Elise Bernier’s Girl Squad Fitness program could be the answer to the cries of not-quite-high-school-aged girls looking to grow their self-esteem, connect with peers and get moving — all without the pressure of a team jersey or a coach’s shrill whistle.
Girl Squad Fitness began, Bernier told PB Monthly, with research that revealed there aren’t many well-being programs for pre-teen girls.
“I was good at sports (growing up), and I also had huge confidence issues,” Bernier shared, “but I did well. So I can’t even imagine what’s going through a girl’s head who feels like ‘I’m not athletic, I can’t do this.’ I want her to know, that’s not true. She can do these sporty things. She can be fit. And, furthermore, all of us need these things (physical activity) in order to lead a healthy lifestyle as an adult.”
Two expired teaching credentials, 10 years of substitute teaching—mostly with special needs children, an extensive history of growing up playing soccer and basketball, and later college lacrosse, along with being a head coach for a youth and high school lacrosse program in Point Loma were more than enough to prepare her to take on her new vision. So after taking an online business course, Bernier moved full-steam ahead to start Girl Squad Fitness.
She began by approaching parents on the street to make sure her idea for a program to bolster girls’ self-confidence and physical health (without having to bounce a ball or jump a hurdle) was something they’d be interested in. The response was a resounding “yes!”
Girl Squad Fitness sessions take place 10-11:15 a.m. Saturdays at Kate Sessions Park, 5115 Soledad Road.
The first two sessions are free. Single drop-in sessions are $18 and four Saturday sessions are $64. Online registration is month-to-month with no sign-up fees. If there’s a timing conflict, the program allows the participant to reschedule.
Bernier incorporates a variety of equipment and activity to get everyone’s blood pumping — from walking around the park to using weights, balance pods and large, bouncy exercise balls. But there’s a catch: expressing “positivity” is a crucial addition to the physical exercise.
The program blends reflective exercises with body movement to help participants focus on the good things in life. For example, one girl can’t throw the weighted ball to the next girl until she’s made an optimistic statement. And to cool off after all the jumping and running around, the girls gather to make a “Spark Joy” chart that pushes them to recall the positive things in their day-to-day lives.
“I’ve had so many women say to me, ‘Wow, I wish I had something like this when I was growing up,’ ” Bernier said.
The Girl Squad Fitness motto is: Connect. Accept. Respect. “And have fun!” Bernier added, all of which are the standards the girls must hold themselves to.
In a letter to Bernier, Girl Squad Fitness participant Bethany Henderson wrote: “People are always tearing themselves down, and this program gave us a chance to build ourselves up ... My friend and I decided we would go together to see what it was like. We loved it. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve only missed one (session) due to volleyball.”
On Sunday, June 30, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Bernier will host a free Girl Squad Fitness camp for girls entering grades 6-9 at the Road Runner Sports store in Kearny Mesa, 5553 Copley Drive. The event provides an opportunity to checkout the program while participating in a morning of movement and good vibes to get going.
“Every girl deserves to feel confident in her own skin, proud of who she is, and feel included and connected with her peers,” Bernier insisted. She said though Girl Squad Fitness is presently targeting youth in Pacific Beach, La Jolla and Bird Rock, she hopes to expand into other communities and begin after-school programs in the fall.
Questions? Visit girlsquadfitness.com or contact Elise Bernier firstname.lastname@example.org