We love featuring our everyday GORGOgirls that are inspiring us to crush life and a balanced approach to fitness.
Meet Leah Brouwers.
Tell us about your fitness life, Leah!
My fitness life seems to have two distinct phases.
Phase 1: I only have memories of being active; dabbling in every sport I could and enjoying both team and individual sports… Baseball, basketball, volleyball, snowboarding, and everything outdoors. I didn’t find my main squeeze in sport until I was about 15 years old. My brother Mark handed me a bag of rocks for my birthday and said he was taking me rock climbing…unbeknownst to him or me, this was the beginning of the rest of my life. I would find my deep passion for outdoor play, my absolute love and partner in life (Aaron), and a part of myself that I hadn’t met yet. Rock climbing became a significant focus in my mid-to-late teens. Reflecting back, I am very grateful for this outlet during those tough adolescent years. Fast forward almost 20 years: this incredible sport has introduced me to life-long friendships (especially my hubby), incredible places worldwide, and pushed my mind and body to limits I didn’t know it could go. Rock climbing took a backseat in early 2015 when I became pregnant with my first son, Elijah. My pregnancies were tough and physical activity was unfortunately not an option. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Being pregnant was a grind and consisted of weekly migraines. I had never felt worse. After Elijah was born, I was struggling to start the re-stitch process of post-partum recovery. My body didn’t seem to be in the same place it had been for the last 30 years and I was scared; I didn’t know whose body this was. I remember being down in my basement amongst our climbing training equipment - attempting to do a pull-up, which is somewhat of a minimum standard in the climbing community - and failing! There was no pull and no core; nothing clicked together as I was expecting. I cried in Aaron’s arms that day; sad and scared of the next 30 years and the unknowns of the future. I felt like a part of me was gone, and I wasn’t sure I’d get it back.
Enter Phase 2 - Sisters-In-Shape and Erica Willick: I stumbled on Erica’s account (SiS) when floating around Instagram. I had never really lifted and at the time she was preparing for a UFE World Pro Bikini Fitness Championship after baby #2 (she won by the way, for the third time). The words that came to mind after scrolling through her feed was ‘she is LEGIT’. After reading the SiS webpage, I decided to take the leap into lifting weights and gym workouts and more traditional gym workouts, a world I’d never participated in and quite frankly, had inaccurate and ignorant opinions of. I have to admit, I used to think, ‘Why would I work-out in a gym when I can go climbing, or do another form of exercise outside?’ It didn’t take long to quickly change my tune; I get it now. Learning to lift and having a personal trainer for guidance and support changed my life; I re-stitched my body and found yet another side of myself - a side that feels more ‘me’ now than ever. I am in the best shape of my life, I’m more balanced in my physique, and the strongest I’ve ever been.
Life can begin after babies!
If you asked me the same question today regarding lifting, and traditional gym-style workouts my response would now be:
I need to. My mind loves it and my body does too.
I lift so that I can continue to do everything else I love in sport and in my everyday life – and I’ll do it for the rest of my life.
Phase three has recently begun– where climbing and lifting meet – it’s unnerving considering it has been 3 years since I’ve climbed. I’m motivated, I know in my bones I’m not finished with it yet, I’ve got big expectations and I’m more excited for the next 30 years now more than ever.
Tell us about your non-fitness life!
I am part of an awesome family of four. I have 2 beautiful boys Elijah who is 3 and Asher who is just over 1 years’ old. My husband Aaron and I have been married for almost 9 years and I’m grateful for the privilege of marrying my best friend. We met when I was 16 at the local climbing gym and the rest is history. We live in Southern Ontario, Canada, just outside of Toronto. I am a Managing Partner and Financial Planner in a family owned wealth management company. Alongside my father and our incredible team, we help our clients retire predictably and establish real and attainable financial goals. I want to make a difference in the life of every person who walks through our office doors; and I’m so fortunate to say I love what I do.
What do you love about GORGO?
This was my first trip to Camp GORGO but will not be my last. After my second son I was chomping at the bit to attend Camp GORGO 2018. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I didn’t have a lot of experience in the fitness world but set my intentions to learn, take a deep breath from a few challenging years, and make new connections. Aside from the obvious high-quality informative sessions, like-minded supportive women all around, and GORGO games (FUN); I thought I’d touch on the subtleties that you can only feel when you are physically present. First off, the air is thick (like cut it with a knife thick) with kindness; this is a rarity in a room filled with women. Secondly – the diverse versions of strength and I’m not talking physically. Let me explain: strength to me is defined by your character, not under the bar or how many pull-ups you can do. One woman was affectionately giving free hugs; where another was gracious and a good listener to someone who needed an ear; the next was raw and open in expressing her personal life story in hopes of encouraging others to keep pressing forward. Memorable inner strength. Lastly – the expectation of a hard self-look, a direct challenge for me to up-level. When you are part of a movement, a gathering of compassionate, direct yet gentle, all-kinds-of-strength women equipping one another in more ways than technique under the bar, you accept the challenge and choose to leverage on this opportunity for permanent personal growth. I can’t wait go back and re-connect with the amazing women that collectively make Camp Gorgo!
Any fun facts? Pets? Travels? Hobbies? Silly stuff?
I love to cook. I’d consider myself a foodie – always searching for another new recipe to try or one my hubby sends me. I want to master making croissants…perhaps a trip to Paris would help... I have a whole laundry list of places yet to visit – both family and climbing destinations. I love to travel and am thankful my hubby does too.
I laugh a lot, often when I shouldn’t; never at the expense of someone else (lame). I just have the most useless poker face on the planet. My partner in crime (Andrea) and I often laugh off the pain at the gym, I swear we reach our personal bests this way. I love 90’s hip hop and R&B. Always will. #cantstopwontstop.
Anything else you want to say?
Everything gets better with time and proper self-reflection. Good things take patience and work. There are no quick fixes, and you are going to mess things up; learn, forgive, improve, and move on. And then repeat. Through my post-partum journey of re-stitching my body, it included re-stitching my mind, too. The end result was not what I expected, I’m a new/old me. I’ve learned that keeping an open mind and always forgiving yourself and others along the way is paramount to figuring out who you are and who you want to be. I’ve learned to ‘lean-in’ and ‘lean-on’ - BOTH. I’m not good at reaching out for help and guidance, I have a stubbornness about me that is both a help and hindrance. Learning to find the balance will be my challenge but I’ve learned that the ‘lean on’ is a requirement for personal growth (my cherished lean-on’s in alpha order - Aaron, Andrea, Christianna, Dad, Kel, LB, Meghan, Mom, Monica - xo). We all have crosses to bear, everyone is in the everyday hustle; don’t judge, be kind instead.
What was your favorite part of camp GORGO?
I was given a last-minute opportunity to participate in the SiS photoshoot! (Thanks Val). At the end of the shoot (which was incredibly fun, but also challenging as cameras and bright clothing are a step out of my comfort zone – Ha). Val graciously asked, ‘Does anyone have a picture they’d like specifically taken?’ I asked for a shot of me doing a pull-up. Andrea quietly encouraged me and was sure to take my phone and capture from afar. This simple picture captured a 3 ½ year journey back to ‘fit’. It was my quiet personal intro back, back to feeling more in control, more comfortable in my new/old self - ready and willing to meet the next 30 years with open arms, love and of course a little grit.
Another favorite part? Perhaps the surprise Birthday pie-in-the-face… quite the initiation to Camp Gorgo Day 1…lots of laughs!