This Fitness Program and Its Founder Believe 'Fit Is A Feeling, Not An Image'
You guys. YOU GUYS. I am BEYOND pumped about today's post. Like, put-down-the-glass-of-wine, pause-that-episode-of-The-Mindy-Project, P-U-M-P-ed.
Because today? TODAY? You're going to hear about PGB.
Why am I so pumped about PGB? Because PGB stands for Pink Gloves Boxing, the exercise (that's more than just an exercise) that's changing the game.
PGB is a women's boxing program (where you wear pink gloves, of course). But it is so much more than that.
You see, PGB champions confidence over conforming, self-esteem over over-styled selfies, compassion over competition. In short, it's an international women's empowerment movement.
I mean, their tagline is "It's not exercise, it's empowerment." C'mon. Does it even get any better than that??? No. No it does not.
And, for a delightfully encouraging twist, the person behind it all is awesome and A DUDE. Garret Garrels, the founder of this genius concept, is one of the most enlightened individuals I've come across in my day. In addition to founding this amazingness, he's also a writer, speaker, author, and is using a global art project to cultivate real, authentic personal connection.
He also views exercise as a way to change our FEELINGS first, our internal (self) image, if you will. Which is just freaking brilliant because what many of the world's crash-dieting, quick-fix-finding, plastic-surgery-addicted population seems to miss is that: It really IS what's on the inside that counts. Meaning, if you don't change how you feel about yourself, you're not going to stick to that diet, you're not going to get the results you want, and no amount of physical-trait rearranging is going to solve that.
As Garret mentioned in a recent article he penned for Women's Running, "Fit Is a Feeling, Not an Image:"
The fitness industry seems to think so. So many fitness companies are advertising that their products will change the way you look. As if your looks need changing. They try to sell you an image. By showing you a picture of a photo-shopped model, they say, “Don’t you wish you looked like this? We can grant your wish.” Even the model wishes she had that body.
[Drops mic. Exits stage left.]
And then he continues on with this:
People walk into the gym and say, “I want to have a beach body.” But that’s not what they really want. That’s only what they think they want. What they really want is the feeling. They want the feeling they think they’ll have in the body they think they want. So I think that if they focus on the image, they may never find the feeling. But if instead they focus on the feeling, and through having fun while they work out—choosing the exercises that make them happy—they may end up in the body they want, or more importantly, they might just find that there is nothing wrong with the body they have.
YES. ALL THE YES.
Alright, now that you've been introduced, I'll shut up and let Garret do the talking. Between his world-wide galavanting opening new PGB locations, speaking, and spreading good vibes through art, he generously took some time to talk to me about how he's become the leader of a women's movement, PGB's rapid global expansion, and how its empowered him along the way.
You're a young guy running a boxing program for women that champions female empowerment. How did that happen?
I learned a lot from my mother. She’s a strong woman; mentally, physically, emotionally. Her influence taught me at an early age that strength has no gender. I’ve never questioned the strength of a woman. And my mom has always been my biggest supporter. She was actually one of the very first Pink Gloves Boxing members. When the initial group started to grow, my mom was in the class when, at the end, we all sat around and discussed what we were going to call ourselves. In theory and practice, my mom was PGB before there was PGB.
Your tagline is "It's not exercise, it's empowerment." What's that about?
PGB is a mental and emotional program within an excessively physical culture—the health and fitness culture. Where other programs promote images of beach bodies, six-pack abs, and thigh gap, our culture reaches beneath the surface. For us, fitness is more than just something you do to improve your physical appearance; it’s a way to improve your emotional state.
Every year, the technology in fitness equipment is getting better and better, while obesity rates (at least in the U.S.) are getting worse and worse. This fancy gym machinery isn’t able to solve the issue because it makes people dependent on the gym; when the equipment’s not there, neither is their workout, and that’s not empowerment, that’s just exercise. In addition to giving people a workout, Pink Gloves teaches people how to workout, it teaches people to have fun with their workout, which we believe is much more than just exercise.
When did you realize you had a big idea in PGB?
In August 2009, I loaded my car with a box of brochures, a vinyl poster, and a borrowed suit. And I drove thirteen hours to give a presentation at a fitness conference. There were only two Pink Gloves clubs at the time, but word was starting to spread and I was asked to give a speech about the concept and share some of our stories. After the presentation one of the audience members came up to me and said, “This program needs to come to Sweden.”
At the time, I could see some of the potential, but I was young and probably a little bit scared too, so I never followed up on that opportunity. It wasn’t until three more years that we started the first club in Sweden.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in building this business/movement?
Starting out, it was hard to explain the concept because there wasn’t anything similar. That’s how it is when you’re doing something new; people want to compare you to something else. We’d have to describe what we weren’t before we had a chance to describe what we are. And it took a long time before people would see us for what we are.
Similar to a bully pushing another kid down to feel good about himself, modern society is constantly pushing the average person down—with photoshopped images and impossible promises—to feel good about its superficial values. The challenge PGB faces as a community is the same challenge people face as individuals: the challenge to be what you are when you’re always being compared to what you’re not.
Why are you so passionate about female empowerment?
It was a passion that found me. When people call me the founder of PGB, I feel like it’s much more accurate to say that PGB found me. As a personal trainer, I was just doing my job—what my clients would hire me to do—which was to help them find individual fulfillment without comparisons, inequalities, or stereotypes. I wanted to create a positive environment where people could feel safe without having to wear a mask. Boxing just happened to be the routine I knew best. The more testimonials we’d receive from our members, the more my passion would grow.
Pink Gloves has empowered me. It’s given me the confidence to be myself, to think for myself, and not to worry about trying to fit into a cultural definition of normal. I’m passionate about helping other people find that same confidence too. What the world needs is for everybody, men and women, to believe in female empowerment.
What is your hope and dream for the future of PGB?
We want to show people that fitness should be fun, that exercise should be something we want to do rather than something we have to do; whether it’s with PGB or not, we hope people choose a routine that brings them happiness while they workout—in the present—and not just for a future goal. We want to continue to help people find their inner strength and beauty: Reveal their Champion. And if the fitness industry ever moves in a more positive direction: more about the feeling and less about the image, we want to be a part of that movement.
If I don't live in an area with a PGB program, how can I get my PGB fix?
If you’re not able to join a club or start a club, until very recently we didn’t have a solution. We will be releasing the PGB Punch System videos this fall. You’ll be able to order our Tier 1 gear (gloves, wraps, mitts, heavy bag…) and develop your boxing form and technique wherever you live. It’s not the same experience as joining a club, but we tried to make the videos as fun and empowering as a video can be.
If I'm a trainer, can I start my own PGB group somewhere?
Absolutely. You would start by either attending a Regional Training Camp or hosting your own PGB Training Camp. Check out our website for more information. If you have specific questions or ideas, please send us a message through the contact page. We’d love to hear from you.