You won’t find any “No Girls Allowed” signs at Viking Performance Training. You won’t find any “Ages 18 and Up” postings either. In fact, you’ll find just the opposite. In an effort to bring strength training to all populations, Viking’s team of trainers and volunteers hosted two stereotype-ending competitions in the month of March: Strong Kids III and the Maidens of Might Strong Woman Challenge.

Strong Kids III welcomed children and youth to the gym to practice modified, traditional strongman challenges. Competitors were divided into two age groups, 11 and under, and 12 and older, and both groups had a chance to experiment with distance carries, weighted sleds, and stone lifts, which were all modified to be kid friendly. Over twenty kids competed, and the gym was packed with competitors, cheering parents, and trainers.

Many parents supported the event because of the physical and mental benefits of weightlifting sports. “I have two daughters here,” shares parent Liz Vitullo, “and it’s important for young girls to experience what it means to be strong. This is the second time they’ve come to this style of event, and they’ve grown and shown improvement. It’s a great foundation, not just from a physical standpoint, but a mental one too. The look of persistence on my girls faces as they work through lifting these heavy weights is incredible.”

Madison and Cameron Bailey, ages 13 and 15, competed with the 12 and older category. “I run track” explains Madison, “I think this will help build muscle because you need a lot of that for track.” Cameron had spent time at Viking in the summer working with the trainers. “My favorite event is lifting the heavier weights” said Cameron. “It’s a hard but fun thing to do.”

Competitors at the Maidens of Might competition also shared how strength training was, for them, a transformative experience with its own set of mental and physical health benefits. Sarah Beselka’s friends introduced her to  Strong Woman events, and for her, these events helped redefine the cultural conversation about body image. “There’s a really cool movement where the focus is not on what women look like, or what their bodies look like, but what their bodies can do. More and more women are focusing on that, finding courage and bravery in what their bodies can do instead of what they look like.”

Ariel Buric was most excited about the truck-pull, car-pull, which involved contestants using tow straps to move cars in neutral gear. “There’s the occasional ‘aren’t you worried you’re not going to be able to have kids’ [a myth often associated with women’s strength training], but I just tell them I’ll get more cats.” jokes Ariel. She goes on to describe how her friends, parents, and peers have been extremely supportive of her training.

The attempts to build an all-inclusive strength training community at Viking Performance Training have produced a growth in community and a growth in business. The gym recently expanded, nearly quadrupling in size, in its business complex off of Greenbag Road. In coming months, the gym is continuing to host women’s open house gatherings, and plans are in the works for Strong Kids IV this June. For more information, you can visit Viking’s website, or find them on Facebook or Instagram.

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