23W Members Spotlight: Gemma Pinnell

By Asha

Odds are you have seen Gemma Pinnell in a strong class. In fact, you have probably paused, open mouthed, mid rep to watch as she nails her chin ups, deadlifts like a pro or just to stare at the way her biceps catch the early morning light. But seriously….she is one fit woman! We are so happy to be able to shine the spotlight on a member who prioritizes her health and fitness whilst balancing full time work and being a mum to two wonderful kids!


Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’ve been a 23W member for about two and a half years. Pre-COVID, I had a great year of uninterrupted face-to-face training in the studio.

I work in advocacy and partnerships with the profit-to-member super funds, have two young kids and have lived in South Preston for the last decade.

When did you first become interested in weightlifting?

I got seriously interested in weightlifting after years of dabbling with PUMP classes and circuit weights classes but never seeing any massive improvement or progression. It was more something I did for fun rather than with any real goals.

I realized I wanted to do more strength-based workouts and that you need a weights gym for this, as well as people who could teach me how to do it properly. I’m very goals-oriented, so I like the structure of it all, the weights in a spreadsheet, the body scans, the weekly check ins with the coaches. I was the most un-sporty kid growing up! So it surprises me I am so into it now. 

What drew you to 23W?

I was looking for a weight focused women’s gym. I’d checked out a few others, and then I found 23W around the corner. I walked past a few times and then made a time to talk with Ange. I had another studio I was loyal to at the time, but I quickly grew to love the more individual focus of 23W and saw the results in the clever way the classes are scheduled over a week. I really like the science-based approach, the support of the trainers, and that its such a great community.

Did you have any obstacles to overcome regarding health and fitness?

I’m really uncoordinated so I was originally a bit daunted! I thought I’d struggle with time to train three or four times a week because when I started I was doing a lot of yoga and cycling too. Now my priorities have changed a bit and I am a happier and less stressed with my  regular weights training schedule. I love training for the physical rewards but since COVID this sort of exercise has become as much about the stress relieving benefits.

What specific goals did you have in mind when joining 23W? How have they shifted? 

When I joined, I wanted to take my fitness to a new level. I wanted to be able to feel confident with heavy weights and to get a bit leaner. I have trained consistently for years but felt like I was stuck in a bit of a rut with my training. Learning about progressive overload with weights training, and about macros and tracking food has really changed how I think about training and nutrition.

Now I am focused on more specific body composition goals, lowering my body fat and increasing muscle definition. I’ve learnt that this is achievable, but it takes consistency, increasing training load and really thinking about food as fuel for muscle growth to do this.

I am also working on specific strength goals. Currently, improving my unassisted chin-ups is my challenge goal.

You’re a busy working mum of 2 – how do you fit it all in? Any tips and tricks?

It sounds really nerdy, but I do have the following tips that work for me:

  • I book in my work outs; I make them non-negotiable – at least 4 weights sessions, lots of walking and mix it up with some yoga or other things. I write them in my work calendar.
  • I put my clothes out the night before and get up and do it early. Early mornings work best when I can do it before everyone else is up. On weekends it’s nice to take a bit more time and make it social. I miss Sunday mornings in the studio!
  • I plan most of my meals and meal prep at the weekend. This has been a game changer for me and I’ve learnt so much from Ange and the team in this regard.
  • I arrange to train with a friend (either at 23w or on our own) and it makes it more fun.
At the moment I’ve been trying to fit in a few lunch time quick workouts with my daughter in the backyard. She does her gymnastics while I train. One of the joys of lockdown! I really love training as ‘me time’ so I don’t always find this ideal!
With your training, where would you like to be a year from now?

Next year I turn 50 so I have been thinking about some big goals. I wish that body building competitions were a bit more feminist and involved less tanning and posing! I want to keep challenging myself with my weights and mixing up my training and learning more about nutrition.

And finally, excluding training, what is next for you?

We are planning a renovation of our house which will be starting shortly. I’m pretty excited that it includes a storage space for my weights in the study. I’ve now got such an elaborate setup at home that it won’t fit but I’m not complaining.

Thanks Gemma for breaking down how you stay on top of your health and fitness goals whilst maintaining a great work/life balance!

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Our founder

Ange Drake is an personal trainer, women’s empowerment coach and fitness blogger in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is the director of one of the few womens’ only strength training gyms in Melbourne, 23W. Ange helps women to learn how to use strength based training, nutritional strategies and a positive mindset to transform their bodies, relationship with food and mind.

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