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Jolt Fitness launches “Her Strength Project” to help empower teen girls

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CENTRALIA – Inspired by the struggles she went through in her youth, the owner of Centralia’s Jolt Fitness has launched a program to encourage girls to stay active while helping build their confidence and self-esteem.

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Katie Sigurdson launched the Her Strength Project in February, a program that mixes strength training in the gym with in-class discussions.

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She recently spoke about what prompted her to start the program.

At 15, Sigurdson started getting involved in fitness to become a better hockey player. At the time, she said the industry lacked education that had integrity and role models that promoted healthy habits.

“Most of the information out there at the time was focused on how you looked, and the trending look at that time was . . .  stick thin. It only supported one appearance ideal.”

Sigurdson said she struggled with eating disorders and excessive exercise behaviours for about 10 years. Learning from those experiences, she decided to launch her own program to help young girls avoid the struggles she went through.

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Sigurdson grew up in Saskatchewan and played hockey for Mount Royal University where she studied health and physical education. She said that experience, as well as having others empower her to change the way she approached fitness, helped her work through her earlier struggles.

“Over time, that snowballed to lead me into the right direction,” she said.

Sigurdson opened Jolt Fitness in 2020, and said she wanted to create an environment and community where “it’s health first, and really focusing on high quality of life and resiliency over appearance.”

The Her Strength Project, geared for girls aged 15-17, is part of Sigurdson’s way of giving back. She said she has worked in the gym with girls experiencing struggles, and that gave her the push to share her story and move forward with the Her Strength Project. A combination of workshops in the classroom, as well as in-gym training programs, the program’s goal is to open up a discussion about self-esteem and self-confidence, Sigurdson said.

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“We do different activities to get that discussion started and to build confidence and resiliency against outside pressures,” she said.

Discussions focus on who individuals are rather than how they look. As well, “We talk about how we speak about our bodies and other bodies, and we look into social media and unrealistic expectations, especially in the modern day with A.I. and photo editing.”

Sigurdson said as girls transition into teens their activity levels often drop significantly as they become more concerned with how they look rather than how they feel. She said some teens she speaks to tell her they spend as much as 11 hours a day on social media.

“Who are we spending those 11 hours with? And what influence do they have over us?” she asked. “I feel for teens today. They can’t escape some of that stuff.”

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The in-gym part of the program includes four weeks of exercises including squats, deadlifts and bench presses.

Sigurdson said participants have been receptive to the concepts discussed in the program. While they may start out shy and nervous, she said she’s seen them evolve in the gym “to take up space and make some noise and not be afraid to try new things.”

She said it feels good to see the girls grow during the program.

“It kind of takes the pain I went through and turns it into something powerful and positive.”

Sigurdson would eventually like to expand the program to other age groups, explaining that anyone can be affected by low self-esteem.

“And that’s not just for girls, that’s boys as well,” she said.

Jolt Fitness plans to run the Her Strength Project every spring. For more information visit www.joltfitness.ca/her.

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