GGS Spotlight: Julie Barnum


Name: Julie Barnum
Age: 24
Location: Fort Collins, CO

How did you find out about Girls Gone Strong?
I was looking up some fitness-related question one day, and came upon the GGS website. I saw a place to subscribe for emails, which I did. I honestly forgot about it save for the occasional article until after a trip back home over Memorial Day. I remember feeling so out of control with my eating and feeling terrible because after about two years of super consistent working out in undergrad, anxiety that skyrocketed after graduation had stopped me from really getting anywhere with working out in graduate school. That’s about when I got an email from GGS about the Strongest You Coaching program, and it was like someone had read my mind and was sending me solution to my problems.

What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It means feeling confident and more sure of myself again. It means learning compassion and forgiveness towards myself when things don’t go as planned, with working out, with life, whatever. It means finding a group in which I can confide, and even to discover others who struggle after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to push through it to be able to work out and live life under new conditions.

Being a Girl Gone Strong means finding the inner badass within once more, and realizing I’ve had the strength all along inside of me to get past whatever challenges I’m facing as I grow up and learn how to “adult."

(HA, still figuring that out daily)

What do you do?
I am a graduate student at Colorado State University in the Department of Atmospheric Science. My work is related to weather radar and numerical modeling. There’s this weather model people at NASA Goddard are developing that basically simulates the same kinds of things a real radar can do. The idea is that we’ll be able to implement that in real-time and predict what types of precipitation will be where in a storm as it develops (think hail, heavy rain, stuff that the public cares about). There are some other facets to my research, but I’ll save you the long explanation. If you’re curious, hit me up for more information.

What else do you do?
A bit of anything and everything. I run. I lift. I rock climb and boulder. I do yoga. I dance around like a fool when no one’s watching. I forecast weather situations for back where I’m from in Missouri and here in Colorado. I snowshoe. I ski, when time and money permit. I hike, both lower and high altitude (I’ve made it up three 14-ers in Colorado: Bierstadt, Grays, and Torreys). Note, 14-ers are mountains with a height between 14,000 and 15,000 feet. I’m also really into travelling when I can. I did a year abroad between high school and undergrad in southern France. I try to speak French whenever I can, because if you don’t use it, you lose it. When the weather is looking right, and my advisor is okay with me taking time off research, I storm chase (don’t know many other jobs where you can just go on a whim and do this). I’ve participated in two different meteorological field campaigns (PECAN and C3LOUD-EX) chasing specific storm types to collect data. I’m kind of a jack of all trades.

How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training?
I remember doing a little bit of lifting for summertime P.E. classes in high school. Then I essentially didn’t touch weights again until my Junior year in undergrad. That mainly arose because I started dating my current significant other, who lifts religiously. It started out as something we could do together, and then when he moved for graduate school it turned into a more personal activity because I enjoyed the progress I was seeing.

It was a bit weird to work out alone at first, but it became liberating to not be afraid to enter “bro-central” all on my own.

Favorite Lift:
This is hard to narrow down to one. But, for lifting iron, it’d probably be deadlifts. All the deadlifts. As for body weight lifts….push-ups, as well as what is quickly becoming one of my favorites: chin-ups and pull-ups. My confidence in lifting and in my ability to do what I put my mind to has grown exponentially from where it was pre-GSS and Strongest You, so I know I’ll get there. It’ll just take a bit, which is something I’ve come to terms with during Strongest You. Some things take a bit, and that’s okay and expected. Plus, it’s so much more rewarding when you finally get something you’ve been working at for soooooooo long.

Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
Phone (my source of music), headphones, water bottle.

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
If I’m lifting/doing HIIT/cardio at the gym, I’m almost exclusively alone. I get into this very cathartic zone. Training is where I work on myself and on pushing my boundaries (physically and mentally, since working out can still sometimes bring up unpleasant anxious feelings). So to be with someone else when I’m doing that feels almost like a violation to my true “me” time. Occasionally I’ll lift with my boyfriend and friends. Incidentally, one of my Strongest Your workouts totally crushed three different guys… that felt super satisfying, not gonna lie. However, I do work out with others when it comes to other activities. Most of my working out with others is in the form of weekly rock climbing and bouldering sessions or hiking. Those are pretty much the only two things I do with others, because I find those activities more fun that way.

Best compliment you’ve received lately:
Work-related, I was told by people working with me on research related to my Master’s project at NASA Goddard that they really liked some plots I had put together for a presentation; they said that the plots were of conference presentation/poster quality, which was a huge compliment. Workout-related, I have had someone at the gym comment on how good my deadlift form was. That felt awesome because I’ve been so neurotic about good form. On my Instagram I had a friend comment on a pull-up video “#welcometothegunshow! #badassery #woah”, which I though both hilarious and super nice at the same time.

Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I think the most recent compliment I gave was to someone’s deadlift PR. I told her that it looked awesome, and that I was super happy to see her actively setting her shoulders back, engaging them in the exercise. I try to throw out a few compliments a day to different women. I realized a bit ago that I tend to look at other women, particularly those who work out, as competition. If they do well, then I get jealous. I thought about it after a mindset assignment we did in Strongest You, and realized that that wasn’t the right way to go about it. I’m more at peace with myself now; I know I’m working hard on what I want to improve, and I’m doing me, as close to 100 percent as I can, every day That’s good enough for me. So now instead of letting myself turn to jealousy, I try to pour out support and encouragement instead.

I know that it makes me feel good when people cheer me on, so I try to be a cheerleader to others as well.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
Sometimes, it’s a cookie. A really, deliciously, warm, soft cookie. I have a sort of obsession with delicious desserts. Sometimes I buy them, but I think it’s more fun to look up a recipe and make something tailored to my tastes. However, other times I like to not make food the focus of a reward. In those cases, I treat myself to a nice haircut, or a book I’ve been thinking about getting, a piece of clothing I’ve been desiring but have told myself I didn’t really “need” (except boots…everyone needs a ton of pairs of amazingly cute boots). Sometimes, I reward myself with exercise. I dance around the house, I go on a hike with friends, I rock climb when maybe my to-do list is still a bit long, but I’ve gotten a lot done. Gotta stay sane, you know?

Favorite quote:
”Let go of what was, surrender to what is, have faith in what will be”. That’s gotten me through a lot of darker moments.

Three words that best describe you:
Driven. Outgoing. Unabashed.

Favorite book:
Depends on my mood, but two books that have really stuck with me throughout time are Pride and Prejudice and 1984. A dichotomy of book tastes if I’ve ever seen one.

What inspires and motivates you?
At the core, my desire to live life, and not just exist. This became especially prevalent the summer after graduating undergrad and suddenly having all this anxiety, and a few panic attacks and bad insomnia, hit. It left me feeling pretty broken and scared to do much of anything. About a year of that and I really decided to start saying screw it to that. I was still, and sometimes still am, stuck on how I used to feel better, and what if I had only done this differently, would it all be better, what if what if what if. What if I stopped “what if-ing” and created a new normal? That was really liberating for me. From then on, I decided to purposefully engage in activities that at times scare the living shit out of me. Then I know I’m truly doing something that’s going to make me grow and be stronger than I was before. Every opportunity to do that is a terrifying, but welcomed challenge. That’s how I got back into the gym, that’s how I’ve been able to be in crowded public places at night again, that’s how I got myself to summit three 14-ers in Colorado and that’s how I’m slowly regaining a sense of what it is to be me.

As for motivation for life or working out, I love watching inspirational YouTube videos (Prince Ea is great) or scrolling through Instagram. I follow a lot of other strong, powerful ladies (in more ways than just physical). To see other people pushing themselves and achieving, as well as pushing through hard times and failures, is so motivating to me. Other than that, I can’t not listen to music when working out/working on a project. At the moment, I’m on a Strange Music, Inc. kick. What can I say, I’m from Missouri.

Describe a typical day in your life, from waking up to bedtime:
My typical weekday: Either I wake up and gym, then try to read some introspective-type book (can I get some heck yeah’s for Mark Manson’s the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F?) while eating breakfast, or I read then go to work (going to the gym after work in that case). Lately, when I’m done with all of that I come home and read up on training and anatomy. Other than weather, I’m very passionate about helping others be a better, healthier version of themselves. Somehow after defending my thesis, I want that to be worked into my life. After this, I eat dinner, generally while talking to the boyfriend and our roommate. Sometimes after work I’ll watch an episode of a favorite pastime show (anyone else still Friends or Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans? Yeah?). Sometimes instead of T.V. or hanging out with the others, I do a little yoga or meditation before bed. Every day I try to make it a little different. Keeps life interesting in the smaller moments.

When did you join Strongest You Coaching? Why did you decide to join and what helped you make the decision to join?
I joined in 2016 for the group starting at the beginning of June with Jen Comas as our trainer. I think I’ve mentioned this already, but, I basically was feeling pretty unhappy with where I was physically, mentally, and emotionally after the first year of graduate school. I saw the email for Strongest You after a trip home, and thought, this is it. This is what I need to get back on track. For about two hours or so after the email, I read up on the program and agonized over the money. However, I realized that being a bit poorer than usual during graduate school, and becoming happier with myself as a person, was a way better alternative than having a bit more money and being unhappy.

What has been your biggest challenge in the Strongest You Coaching program?
Myself. Mainly, anxiety, or other weird bodily-function fears, usually rooted in maybe a bit of something legit, but mostly me over-examining everything. I’ve been working very hard on letting that go. Jen and the other women in the group have been quite helpful in throwing encouragement and understanding my way whenever I have a rough day and divulge that information to them. I think my other biggest issues is trying to stick to mostly single-ingredient carbs. I mean…come on. Burritos on the daily would be my dream, but not necessarily the dreams of my digestive system. Sadness abounds.

What has been your biggest success in the Strongest You Coaching program?
To me personally, making working through my various fears a conscious effort in some way, every day. I think I’ve come a long way from where I started in June. That, and hitting a 175-pound deadlift. Holllllaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

What do you like best about the Strongest You Coaching community?
The inclusivity and willingness of many of the women in it to be 100 percent upfront and real about their successes, their failures, and their struggles. I’ve never met such an authentic group of women, and it’s so awesome. It made me feel more open to letting people in on my own successes and struggles.

What was your “BIG” goal that you wanted to achieve by the end of Strongest You Coaching?
My final goal was to let the other women in the group and Jen know how much this process has meant to me. There have been ups and downs, but I’m a better person having known them all. Additionally, I plan to continue following all of the healthy eating habits, and mindset shifts we worked on during Strongest You. I am still working towards my Resolution Revolution goal for 2017 of a 200-pound deadlift and squat. That, and figuring out effective programming now on my own to get myself there. Jen has been giving us a lot of advice, and I creep pretty hard on other GSS women’s workouts (no shame). Between all that, I’m sure I’ll succeed in that goal.

What is the habit you’re currently working on most?
If you mean dietary-wise, single-ingredient carbs. Gosh, I love burritos so much. As for a lifestyle habit? I think getting more daily movement in has been a challenge that I’m trying hard to work on. Also, I’m working on slowing down a bit. Breathing more throughout the day, taking more moments to just sit and be present. It’s so easy for me to let my brain go into overdrive, but it’s not beneficial to me to do that. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m working on it.

How has Strongest You Coaching changed your life?
I’ve touched on this a bit throughout my responses. The most obvious way it has helped me is in the consistency with which I work out now. That, however, stemmed from the fact that I’ve become much more confident in myself and am willing to push myself harder than I would’ve before. That’s really been instrumental in all my physical and emotional success. That could not have happened without Strongest You and the women in the group.

What would you tell a woman who’s nervous about joining Strongest You Coaching?
If it’s the money, I get it. I’m a graduate student on a graduate student salary. It wasn’t always easy, but the benefits I’ve reaped from doing the program far outweigh any extra adventures I turned down because of money. If it’s because you’re nervous about what it entails, I’ll tell you the big secret —

Strongest You is all about learning to trust yourself.

It's about learning to trust yourself in eating healthfully without being told exactly what to eat and when (because handing out meal plans is not how GGS rolls). It’s about having training that you are capable of doing, but which will still make you work for your gains, and it’s about thinking about how you think about fitness, others, and yourself. It’s a lot more introspection work than might be apparent. It’s much more than what you’ll find if you just get a few training sessions with a personal trainer at a gym. It’s worth every bit of anxiety I had before starting. You’ll be a better person for having gone through the program, I guarantee it. Let it be known though, it’s very much so a program that you get out of it what you put into it. So be prepared to go all in. Don’t hold back, it’ll only slow your progress and rob you of interactions that could seriously be eye-opening and crucial to your success!

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Learn more about Strongest You Coaching

Get in the best shape of your life—for good.

With Girls Gone Strong Coaching, you’ll get the support, accountability, and expert coaching to eat and exercise in a sustainable way — without restrictive diets or spending your life in the gym.

Whether your health and fitness goals are to…

  • Get stronger
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  • Lose body fat
  • Improve your pull-ups
  • Have a safe and healthy pregnancy
  • Return to exercise safely postpartum
  • Heal your relationship with food
  • Increase your confidence

... or anything else, we’ll help you achieve them. You can experience life-changing results while eating and exercising in a way that actually fits into your life — instead of controlling it.

Throughout our 12-month program, you’ll get a simple, step-by-step plan for developing nutrition, fitness, and mindset habits that will lead the way in reaching your goal.

Your coach is available 5 days a week to answer questions and help you navigate situations — like eating while you’re on vacation, exercise substitutions so you don’t aggravate your knee pain, or planning a workout with limited equipment options — so you always have support when you need it. And together, you'll find the best path toward long-term results in a way that works for you.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Improve your nutrition without giving up the foods you love
  • Exercise safely and effectively so you’re getting maximum results from your workouts without burning yourself out
  • Increase your confidence, love the way your body looks, feels, and performs — and enjoy your life more than you ever thought possible

And you’ll become the happiest, fittest, strongest version of yourself, one step at a time.

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GGS is an organization dedicated to empowering women. We do this by creating world-leading resources, and educational materials that help women, and health & fitness professionals who work with women, take their skills and knowledge to the next level.

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