Amanda Dreger

My first experience going to a gym was in high school. There was an elective course called Super Fit, which taught proper weight training techniques as well as general anatomy and the importance of cardiovascular activity. At the time I did not think of myself as athletic but gave it a try and I am grateful that I did as it not only gave me confidence, it helped me to create healthy habits that I continue to value today. After speaking with Amanda Dreger, I realized what made it such a positive experience - working out with a supportive group of girls, three times a week for an entire semester. 

Not surprisingly, there have been many female-centred gyms in Fernie. From the aerobic classes held at the Family Centre that my mom would attend when I was just a toddler, to the Curves craze in the early 2000s, to the popular Vitality, Body and Mind and now, the exciting Fernie Strength Collective. 

Amanda is the powerhouse behind the Fernie Strength Collective, who began her life out west at the age of 16 on Vancouver Island… a bit of a change from Ontario. 

 “We moved from a town of 15,000 people to Coombs – a place with goats on the roof. It was very different. After graduating, I went to Edmonton as my dad was living there and I wanted to be in the city,” Amanda tells me. “After a few years, I moved to Nanaimo and took accounting, because I believed people studied what they were good at in school. I got a job in the accounting department with Oak Bay Marine Group in Victoria, and I loved it there. It felt like my first real adult job, I worked a lot and I liked making money.” 

While Amanda thought she was happy, as she neared her 30th birthday she started to realize it wasn’t the life she wanted. Her brother had moved to Fernie, and her parents had come for a visit to help him out and in the process, they ended up buying a house. “So, I quit my job and moved to Fernie, ‘for the summer.’ I had plans to move to Toronto but ended up staying the winter and working as a legal assistant at Rockies Law, and hosting Trivia at the Pub as an outlet to meet people,” she says. “When I found out I was pregnant with Amelia, I decided to stay.”

After Amanda had Amelia, she started going to the gym for the first time. “I loved it! Feeling strong and lifting weights. But it definitely became an unhealthy obsession,” she shares with me. “I realized that I wasn’t enjoying working as an accountant and decided to become a personal trainer. I wanted to get an army of women in the gym, but found women wanted to work with me but did not want to go to the gym. So, it was tough.”

During COVID, Amanda started training people through zoom, and two years ago this spring started outdoor fitness classes. “On a whim! I thought, if five friends showed up to lift weights outside, it would be amazing. 20 signed up! It became a thing, using all the personal training programming I had created and taking it outside. We recorded the weights, did the same workouts week after week, and worked towards getting better and stronger,” she says, adding that she never thought it would become a business. “It was just something I started when there wasn’t anything to do.” By fall, Amanda had 40 people attending her classes and they didn’t want to stop. She realized while she couldn’t change their minds about going to the gym, she could change the environment, and as though it was meant to be, a business owner reached out wondering if they needed a space. 

“There was a need. Women want to feel good, but they also need a community and support. Many of our members have never lifted weights, but our trainers are so amazing and our members so supportive of one another, so it works. We work on monthly programming, as well as open gym time where members are welcome to do a workout they may have missed, or they can find one from the past month they want to do. There is always access to structure,” Amanda tells me. I mention that I have heard how wonderful it is to be able to bring your kids with you. “It was so important to me that this was offered,” she says. “It shouldn’t be a barrier.”

Amanda is proud of her diverse team, made up of certified trainers and kinesiologists, and also appreciates the feedback and suggestions they receive from their members, which is how they have grown and evolved the programming - by really focusing on what everyone can benefit from the most. 

Recently, Amanda completed a course developed by Dr. Stacy Sims called Women are Not Small Men, based on her exciting research on female physiology and how to use it to optimize performance and health. With 118 members now ranging from age 24 to 68, Amanda is working hard to have the knowledge and programming available, so women of all ages feel welcome. For example, they added a class specific to 55+, which she admits to being one of her favourite classes so far, and is working on reaching youth and teaching girls at a young age the benefits of being strong and healthy.  

“Moving forward, I also want to start offering more advanced programming, and educational talks in the gym that are of interest to members. I hope we continue to grow into the space and to provide women with more tools that help them understand what is happening with our body, and to create a space to talk about it.”

1. When did you first arrive in Elk Valley and what brought you here?
2010, and it was because my family was here. 

2. Who did you remember first meeting?
I would say, Emma Colson, Will Barber and Lisa Rowlands, because they were living at my brother’s house. 

3. Do you remember your first general impression of the Elk Valley?
I remember thinking it was beautiful, and that it was quiet. Which seems so funny now! 

4. What keeps you here?
I love Fernie, the community and raising a child here. 

5. Do you have a favourite pastime?
No, because I’m either at the gym or at home. I guess being at the gym is my favourite pastime!

6. What time of the year do you love most and why?
Spring and summer because I don’t like being cold. 

7. Where do you see or hope to see the Elk Valley in five years.
That is a really big question… I hope that in five years families can afford to be here. That people don’t continue to get priced out of Fernie. 

8. How do you start your day or what is one of your daily rituals?
I like to make sure I get up before the kids and drink my decaf on the couch. 

9. Tell us something people might be surprised to learn about you.
The only activities I used to enjoy were ones described as leisurely – I didn’t start working out until my 30s. 

10. Quote to live by:
Strong Women Lift Each Other Up, a quote and book by Molly Galbraith. And I really genuinely feel like the gym has been the most amazing example of it in the way everyone comes together without competition and in friendship and supportive of each other.