On March 30, 2022, the San Luis Obispo Community was shaken when two once local business owners were accused of sexual misconduct by more than 30 women.
When the news first broke, Headstrong Fit founder Robby McLaughlin said he was appalled. As a business owner and prominent local figurehead himself, McLaughlin felt a strong responsibility to his community and didn’t hesitate to offer up the Headstrong Fit gym as a safe space for healing. Thus, “We Talk” was born.
“We Talk” is a free bi-weekly event hosted through Headstrong that seeks to provide a space for any individual who cares about growing their mental and emotional health as much as their physical health.
According to Headstrong’s Instagram page, the event’s female centered group –– Red Tent Sisterhood –– will be held on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, while the male group –– Dude Tribe –– will be held on the second and fourth Friday of the month.
“I’ve been wanting to do something like this for quite some time, but the recent events in our community really gave us the motivation to get this project under way,” McLaughlin said. “The purpose is to seek growth, progress and direction in all aspects of life.”
Red Tent Sisterhood, aptly named after the historic Red Tent Movement, aims to encourage the sacred and longstanding practice of women coming together for safety, sisterhood and empowerment.
Led by health and wellness coaches Lindsey Graff and Louellen Ferreira, these meetings will be structured as a holistic experience that incorporates elements of light physical movement, breath work and open conversation.
“Having personally experienced domestic violence and abuse and having worked with women for years, this was an opportunity to support our community I couldn’t pass up,” Graff said. “… and then when all of those brave women came forward to speak their truths about how they have been mistreated by business owners in our county, it was a no-brainer.”
“By nature what I do is support, guide and encourage people on their personal journeys towards wellness,” Ferreira added. “This event is a big part of that because it really plays into our mental health and wellbeing.”
In addition to mental health and wellbeing, the Headstrong team is highlighting the importance of safety and hoping to flip the script on where safety comes from through the event’s all female communal setting.
“Being a woman comes with being aware of our surroundings and our safety in a way that most men will never experience,” Graff said. “The more that a woman feels connected to herself and her community, the less she feels the weight of safety.”
Along with Red Tent Sisterhood, Headstrong additionally offers a meeting specifically curated for men called Dude Tribe.
Led by founder Robby McLaughlin and wellness coach Zeke Graff, Lindsey Graff’s husband, Dude Tribe aims to help its participants break away from the stereotypes and stigmas imposed on men when it comes to the topic of mental health and traditional masculinity.
Incorporating some traditional weightlifting elements, Dude Tribe will further encourage men to talk and open up about their own struggles.
“We all feel that supporting women means supporting men as well,” Lindsey Graff said. “By including the men in this, and giving them their own separate and tailored experience, we are providing outlets and support for them as well.”
According to the National Library of Medicine, mental health among men often goes untreated because they are far less likely to seek mental health treatment than women. The troubling stigma surrounding seeking treatment, paired with society’s standards of masculinity, make men more likely to turn to dangerous, unhealthy behaviors.
“With men, there’s so much going on behind the scenes,” McLaughlin said. “We’re taught to be strong and tough, but we can also be vulnerable… embracing that vulnerability will only help us grow and become better men for ourselves and for the women in our lives.”
A strength and conditioning gym may seem like an unlikely environment to host such profound events, but the Headstrong team encourages everyone to give “We Talk” a shot.
“Headstrong is one of the most inviting and friendly communities you can find,” Graff said. “It’s also an ever-evolving model of how we can best support the communities, both inside the gym and out.”