There have been a lot of conversations, news coverage and inspiring demonstrations that prove that women are a strong force to be reckoned with. Heidi Jones, Founder of Squad WOD, has known that for a long time. She went from being a running fanatic, to a CrossFit enthusiast and instructor, to the founder of the Squad WOD fitness group. Squad WOD is a women-only training crew that raises money for charity organizations that rotate monthly, all created in an effort to empower women through sport.
WHAT LED YOU TO CREATE SQUAD WOD?
I used to go into CrossFit NYC on Sundays and workout by myself. Many of my girlfriends would ask if they could train with me, which always resulted in a resounding ‘YES!’ from me. The small group of girlfriends turned into an informal class that we dubbed, ‘Girls Gone Rx,’ through a private Facebook page. I realized that this ‘informal’ class/workout was so different from the mixed gender classes at the CrossFit gym.
There were more high fives and A LOT MORE loud cheers for each other. We were girls being girls without, what I believe, is a subconscious tempering of expression when males are around. The private Facebook page became a forum for support, recipes, funny memes and a place for general camaraderie. Since this experience, I have been searching for the right time to build what I didn’t know at the time, would be eventually be called, Squad WOD.
HOW HAS THE GROUP EVOLVED SINCE IT BEGAN?
The first event was a literal word of mouth through my friends in CrossFit. Around 30 women showed up to my 1st event at Solace New York. Since then, current Squad mates bring new friends and the group has continued to grow organically in this way. The resounding comment regarding the group is that it “is needed.”
There has been much discussion about the last year in our country in what many New York women believe has been a tough year to be a woman. The opinion regarding the above centers around the political climate, and the, at times, negative rhetoric about women.
HOW CAN WE ALL GET INVOLVED, EVEN NOT IN NEW YORK?
Getting involved is so very easy. I am a believer that human beings innately have a desire to help others. It’s as simple as finding an organization that services a group that you are passionate about, such as the homeless, shelter animals, or the poor.
Then, gather a group of friends to participate in a walk, run or a workout to raise money for the chosen charity. There is something special that happens when you do something for others. […] Once you have a small group involved, a domino effect is created, as so many will be moved to recruit other friends and family. Before you know it, you will have a caring, involved group who wants to continue to further impact by giving back.
WHAT CAN WOMEN EXPECT FROM YOUR SESSIONS?
I think on the most basic level, women can expect to walk into an incredibly supportive and very positive environment. My aim is to create a setting that makes the women feel as if they have been there before. And this has nothing to do with the aesthetics, as we are at different gyms each month. I want the women to know they are about to see old friends again and make new ones each month.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR CHARITY PARTNERS?
Many of the charities I choose are organizations who serve to support and lift women up. I am drawn to smaller, local charities who do not receive national attention or funding. I want to help the ‘little guys’ who already do the incredible work in local communities to support women.
For example, I chose Girls On The Run for one of my events. This group uses running to inspire young girls in Harlem to work through conflicting messages about their worth, abilities and their value. They help the girls build confidence through accomplishment and encourage lifelong health and fitness.
However, I am not partial to just women’s charities. I, like many of my friends in New York, was so moved by the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando earlier in the year, that I chose Equality Florida as one of my recipients for a Squad WOD.
WHY IS VOLUNTEERING IMPORTANT?
Volunteering is crucial to so many organizations because it is the reason they are able to do their good work. There is often a large gap between a community’s resources and those provided by a government. Without volunteers, many charities would not be able to sustain the good work that they do to make individuals in communities better.
HOW DOES FITNESS HELP WOMEN FEEL (AND BE!) EMPOWERED?
The narrative in our brain is an incredibly hard one to break. Meaning, the mind can have an unhealthy predisposition to tell us the things we ‘can’t’ do. But, this narrative is usually based on literally nothing, but fear. We, as women, usually need to ‘show’ ourselves what is possible before our mind will then adapt it as a possibility, much less a fact.
MANY PEOPLE VOLUNTEER AS A HOBBY. HOW DO YO MAKE IT PART OF YOUR BUSINESS?
My passion is literally helping people. I know that many people say this and quite possibly the saturation of the phrase has watered it down a bit. But, if you truly know me, you know that my ethos is programmed to nurture and help others.
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
The literal best part about my job is being able to see that moment when a client or gym member accomplishes something that they thought was once unobtainable.
I know that this is the moment. It’s the moment when life changes. It’s the moment when they start to believe in themselves in a way that hasn’t existed before. To me, it’s when life really begins and they are now no longer held back by fear.
AND THE TOUGHEST?
The toughest part about my job is trying to convince my clients about the immense possibilities that I see in them. I realize that for some/many, it will take that tangible evidence in order for them to become believers, which is okay. I have an immense amount of patience and support. I live for those ‘a-ha’ moments when they become believers in themselves.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE LOOKING FOR A CAREER IN FITNESS?
My advice is to pursue what you believe you are called for in life. If you want to be in fitness, start getting the accreditation and certifications that are required for your segment of interest. Take any job that puts you in a position to work with clients/athletes. Don’t focus on the big gym or the powerhouse studio. Start small. Make your mistakes. Work hard and watch as you rise.
The percentage of people who are willing to put in the immense work it takes to get to the top, is sadly small. However, that’s a great thing for those who want to work hard and be the best. Because if you want to truly change people’s lives and you are willing to work at it, the sky’s the limit.