When Ailis Garcia returned home from her first year of college at the University of Southern California, she brought home an unwelcome companion — the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. “Going away to college is a big lifestyle change,” she said. “While I succeeded in class and socially, I didn’t have the tools to guide me and help me be my best personally. After freshman year, I knew I had to make a change as I had lost confidence in myself and didn’t like the way that I looked.”
As luck would have it, the housing for her sophomore year was next door to the college gym. She knew she was ready to make a change. “It was extremely intimidating going to a gym that was packed with frat guys,” she said. “I had no idea how to workout, lift weights or use the machines.” So, Ailis started researching and was overwhelmed with a lot of conflicting information. “I quickly realized that mainstream fitness information and resources available to girls my age were fragmented, confusing, misleading and almost non-existent,” she stated. “Surprisingly, I gained more fitness and nutrition knowledge by reading all of my brother’s fitness magazines and researching the science behind exercise and nutrition.”
As she dove into studying fitness and nutrition, she also became more comfortable in the college gym. She soon realized she was one of the very few women who even entered the weight room. “The more time I spent at the USC gym, the more I observed girls spending hours on end in the cardio room and then heading straight to Jamba Juice or Yogurtland for their post-workout meal,” she said. When she asked other women about it, she realized they were basing their workouts on bad information. “They believed that lifting weights and training like a guy would ‘bulk them up’ and ‘get them big,’ which is why they stuck to the cardio machines and followed the latest trends about how women should exercise, workout and eat, such as cardio and juice cleanses.”
Ailis has found that strength building workouts and eating healthy are rewarding. “I have more confidence in both my mind and my body,” she said. “I have more energy, and there are definite improvements to my cognition and clarity. Best of all, it’s fueled my determination and goal setting — both in and outside the gym.” People noticed, too, and it wasn’t long before her friends began asking for her advice.
It was here that the seeds of The Strong Movement™ were sown. “I realized that I was blessed with the ability to motivate and inspire others,” she said. “I knew I had to find a way to share information and inspiration to live our best lives and achieve our dreams—fitness, personal and professional.” So she founded The Strong Movement™ to inspire and empower women to become their best selves. She also created a fitness and wellness resource for young women, The Strong Movement™ Strong Girl Guides.
After she graduated from USC, she kept studying fitness and nutrition, earning Personal Training and Fitness Nutrition Specialist Certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and she’s just completed her Masters of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked with over 5,000 women and has visited over 25 different college campuses and sororities to speak about The Strong Movement™ and lead workshops and workouts.
Her parting advice to women who want to be stronger? “Find that little bit of courage inside of you, and remember you get stronger when you go,” she said. “Do what works for you and your lifestyle. Write your goals out, and put them on your calendar to help guide you. Find an accountability partner to keep you on track. But most of all, practice self-compassion.”
Thanks for being such an inspiration and leader, Ailis!
League is the leading collegiate lifestyle brand, and we love celebrating leaders in the collegiate space. For more information about The Strong Movement™ and the Strong Girl Guides, visit the website and start getting stronger!