After Katie McCallum ’25 came across a TikTok video of Girl Gains in February, she began looking into how she could start a women’s weightlifting club on Brown’s campus. McCallum successfully formed the Girl Gains Lifting Club at Brown last semester, and the group has been active since.
Girl Gains aims to empower women at Brown, whether “you’re a dedicated gym goer or you’re looking for some guidance to jumpstart your fitness journey,” according to an Instagram post from the group.
The group falls under the national Girl Gains organization, founded in 2020 at San Diego State University, which aims “to promote female weight lifting and empower women to feel strong and beautiful in a judgment-free community,” according to the organization’s website.
For Angelina Schorr ’24, vice president and marketing director of Girl Gains, the group’s main objective is to “break down … ‘gymtimidation,’” explaining that many women don’t feel confident going to the gym because there is a lack of female presence.
“Going to the gym as a woman is so scary and intimidating,” McCallum said. “You feel like you want to be smaller and not take up as much space.”
Girl Gains has made it possible for women to be able to “go to the gym and almost always see another woman (they) know there,” said Kennedy Compton ’24, the group’s marketing director.
In its first semester, Girl Gains hosted gym training sessions and events aimed at informing students about a variety of topics, including Olympic weightlifting and bodybuilding, according to McCallum.
For one informational session, Girl Gains invited Dan Wenikoff, owner and sports nutritionist at Champion Athletes, to speak with the group. He led a discussion about the importance of nutrition and “fueling your body” with members, according to the group’s Instagram. The club has also partnered with other organizations on campus such as the Women’s Health Advocacy Group, where they discussed proper form and the benefits of weightlifting, Schorr said.
Both Schorr and Compton said that their favorite event last semester was the free, professional session in functional training provided to group members by F45 Training.
For Schorr, who was a varsity athlete throughout high school, coming to Brown without such a built-in community was scary, but Girl Gains has allowed her to find a close group on campus. “I’ve met some of my closest friends on the (group’s) e-board,” she said.
The group also implemented a buddy-pairing system further to further build community among its participants, McCallum said. Within this buddy system, a group member with more gym-going experience is paired with a workout buddy with less experience.
“I’m beyond thankful for (Schorr’s) support and lifting suggestions,” said Alana Friedlander ’26, a member of the group and Schorr’s assigned workout buddy. Friedlander added that she has “found an incredibly supportive and inclusive community at Girl Gains.”
For Friedlander, the group is particularly unique because it strives to build confidence for women in the weight room, which has traditionally deterred women due to a lack of female presence. “Girl Gains helps address this issue by creating an empowering community that helps women feel safe and comfortable in a traditionally male space,” she said.
The group is also hoping to secure “women-only time” at the Nelson Fitness Center, McCallum said, adding that this program would ideally have the Nelson open one hour earlier every week exclusively so women have the chance to workout without intimidation or discomfort.
McCallum said that hosting a women-only hour at the gym is important because seeing only other women at the gym can be empowering.
About 20 people showed up at Girl Gains’ first meeting, but the club’s membership has since grown to over 120 members, McCallum said. Support for the club is coming not only from the current student body but also from University alumni who have reached out to the club’s Instagram page.
“This club has become more than I could have ever imagined in such a short time,” she said.