Name: Elisabeth Akinwale Age: 38 Location: Chicago, IL Photo credits: Alison Gamble Photography
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you? Being a Girl Gone Strong means living my life intentionally and in pursuit of my best self. Deciding where I want to go, and having the courage to continually take steps in that direction. Recognizing fitness as a lifelong process of exploration into myself, and being in community with other women as they go through their exploration.
How did you get introduced to strength training, and how long have you been training?
I have really been strength training since I started gymnastics at four years old! I have always enjoyed being physically active, with a few starts and stops during my adult life. I was first introduced to strength training with weights in my early twenties. My collegiate gymnastics career was cut short after a series of knee injuries, the last of which I went through rehabilitation at my university, including strength training with weights. I wanted to continue to strengthen my previously injured leg, so I joined a local gym and started to learn more about lifting weights.
What excites you most about being part of Girls Gone Strong? I’m beyond excited to collaborate with all of these remarkable women. They are phenomenal, committed women who share a common interest in health and fitness and the betterment of culture for women. As a formerly Licensed Social Worker, I love that GGS is strategically designed to address multiple realms of health, not just physical fitness.
Why are you so passionate about sharing information with the Girls Gone Strong audience? I’m truly honored to be part of the collective of women that Girls Gone Strong has drawn together. I’ve been involved in fitness for nearly twenty years, and there is a lack of easily accessible information that is intended to empower women to better themselves, rather than capitalize on women’s insecurities.
I’m thrilled to share information from my knowledge and experiences with the GGS audience to continue to add to the diverse perspectives represented in GGS.
What’s your athletic background? I grew up in competitive gymnastics for 15 years. Following my gymnastics career I got involved in traditional gym fitness–group fitness classes, and training with free weights and machines. After I had my son I didn’t want to commit as much time to physically getting to the gym so I did home workouts and outdoor running. I then heard about CrossFit and decided to give it a try. I really enjoyed the skill development aspects of CrossFit (including learning the Olympic Lifts) as well as the variety of movements. For the past six years I have competed in CrossFit and Weightlifting, including five CrossFit Games appearances, and multiple National level Olympic-style weightlifting competitions.
What’s your biggest professional accomplishment to date?
My biggest professional accomplishment to date is developing curriculum and presenting my “On Balance Seminar.”
It has been fulfilling and humbling to have the opportunity to travel to gyms throughout the U.S., the Caribbean and Central America to share my training knowledge and life experiences as a working mother, coach and competitive athlete.
What does your typical workout look like?
My training on a day to day basis varies quite a bit. Most days include some combination structural stability work, Olympic lifts and accessories, gymnastics skill and strength development, metabolic conditioning and endurance work. Stretching and rehabilitative and corrective exercises are also a top priority.
Most memorable PR:
Hitting a 200-pound hang snatch at the 2014 CrossFit Games Regional competition.
Top 3 things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
Chapstick is my number one must have item.
Gum, because I hate getting a dry mouth when I train.
Goat tape. It’s the best tape out there and once you use it, it hard to go back!
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why? I mostly train alone. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily a preference, but it has become the norm over the years. Training is an outlet for me, a time to focus on the inner experience of what I’m doing. I spent many years training alone with my hat pulled down and my headphones on. When I started CrossFit I really enjoyed the group class dynamic, but when I started training for competition and juggling training with a busy work and parenting schedule I found myself training alone again.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
The best compliment I’ve received lately was someone close to me saying that seeing my parenting style helped them grow as a parent.
What inspires and motivates you?
I’m inspired and motivated by people who are able to balance and intertwine their own personal goals with also working for the greater good.
What do you like to do?
Besides training I love reading, writing, spending time at home or exploring the city with my family.
What are you most grateful for?
I’m most grateful for the privilege of being a mother. The opportunity to pursue a career that has meaning for me, while also being flexible enough to prioritize time with my son.
Tell us about a time when you overcame fear or self-doubt. Back in 2013 a friend down in Miami who owned a gym asked me to come down and run a day-long seminar. I had a good deal of self-doubt about taking on the task of creating a valuable day for people. Fortunately my friend was persistent, and I decided to create the content and provide the seminar. In the four years since, I’ve conducted the seminar, “On Balance,” all over the US, in Central America, and the Caribbean.
What I was afraid to embark on has become one of the most rewarding, challenging and exciting parts of my career.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training?
The coolest “side effect” I’ve noticed from strength training is the overall sense of competence it develops. Strength training reinforces the belief that I can take on challenges. It helps me have faith in all areas of my life, that even when I can’t see the desired result within my reach, I know that if I am consistent in what I’m doing the progress will come.
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous to start strength training? Strength training is what you make of it. There is no one way to pursue it, so know that you can take things at your own pace and structure your training to fit your goals and enhance your lifestyle.
If you’re inspired by Elisabeth, read on to learn more about—and join!—our community of strong, supportive women…
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