Girl Gains serves as stress-free exercise club

Photos Courtesy of Nicole White | Girl Gains, a new club on campus, allows women to workout together while building confidence in the gym. They host activities like rock climbing, ice skating, yoga and spin classes.

Isabella Abbott | Features Editor

Feb. 16, 2023

Dedicated to empowering women to feel strong and beautiful in a judgment-free community, Girl Gains, a nationwide college organization founded in 2020, recently made its way to Duquesne.

Although some founding members were worried about the number of participants they would obtain due to the campus size, since its founding in November they were able to expand from a couple of eager students to nearly 70 members.

Sophomore psychology pre-law major and vice president of Girl Gains at Duquesne, Kristen Fisher, said she was amazed by the amount of women who wanted to participate in events and sessions.

“I was a little worried at first,” Fisher said. “I didn’t know how many people would actually want to lift because it didn’t seem like something that’s talked about too often, and I haven’t met a lot of people on campus at the time that enjoy lifting. Then there were 30 people at the social meeting and the next meeting was 50. It was amazing.”

She decided to join for the same reason as a lot of the members: to encourage women to build more confidence in a gym setting and to have fun while doing so.

“I think it’s really important to empower women in the gym because lifting is so important to me. Honestly, lifting is pretty much my whole life,” Fisher said. “It definitely took me out of some dark places, and it’s also really helpful.”

Other members, like events coordinator Saffrin Schaeffer, wanted to join to bring other girls to the gym to lift heavy weights rather than partake in more calming gym activities. Schaeffer said that they’re “a different kind of organization for women,” adding that they try to “push someone out of their comfort zone and bring someone into an environment that they may not be comfortable in.”

Many of the women who joined weren’t comfortable in the gym at first. Fisher said a lot of them were discouraged and deterred due to the amount of testosterone in that setting.

“I fear that a lot of people walk away too soon just because it’s not the best environment at first,” Fisher said. “Then, once you build up a little bit more confidence in the gym and confidence in what you’re doing, you can have a 10-times better experience.

“I wanted to spread the word that this is really fun, and it’s not just for men. You can do whatever you want, and it’s just very encouraging.”

Junior biomedical engineering student and treasurer of Girl Gains, Nicole White, said that whenever she felt intimidated or uncomfortable in this type of setting, she would act like she owned the place.

“One of the things my friends told me when I started going to the gym was to walk around like you own the place, like you know what you’re doing,” White said. “And it works. I’m more confident now than I have been my entire life.”

This type of confidence was a key component for the making of Girl Gains on campus. Since many people compare themselves to one another on social media in this day and age, the club wanted to keep focus on building up personal confidence and maintaining a better sense of self-image.

“Something that discouraged me was comparing myself to other people,” Fisher said. “We do it in general, everybody does it, but in this industry, you’re going to be like, ‘Oh this is how people got their abs,’ and kind of forget about genetics.

“And then setting yourself to that standard isn’t achievable, and you don’t realize that it isn’t realistic, and it isn’t sustainable. You can still improve your body and everything will look great, but these people are doing something completely different.”

Girl Gains not only wants to encourage self-image ideas, but they want to ensure that women have the right outlet to come to if they want to lift and work out without judgment.

“If you look back 20 years, it was a lot of women doing pilates and spin classes, but now you’re seeing women getting to power lift and body build in a competitive way because it’s not as gate kept as it once was,” Schaeffer said.

The club is open to anyone, beginner or not, and hopes to help those who may feel intimidated and uncomfortable at the gym, or even for those who want some friends to do a hard workout with.

“I want to help these people,” Fisher said. “I want them to find their passion, and I’m so glad that we get to push people and give that extra, ‘Here’s a club, let’s do it together.’”