I would love to tell a story about an incredible expedition to find fitness and join the ranks of fitness professionals that help get people moving every day. I don’t want to paint a picture wrought with struggle and deep inner turmoil so as to gain a following built purely from passion and the empathy of the reader. My “road” to fitness…. was the path I was always walking. Instead of trying to turn the last 20 years into a powerful cover story, I’ll just give you the abbreviated version of the long journey that led me to right now.
I was a skinny kid. Not the most picked on or chastised, others absorbed the brunt of that hormone driven torture pit, but skinny – and after a few years of being husky (they used to have an entire line of clothing with that label for kids with waists that were nearly the same measurement as their inseam), I was very aware of my lack of muscle. I hadn’t always been interested in sports, though my mother had always pushed competition; I was a pretty imaginative kid and always managed to come home just as clean as I was when I had walked out the door, spending the majority of my time in my own head. While my first sport was little league football, the sport that stole the show for me was swimming. I found it in middle school and my parents used to say I was built for it and they had always pushed me to get onto the field to try new things. I was happy to oblige because it was a blast! I competed for several years and also ran track and cross country, played tennis and football along with all the intramural sports I could find. My high school isn’t a large school, just 400 or so youths attended during my senior year (that’s in the whole school, not my grade!) and, as such, they didn’t offer a huge weight lifting and conditioning program outside of the big three; furthermore, it wasn’t terribly prudent that swimmers put on loads of mass in the weight room back in my day – so it was just that, an afterthought.
However, I had already dipped my toes into the waters in the weight room and my cardiovascular fitness was very high just from volume and consistency of my workouts throughout my high school career. Sheer hours of training for sports and studying human anatomy and physiology had left me with many volumes of workouts and different training variations I was trying on myself and anyone else that would submit to them! Entering college with a starting major of criminal justice, I was drawn to the gym and specifically NIFS, located in downtown Indianapolis, for a number of reasons - above all was a growing interest in MMA and I have a couple of very close friends to thank for those early steps. Finding a nearby club was fairly easy and coming up with the monthly dues wasn’t too difficult while serving tables in Broad Ripple and blasting through some early college coursework. I found Muay Thai to be very capable of filling any void left by sports from years passed and my body transitioned well into the new regiment.
While training and my regular gym workouts were going well, I had struggled to find a real passion in college (by this time I had dabbled in criminal justice, biology, art and English/journalism) – often searching through the lists of majors and degree programs offered by the school before the start of every semester expecting some new program to slap me across the face. After working for a year as an accountant within a department of IUPUI, I finally reached out and applied for a position at a gym near school…. It was a maintenance position, but I was qualified for it and was able to land the job. My passions for the real benefits of a health club were quickly realized once I was immersed in the atmosphere full time. It was an opportunity to spread the word! I was allowed to make bulletin boards and wrote articles about many trending fitness topics despite being on the maintenance staff. I went from washing the towels and cleaning the equipment to membership supervisor within the year and had caught the bug to test into my first group fitness instructor credential from ACE. I was allowed to teach my first official group fitness class when I was 21 but had been entrenched in teaching many modes of fitness from the time I was 17 including swimming and other competitive sports.
I put together several speeches in college highlighting the health epidemics that were inundating the average American at the time, labeling one ‘The McDonaldization of America’. I point this one out specifically because it was a turning point for me in career choice and helped to shape a lifelong dogma that I still subscribe to today. During research for these talks, I came across a number of very troubling data points including the average health cost for employers to keep their ‘growing’ (pun intended) workforce healthy was skyrocketing past $12 billion, annually – and that was in 2006! No matter what, I had realized that I wanted to introduce all of those people to a healthier lifestyle! I just had to figure out where to go and make that happen…
In that same year, my friend and I purchased tickets to see Royce Gracie come back to fight Matt Hughes in UFC 60.
I’ll give you a moment to open a separate browser and look up those two gentlemen, if you are unaware of their work.
The fight was held in Los Angeles California and it was my first time being on the west coast. To put it mildly, I was hooked. I fell in love with the sport, the sand and the lifestyle. With a couple of certifications under my belt and several credit hours piling up (I had only recently realized that exercise science was the right path for me), I set my eyes on the National Strength and Conditioning Association and applied for every open position at Gold’s Gym in Hollywood and Venice beach California. In the summer, Gold’s Gym called me back and I left Indy with a mind full of dreams and a few of my belongings in the back seat.
I started as a personal trainer with my new coursework and the NSCA in my pocket and worked my tail off for several years. I lived in the gym and for a large chunk of my time there was actively training 40+ clients, working every day and still training for my own sports. They say it’s easy when you love what you do and I have to say they’re right! After three years running trainer of the year awards and plenty of struggles along the way, I worked as the fitness manager at Gold’s Gym Hollywood until I came back to Indianapolis. There were many reasons for returning but my passion for living and spreading a healthy lifestyle was not dampened. Most of all, I intended to finish my degree and push past the ceiling of the box gyms.
I did finally complete my degree while teaching classes and training people on my own time. In 2016, I came across a business owner looking for someone in search of a fitness center that broke the traditional mold; Fireeye Fitness was a no brainer for me. I read the article Todd had written and quickly scoured the website and searched out all I could find. I couldn’t have found a better fit.
I was excited to write this for our blog this week. Todd asked me and I started jotting down notes right after our meeting. While it is a VERY condensed version of my path to where you find me today, I hope the main takeaway is that I love it. I think the bones of my path were laid by my mom, who always had my back and – to this day – is the strongest person I know. I live for people’s faces as they walk in from a stressful day and seeing the joy exercise can bring. I live for watching people take their lives back, exchanging inches and pounds for years on the back end. Creating workouts, studying new fitness trends and building on prior knowledge to share with anyone that wants to share space with me keeps me ticking. At the end of the day, my journey and, dare I say, my purpose, is to spread my beliefs and knowledge based on all of my years in training. I hope I can share my love of fitness and spark something in another person to have a journey of their own. Right now, I’m happy to do it one class at a time.