GGS Spotlight: Katie Prendergast


Name: Katie Prendergast
Age: 29
Location: Denver, CO

What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you? 
It means becoming my strongest self and focusing on what I can do better each day in the gym, in business, and to enhance my experience of life.

How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
I’ve been competing in sports since I was in grade school, starting with 3rd grade softball. Practices consisted of cardio, conditioning, maybe bodyweight exercises, sport-specific drills, scrimmages, and then game time, of course.

I started weightlifting in college, using P90x workouts in my dorm or my parents’ basement. I combined that with going to the campus gym occasionally, not really knowing what I was doing. Back then, I always used weightlifting as a way to “get in shape” for vanity, not necessarily because I wanted to get stronger.

That totally changed when I got my first full pull-up. I still wanted to lift weights to look good, but I started caring about the things that I could do because of strength training.

Around that time, I dropped into my first class at CrossFit Scioto in Columbus, Ohio, and fell in love with the friendly competition in the gym. I continue to train at CrossFit facilities wherever I live and travel (Denver, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Spain).

What does your typical workout look like?
I’d say it’s “CrossFit-esque.” I will usually tackle a main lift, sometimes starting with an Olympic variation like a clean, jerk, or snatch to develop athletic power. Other days, my focus will be more powerlifting style — deadlifts, hex bar deadlifts, front and back squats, overhead presses, sometimes bench presses (not my favorite), or barbell rows. I usually practice a movement skill like pull-ups, handstand push-ups, or dips, too. Two to three times per week, I’ll “metcon” or do a conditioning workout involving kettlebell swings, box jumps, and other fun stuff.

Favorite lift: 

Most memorable PR:
This is not necessarily a PR, but my first muscle-up was very memorable. I was drilling the movement, using a box to assist myself over the bar and practice the turnover from the pull-up to the dip. I decided to just go for an unassisted muscle-up, but missed a couple times. I kind of tweaked my shoulder, so I walked away from the pull-up rig to do mobility drills. I was just going to leave the gym after that, but I hopped on the bar one more time and knocked out my first muscle-up. I just kind of stayed above the bar for a minute, holding the support position, appreciating how awesome it felt to finally get that movement for the first time. There were only four or five people in the gym, but our head coach just started cheering and clapping because he knew it was my first muscle-up and everyone else joined in. It was awesome.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist: 
The grittier, grungier, bluesy-er, the better!

  • Lose Yourself, Eminem
  • Hot Blood, Kaleo
  • Lonely Boy, Black Keys
  • Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard (guilty pleasure)
  • Joker and the Thief, Wolfmother

But also stupid poppy stuff like 90s alt-rock or 2000s rap/hip-hop. Depends what I’m doing.

Top 3 things you must have at the gym or in your gym bag:
Water/shaker bottle, lacrosse ball to release trigger points, and my jump rope (because I can’t do double unders consistently with any other rope!)

Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
Usually with others, unless I’m just deadlifting with beats bumping through my headphones. As an athlete who grew up playing team sports, I find it really hard to push myself to my limits when I’m alone. Being with a training partner or group of athletes helps me bring out my competitive side and push harder than I can when I’m alone.

Most memorable compliment you’ve received lately:
I meet with a fellow personal trainer weekly to go over our action items for the week. At our last meeting, he complimented my writing, which was awesome because I sometimes get too into my own head about what I put down on paper and can be critical about my writing.

Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
I told one of my clients how proud I am of her effort lately. She’s been going through a lot of stress with work and family, so it’s amazing to see her re-focus on taking care of herself.

Favorite meal: 
I love food, so it’s hard to pick just one thing! I’d have to say breakfast as a general category, closely followed by a giant bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a pale ale.

Favorite way to treat yourself: 
My bi-weekly massage. I leave feeling so much better, and ready to tackle life again!

Favorite quote:

Do what you love, and f*ck the rest. — Little Miss Sunshine

Favorite book:
Another hard one to answer because I love to read! Kurt Vonnegut had a way of stating things so simply, plainly, yet in a way that makes you really think about everyday life from a different perspective. I particularly enjoyed his book Slaughterhouse Five.

What inspires and motivates you? 
Improving at the things I love to do, watching my athletes improve in the gym and come into their workouts with energy, and tackling challenges outdoors, like climbing routes I never thought I could climb.

What do you do?
I am a strength and nutrition coach. I work with the “everyday athlete” — from weekend warriors, to skiers/snowboarders, to rec league athletes. My job is to get people moving, push them to move some heavy weights around, teach them that the gym can be fun, and help them fit “fitness” into their busy lives so they can enjoy life outside the gym.

What else do you do?
I read, I write about health and fitness, I love to cook and eat, and I try to get outdoors as much as possible. When I’m not lifting heavy things in the gym, I like to get outside and use my fitness for snowboarding, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and playing random sports with friends at the park. I also love to travel to new places to soak up different cultures, sample the local food and drink, and to adventure. Ever skydive in the Swiss Alps or bungee jump in Australia? You haven’t lived until you do something crazy.

Describe a typical day in your life:
On typical work days, I wake up at 6 a.m. to let the dog out, meditate, and get to work on my “most important task” for the day — usually copywriting to market my business or programming for my athletes. This involves lots of coffee, and sometimes a little cursing while I tap the backspace button repeatedly. Then it’s off to the gym to train clients until about noon, when I take a midday break and get to workout myself. Home, shower, lunch, walk the dog, then back into the gym to train clients for a couple hours. I usually finish up sessions around 6 or 7 p.m., then head home to cook dinner and chill out with my pup, Gunner.

On non-work days, I still wake up between 6 and 7 a.m. and (try to) meditate, though that doesn’t always happen on weekends. During ski season, I race out the door to beat ski traffic up to the mountains. During the summer, weekends are booked up with camping trips. If I’m staying in town, I’ll take Gunner for a long walk, make a big breakfast, and read or write through the morning. Afternoons in Denver are great for biking to breweries or wandering around the cool little neighborhoods, which all have distinct personalities.

Your next training goal:
I’ve gotten a couple muscle-ups since that first one, but my goal is to be able to do them consistently. I’ve also been working up to a double-bodyweight deadlift.

For what are you most grateful?
The amazing, supportive people in my life — my family, my friends, and the awesome athletes I’ve had the opportunity to work with.

Of what life accomplishment do you feel most proud?
Starting my training business. It’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever undertaken, and still a work in progress, but it’s also been the most rewarding.

Which three words best describe you?
Intelligent. Stubborn. Strong.

What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out? Tell us about a time when you overcame fear or self-doubt.
Not-so-recently (about a year ago), I left a full-time position as a trainer at a local gym. I gave up a steady paycheck and health benefits to see if I could build a fitness business. My end goal is to live life on my terms, not be tied to an employer; to influence as many people as possible to take control of their health and fitness; and to travel the world seeking out adventure and new challenges.

There is a lot of fear and self-doubt I have to overcome on a daily basis (questions like “am I fit enough to train this person” or “am I good enough to charge what I’m worth” cross my mind on a regular basis). I’ve found that practicing meditation and surrounding myself with awesome people (mentors, other coaches, and the athletes I choose to work with) makes it easier to overcome those doubts. Not sure I can answer how my fitness business has turned out yet… but I’ll keep you posted!

How has lifting weights changed your life?
Weightlifting has given me a passion to pursue after leaving team sports; it’s helped me develop an inner strength I didn’t realize I was capable of; it’s provided a career path; and it’s introduced me to an amazing community of incredible individuals at the gyms I train and work at. Lifting weights changed my life by becoming an irreplaceable part of who I am.

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve experienced from strength training?
Confidence that I can tackle anything! From challenging ski terrain or advanced climbing routes, to building a business, to helping someone else accomplish their life goals.

If I didn’t have the physical (and mental) strength that comes from lifting weights, I don’t think I’d be half the person I am today.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
Since I work primarily with women in the gym, I see the mentality that strength training is intimidating or “not for me because I don’t want to get bulky” from a lot of women. The most important thing I do as a trainer/coach is to dispel that myth! Yes, trying something new can be scary and intimidating… but that’s true of any skill.

Weightlifting is a skill that can be learned with dedication and practice. Hire a coach or reach out to a friend who has training experience. Read and watch exercise videos. Record yourself lifting and watch your technique. Practice, practice, practice. You won’t be “good” at weightlifting right off the bat, but with patience and practice, you’ll get better every day.

It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself to develop the physical and mental strength that comes from lifting something heavy off the ground (or the rack, or whatever you’re lifting!)

Most importantly, surround yourself with a community of people who encourage you to learn and grow inside the gym and out there in the real world.

You can learn more about Katie on her website and YouTube channel, and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

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