Defining STRONG

STRONG isn’t what a woman wants to be, it’s WHO she wants to be. -Paul Buceta, Minneapolis STRONGCAMP

When I signed up for STRONGCAMP Minneapolis, I knew 2 things:

-The camp was hosted by IFBB Figure Pro Jessie Hilgenberg and STRONG Fitness Magazine

-We would be working out at some point

And that’s it. But what I didn’t know was that those 2 days would change my life.

Being a fitness freak and a huge fan of Jessie Hilgenberg, I jumped at the change to attend STRONGCAMP when it came to my area. I was way out of my comfort zone going into the weekend. I would be rooming with someone I had never met and I didn’t know anyone who would be there. But the excitement for the workout was the only thing that stopped me from backing out. From the minute I met Jessie and all of the other women, I felt right at “home”. Aside from the nervousness that I think everyone had a little of, the room was alive with excitement.  We were all so different – different walks of life, different fitness levels, different stories – but  yet all the same. We were all there to answer a question that we should later be asked “What does STRONG mean to me?”

STRONGCAMP started with a killer workout at Allegiance Fitness led by Jessie and Nichelle Laus. Jessie took us through a bootcamp style workout and Nichelle (who is also a competitor and Professional Kickboxer) led us through Kickboxing drills. To say that the workouts were incredible is a HUGE understatement, but I was still in that familiar comfort zone of doing what I love.

strongcamp workout

Later in the day Jessie spoke to us about her philosophy on training and nutrition. Her main theme of all of it was balance. Finding balance in your training, balance in your physique and trying to balance all of this while still having time for friends, family and real life. In her words “No one wants to always be that girl who pulls chicken and broccoli out of her purse at weddings”. LOL!

Before we broke for the day, Jessie talked about her STRONG moment and what STRONG meant to her. I won’t go into detail about what she said because that is her story to tell, but it was something that made her STRONG, said from the heart and I was honored to hear her tell it. After, she asked us all to write down what STRONG meant to us. We were given the opportunity to share what we wrote and as I listened to the other women share what they wrote, I was inspired to share. And that was when everything started to change. I was stepping out of my comfort zone. As I started talking, my voice cracked and the tears came. I DON’T show emotion in public and I DO NOT cry in front of others, but at that moment I let myself FEEL what I needed to feel. I felt safe to be myself, all of myself, and I spoke. As I took my seat,  I felt lighter, like a small weight had been lifted.



The next morning we met at for yoga at Anytime Fitness.  After yoga ended, Nichelle shared her STRONG moment. Again, her STRONG moment was one that made her the powerful and amazing woman that she is today and I was grateful that she shared it with us.  Jessie then asked if anyone would like to share their STRONG moment and after what seemed like hours of silence, one brave woman started talking. We heard stories of heartbreak, tremendous sadness, loss of life, splitting of families and unimaginable grief. But throughout all of these stories, we also heard how each one of these courageous women overcame these obstacles to become stronger.  To everyone in that room, strong wasn’t just a feeling we had in the gym, it was something we felt with our hearts.

As we closed the weekend, we joined in a circle and interlocked arms. Jessie and Nichelle acknowledged each of us with a hug and a heartfelt thank you. And let me tell you, these girls don’t give you the soft, one armed hug. They hug you and they meant it.

strongcamp everything

When I was driving home, I reflected on my weekend. Not only was I inspired by EVERY woman I met there, but I was happier than I had been in years. I knew that I was right where I was meant to be that weekend. Surrounded by STRONG, supportive women who were just like me. But I was also left with a sense of “when will be my STRONG moment”. I had been battling a few “messes” (see that post here) and it was time to be STRONG and get my life back. I made the choice to be STRONG and face my fears and start living again.

I can’t thank Jessie, Nichelle, Kirstyn (editor in chief of STRONG Fitness Magazine) and Paul Buceta for putting together STRONGCAMP. It is an incredible experience where women can come together without competition to be their fit, fun, silly, emotional, cackling (**inside joke**), amazing selves. THANK YOU!