“Laura Khoudari’s mission is to increase access to somatic-based treatment for women living with trauma, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, in order to help them restore a healthy nervous system, get in touch with their innate resilience, restore their quality of life, and thrive through strength coaching and personal training.”
About Laura Khoudari
Laura has firsthand experience seeing the effect of trauma on women whether it be in the gym or in their lives. She is also living with PTSD. In the winter of 2014-2015 she designed a holistic program to move her treatment forward when she began to struggle with chronic pain, injury cycle, and other physiological symptoms of trauma. Rather than use strength training to hide from her pain and fear, she trained in a way that accounted for how trauma impacted her posture, proprioception, nervous system, and mindset. She knew this would make her feel better on a daily basis.
This approach didn’t just make her feel better. Along with traditional talk therapy, it helped her to restore balance to her nervous system, allowed her to reconnect with others, and enabled her to safely experience how resilient she was. This created a positive feedback loop and broke her out of her injury cycle.
Helping herself was not enough for Laura. She was frustrated that she could not find any trauma-informed strength coaching out there. She decided to solve this problem by taking action and becoming a trauma-informed strength coach and personal trainer.
Laura has a Bachelor of Arts from Mount Holyoke College and her MPA with a focus on Nonprofit Management from American University. She is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and an Assistant Strength Coach at JDI Barbell in Long Island City. She serves on the Advisory Board of Women’s Strength Coalition and runs their Trauma Informed Personal Training program. Other certifications include: Movement for Trauma I and II, Sound Body, Sound Mind, Professional Somatic Experiencing Training (in progress), Resilient Movement Foundations, American Red Cross CPR/AED.
Providing strength-focused, personal training services to women living with trauma fills me with a sense of hope and joy. Once I heeded this calling I found a great sense of personal fulfillment that I have never known. As rewarding as it is, the work is challenging. Along with designing a personalized training program that meets each client where their nervous system is at, that can also be changed on the fly, I conduct my intake and engage with clients in a manner that explores the themes of boundaries, self care, self expression, and self love. I also have to set and enforce clear boundaries of my own as I am not a therapist and must stay in my scope of practice. Our work together makes space for people to integrate trauma, (working from the definition of trauma as an un-metabolized energy that was a response to an overwhelming event that is now trapped in the body) but I am not a therapist and it is not appropriate for me to process trauma with a client.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
As a strength sport athlete who was then leveled by PTSD, I desperately wanted a coach or trainer who understood the physiological symptoms of trauma. I found that I could not find anyone to fill that role. After years of personal work, I felt ready to throw my hat in the ring. My work is actually two fold – I don’t just provide this service, I am currently working with Women’s Strength Coalition, a national nonprofit to bring continuing education on trauma to strength training and coaching professionals.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
It means providing care that has a full grasp of what trauma is and how it is psychological, social, emotional, and physical in nature. In addition a trauma informed practitioner should have experience working through their own histories, big or small, to avoid providing care through a lens that regards people working through trauma as other.
I am a personal trainer and a strength coach. Clients can expect to meet me in a gym environment to work with me twice a week for an hour-long session. Each workout will be designed with knowledge of how living with trauma, anxiety, depression, or chronic pain can affect the nervous system outside of the gym and therefore, in any given workout. We will warm up, train, and then cool down. Clients can expect to train using bodyweight, free weights, kettle bells, medicine balls, barbells, and machines as appropriate. My approach to training also includes a lot of explaining how and why I am doing things so the clients feel empowered to train on their own if they feel so inclined. Clients will not be required to share trauma history. I do collect health history. All information collected is confidential.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Violence
PTSD conditions can make the limbic system overactive and can affect posture and proprioception. Strength training can help, when approached in a trauma-informed manner, and in a supportive environment. Additionally, smart, safe, and supportive strength training can:
- Restore a lost sense of resilience
- Reopen the window of tolerance for nervous system activation
- Provide a community to an individual who may be feeling isolated
- Provide a truly healthy means of self-care through preventative care as chronic stress and trauma can lead to a number of physical health issues.
As an independent trainer I am used to working in different gyms and one service I provide is doing my best to find a space that works for both myself and my client. Gyms can be very overwhelming filled with noises that can lead to a startle response, overstimulating music or images, or a clientele that is disrespectful to others. I do my best to find a space that works for my client. In addition each program is designed after an assessment, which means each program is designed with the client in mind.
I serve on the Advisory Board of The Women’s Strength Coalition. We are a social justice organization whose mission is to build stronger communities through strength training. Our Strength For All statement says it best: Literal physical strength and space is necessary to resist oppression and advocate for ourselves. There is a demonstrable connection between physical activity and mental health, yet access to fitness infrastructure and education is limited for those that would benefit from training the most. Mental health care costs are alarmingly high and inaccessible to many. Feeling safe and strong in our bodies directly informs our ability to effectively take part in and lead social justice movements.
Recognizing this disparity, the Women’s Strength Coalition aims to provide that space, training, and care. In addition, community events around the country serve to raise awareness and funds for local, state, and national social justice nonprofits, and allow for more members of the population to become active citizens and advocate for pressing issues. Our purpose is to allow for internal strength development so that we can take ownership of our bodies and minds, while building confidence, stamina, and community. While I do not consider myself as having an expertise in working with a particular population other than cisgender women living with trauma, I am steeped in the work and language of social justice for genderqueer, nonbinary, and trans-women, as well as women of color.
I am able to offer sliding-scale services. Part of my work with Women’s Strength Coalition includes developing and running a sliding-scale program for trauma informed strength training.