Name: Kourtney Thomas
Location: St. Louis, MO
What does being a Girl Gone Strong mean to you?
It means embracing strength in all aspects of life — even when that’s not the path of least resistance, which honestly, it rarely is.
To me, being a Girl Gone Strong is about finding who you are and then fully staying true to that, even through the tough times.Through physical strength, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought possible, and that has allowed me to find and stand in my power while creating a big, beautiful life for myself.
Being a Girl Gone Strong means I can be unafraid to be fully myself in this world.
How long have you been strength training, and how did you get started?
I’ve been strength training about seven or so years now. I spent much of my life avoiding activity of any kind, to the point of skipping gym class in school. But shortly after moving in with my now-husband, he inspired me on my movement journey. I, believe it or not, got started with P90X! That was my first real taste of strength training beyond cardio dance DVDs or aerobics with three-pound weights. Completing that three-month program sparked my interest in other activities, and that’s how I got started running.
I was a dedicated endurance runner for about four or five years, with minimal strength training. I kept my strength basis with some yoga and weight circuits, but nothing heavy, and usually not more than 1 or two days per week. After four marathons in two years, I burned out and turned to heavier strength training.
I had found GGS and Jen Sinkler, so I started with Lift Weights Faster. I also dabbled in Get Stronger Faster, the accompanying strength program. That proved to be a bit serious for my tastes and abilities at the time, so I picked up Modern Woman's Guide to Strength Training and completed the Level 4 program. It was perfect for me, and that sparked my interest.
I then completed the Advanced program of Strong Curves and started seeing huge results, both in my strength, and in my physique. I was totally hooked! After those 16 weeks, I hired a personal coach.
With a goal of packing on more muscle, I started down the path of specific hypertrophy training and bodybuilding style splits. I was so apprehensive at first, but quickly fell in love.
I saw more change in my physique than anything I had ever done, my strength was still coming up, and I was absolutely more physically well-rounded than ever before. To this day, that’s what I’m still doing, and that’s what I’m still loving.
What does your typical workout look like?
Right now, I work out in bodybuilding style split workouts. Typically, two upper body and two lower body days per week, with push/pull emphases. I’ll go through phases though where I split further and add focus days like glutes, delts, or arms. (Arm day will always be my favorite!) I always get in a main lift – a version of squats, benches, and deadlifts – and follow it up with plenty of fun accessory work.
I also love to run, and cardiovascular health is really important to me, so I run one or two days per week, or do some kind of interval workout on the step mill, bike, or rower another couple of days.
Does “any kind of biceps curl” count as a lift?! Past that, I’d go with RDLs. I love a good hip hinge and some killer posterior chain work.
Most memorable PR:
It happened just recently. I had taken about a six-month break from a program, and longer than that from any kind of low-rep strength training or testing. I was kind of flowing and experimenting with my training, working on the Bigness Project, and definitely sticking to hypertrophy and higher rep stuff. I decided I wanted a bit more direction again, and hired a new coach. She added a lower body strength day to my program, and the very first day I hit triples of my highest one-rep max squat weight ever! I hadn’t done that in over a year, and this felt easy. Like, astonishingly easy. I was just so pumped that, even though I wasn’t working specifically on strength, it clearly continued to build throughout the year with consistency in training and progressive overload.
Top 5 songs on your training playlist:
I love music.
Three things you must have with you at the gym or in your gym bag:
Do you prefer to train alone or with others? Why?
I actually prefer to train alone. My gym time is time where I just get in the zone. I put on my headphones, tune everything out, and focus on my muscles. I’m big on the mind-muscle connection, honing in on effort and exertion, and being really connected to my workout. If I’m training with someone else, it’s fun, of course! But I find that it distracts me a little bit from the focus I like to have.
That said, I’m more open to running or cardio with others. I do like to run alone to connect with nature and let my mind wander a little, but there are also times when I like to have company for distraction.
Most embarrassing gym moment:
Constantly fiddling around with bumper plates! I find them so cumbersome, even with the little bar jack thing! But really, I honestly don’t get embarrassed in the gym. Most people are just minding their own business, so I don’t even worry about it.
Best compliment you’ve received lately:
I recently had to collect a series of testimonials from clients and peers. The responses that I received blew me away and brought tears to my eyes for two days straight. Without any prompting, it became apparent to me that I am affecting people’s lives in exactly the way I am intending to, and that was the absolute best compliment I could ever receive. My favorite example:
Kourtney is the type of woman that makes you feel stronger, more grounded and more capable simply by being in her presence. The strength I get from my workout plan has seeped into every single part of my life and a lot of that is due to the support, guidance and inspiration I've gotten from Kourtney. She's showed me how to consistently show up at the gym... and, more importantly, in my day-to-day life, in a BIG, bold way.
Most recent compliment you gave someone else:
"You are a (expletive) ferocious spirit!" I have cool friends, and sometimes we potty mouth together with complete mutual understanding.
I joke that I love to live the #turkeysandwich life, but really, I do love sandwiches! My favorite fancy meal is a really high-quality, well-cooked pork chop with a perfect sear and delicious sides. Followed up with some kind of dark chocolate goodness for dessert!
Favorite way to treat yourself:
Indulging in trash TV. I love TV. Like, way too much! Every time I travel, I stay up way too late watching stupid stuff on cable (we don’t have cable at our house anymore) and loving it – think Naked and Afraid, Duck Dynasty, My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding…
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” William Shakespeare (So much a favorite, it’s tattooed on my foot.)
I’m far more into fiction than nonfiction, so my top three right now are:
I also love anything political satire (think: Christopher Buckley) or science fiction/fantasy (The Martian, the Red Rising Trilogy, Divergent Trilogy, The Rook, Harry Potter, etc.).
And fitness specific, I love The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold, Strong by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove, Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels, and Superflex by Cory Everson.
What inspires and motivates you?
Cliché, maybe, but my tribe. I never really had one until about the last year or so, and opening up and connecting with so many amazing women inspires and motivates me daily. I spent a lot of time in my life competing with the women I now stand side by side with and encourage. It’s crazy how different it can be to admire them and see them as inspiration instead of competition, or as someone or something else I’m not stacking up to.
My friends, my husband, my clients, and all the women I don’t even know inspire and motivate me daily to continue doing what I’m doing and using my voice to create a bigger, better space for all of us.
What do you do?
I’m a personal trainer and coach. I do most of my work online through virtual coaching, and focus on training for bigness – physically, emotionally, and mentally. My tagline is Become the Boss of Your Body™: Watch Your Life Take Shape™ for a reason. When you determine what you want for yourself physically and find comfort and confidence in your own skin, it changes far more than the shape of your body. It changes your life.
What else do you do?
I love to ride my motorcycle when the weather is good! I ride a Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe, and her name is Alexandra. Nothing makes me feel more powerful and free than riding.
My husband and I also like to go camping and hiking. We enjoy traveling to both new and familiar places, and always keep New Orleans on our list each year.
I love to read, hence the long answer for favorite books above.
I honestly really do love movement, so I love going to the gym and bro-ing out. It's like my second home because I find it so fun.
Describe a typical day in your life, from waking up to bedtime:
I get up at 6am. I head into the dining room where I keep my phone, clear off all my notifications, and take my resting heart rate. Then I head into my office to start working for the day. That usually starts with coaching in my Facebook coaching group and returning client emails.
Most mornings I then go to a client session or two. Then I come back home and work on client programming or write for several hours, with a lunch break mixed in somewhere. Sometimes, I have to attend to the business stuff like catching up on Quickbooks, or I’ll have a new client meeting.
Late afternoon, I close up shop and head to the gym for an hour or two. When I get home from the gym, my husband and I cook and eat dinner, watch an hour or two of TV, then shower and head to bed. Usually TV off by 9pm and lights out by 10pm.
Your next training goal:
Uh, bigger arms. Always bigger arms.
What are you most grateful for?
This life! I am grateful for everything, big and small, every single day.
But I’m the most grateful for my husband, my best friend and partner in this crazy life who supports me in everything I want to do. And also puts up with all of my weirdness!
What life accomplishment are you most proud of?
I’m pretty proud I started my own business and it’s actually become successful.
I was always someone who was perfectly happy working for someone else, not wanting to shoulder the responsibility of making big-time decisions for my livelihood – or so I thought.
Turns out, the opposite is true, and I am much happier and more successful working for myself.
Being an entrepreneur is not without daily struggles, but every one of them is worth it. I own the decisions and the struggles, I own the triumphs.
I’m also incredibly proud of riding my motorcycle to Sturgis and back. It was a crazy ride, several thousand miles, and it was a huge accomplishment, mentally and physically.
Which three words best describe you?
Thoughtful, Forthright (this is a much better word than "doesn’t-put-up-with-bullshit!"), Supportive
What’s a risk you’ve taken recently, and how did it turn out?
Going to the Radiance Retreat this year was a big risk for me. It was a big investment, it was totally intimidating, and it was very much outside my comfort zone. My entire life, I’ve struggled with female relationships, and this was basically jumping into one huge female relationship! But it changed my life. Taking that risk of attending an event that was really scary for me turned out better than I could have ever imagined. Not only did I get a return on my investment picking up business knowledge, I forged friendships – like, actual, true, deep friendships, and quickly! – and that was well worth the anxiety leading up to the trip and the price of admission.
Beyond that, it opened doors for me because it pushed me over the hump with similar things. Since the Retreat in May, I’ve done more things that brought up old fears or self-doubt with much more ease, and that has enhanced my life exponentially. It’s been a big year for growth, and it started with taking that risk.
What’s the coolest “side effect” you’ve noticed from strength training?
Finding more and different common ground with new people. I get a lot of questions that often start with, “Wow, I love your arms!” and often they’re with genuine interest. Then, it’s fun to have a little chat about the gym and give people a quick little motivational boost for whatever they’re trying to accomplish. It’s been fun to connect with other lifters and fitness professionals to nerd out about lifting too.
How has lifting weights changed your life?
Do you have like five minutes for me to talk your ear off? How has it not changed my life? Lifting weights, in all its different varieties, has opened up my life beyond what I ever thought possible.
Not only has lifting weights made me physically stronger, but it has made me so much stronger mentally and emotionally. Learning how to work through physical stress only increases your tools for being able to deal with other stress in life.
Taking control of my choices in the weight room and for my body allows me to take control of choices in the rest of my life.
Lifting has changed my physique beyond what I ever thought possible – especially when I started training specifically for hypertrophy. I’ve packed on muscle, completely changed my shape, and embraced my body fully from head to toe, which I wasn’t sure was possible. Some days are better than others, because hello, I’m human, but more than ever, I am truly happy with how I look – because I’m happy with how I feel. I’m bigger and heavier than I’ve ever been before, but lifting weights has completely changed my relationship with what that means. I want to be bigger. Because I want to be more.
And because of lifting, my confidence has shot to the moon, and that has spilled into every aspect of my life. If it weren’t for my journey in lifting, I never would have met some of the best friends I have now. I never would have connected with the GGS family. I never would have bonded with Jen over a fire one night to talk about how we could bring this feeling to as many women as possible.
I’m so fortunate that lifting weights has literally become my business. Before I started lifting seriously, lifting heavy, I didn’t have a lot of direction. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or could do, and for whom. But when I found my place in strength and size, I found my conviction, my voice, and exactly how I wanted to show up in this world personally and professionally.
Lifting weights has forever changed my body, my mind, and my spirit, more than anything I’ve ever done. There is a reason why my favorite hashtag is #bigarmsbiglife:
Tapping into your strength and size under the iron translates to the freedom to create much bigger world for yourself.
Speaking of confidence boosts... I stink at clothes. Clothes are so hard! I don’t think I’m alone there either – it’s not an inherent ability to look like a Pinterest pin every day. It was always something very frustrating for me. So, last year I worked with a wardrobe stylist to completely revamp my wardrobe. We cleaned my closet of everything that either didn’t fit me or wasn’t a good style fit for me. Then, we discussed what made me feel good, shopped for it, and styled it. Besides lifting weights, this has been one of the best things I’ve ever done! It takes such a weight off every day to know what to wear and how to wear it. I have always felt pretty good about my body, but now I feel 100 percent confident walking out the door because I feel good about my clothes, too. I think people underestimate the importance of feeling good about your clothes, and I can’t suggest working with a stylist enough—it’s just like hiring a personal trainer!
I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which helped me to get rid of a lot of stuff I didn’t need, and also helped me not to just replace it with other new stuff. I pretty much use a loose capsule wardrobe at this point, which now includes a lot of accessories, including scarves. I always wanted to wear scarves, so it was one of the first things I told her I wanted to work on. I also used to stink at scarves, so this is a video we took to help me figure it out, haha! I love it because you can see my face, like, "WTF, stupid scarf!" And then I’m like, "Whew, OK! Finally! I can do this!"
What do you want to say to other women who might be nervous or hesitant about strength training?
Please, give it a try. It doesn’t have to look like what it looks like on someone else. Social media is great, but it’s also really tough these days. You can sign onto Instagram and see super-jacked women crushing a barbell, or super-strong women talking about how they only squatted 275 – among about a million other comparisons – and it becomes completely overwhelming. There are days that even other Girls Gone Strong make me feel down on myself!
But it’s not about that. It’s not about competition or trying to beat anyone or anything, including yourself or “who you were yesterday.” Strength training is named aptly – it will help you find the strength you didn’t even know you needed or wanted, if you’ll open yourself up to it. And there are so many different ways to train! From conditioning circuits to powerlifting and everything in between, there are a million things to try until you find your match.
And I know the actual gym can be scary, especially if you were never an athlete. And I get that, because I wasn’t one. I remember having butterflies in my stomach the entire first week I started going. But you have options – start with a basic program (GGS has great resources!), hire a coach, even if it’s for only a few sessions to get some confidence with basic movements, or start at home! Be patient – stick to your program for the full, prescribed amount of time! – and just watch. Be open to the possibilities.
Discern the BS. The weight loss industry is still feeding us lies. The science and evidence tell us that strength training is actually the best way to reach many of our common goals – not to mention it provides us with a cornucopia of physical and mental health benefits.
One step at a time. One workout at a time. One day at a time. Try it. Experiment. Stick with it. Find out what Girls Gone Strong means to you!
Connect with Kourtney on Instagram, and on Snapchat: kthomasfitness.
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