Women in the Fitness Industry: Q&A with Pam MacElree

by | Jul 6, 2015 | Articles, For Business Owners, For Fitness Pros | 0 comments

(Last Updated On: March 2, 2023)

We are incredibly excited and honored to be able to share this interview Ryan Ketchum did with our good friend Pamela MacElree. Pamela is one of the original prominent female voices in the fitness industry focused on strength training. In fact, Pamela certified a few of us in the Kettlebell Athletics cert many years back.

In this interview Pamela talks about the journey for women in the fitness industry, the obstacles she has had to face (especially from other females!), the stereo-types about women that irritate her the most, and much more!

Thanks to Pamela for taking time from her busy schedule running Urban Athlete, PMacStrong.com and coaching other fitness pros in the Accelerator Coaching Program to do this interview about women in the fitness industry.

Q: We’ve known each other for quite a while now so we are familiar with your story, but can you give us a bit of background on you and how you got started in this industry?

Sure thing! I started in the fitness industry by training in people’s homes and at a corporate location about 11 years ago, as a way to generate additional income while I worked in IT. I was not a collegiate athlete, I didn’t really embrace training until I got out of college. I initially did bodyweight and kettlebell training with clients. Along the way I decided it was something I wanted to do full time and made the leap to open a facility, initially with a business partner and now on my own. The gym has been open for 9 years this January. It sounds a little oversimplified but it’s the path I took. I learned a great deal about business along the way too. I’ll continually be learning.

Q: As a woman in the fitness industry what obstacles do you feel like you face and how have you overcome them?

When I first started as a woman in the fitness industry, I didn’t feel like many women went to events and I didn’t feel like many women talked much about strength training. There were a few but not like there are today. Most of it was just perseverance of continually showing up and connecting with as many people in the industry as I could and actually doing the strength training as well. In the beginning it was difficult, if I lifted too much weight in a certain video, the negative comments would come in, that was hard to learn to get past. You definitely have to learn to grow a thick skin and not let others opinions derail you from want you want to do.

I also decided that since my undergraduate degree was in an unrelated field I needed to go to graduate school in a rated field. I went back to school for my masters degree in injury prevention and sports performance.

“You definitely have to learn to grow a thick skin and not let others opinions derail you from want you want to do.” —Pam MacElree

Q: What is your mission with PMac Strong and your voice in the fitness world?

I really just love strength and want everyone, women and men, to be their own type of strong. That might be physical strength, it might be emotional strength, or maybe it’s a combination of the two. I want strength to be embraced and I don’t want anyone to feel badly about being a certain type of strong. Fitness means many things to many people, we all have our own different definition, mine includes being strong and embracing it. If strength in some term could be a part of everyone’s lifestyle, I think then I would believe that I’ve gotten my message out.

Q: What stereo-type irritates you the most when it comes to women in the fitness industry?

I don’t know if I can pick just one (there’s a little list):

  • Just because you workout all the time doesn’t mean you’re strong or fit.
  • Just because you workout all the time doesn’t mean you should weigh 115lbs.
  • Just because you strength train doesn’t mean you’ll be bulky.

Q: What do you think most trainers miss out on, especially us guys, when it comes to helping women reach their fitness goals?

Most women want to look good…who doesn’t? They want to feel great, they want other people to see them in a certain way and appreciate the effort they put forth in training. Not all women want to be able to deadlift two times their bodyweight or be able to do 15 pull ups. On the flip side there are a good number that do want to do those things plus a great deal more. I think there’s a sensitive balance between encouragement for us to realize our potential and pushing opinions on most women.

Women are afraid of being bulky, and they don’t realize how great of an effect strength training can have on their bodies and on their mindset until they’ve experienced it, so we don’t want to scare them away before they’ve had a chance to give it an honest try.

Q: What advice can you give to women in the fitness industry and coaches out there looking to make a name for themselves?

Being consistent and continually learning are two really important things in my opinion. I’m still working on the being consistent part 🙂 To create a following you have to be yourself and remain true to that, then you have to talk about your beliefs to those who want to listen on a consistent basis. I think it’s important to let people know who you are, what you believe in, and deliver that to them whether it’s someone you work with on a daily/weekly basis. Otherwise it’s someone you may never meet who is interested in your message and training.

Never stop learning; training and business but keep the delicate balance between this and growing your business. You can’t have too much focus on area and skip out on the others.

I’m going to add one more, find a mentor. You’ll learn so much from a mentor and someone or a group of people you can bounce ideas off of. This isn’t a game we should all be playing in alone, collectively we are trying to help everyone lead a healthier life.

 About Pam MacElree

Pamela MacElree holds a Bachelor of Science from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Science in Injury Prevention and Sports performance from California University of Pennsylvania.  Pamela is owner of Urban Athlete, a strength and conditioning studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She also embraces and writes about strength training for women on her blog, PMacStrong.com.

Just for fun, here’s a video of Pam breaking down the Turkish Get-Up

A stack of gold coins and an alarm clock on a balance scale.


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