Name: Kara Stewart-Agostino
Location: Toronto, Canada
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
My personal motto is "Do It For You" and that represents what Girl Gone Strong means to me. It represents a decision to pursue a lifestyle, fitness goals, etc. for yourself. Not for you partner, your kids or because its the latest fitness trend in the magazines. You do it for yourself.
How did you start strength training, and how long have you been training?
About 15 years ago, in graduate school, I gained like 20 or 30 pounds. A good friend and I hired a personal trainer we met at the dog park. She was this tiny woman with two Great Danes and big muscles. I thought she was amazing!
She took us into the big-boy weight room and taught us how to be confident in that space. I've never looked back.
What does a sample workout look like for you?
I work with a personal trainer so right now we're working on developing strength and speed. So I'll work on getting heavy with one of my big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press) with some accessory movements at a light weight.
Cleans and I have been arguing when I get to a certain weight so they're one of those movements that I'm doing light and fast right now so that I can feel strong doing them instead of frustrated.
Deadlift, every variation and with every implement!
Most memorable PR:
The first time I decided to test my 1-rep max on deadlift with my personal trainer. My first kid was about 18 months at the time, and I had no idea how high I could go. We kept adding five to 10 pounds, until I hit 200 pounds. I had no idea I could lift that much weight, and I felt like a powerhouse!
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
I don't like wearing headphones or earbuds so I just listen to whatever the gym is playing. But when I workout at home its usually 90s Hip Hop/R&B.
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
An interval timer, deodorant (I leave sweat angels on the gym floor!), and lip gloss.
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Right now I like to train alone. I call it my moving meditation. I really go into myself and focus on my movements and how my body feels through it.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
When I was putting my website together and I was getting testimonials from my clients, their praise for me as a trainer completely humbled me and made my heart sing.
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I was recently chatting in the gym change room with a woman who spends most of her day taking care of her elderly and ailing mother. I told her that I'm proud of her for making a commitment to take time for herself while she's taking care of someone else.
Most embarrassing gym moment:
Probably running to the bathroom to throw-up after a set of bodyweight step ups. It was a few months after my 1st kid was born, and I was sure that the whole gym could hear me in the washroom! Stepping back onto the gym floor looking all pale and flushed to collect my things was not easy!
Any pasta that my husband makes (he's Italian and a chef!) but especially carbonara!
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Quiet time with a novel and a glass of red wine.
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged my the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
For someone who started University as an English major and worked in an indie bookstore for five years, that is an impossible question to answer! But, the author that I haven't been able to get enough of over the past decade is Chimananda Ngozi Adichie. She's a Nigerian author, vocal feminist, and one of the best character novelists around. I recently read her book, Americanah, and couldn't put it down.
What motivates you?
It might seem strange but I am motivated by a memory of myself, not in terms of how I looked but how I felt. It was a moment in time when I felt completely helpless after my daughter's birth. She was born via an emergency c-section and was not doing well, so she was in the NICU. My hospital room was at the opposite end of the maternity ward. I felt like the only thing I had control over was being able to pump breast milk for when she would be stable enough eat. Those first few days after a c-section it’s hard enough to roll over in bed, but I would will myself to get out of the bed and make the long walk down to the NICU.
I can still see myself clinging to the wall, taking tiny steps by myself at 3 a.m. I think of that walk and the feeling of helplessness as a reminder that sometimes life knocks you on your butt and forces you to dig deeper. That memory motivates me, not because I want to push it down, but because anything I do in the gym will never be as hard as that walk.
What do you do?
I'm an in-home Personal Trainer.
What else do you do?
I'm a mom to two kids. My daughter is hard of hearing so her therapy and variety of appointments have been a priority the last few years. Being a mom, particularly the mom of a child with a disability, is like being a project manager. Outside of that, I'm an avid reader, love going for long walks with my dog, and occasionally sit down at my piano before my kids kick me off to play their own songs!
What does a typical day look like for you, from waking up to bedtime?
It's a pretty busy day. My husband and I tag-team getting the kids ready for school while I pack my bag for the day with snacks, training plans, and extra clothes. Then I pack the car with whatever equipment I will use with my clients that day. On Wednesday and Friday mornings I teach a small group strength training class, but most mornings I'll visit two to three clients then stop for my own gym time, coffee/lunch to work on the DVRT Level 1 Online Course that I'm taking, or write a blog for my website. Then it's school pick-up, play with the kids and dog, make dinner and, depending on the evening, more clients or get the kids ready for bed. Finally, prep for the next day and enjoy some wine.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training?
People thinking I'm younger than I really am!
Your next training goal:
I'm really working towards incorporating more flexibility and mobility work into my routine. I've had two minor injuries that have slowed down my strength training progress. It’s time to listen to what my body is trying to tell me!
What are you most grateful for?
My mom and husband who support me in everything I do. They are my great defenders.
Three words that best describe you:
Hopeless romantic, Feminist, Fierce
What life accomplishment are you most proud of?
A family whose happy song is "Don't Worry, Be Happy."
Tell us about a time when you overcame fear or self-doubt.
I recently launched my own website. Putting myself, my writing, and my ideas out into the public, was a major source of anxiety and fear for me. I'm still working on it!
How has lifting weights changed your life?
It has helped my confidence to shine in other places of my life. I walk taller. I feel physically capable and curious to try new things.
Do you have any advice for women who might be nervous to start strength training?
Remember that even the strongest person in the weight room started by lifting the lightest weights. It is a process, a journey - we all have to start somewhere!
GGS editor's note: Here's a great little ultimate sandbag workout video Kara wanted to share with the GGS community.
"This is a fun one that Amanda Thebe and I put together this past summer. She and I met at the Women's Fitness Summit last year, and she's become something of a mentor for me since then."
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