Angela Gargano is a fitness instructor determined to help all women succeed in their first pull-up - then another - and keep improving until every small win translates into long-term wellness and lifestyle improvements.
A four-time contestant on the NBC hit "American Ninja Warrior," Gargano teaches from personal experience that she has to start from the ground up. The athlete, model and motivational speaker once had to pull herself off the "Ninja Warrior" mats - on national TV - after blowing out her knee during the event.
Physically and mentally, she was temporarily thrown back by the injury seen by millions of viewers in 2018. But during the rehab process, Gargano was able to discover a new, bigger purpose to use her athletic gifts for — helping others achieve their fitness goals.
The former Miss Fitness America 2016 has not only helped over 500 women master their pull-ups with her online program, Pull-up Revolution, but also runs Strong Feels Good, a wellness platform that aims to encourage women to getting off the scales and focusing on strength is a tool to gauge their physical progress.
Gargano is also currently training for her fifth "ANW". Although she never won the event, if she makes it back onto the platform after tearing her cruciate ligament (her second cruciate ligament injury) following a descent from an obstacle in 2018, that's a win in itself.
"It was an accident getting on the show, but coming back was definitely the most fulfilling thing ever," she says. At that point, I didn't care how I did it."
Gargano now calls herself the "Oprah of pull-ups," which stems in part from her gymnastics days as a 5-year-old. Her advice is sought by thousands today, but growing up as a woman with an athletic build, she became a target of bullies, which forced her to hide her young and athletic build at the time. She turned the experience into a positive one: her pull-up challenge encourages women of all walks of life and body types to work on self-improvement. And according to Gargano, it all starts with a slope, just one element of Gargano's strategy for success.
"For those who say they can't, that's a belief you need to change," Gargano says. "If you believe you can do it, you can do it. So I think that's just restating the beliefs that you have. And that's all, not just 'Ninja'.”
1. FINDING YOUR WHY MAY TAKE TIME
I was in a social studies class in high school and I think we watched some kind of action movie. This guy comes out strong and some guys scream it out. Oh, well, that's Angela. And I remember just crying. After that I covered my body every day, I wouldn't let anyone see my arms even if it's 100 degrees outside
I was a gymnast - my mom sent me to gymnastics classes and I guess my body just changed like that. That's how my body was built. I was built better than most people at school, but it was very different. Part of me just wanted to be normal. But I just hid from everyone instead of giving up gymnastics - that was my happy place to go and be myself.
I thought it would be better if I went to college because I assumed I would be around people who were all like me, but that really didn't happen - I was still the most muscular on the team.
Finally, I really think the change happened when I started competing in fitness outside of college — where now you get on stage and show off your body. And it was beautiful. For the first time I saw more people around me saying oh my god we love your body. we love your arms I think having the confidence to go on stage in heels and showing off my muscles really helped transform me for good. So it wasn't until after college that I really started embracing my body.
2. AN UNEXPECTED MOMENT CAN CHANGE A LIFE FOR ANGELA GARGANO
I tore my left ACL in my junior year of collegiate gymnastics, so I couldn't really do exactly what I wanted to do. I was a biochemist at Brown University and while I was there I always felt like I wanted something more but wasn't sure what I could do.
So I started looking into what was available and eventually met a woman named Dawn Butterfield. She was a big fan of Fitness America competitions and I saw her doing all these cool flips on stage and I was like, I want to do that! D met me and she told me all about these whole other worlds where you can go back to fitness competitions, quite a routine, but then you go on stage and pose, which was way out of my comfort zone at first.
She introduced me to Cathy Savage, who was on MTV's I Want the Perfect Body at the time. They had a whole segment about fitness competitions. So Dawn introduced me to her and then as I sat in her office she said to me, “I sponsor you and I believe you will.
I thought, "What?" And in a couple of weeks I was competing in heels.
That person, Cathy Savage, really believed in me, and then all of a sudden it was like it literally diminished from there, because that one person believed in me so much that I actually started to believe that I did should . I finally had people who encouraged me and it was very uplifting.
3. THE RIGHT ADVICE CAN LAST A LIFETIME
I think it's important to know that you will have really bad moments in life.
Once I remember a mentor just looking at me and I was fighting it so hard. I was down, didn't look strong, and she said, It's okay to feel this way and cry about it, but you can't get stuck there.
I think what's important is that when you're going through the journey and you're really down, just remind yourself that it's okay to be down for a second, that it's okay for you to have that moment and not instead try to fight and resist it or engage more with it and learn from it. And then make sure you come out safe.
I tore my cruciate ligament in college and then at American Ninja Warrior. I opened a gym and then had to close it. I just think you see it over and over again. But when I see it now, I have the tools to understand it. Like I almost hug it more now. Once you get used to it, you'll get pretty good at it. And then you're able to get out of it faster and learn from it instead of thinking it's this horrible thing that's holding you down.
I'm leaning into it now but I've had to go through those other moments and it keeps coming back and I know it's going to keep coming, that's okay. Ripping my ACL on national TV taught me that it's okay to be down, but you can also have a solid comeback and come back from it, and you can really learn from that moment and use it as an opportunity.
4. LIVE – FOR A MOMENT – THEN BACK TO YOUR WORK MENTALITY
When I decided to post myself on Instagram in recovery, I literally felt like I was poking around the practice trying to make fun of it — even though inside I felt like I was falling apart.
All of a sudden people started replying to me and they said wow because you posted what you went through I decided to get up today even though I've been through something - be it a breakup, losing a job or something like that like that. As I took a moment and stepped back and looked at it, I realized that here was a huge opportunity to really help others. it's not really just about me - I have the opportunity to show people that I can detach myself. So I feel like the snapback moment was again that month on an Instagram with a person who messaged me and all of a sudden I was like, you know what, here we go. Let's do it.
Social media is definitely a great tool - if you use it the right way, you can really benefit from it. If you don't use it properly. And you tune it in instead and look at it to compare yourself, which is difficult because you watch a lot of people's highlight movies and stuff, right? And you get drawn into it and you consume more than you create and you do then I can feel like it can be a bad thing. So I guess it's just how you use it. However, I think it's amazing because I've been able to connect with thousands of people who have done my program, which is pretty incredible. So I think it can be used in a great way - if you use it the right way.
5. ANGELA GARGANO USES HER GIFT TO RAISE OTHERS
Throughout this process, a lot of women kept coming up to me and being cool, you were on American Ninja Warrior, I just wanted to do a pull-up. A lot of women say that. I'm like, why can't you do it? And they said it's impossible - I'll never make it. And I say: , it's not like it's not impossible. Let us try it.
So I started working with people personally when I owned my gym. I saw when they consistently worked on it, they nailed it, and everything lit up - impossible goals suddenly became possible.
So it's like there's an opportunity here. I looked at all the other programs they had online for pull ups and there was nothing that was very inviting, especially for women. It was all those intimidating guys with jacked pullups as you might see in some articles. If you look it up, it's just kind of intimidating and doesn't really like it, which will help you get your pull-ups.
That's when I decided that this will be my mission. I feel like I've seen a bigger picture, not just about the pull up, but the fact that if someone can do this impossible task, what else can they do? I saw my one client do her first pull up and now she's running Spartan Races, all because she saw that the impossible is always possible.
It's the whole process - you start at the bottom, as we actually call it in my program. w we are here to get to the top. And what I like to do in my program is break it down into small steps. So instead of thinking that I have to get all the way to the top of the pole, break it down into Can I just hang on the pole? Well you can take the next step. You're trying to bend your elbow slightly, you're not trying to go all the way up.
So if you can break down your pull up like I do in my program, you can break down everything in life that way and do it in small steps and baby wins and celebrate every small step.