‘Muscles, Strength and Smiles’: Local Gym Celebrates Women with Empowering Photo Shoot

by | Sep 2019

A woman holds a barbell in a photo shoot for BearFitness about empowering women.

Photo: Tamika Garscia

BearFitness honors women of all shapes and sizes.

When it comes to working out, people are often more focused on how their fitness routine will make them look, not how it will make them feel. For those who are critical of their bodies, separating worth from looks can be challenging. White Bear Lake’s BearFitness is looking to change that.

BearFitness trainer Jessica Stopera came up with the idea to put together a photo shoot celebrating women and their bodies. When Stopera approached BearFitness owner Jacob Wandersee, he saw it as an excellent opportunity to help their members feel good about themselves.

“The inspiration behind the photoshoot was … to showcase all our strong women,” Stopera says. “We have women who are moms, dog moms, grandmas … and who are role models to their nieces and nephews. Our women fulfill multiple roles every day of their lives. I wanted them to have one day where they could get dressed up in whatever made them feel confident, sexy and strong and take their pictures working out, doing something that brings them such joy.”

The photo shoot depicted the women wearing clothing of their choosing. The only criteria? They had to feel great in it.

“I originally wanted to highlight all the moms for Mother’s Day, and then I realized I had a client who had lost a child and thought, we are going to do all women,” Stopera says. “I wanted to showcase [women’s] strength and vulnerability, and show them what I see every day coaching—muscles, strength and smiles! It was pretty spectacular, and I will never forget it!”

BearFitness’s motivation has always been to make everyone who comes in feel good and feel welcome, Stopera says. “Our approach … is developing strength and confidence in our women. Everyone who walks through those doors knows they belong.” Their concept of fitness goes beyond just appearing physically fit. “We are all there to get a killer workout in, hit some goals and go home feeling better than when we showed up!” Stopera says.

White Bear Lake resident Elizabeth Starkman has met her gym soul mate.

“I have been working out at BearFitness since July 11, 2017,” she says. “I know the date because it was life changing for me. I had seen BearFitness on social media but was never brave enough to just show up. I worked up the gumption to talk to [Stopera] at MarketFest, showed up for a class on a Saturday and the rest is history.”

Starkman says the photo shoot also opened a new door for her. “There is something about documenting my journey that both scares the heck out of me and invigorates me,” she says. “Being vulnerable with my body has never been my strongest suit. Being able to be both brave and strong and documenting that was a true gift that the owners of BearFitness gave us with these photos.”

Starkman says BearFitness is known for their CrossFit workouts, but she decided to delve into her fitness journey in a different way. “I hadn’t worked out for two years, and I was intimidated by CrossFit.” Instead, Starkman began with BearFitness’ SWEAT HIIT [high intensity interval training] program.

“It’s grueling, inspiring, competitive, emotional and completely restorative,” says Starkman. She recommends SWEAT HIIT for anyone starting out on their path to fitness, at any age and any level of athletic ability.

1873 Buerkle Road
Facebook: Bear Fitness
Instagram: @bearfitnessmn
Twitter: @BearFitnessMN


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