Outdoors are for everyone. All shapes, sizes, genders, races, sexual identities, ages, abilities. All bodies are good bodies, and all are welcome here. This hasn’t always been the case in outdoor recreation, but we have the power to change that.
Mental health matters. Strong bodies and minds are built with living room workouts, used in the mountains, and practiced in daily lives. Mental health-informed fitness supports healing through titrated challenges, shifting our relationships with our bodies, & gradually increasing our capacity to do hard things without overriding our nervous systems’ cues.
Strength is the key. Functional strength helps us play in the mountains without injury, and have more fun doing it. And you don’t have to give up your other priorities -- or do a workout program perfectly -- to get strong. True embodied strength allows us to listen to our bodies & ebb & flow with life, giving our bodies what they need (sometimes it’s a chocolate bar or an extra hour of sleep!) without guilt or shame.
I help outdoorsy women build mind & body strength so they're resilient when times are tough, and have as much fun as possible when things go right.
Hey, I’m Sarah. I'm a down-to-earth Alaskan girl, with lots of diverse interests and more I want to get into each day than I usually have hours for. I'm a mental health-informed adventure fitness trainer, helping outdoorsy women build strong minds & bodies without the pressures of workout perfectionism, body-shame, or adventure comparisonitis.
Over the last decade, I’ve built a body of work that pulls together fitness, mental health, and outdoor recreation. These three areas have always supported each other in my own life, and since I've taken my work online I’ve been able to share these intersections with clients from small-town Alaska, to Antarctica, and countless places in-between.
I teach (and practice myself-- it's a journey!) a process for unlearning the lessons of adventure/fitness bro culture, because tuning into our bodies instead of overriding them is more sustainable, mentally healthy, and also way more fun -- and those are also the goals of the active, passionate women I work with.
My clients want to enjoy their workouts & their time outside, without feeling like they’re failing or falling short. And they want strong minds and bodies so they can keep up with their friends, handle stressful situations in life & the mountains, and have as much fun as possible.
I’m a personal trainer, mental health counselor, and adventure athlete. Learning is one of my favorite pastimes, as you can tell by this always-expanding list! My formal education includes the following:
The lineage of my work traces back through these teachers as well:
Fitness & Movement
Family & Culture
What does this mean for you?
You’re in good hands! I’ve been studying bodies, minds, movement, and healing for over a decade and find that my most effective work blends techniques from all of these methodologies. Outdoor adventures and healing demand complex solutions that incorporate pieces from all of the above!
In 2014 a series of events started off that shaped my future and led to the creation of Ski Babes & Summer Strong. I was on the heels of a bad breakup with a man I thought I was going to spend my life with, and my sense of self was in pieces. I moved out of Skagway, AK (pop 800) to Valdez, AK (pop 4000) to get some space, begin the healing process, and rebuild my identity. The move to Valdez was spurred by the offer of a great job running the one gym in town, and I jumped right in.
At the same time, I was working on my master’s degree in Social Work -- thank goodness for distance learning! The final requirement of that degree was a 500 hour practicum, which I began at Providence Valdez Counseling Center. And here’s where the first magic connection occurred.
I’d be working with Personal Training clients on their fitness, and dig just a bit below the surface where I’d find tears, shame, self-doubt, and trauma… and I thought, “you could come be a client of mine for counseling!” And then I’d head over to my practicum and see clients for counseling sessions, where I was learning that exercise was as effective for depression as medication for most people, and I’d think “you should come move with me at the gym!”
The second moment of synergy happened after I started teaching the Tabata Bootcamp program at the gym in Valdez. I taught my first group as a beta in the summer of 2014, and then launched into a full Tabata Bootcamp group in the fall of 2014. The last few winters before that I’d been trying to learn how to backcountry ski, and it had been a long, slow process.
But in the winter of 2014/15 things started to click for me, and I saw something similar happening with the other people in my Tabata Bootcamp group. We were having an amazing winter season! We were strong, breaking trail, handling crappy conditions, having great energy and momentum. And I had an aha moment, connecting that the moves we were practicing in the gym were directly supporting our outdoor time AND our increased mood and energy that winter.
The final touch came that spring when I competed in the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Ski Classic. This event was one I’d heard about my whole life, but always assumed was for those hard-core adventure athletes. When on a whim my brother and I decided to team up and try it, I had to use all the mental health strategies I’d been learning to overcome my self-doubt, fear, and imposter syndrome. When we completed the course, my mind was blown. And when the following year we finished first, I realized that the invisible barriers I had understood about what I was capable of were not based in reality. I was capable of much more. And if I was, I knew lots of other women were too.
With that, things started clicking into place. I knew that the gym workouts were incredibly impactful for outdoor recreation, and that lots of people around Alaska -- and outside of Alaska-- could benefit from them. And I recognized that the mental health strategies that I was learning and putting into place in the workouts and in my outdoor time were transferable to tons of different situations, from the ski slope to the board meeting and beyond. I began the process of learning how to build a business, put together a holistic fitness program together, and put it all online.
And so, in 2017, SMH Training was born! With a mission to help people of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, genders, & abilities break through the real and self-imposed barriers in outdoor recreation, we’ve been able to bring mental health informed fitness and anti-bro culture to the outdoor rec world. In the years since, over 1,000 people have been through Ski Babes and Summer Strong, and participants have ranged from rural Alaskan villages with no road access, to Antarctica, and many places in-between.
And we’d love for you to join us!
And if you’re finding this during the shoulder season, or want to start with something less season-focused, you can start Balance Training anytime.
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