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Spitfire Athlete: Two Strong Women are Changing the Fitness App Game

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Rich Thurman MA, CSCS CPT, ONNIT KB Specialist
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Rich Thurman MA, CSCS CPT, ONNIT KB Specialist

Founder at Xodus Fitness
Rich is Founder of Xodus Fitness in San Francisco California, which provides Personal Training, Yoga and Wellness Programs locally.

Connect with Rich via Social Media or find out more at www.coachrichthurman.com
Rich Thurman MA, CSCS CPT, ONNIT KB Specialist
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Latest posts by Rich Thurman MA, CSCS CPT, ONNIT KB Specialist (see all)

Recently, I invited Erin Parker to guest speak to my Sports Management students at San Francisco State University.

I was so happy when she accepted, because I knew she could provide valuable insight to my students regarding the Fitness industry and Technology as well as her experience as a woman of color in both Fitness and Tech.

ErinandNidhiErin describes herself as “A serial entrepreneur”.

She’s a full stack engineer who graduated from Stanford University, taught herself to code in order to build the first version of her App

She also competes nationally in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. Prior to weightlifting she ran several marathons and won a first to 10,000 push-ups competition.

Her business partner Nidhi is a wizard-class full-stack engineer.

She graduated from MIT with a B.S. in Computer Science and competed in NCAA D1 Rowing MIT. She is currently a Masters rower and competitive weightlifter.

These two ladies may be small in stature, but talk about both incredibly smart and strong.

They embody the change that they seek and are powerful examples for our current and next generation of women.

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How did we meet?

The story of how I met these two strong women Erin and Nidhi, is a typical San Francisco tale of Coffee Shop chronicles. I was sitting at Philz in San Francisco’s SOMA (a bastion of Tech Startup meets Local flavor) when these two ladies asked to share my table. I said sure, no problem.

They began to talk and although I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, their conversation was about Exercise and Fitness, so I asked them were they Personal Trainers.

They told me no, but they were developing an App for Strength Training. My curiosity was peaked so I asked more questions and told them the reason I was asking is because I, myself was a Coach.

I had seen a lot of Apps in this city and been frustrated by the constant Tech Money Grab

The coSpitfire Athletenversation continued on and we decided to meet up again and discuss more.

I had seen a lot of Apps in this city and been frustrated by the constant Tech Money Grab by some of these App developers simply seeking to get between Trainers and Clients in order to capitalize by pinching some of the revenues, but this was different and the mission behind it was intriguing.

This is an App I felt I could get behind because it spoke directly to women and the purpose was to empower women to be strong.

I personally believe it wasn’t just about being strong physically, but also mentally. Erin and Nidhi’s mission brings so many issues to the forefront and addresses so many needs:

  • the need for women to feel comfortable in the gym
  • the need for women to feel comfortable with who they are and how they look
  • the need for women to understand that being strong is ok
  • the need for more women and women of color in Tech

I could go on and on singing the praises of their mission and goal, but I’m sure you get my point.

I had a chance to sit down with Erin and ask her a few questions about herself and her Fitness App which recently raised $17,000 in a recent Kickstarter Campaign to take their App to new heights.

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The Interview

What’s your App called and what prompted you to create a Fitness App designed for Women?
Spitfire Athlete is a fitness app that empowers women to strength train with structured 4-12 week training plans. We created Spitfire because we wanted to teach basic strength training concepts like how to do a linear strength progression. We wanted Spitfire to be an easily accessible resource to women around the world. People use our app from all over the world – from Mexico to Kenya to the Philippines to Qatar.

895c82f887a36cddd10c24f82a80471f_originalHow did you get involved in Weight Lifting?

I was once an avid marathon runner with recurring knee and ankle injuries. I wanted to learn how to squat to get stronger and overcome these injuries. I picked up lifting at the gym and learning new lifts by watching videos.

I could feel myself getting stronger in a short period of time and I really took a liking to this type of training. I ended up liking it so much – the feeling of being strong and badass – that I have since been competing in the sport of olympic weightlifting for the past two years.

How have you seen the presence of females in Weightlifting change since you’ve been involved?
I’ve only seen more and more women take an interest in all forms of strength sports – from crossfit to bodybuilding to powerlifting to olympic weightlifting. Collectively, we’re starting to not listen to old fashioned and outdated advice around women’s training and we’re starting to train for how it makes us feel instead of only for how it can make us look.

What types of other things do you do to promote awareness of Weightlifting to Women?
Outside of our app, we host Women Who Lift meet-ups in San Francisco where we introduce novices to the barbell lifts, and we have an online community where we share articles, advice, and training progress. I always feel like I could be doing more to promote strength training and the sport of weightlifting!

370663998449a98a202d71a9bdf94991_originalWhat are some of the hurdles faced being a Minority and Female in the Tech Industry?
It’s easy for people to dismiss your idea. Don’t let that discourage you. If your idea is any good, it will get dismissed a lot. When people can’t envision themselves solving the problems you’re trying to solve, it’s easier for them to say that “it can’t be done” instead of them admitting that they cannot do it.

In the case of women’s strength training, men in tech who do not lift have a hard time believing that women are into strength training when the reality is that 60% of Crossfitters are women and there are over 23 million women in America alone who strength train twice a week.

People will be wrong about these things, but don’t let it get to you, it’s not worth your time. Just focus on working hard and being so great that soon enough, they can’t ignore you.

We’re building a world where women are half of the weight room.

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What type of impact both the Tech and Fitness Industry do you hope Spitfire Athlete will have?

We’re building a world where women are half of the weight room. Where we know how to train appropriate to our goals and are not misled by fad exercise programs or fad diets. Where culturally we train to build our mental and physical strength, power, and performance, instead of only getting “bikini ready” for the summer. We want to make strength and conditioning resources and training accessible and approachable to women around the world.

What is it that Spitfire Athlete provides for women exactly? Can men use it?
We provide structured 4-12 week training plans complete with warm-up, work out, and cool-down for various goals, like getting started with barbell training, training for your first triathlon, or at home bodyweight training. Anyone can sign up and use the app, but the training instructions, percentages, and splits are all programmed with a woman’s needs and goals in mind.

Who designs the training programs for Spitfire Athlete?
We have a team of strength and conditioning coaches who design our plans, including Rich Thurman NSCA CSCS, Krista Stryker NSCA CSCS, and Traci Swearer ISSA.

We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments and feedback below. 

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Rich Thurman MA, CSCS CPT, ONNIT KB Specialist Rich is Founder of Xodus Fitness in San Francisco California, which provides Personal Training, Yoga and Wellness Programs locally. Connect with Rich via Social Media or find out more at www.coachrichthurman.com