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Lifting Spirits: Girl Gains Builds Community and Body Positivity

Group of girls pose together at the gym
Girl Gains had a blast with a kickboxing class at UFC Point Loma

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From mariachi to trivia, there are hundreds of organizations students can get involved with at UC San Diego. In this ongoing series we’ll shine a light on a few of them. See who’s in the spotlight this time.

Though lifting is in the name, you don’t have to be a pro in the weight room to join Girl Gains Lifting Club. Maybe you’ve never lifted before, but you want to give it a shot. Perhaps going to the gym alone intimidates you, even though you’d like to dive deeper into your fitness journey. Girl Gains, a women’s weightlifting club, may be the perfect place for you. 

“People often get scared off by our name and the fact that we’re a lifting club,” said fourth-year Charleen Pua, the president of the UC San Diego chapter of Girl Gains. “It’s this common misconception that everyone in the club is super advanced in the gym; sometimes people think we do personal training. Really, most of our members are intermediate or beginner-level lifters—we always get to learn from each other.”

girls posing at the gym
Girl Gains family takes on rock climbing @ the UCSD Outback Climbing Center

The growth of Girl Gains

Girl Gains was founded at San Diego State University in 2020 to promote female weightlifting and empower women inside and outside of the weight room. Aiming to promote body positivity and help build comfort in the gym, Girl Gains is centered around building a tight-knit community that provides a safe space for its members to explore the fitness realm.

By 2021, Girl Gains had made its way to UC San Diego; Pua joined the campus chapter during her second year on campus. She explained that building a fitness community of strong, passionate women was particularly valuable during the pandemic.

“Returning to the gym post-COVID was intimidating, especially for those of us who really got interested in fitness during the pandemic,” Pua shared, mentioning that bringing Girl Gains to campus in 2021 was an invaluable learning opportunity for how to create a warm, welcoming and insightful community. “I thought it seemed like a great opportunity to make friends and help other women get into the gym.” 

Girls pose in front of the sunset
Girl Gains visits Glider Port

Girl Gains hosts biweekly meetings and weightlifting sessions every other Saturday at RIMAC. The organization also hosts “intro to the gym” events at RIMAC every quarter, as well as free off-campus events ranging from cardio to Soul Cycle classes and non-fitness-focused social events ranging from tote bag making to sunset chasing.

Last spring, Pua organized a kickboxing event for Girl Gains with UFC FIT Point Loma. Most of the members had little to no experience with kickboxing; however, Pua looked back on the memory fondly. The group class was so incredible, she said, adding that “it was beautiful to see everyone laughing and learning together.”

Can’t weight to hit the gym?

Girl Gains meetings are open to anyone—no application required. Interested members can simply show up to a meeting or chat with a board member at any time throughout the quarter, and the team will happily welcome you into the community. All events are posted on the Girl Gains Instagram page and shared in a newsletter to which anyone can subscribe.

So, why give Girl Gains and the gym a go? You’ll find a community that will lift you up. 

“Girl Gains is based on genuine interest and passion rather than academic or professional development,” Pua said. “We have such a great community that leads people to become genuine close friends outside of the organization; at the end of the day, we weight lift, workout, study and hang out together because it’s so, so much fun.”

“Girl Gains is based on genuine interest and passion rather than academic or professional development. At the end of the day, we weight lift, workout, study and hang out together because it’s so, so much fun.”
Charleen Pua

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