Name: Jen Sinkler
Age: 38 (or I will be on August 10, anyway!)
Location: Philadelphia, PA
All photos: Jalbus Photo
What do you do?
I’m a fitness writer and personal trainer.
What else do you do?
I’m pretty into hand-drumming, moon rituals of release and invitation, making and drinking fine espresso, and talking about menstrual periods on social media lately.
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It means I get to be part of a movement that helps to set the tone and shape the conversation about women and strength training.
It means being part of a supportive, passionate, forward-thinking community dedicated to empowering women to explore what they are physically capable of.
In your opinion, what makes the Girls Gone Strong movement unique?
It really has become the town hall on the topic of women’s strength. Many of its members have their own businesses promoting strength-training for women—myself included, in the form of what will soon be rebranded as Unapologetically Strong—but GGS is where we all gather to celebrate progress, report on current conditions, and make plans for our future together.
Because at its heart, that’s what GGS is about: inclusivity, positivity, and bringing new members into the fold through the power of strength training.
What excites you most about being part of Girls Gone Strong?
I’ve been a “BFF of GGS” for so long—since its inception in 2011—that many people either think I’m a co-founder. This post will come as a real surprise to them.
I’m excited about coming on board in a more official capacity because we share the belief that together, we are stronger than we are individually. So, let’s wreck shop! (And by “wreck shop” I mean let’s continue to spread the good word about the emotionally and physically transformative benefits of strength training for women.)
What are your areas of expertise in health and fitness?
I’m a fitness eclectic—I like to do everything, and so I like to teach everything. To that end, I’m an RKC-2 and KBA kettlebell instructor, a certified USAPL powerlifting club coach, a PCC bodyweight-movements coach, an Onnit Academy foundations trainer, a Ground Force Methods coach, and…I’m sure I’m forgetting some. (I’m sorry! I’m typing out in the sun, and I’m trying to hurry so sweat sprinkles don’t ruin my keyboard!) I’ve also done a TACFIT certification, the CrossFit Level 1, DVRT (Ultimate Sandbags), and the USAW senior coaching cert (though it’s been a minute since I coached the Olympic lifts). Different people like to play with different toys, and I want to be able to teach mad skills in many domains.
What information are you most passionate about sharing with the Girls Gone Strong community?
I’m passionate about talking about strength as a feminist act, finding and fostering community, teaching specific strength skills, and releasing the idea that there is one way to approach fitness. You and I, we will probably do a lot of circuits and kettlebell work together.
What’s your athletic background?
I’m a former member of the U.S. women’s rugby team. Over the course of a decade, I played for the junior-national fifteens team and then the senior side for both the sevens and fifteens national teams. (Sevens is a version of the game that is played with seven members per team; fifteens is played with 15 per side. In a nutshell, sevens is sleeker, faster, and shorter. Fifteens is longer, heavier, and more smash-mouth.)
As a sport, rugby is my one great love, but I’ll do (and have done) just about anything, including softball, basketball, softball, and track.
I respect the transformative properties of sport, and I would like to see more women compete. In something. In anything.
Competition gets a bad rap, but it can be done in a way that greatly enriches your life and your path to personal development. Learning to compete well taps into a spirit of play that I suspect many of us haven’t explored thoroughly (yet).
What are you currently doing for your own training?
I’ve been crunched for time lately due to program launches, revamping my online business, and settling into my new home in Philadelphia (it’s my second time moving here, that’s how much I like the city) so I’ve switched gears from a more structured program to mostly circuit training for the time being.
The workouts are short, I’m able to maintain my strength to a satisfactory degree, and I like the sweat factor even more in the summer. It’s also serving as the perfect time to test drive circuits for Lift Weights Faster 3 (coming next spring). I did just start a supplemental pull-up program, though.
What does a sample workout look like for you?
Here’s one I did on the sidewalk out in front of my house the other day. It requires one kettlebell and about 20 minutes, give or take. Perform three rounds of the following:
12 one-armed bent-over row (each arm)
12 bodyweight skater squat (each leg)
12 hand-release pushups
12 one-arm stiff-legged deadlift (each arm)
12 goblet rotational lunge (each direction)
What’s your favorite exercise or movement?
I would never choose! Don’t play me like that, GGS. (A few faves: conventional deadlifts, kettlebell swings, SSB squats, kettlebell jerks, bent presses, and chin-ups.)
Do you prefer to train alone or with a training partner? Why?
I LOVE TRAINING WITH OTHER PEOPLE. I’d love to say it’s for upstanding reasons such as the increased sense of community and accountability, and other true stories—but the other truth is that I like other people to do hard things with me.
Best compliment you’ve received lately? Best compliment you’ve given lately?
Earlier today, a man I came face-to-face with on the street simply said, “Wow, you’re a superstar!” That was pretty delightful. People are so nice in Philadelphia (no sarcasm).
I try to give genuine compliments the moment they come to mind, so lemme think of one I gave today. Ah, OK: I told my friend Marshall Roy of RISE Gym that he is an incredible coach and trainer, and that I hope he starts traveling the world doing kettlebell and powerlifting workshops.
I do so hate when you make me choose. Let’s go with an old standby, ribeye steak and slightly crispy Brussels sprouts, maybe some cauliflower mash and a homemade fudgy brownie for dessert. Don’t put ice cream on my brownie.
Well, this is mortifying, because it’s long been a quote from Ayn Rand, a philosopher one really should outgrow by age 19 or so. In so many ways, her philosophy is selfish, impractical, and elitist, but I find this one quote comes in handy as a woman who owns her own business. As a woman who owns her own life, really:
“The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.”
It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to wait for permission.
Dammit! Why must we play favorites?! The most influential book I’ve read in the past year or so is Men Explain Things to Me by author and activist Rebecca Solnit.
What are you most grateful for?
The constancy of change. Every time I get uncomfortable, I also get excited, because I’ve learned that means growth is on the way.
It took me a long time to embrace change, and I’m grateful for how much my life and my personality changed when I learned to embrace it.
What’s a risk you’ve taken lately and how did it turn out?
I convinced my husband, David Dellanave, and our two dogs, Zoey and Franklin (who needed less convincing than David did), to move away from our thriving gym in Minneapolis across the country to Philadelphia, simply because it feels so much like home to me here. As for how it turns out, I’m eager to find out!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up sometime in the 7s with no alarm, make espresso, walk and feed the dogs, tell them that they are the best while they are doing tricks for treats, write, eat breakfast, pull my shopping cart to the Italian Market to get some sweet produce deals, write, train, write, write, eat, meet online with my team to manage the many projects we’ve got goin’ on, more eating and writing.
Oh, and right now my day also involves avoiding unpacking my house.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from your training?
A deeper, more unshakable confidence.
When a woman decides to develop her physical strength, that’s her making a conscious decision to run counter to societal expectations about the way she “should” look and behave. The simple repetition of the conversation about why she is interested in pursuing such a thing tends to strengthen conviction as much as the act of lifting weights strengthens muscles. The result is that she becomes more comfortable making choices that can be viewed as different or unusual.
What’s your next training goal:
I wrote a speech called “Embrace Your Bigness” in 2015, and ever since, I’ve been drawn to exploring that idea more intentionally. So, I’m excited to announce I’ve got a project in the works with St. Louis–based trainer Kourtney Thomas that focuses on hypertrophy (aka muscle growth). We’ve dubbed it the Bigness Project, and I anticipate it will turn even more societal expectations on their heads. Curls for the girls, know what I mean?
Personally, I haven’t done a lot of bodybuilding-style training before, and I’m eager to see how I like it. (We’re starting an early access group in mid-August, too, for those interested.)
What’s your biggest accomplishment in the fitness industry thus far?
It is every single individual who has ever said something to me along the lines of “You have changed my life.” I don’t take myself very seriously, but I do take that seriously.
What’s your biggest accomplishment outside the fitness industry thus far?
Hummmmmmm, lemme think. On paper, it’s probably my achievements through rugby, but honestly, I rank all of my long-term, thriving friendships higher. It feels like more of an accomplishment to get to have relationships with people I consider geniuses in various ways.
If you had to choose three words to describe yourself, what would they be?
Open. Curious. Weird.
How has training changed your life?
The list would be shorter if I told you the ways it hasn’t changed my life. I operate completely differently since I really starting owning that my health is my responsibility, and mine alone. I’m more disciplined. More joyful. More balanced. More embodied. More appreciative.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start working out?
You can take this process at your own pace.
What would you like to be remembered for in regards to your impact on the health and wellness industry?
Doing a really good job of bringing people together. A sense of community, both live and virtual, is what’s up.
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