She has trained with the FDNY, tossed axes with Timbersports legends, bounded through parkour routines, conquered the mixed martial arts cage, and tackled lots of other physical/mental challenges that would make most women AND men cringe. You might think we’re describing the newest female member of The Avengers. But, no… we’re talking about a very real, very inspiring Woman You Should Know – fitness model Lauren Berlingeri, whose idea of fun is to take on the world’s most grueling workouts.
Lauren, a lifelong sports and fitness devotee, gets to share her wild adventures every Wednesday on Woman v. Workout, a show she hosts on YouTube’s 3V (Vigor, Verve and Vitality) channel. It’s a showcase of Lauren’s impressive physical stamina, resolute mental toughness and infectious “push yourself” attitude as she takes on a different adrenaline pumping challenge in each episode… think motocross, rock bouldering, CrossFit, the Men’s Health Urbanathlon, and the like.
To Lauren’s credit, Woman v. Workout has become the most popular show on 3V. What we love about it is that it’s the kind of show that makes you want to go do something physical and forces you to realize that you might not be challenging yourself quite hard enough.
WYSK caught up with Lauren just before the dramatic conclusion to her toughest challenge yet was set to go live. Her goal: to become the first woman ever to complete (second to ever attempt) training with former Navy SEALs at Extreme SEAL Experience in Chesapeake, VA.
To put this in perspective, the Navy SEALs are considered to have the toughest training in the world and the Extreme SEAL Experience, which is run by a retired Navy SEAL with 24-years of service, is “for young men interested in becoming a Navy SEAL.” It’s a fast moving and dynamic course that NO WOMAN HAS EVER COMPLETED.
Fitness has always been a part of your life. Other than the obvious health and wellness aspects, what’s the allure for you?
LB: It’s the feeling that I get after a great workout or the feeling that I get after eating foods that are clean and which I know work to heal my body. That’s the high that I chase and that’s what allures. My motive isn’t just to feel and look good, but the way that I live my life is also a spiritual practice. It comes through in other ways for me day after day, whether it’s my relationships with others, my relationship with myself, or my relationship with my career. The benefits of living a healthy lifestyle are incalculable. If you’re open to receiving these gifts, the universe will guide you down a path to success.
You are a Holistic Nutritionist… how does that differ from a traditional nutritionist?
LB: Holistic health approaches tackling a person’s health issues by taking all aspects of life into account. A long-term course of action includes emotional, mental and spiritual growth alongside focusing on the physical body. Holistic nutrition addresses how we respond to the foods that we eat, not just those food’s nutritional and caloric content. Our aim should be to pack as many nutrients as possible within a healthy sized portion. I don’t count calories because our bodies are fueled through nutrients and not all calories are created equally.
Where did the concept of Woman v. Workout come from?
LB: We wanted to inspire women to compete and challenge themselves in new ways, both physically and mentally. We tend to focus on workouts and sports that are traditionally male-dominated. We hoped that this would spark a larger conversation about the differences in strength and fitness between the sexes. Things have been heating up in our comments section, specifically around the FDNY episode.
How do you come up with the challenges and experiences you take on in Woman v. Workout?
LB: We think of challenges that are extreme, and that take a workout to the next level. We don’t want to just show a typical exercise class or sport that anyone could find at their local gym. Instead, we feature experiences that people may have heard of, but wouldn’t normally try themselves, like parkour, timbersports, or the Men’s Health Urbanathlon. This gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look that might help them decide if they want to take on the challenge!
You have been described as fearless and you really have to be to take on the challenges that you do. Where does that kind of courage come from?
LB: Some of the challenges are intimidating. It’s my curiosity and the desire to overcome a challenge that makes me not fearless, but willing to confront that which makes me fear. The way we grow and learn is by putting ourselves in challenging situations and observing how we react to the obstacles in front of us, and it is very important that we learn from these experiences. Being in situations of duress forces us to remove ego and focus on the challenge ahead. The more complex and difficult the task, the more cognizant and gratified we become with our surroundings.
Of the Woman v. Workout challenges you’ve taken on to date, what has been the most difficult physically and what has been the most difficult mentally?
LB: Without a doubt, the Navy SEAL challenge was the most difficult. It was 24 hours straight without sleep, and they really prey on everyone’s weakness by working us all into a state of exhaustion. At times it felt like torture.
When working out, I try to stay focused and ignore pain, but the Navy SEAL training was both mentally and physically exhausting. When you’re at the end of your rope after 22-plus hours, your mind and body can find strength you didn’t know you had. You have to be prepared on all levels when taking on a challenge like the Extreme SEAL experience. They are training you to be a solider of war and I don’t think anything can really prepare you for that.
Have you ever been presented with a challenge for the show that you have passed on attempting because of the level of difficulty or safety concerns?
LB: I will try anything at least once, and refuse to say no without at least attempting it first. There is no better feeling than thinking you can’t do something and then proving yourself wrong. What’s so great about Woman v. Workout is that it helps give this confidence to our viewers, which I’m really proud of.
What has been your favorite Woman v. Workout challenge, to date?
LB: Learning to ride a 450cc 4-stroke bike in one day was by far the most thrilling challenge. First of all, the bike has a ton of power for a beginner rider. The main motocross track was designed for professional riders by X Games icon Travis Pastrana himself.
It may not have seemed difficult on film, but it was an intense day that was extremely emotionally draining. I was scared – these athletes themselves often break their backs or necks even when they have been training for years. Of all the sports I have tried to date there was something especially exciting about operating a machine with so much power and force. I loved it so much I went to get my bike license after filming that episode.
How do you encourage other women to physically challenge themselves… to push beyond their comfort zone?
LB: Not just women but everyone should push themselves and deepen their connection to their bodies through exercise and sport. It can be challenging to dedicate time to exercise, but it only takes a few minutes for our bodies to respond and start feeling energized. I’ll admit there have been periods of my life where other things have been more important than staying fit, but as soon as I get back into it, the rest of my life seems to fall into place, and exceeds my expectations of what I thought was possible.
The final episode of your Navy SEALs training experience airs today. You took on this challenge with the goal of becoming the first woman to complete this training (the second to attempt it). Why was that important to you?
LB: It wasn’t about the title itself, but about overcoming the challenge which was the most rewarding aspect of the SEAL experience. A lot of women who are passionate about fitness would be able to physically complete this course, but because the SEAL camp is male dominated females don’t attempt it. I hope I can empower women to challenge themselves, and to achieve the unthinkable by pushing their limits. Limits only exist if you choose to let them.
Tell us more about this experience.
LB: I have to admit it was tough. I have a lot of respect for all of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving this country. More than physical ability, it is the mental strength that gets you through something like this. I learned more about myself during those 24 hours than ever before. Although it was physically painful, it nourished my being and gave me a better understanding of the amazing people that defend America.