GGS Spotlight: Erin Brown

By GGS
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ErinBrown-ProfessionalPhoto1-350x358Name:   Erin Brown
Age:  I'm 33, and will be 34 in September
Location: Lawrence, KS

What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It means having the opportunity to be an example of the many ways girls and women can be strong. So much in the fitness industry and the general culture primarily asks women to shrink themselves.

The act of getting strong is the opposite of shrinking. It’s about showing up for yourself, reaching to do more than you could before, and believing you deserve to be powerful.

Why are you so passionate about sharing information with the Girls Gone Strong audience?
I think the emotional hurdles that keep women from taking care of their bodies, or keep them from enjoying the healthy practices they already have are huge.

I hope to help women dismantle the limiting beliefs that have been handed to them; that their bodies are never good enough, that they should shrink themselves, that they are here to take care of everyone but themselves and more.

Once these internal belief systems are acknowledged, and eventually transformed, the act of self-care is no longer such a reach – but rather the path to living beautifully. We all deserve that.

What excites you most about being a part of Girls Gone Strong?Adding my voice to this panel of powerful women is pretty rad. It’s exciting to me to see this organization by women, for women thriving. And, it’s really exciting that body image is a part of this conversation.

What’s your athletic background?
Hahaha. Dismal, historically. I dismissed myself as having any athletic ability very young.

I quit ballet at 4 because I thought I was too fat. I played some sports in Jr. High, because all my friends were, but was notably a bench warmer. When everyone else started running track, I picked up smoking. So… I’m the opposite of a lifelong athlete.

ErinBrow-AndLola-450x340I started exercising after I had my daughter. I knew the way I felt about my own body would play a huge role in how she would feel about her own. In an effort to role model self-care, and to try to find some appreciation for my body, I began walking.

Over time my walks turned into runs. My strength training DVDs turned into training at the gym. And my weighted lunges turned into powerlifting, Olympic lifting, and HIIT training. I guess I’ve found that solo sports without balls flying at me suit me best.

Mostly, I’ve found that whether I need quiet or I need to get really powerful, training gives me clarity and peace I don’t find anywhere else. What began as striving to be a good role model has become what sustains me.

My training is where I return to myself.

What are you currently doing for your own training?
I change what I’m doing all the time, as my primary training goals always have more to do with my mental health than my physique. Currently I do power yoga twice a week, I lift four times a week, and I run about three times a week. Recently I’ve been focusing my strength training on improving my Olympic lifts.

I’ll be as interested as you to hear what I’m into 6 months from now as it constantly evolves.

What does a sample workout look like for you?
My favorite workouts are sprint intervals, barbell complexes, and long, long hikes. Yesterday I did deadlift, clean, jerk, push up, walking lunges, suspended rows. 4 sets through.

What’s your favorite exercise or movement?
It’s a tie between Squats and Single Leg Deadlifts.

Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
Depends on the kind of workout! A hike demands a much different playlist than lifting. I take this quite seriously. When I lift I require hip hop.

Top 5 lifting songs:

Behold A Lady – OutKast
Pass That Dutch – Missy Elliot
Backseat Freestyle – Kendrick Lamar
Dirt Off Your Shoulder – Jay Z
A Milli – Lil Wayne

Because I can’t stop there, my Top 5 songs from stretching and yoga:

Feeling Good – Nina Simone
Call Off Your Ghost – Dessa
Cleva – Erykah Badu
It’s Cool – Traditional Methods
Nothing Even Matters – Lauryn Hill

Also, you just all need to listen to The Bullpen by Dessa whenever you need to borrow some power to get yours back. OK, I’ll stop now.

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

  1. Snacks on snacks on snacks. I have this awesome little container stack in which I keep nuts, a few dates, my multivitamins, and a raw food bar. I’m usually on the go, so I keep that stash everywhere I go so if I don’t sit down to eat a proper meal, I’m always nourishing myself well when needed.
  2. My phone. It’s my personal assistant, has my workout plans in it, and most importantly, is where my music is which is extremely important to me.
  3. Lavender oil. That might be the weird one. It’s calming. It’s good for stress. If it’s “that kind of day” I may take a big grounding whiff before a workout while I ground myself for lifting. On a usual day, I’ll just want it to throw on right after I hop out of the shower.

Really, all three things are things I have with me all the time.

ErinBrownJoggingNearWater-450x318Do you prefer to train alone or with a training partner? Why?
I usually train alone. I like training with others for encouragement, to progress a lift with a spotter, for the social aspect. I used to teach boot camp classes and loved the familial community there. But, mostly, I like to train alone because it’s my time to clear out the cobwebs in my head.  It’s just me, the task at hand, and the beats in my headphones. It’s when I tap into myself, and really the whole rest of the world floats away for the moment. It’s meditation.

Most hilarious pick-up line you’ve heard at the gym:
“So, lunges huh?” “Yep.” Crickets

Most embarrassing gym moment:
I was attempting the Jefferson Deadlift without reviewing the cues Jen Sinkler gave us at The Women’s Fitness Summit. And I totally, “booped my V” (read: racked myself). I was already doing a lift I’d never seen anyone do at my gym, then I had to go and injure my lady. It was a little embarrassing.

Favorite meal:
I love a gigantic salad. Lately, I’ve been really excited about broccoli salad. And I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention my famous macaroni and cheese. My daughter decided it’s famous, so that’s pretty legit.

Favorite way to treat yourself:
A hike, restorative yoga, an Epsom salt bath, a favorite person, and a few hours to chat about the big picture. I’m pretty easy to please.

Favorite quote:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the same well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

– Kahlil Gibran on Joy and Sorrow.

That whole passage, well, that whole book, is great. But that passage in particular makes me grateful for the whole of my story, and aware that it is not in spite of, but because of, my struggles that I experience so much joy.

Favorite book:
Said The Shotgun to the Head – Saul Williams. It’s a poem. The whole book is one poem. I can’t even tell you how beautiful it is.  It inspired me to write. He inspired me to do spoken word (slam) poetry.  If I ever feel without inspiration, I pick it up again.

Lola-Strawberry-350x375What inspires and motivates you?
More than anything my daughter. I gave up on myself so many times before. On taking care of myself, on being successful at anything, on the possibility that I deserve love. I gave up over and over again.

But having her somehow woke me up. I knew I couldn’t want things for her without showing her the way. If I wanted her to go for dreams, to live in the truth of her own inherent worth, to show up in her life without constant apology, I had to become a living example of those things.

She is remarkable. She deserves a mother who would never give up on herself. That inspires me.

What does a typical day look like for you? (From waking up to bedtime)
My days vary. Some days I have local speaking engagements. When it’s above freezing there is almost always a hike. Some days I have lunch or coffee with a friend.

Mondays tend to be about meal planning and household errands. Fridays are primarily about rest. I’ll just give you an average Wednesday.

6:45 — Out the door with a quick brush of the teeth and some grumbling about the cold with my husband for power yoga.

7 – 7:45 — Yoga.

8 – 8:30 — Get my daughter ready for school.

8:45 — Drop kiddo at school, do yoga with her former kindergarten teacher and the current kindergarteners. I LOVE this part of my day. It’s usually just a few poses or a meditation.

9:30 — Back home, make and eat breakfast.

10:00 — Work (emails, programs, essays, work on my next book, phone meetings), depends on the day.

1:00 — Meet with my trainer. Have behind handed to me.

2:30 — Pick up my daughter.

3:00 — Take her to music lessons with my friend. I’ll either use this time to go for a walk, or do some yoga/deep stretching in a different room. Some days I bring my computer for more work, but I try to avoid that option.

4:30 — Homework/snack with my daughter.

5:00 — My daughter’s free time, so playing games usually. If there’s an errand, we’ll do it then as well.

6:00 — Make and eat dinner.

7:00 — This is my daughter’s “screen time” which she usually spends playing games or watching shows on the iPad, and I’m usually back working.

7:30 — Bath, stories, set things out for the next day, bedtime ritual with kiddo.

8:00 — Laundry/cleaning/any meal planning and household management that needs to happen/ more work.

10:00 — Watch whatever show I’m into (with my husband if he’s on a break from school).

Bedtime — Sometimes I stay up too late; sometimes I don’t make it through one show.

What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from your training?
Power, confidence, living in my body. Grounding, centering, clearing my head. I guess these are the actual point for me. So a cool “side effect” would be… I mean, I do love my buns.

Next training goal:
Right now I’m working to improve my Olympic lifts.

What’s your biggest accomplishment in the fitness industry thus far?
Being seen as a part of it. The idea that body image is an important conversation in fitness instead of just utilizing the culturally imposed low self-esteem of girls and women to sell them weight loss programs is a big shift. I’m excited to be at the table.

ErinBrown-Books-420x304What’s your biggest accomplishment outside the fitness industry thus far?
Writing my books, As Is and Letters To Lola felt pretty darn good!

Three words that best describe you:
Grounded, Vocal, Powerful (and still learning to not apologize for the third one).

How has training changed your life?
I can’t pick which part exactly impacted which thing as meditation and movement often go hand in hand for me. But in my self-care I have found I’m more powerful than I sometimes allow, stronger than I know, capable even when I feel small, and that there is a space in me I can always come home to.

What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start working out?
It doesn’t have to be what it is to anyone else to be amazing for you. It can be walking outside to clear your head. It can be learning to lift so you feel stronger in every way. It can be about feeling good and taking care of your mental health.

There aren’t any rules.

You don’t have to have the right outfit.

No one at the gym is looking at you, there are too many mirrors to distract them.

Let it be about you, and follow what calls to you.

Let it be about feeling good, and show up for yourself.

What would you like to be remembered for in regards to your impact on the health and wellness industry?
I’ve got a big voice, and I’m attempting to use it to give women their own bodies back. To give them permission to live in their own power. We don’t have to be small (or big), we don’t have to fear being strong (or not strong enough), there are no rules to being a woman with a body. And, exercise? That’s an amazing way to take care of yourself.

It doesn’t have to be about looking good or gaining others' approval. It can be about feeling powerful, calm, fired up, capable, or just clearing your head. Our bodies and our own practices get to be our own. We all deserve our own love, respect, time, care and approval today, as is. I’d love my daughter to hear messaging from the fitness industry about how training feels, about building community, about taking care of ourselves.

If I can be any part of the force that stops the parts of the industry that continuously prey on the insecurities of women, always hawking the latest (potentially unsafe and ineffective) skinny pill with messages so damaging they are deafening, I would absolutely love that.

Feeling inspired?

If you're inspired by Erin, read on to learn more about—and join!—our community of strong, supportive women...

Do you struggle with body image? Have you ever…

  • Felt anxious about clothes shopping or wearing certain clothes?
  • Dreaded going to an event (like a reunion or a wedding) — or even skipped the event altogether — because you felt too self-conscious about how you looked?
  • Found yourself not wanting to be in pictures or videos, or hiding behind other people in the picture to shield your body?
  • Scrolled through social media and felt worse and worse as you went?

If these sound familiar to you, you are not alone.

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About the author:  GGS

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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