio where I teach, I typically like to train alone, even if there are others around. As an introvert, training time is also recharging time for me, so I’m very happy to be in my little bubble.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist: 
It varies from day to day, according to my mood. My Spotify playlists will range from full-on 80s New Wave to all-out Funk (gotta love all that brass!)

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:

  • My phone of my iPad, which I use both to track my workouts and to take form check videos of myself.
  • My wrist guards whenever I’m working with kettlebells, because I bruise ridiculously easily without them.
  • A water bottle, to fuel my frequent hydration breaks.

Most memorable PR:
A very memorable PR came quite unexpectedly at the first edition Women’s Fitness Summit in 2014. Jen Sinkler was leading a hands-on clinic on Jefferson Deadlifts and, after the event, I happened upon a picture of me performing the lift. Up until that point, I’d somewhat convinced myself that I could never really “lift heavy”, yet there I was, facing pictorial proof that I’d just lifted a weight much greater than what I believed I was capable of lifting

This opened up something inside of me: I understood that I’d been feeling constrained by barriers which only existed inside my head, and I promised myself I wouldn’t get caught in that mindset anymore.

Most embarrassing gym moment:
I can think of one which happened a few 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.

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
While this isn’t linked to a specific occurrence, I pretty much melt when others tell me that something I’ve written was helpful to them. One of the ways this is often phrased is along the lines of “I don’t know how you do it but it’s like you’re inside my head!

That means everything to me. 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:
I often tell my kids how much I admire their curiosity and their kindness. With them, I always try to go beyond simple appearances, and encourage them appreciate what's really special about themselves, and what they have to offer to the world.

Favorite meal: 
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.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
Uninterrupted time alone to read fiction for pleasure is a rare treat! I can hardly think of anything that feels more luxurious.

Favorite quote:
Think and act from a place of love, not from a place of fear.

This — my personal mantra — came to me at the beginning of 2015, and it’s been guiding me ever since. As bizarre as it may seem, I find that it’s applicable to every single life situation. It forces me to sometimes take a brutally honest look at myself, but I know it’s the only way that I can grow as a person.

Favorite book:
Yikes, there’s no way I can choose only one! I’m a big lover of fantasy, and have some foundational favorites, like the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling, which combine excellent stories with exquisite writing. I’m also a huge fan of detective stories, and have fallen hard for the works of Josephine Tey and Louise Penny.

On the non-fiction side, Brené Brown and Pema Chödrön have both had quite an influence in my life.

What inspires and motivates you? 
The will to do my part to make our world a kinder, more inclusive and happier place. Any time we are privileged enough to feel stronger and more connected, to feel that we belong, I believe that we have the responsibility to pay it forward.

What do you do?
ALL kinds of things! I’m a personal trainer and kettlebell instructor, and so I work with clients and students both on an individual level and in a group setting. My passion is inspiring and empowering others to cultivate strength, energy and ease in their own life, by tackling fitness and mindset together — what I call "working in and out".

This is also at the core of what I communicate on my own website, Wholly Fabi, which I created in 2015 in order to tap into that I call my other superpower: the written word. I also do freelance work as a copywriter and translator, working both in French — my first language — and English. Last but not least, I’m using that superpower as part of the kick-ass Girls Gone Strong team, where I’m extremely privileged to work as Editor.

What else do you do?
I’ve recently decided to return to my dancing roots and take to the stage again, so I am now exploring Burlesque, which I’m extremely excited about. Being able to tap into a form of body expression that’s both sensual and very body positive is quite enthralling.

Finally, I'm a pretty busy mama: my son is five years old, my daughter is eight, and my stepdaughter is 17. There are honestly very few dull moments!

Describe a typical day in your life:
I try to get up between 5 and 5:30 to get some time to figure out the day ahead, drink coffee, and get a bit of work one before the rest of the family gets up. The kids are up at 6:30 and it’s a busy whirlwind of getting them dressed and fed — my kids are not morning people — and out the door by 7:30 with packed lunches and organized backpacks. I’ll do a bit more writing and editing until 8:30 when my first one on one client arrives to work in my home studio.

After a few individual clients in the morning, I either go back to the computer for more written work and distance coaching calls, or jump in my car to drive to the kettlebell studio where I teach the lunchtime class. I either do my own training right afterwards, or do some admin work on the premises. Around 2:30 it’s back home for a couple of extra hours of writing and editing until the kids come home, at which point I revert to full-on mom mode with homework, feeding them dinner and reading their bedtime story. Once the kids are in bed, around 8, my husband and I have our own dinner — we’ve opted for this arrangement in order to have more quality time as a couple — hang out for a bit, and then head to bed by 10:30.

Your next training goal:
To sail into my 40s stronger than ever, and injury-free! Being hypermobile, I still need to work on a lot of joint stability, which also means that I have to be extremely patient with my progress in terms of safely moving to higher loads. My focus is really on perfecting movements, and cultivating consistency.

For what are you most grateful?
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!

Above and beyond, though, I’m grateful for the love and support of my family, who keep showing up for me in unexpected ways, through thick and thin. I’m grateful for the deep-rooted partnership that my husband and I have cultivated over the years — we’ve been together for almost fifteen years! — and for the privilege of having these children of mine, who teach me so much on a daily basis.

I’m also grateful for all the magnificent women in my life, who constantly inspire me to be a better version of myself.

Which three words best describe you?
Insightful. Resilient. Unapologetic.

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, in 2014, 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.

I still see that moment as the pivotal point of everything that came after: from traveling alone to conferences and events and be ok with not knowing anyone there, to applying for workshops and mentorships in order to increase my knowledge and expertise, and even choosing to publicly share my thoughts and my work on social media. It’s been equal parts scary and fantastic!

I think that choosing to go forward despite the fact that you may indeed fail is one of the most freeing things one can do!

How has lifting weights changed your life?
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 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 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’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced 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!

Interestingly, some of the best effects of strength training haven't been physical at all: it has helped me cultivate mindfulness and resilience.

Let’s face it: trying to handle a heavy load while thinking about something else entirely is a very bad idea. Absent-minded back squats, and distracted kettlebell snatches are a sure-fire way to injury. No one would think to debate that, right? To be able to strength train safely and efficiently, we have to cultivate mindfulness, i.e. being focused on the here and the now, entirely dedicated to the task at hand. Any other way predisposes us for failure.

And, speaking of failure, I love how, in strength training, we encounter it as something natural: we’re constantly testing our limits, and these limits in turn make themselves be known. As we are aiming for progress, we keep working, adjusting our efforts according to the valuable feedback we’ve just received. If disappointing, failure isn’t the end; it’s just more feedback on which to keep building.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
Come over to the dark side, we’ve got tacos! 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!

Read Fabi's articles for Girls Gone Strong and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube!

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