We here at Exercise.com were pleased this year to introduce you to some of our friends and family through the Fitness Experts Hub. We trust that the insight and wisdom that they shared with you have assisted you in pursuit of achieving your fitness goals. These exercise professionals have dedicated their lives to helping others improve their quality of life by giving purpose and direction to healthy living: body, mind, and spirit.
So, if you may have missed one or two of our past interviews, here’s a sampling of your fitness experts have to say…
How did you develop a love of health and fitness?
Actually, my background is—I was the 4’7″, 82-pound freshman in high school. The little guy, the small dude in school. It was kind of one of those things. All I knew was the work ethic. I’m going to—I’ll outwork you in a classroom, I’m going to outwork you on the basketball court, the football field, the tennis court—those are the three sports I kind of grew up playing.
Like a lot of people, as a teenager, my first foray into exercise was the cheap little weight set in the garage when I was in eighth grade probably. Working out at the Y, and like all the other teenage guys who would do bench press and bicep curls, that kind of thing. Throughout my whole childhood, I was very active in doing different sports. Sort of found my sports niche in martial arts. [First,] through wrestling and later through mixed martial arts.
Well, I’ve always kind of been into, I guess, healing and helping. I started as an obstetrical nurse about 15 years ago and since then retired from that and was a stay-at-home mom. During that time, I was actively working out, running marathons, putting my body through the gauntlet of stuff that we I ended up with some injuries and it was actually massage therapy combined with some other modalities to include chiropractic that healed me and helped me avoid having to have surgery. And so I thought this is what I want to do. I want to help people the way that it helped me.
My fitness goals started out like self-esteem and confidence and I think just trying to feel better about myself. I was not super athletic growing up, I played some Head League soccer and that type of thing but exercise and fitness wasn’t a cornerstone of my it was in high school, I got dumped and I wanted more confidence and I started going to the gym on a spare period, and it kind of combined my love of problem-solving and spatial sense and built discipline and it all just clicked and went from there.
I think it’s something that was instilled in me in a very fun and natural manner from when I was a young girl. I think this radiates on my biography and about me on my website, but my dad is retired from the Marine Corps. He’s a retired strength coach and football coach. And so just from a young girl, we were always really exposed to activity in a fun manner.I quickly just became obsessed with the whole culture of it and even though I’m only in my early thirties, it was still fairly new as a young athlete, a young female athlete for strength conditioning to be a heavy presence in your athletic career. And so I felt really lucky to get exposed to that at a young age just with my dad’s background.
What sports did you play growing up?
Yeah, growing up I played soccer and cheerleading—those were probably my two main sports. In college, I played intramural soccer. But now, I just stick to the gym.
Badly, yes. I participated poorly in a few sports. I never really did anything very serious. I mean, I played roller hockey, and I kind of played basketball. I probably wasn’t terrible, terrible, but I certainly was by no means a naturally gifted athlete.
No, I am not very coordinated, so I think that’s why I really gravitated towards running because it doesn’t require a lot of hand-eye control. So, nope, I pretty much just run. I do weight lift. I love to weight train, but those would be my two big passions right now.
Softball, volleyball, basketball, dance, cheerleading, track—ALL OF IT—but I focused on softball and played at Black Hawk College in Moline, IL. I still play slow-pitch softball and participate in CrossFit competitions to do this day.
Football is pretty much the sport that is my passion. That’s what I grew up playing. Really, I didn’t get a chance to start playing until I was in eighth grade. I grew up in a single parent [home] with five kids. Just couldn’t afford play an organized sport until eighth grade, which is when I started playing football. Then, through high school, I did wrestling. Played tennis for one year, but got kicked off the tennis team because I went from football to wrestling to tennis. It wasn’t a good combination.I played a little bit of everything. I swam. Like I said, I played tennis. I’ve always been active and try to do different things. Now, I mountain bike and I do jiu-jitsu. I think it’s something that’s important. Sports are important. It breaks down a lot of barriers. It’s always something that I’ve just kind of craved and had to have in my life.
Absolutely not. I have three sisters, and organized sports weren’t an option for us. I tried to play in school. Got kicked off the volleyball team and the baseball team both when I was super young and never thought of it again.
Have you used a strength coach or personal trainer?
I actually had, after my youngest child was born, I had a personal trainer and I’d never done personal training before that. And then I started to really think about then, definitely, I had it where I went to for personal training. The owner of that gym (Kathryn Applewhite), I consider to be one of my earlier mentors. And then as I went along, I always sought out people that I thought were really good at what they did, that I really knew what they were talking about and they were able to communicate that and sort of pass on that passion and knowledge and expertise.
I’ve actually never had a coach, a formal one. I’ve had numerous people do one-off assessments and things like that with me. But yeah, I’ve never had a coach long-term.
For me, aside from playing team sports, I was always very independent. I had no problem being alone. And so most of what I did, whether it was running or exercising or anything pertaining to physical fitness and training, was by myself. I would certainly glean from things like health and wellness magazines or watching things on TV or I never really had any particular mentor. What I will say in a lighthearted but a genuine way, and you know this well, I grew up, my favorite fictional character of all times is Rocky. And I started watching Rocky early over and over , to be honest, because those movies were so focused on not only the character’s development as a boxer but really his development as someone who conditioned himself very particularly and passionately for every stage and step of his life and journey.
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Did/Do you have any mentors in the health and fitness profession?
Yeah, I mean there were so many coaches out there. There was so much information to learn. From coaches like Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, Kevin Neeld, Mark Verstegen—all these coaches who, you know, at the time were starting to build up the sports performance industry and those coaches just had a big impact on , only a couple of them have I personally met, but just trying to learn as much as I can from reading and videos and going to seminars and learning from them. So, you know, those coaches—Mike Robertson—are coaches who I really try to learn from, from a young age and still learn from to this day. Bijresh Patel, who’s a fantastic conditioning coach at Quinnipiac, and at that time, they were the coaches from whom I tried to learn as much as I could and learn from them and develop my own system.
Yeah, I would actually probably lean on the fact that they were just generally sports coaches initially. So going back to when I got to Ohio State as an undergraduate, I started working for the football team and kind of a manager in an intern again, in that position I was exposed to, you know, the impact that guys, like a former football coach Jim Tressel could have or you know, or Darrell Hazell, who would go onto Kent State and obviously to Purdue. Coach Luke Fickell who is at Cincinnati now—and some of the impact that those men were having on other young people. So those were some of my mentors or, at least, people that I would look to in terms of how they kind of conducted themselves in life and then the impact that they were trying to have on then once I got into strength and conditioning, my next stop actually was at the University of Tennessee and I was introduced to Heather Mason down there and one of her assistants by the name of Holly Frantz.Heather and Holly are, to this day, two of my biggest mentors. I am on the phone with them frequently in contact with them pretty regularly and they’re outstanding. And then there are all kinds of people that are connected to them. Again, Clare Quebedeaux, who is now the director at Ohio State and then my boss at Ohio State when I was there, Coach Anthony Glass (Now, he’s the Director of Strength and Conditioning for Olympic Sports at Appalachian State). Those would be some of my mentors.
The music industry is so apparent here, and I started working out at a personal training gym here. And then I wanted to get back into the sports realm, so I was in a personal training gym, and then I moved into college strength and conditioning, which was the total opposite, but I’ve gotten a lot of mentors through the college strength and conditioning just—a college strength coach can be so valuable because the training is so much more dynamic than just personal training. So I did the college strength and conditioning thing for about three and a half years, and I got a lot of great mentors out of that, but a lot of local ones here, but the one I always refer back to is Mike Boyle.
All my life I was coached, starting at a young age in swimming. So I guess you could say I was coached my entire life. But when I retired from my sport, I did hire a trainer in my early twenties, and he actually became my greatest mentor in the industry.I hired him to train me for two back to back bodybuilding competitions in the bikini division, but what I really got out of it was the man who really redirected my life and helped me completely change it… His name is, my mentor, Matt O’Brien. He’s a health and fitness coach, he’s an author and a nutrition specialist. He’s based in Largo, Florida. He’s helped me so much and definitely inspired me to chase my own dreams in this career. So he’s amazing.
The way my parents and my grandparents raised me, is they raised me to find mentors. So I was lucky enough to learn that at a very early age. The guy that I hired for my rehab, his name was Joe DeAngelis.At the time, he was Mr. America, Mr. Universe. He’s passed on now, a few years back. But I learned everything the right way from him. He kept me from going down the wrong path. He ended up being my coach throughout my whole competitive career. Yeah, I just owe everything to him, because he was a very, very smart, educated bodybuilder, not just a garage bodybuilder. He was very educated. I learned quite a bit from him.
Sports performance, Gayle Hatch is one that comes to mind. He was an Olympic strengthen conditioning coach back in the ’90s. A lot of his predecessors trained us in Northwestern State. And so, from there, that was one of the big guys that I followed with then as I became more educated, Mario Jeberaeel was the head strength coach. He’s no longer doing strength conditioning. He’s an offensive line coach at Division II. But he instilled that scientific approach and really allowed me to begin my journey diving into the actual nuts and bolts of sports performance training. And so, that was you start to research and learning, of course, the Mike Boyle’s always come out. One of my big guys that I like to pull a lot of training tips is Cal Dietz. I do a lot of Triphasic Training. I like to implement that with our athletes. I actually was fortunate to go up and attend his RPR (Reflexive Performance Reset) certification back in January in Minnesota. So, that was a little bit shocking going from South Louisiana to Minnesota in January.
When you’re not coaching/training, what do you do for fun?
Another good question there. I do like sports a lot. I watch a lot of sports. My fantasy football team’s not doing well this year, so it’s kind of a bummer. But also, I’m really close to—my family and friends like to have some cabin weekends here in Minnesota, like to get together for birthdays, holidays, and things of that nature. So I spent a lot of time with my close family and friends, but definitely try to keep sports as part that as much as possible too.
What else do I do for fun? Well, I’ve got a three-year-old and a one-year-old at home, so that keeps me pretty damn busy. Running around with them is probably how I spend a good chunk of my time. Truly, I love running around the backyard with them and it’s one of the most fun things I can do in my life for now and look forward to…I don’t consider myself a runner. But I do enjoy running a little bit. I try and get one or two runs in per week. Not with any specific mileage objective, but I just really enjoy the headspace it puts me in to go out there and run. And also to challenge myself.
I love playing with my kids and then I’ll craft. I like knitting, which is the really complete opposite of running, but it’s very nice. So, I’m usually doing one of those two things or at the same time when I get home, but my family is really important to me.
I’ve got a five-year-old kiddie that takes up some of my time. I still play football. I like to watch football, particularly when the English season starts. I watch a lot of football. I like to go out to dinner with my wife and just chill out, really. Go and have a couple of beers, have some folk over, take my kid out. I just took my kid out to dinner today. I tend to—and you know maybe I’ll read books. Read books and listen to music, I would say generally are my main spare time things.
Yeah, this is something I push my clients a lot into because one of my first questions is like, what do you do for fun? I think it’s super important that people are doing that. Now granted, I love learning. I love the business side, so I consider that I think there’s also good to do things outside of that so you can have that balance. Really, I go to jujitsu classes a couple of times a week. I like to go shooting guns. I go to yoga. I’ll do Acroyoga if you’re familiar with that. I’m big into like a handstand and gymnastic practice know, what I consider like really good, fun activities are, when you’re doing them, you’re not thinking about other things. And so, almost all those activities I listed off, when I’m doing, I am fully present and so that just gives me the break from the work or any kind of life stressors or anything like that. So I really push a lot of people to find stuff like that.
I’m a musician. That was my first love. I’m a trumpet player, and I play in a ten-piece party band called TRAINWRECK here in Toronto. It is more fun than any adult should be able to have.
We hope that you have enjoyed learning some of the backstories and histories of some of the fitness professionals featured on Exercise.com. Though they all have different upbringings and experiences, they all share a passion for promoting healthy living and exercise. They have devoted themselves to educating and empowering others through exercise.
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Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.