On this episode of the show, I am interviewing Natali Kummer and Chris Siegelin from Crossfit Valley Park. Natali is a certified Level I Crossfit coach, Strongfit mentor, and Precision Nutrition Level I Coach.  Chris is a certified Level I Crossfit coach and is certified in adaptive training. 

Through their work together, they have found that investing in their members has helped build trust and has created a space where members are able to ask questions. This environment allows the trainers to effectively share their knowledge in order to help their members become the best versions of themselves. 

CFVP is different from your traditional Crossfit gym.  They work hard to overcome the expectation of what it is like in a “typical” gym and aim to gain people’s trust in an effort to get them moving safer, better, and faster.  

E-Mail: natalikummer@gmail.com
Website: www.crossfitvalleypark.com
Facebook: Crossfit Valley Park

Hello, and welcome to STL active St. Louis’s premier health and wellness podcast. STL active aims to give listeners in the St. Louis area the information they need to succeed and progress with their health and fitness. This podcast is brought to you by stlouispt.com and hosted by Doctor of Physical Therapy Greg, Judice.
Hey everyone, its Dr. Greg, owner, and physical therapist at Judice Sports and Rehab. On this episode of the show, I’m interviewing Natali Kummer and Chris Siegelin from CrossFit Valley Park. Combined, Chris and Natalie have 12 years of coaching experience. Chris is a certified level one CrossFit coach and adaptive training certified Natali a certified level one CrossFit coach as well, but also has a strong fit mentorship, and precision nutrition level one. Without further ado, let’s get into the interview with Chris and Natalie. All right on this episode of STL Active, I have Natali Kummer and Chris Siegelin from CrossFit Valley Park. Thank you guys so much for being here. I appreciate it. Your welcome. Awesome. Well, let’s, let’s introduce you to the listeners. I’m going to have Natali go first, just give us a little bit about your background.
So by schooling, I’m an occupational therapist, and I worked full time there for about 15 years, and then I changed kind of courses in my direction and started coaching. Full time after my daughter was born. And through kind of switching some gyms here in St. Louis, I ended up at CrossFit Valley Park about three years ago, and I’m the head coach there. And kind of managing the programming. Definitely managing and mentoring the coaches and helping Brandon kind of run things on a daily basis.
Cool. And Brandon. Brandon Jackson is the owner of CrossFit Valley Park. Does he also coach? Well, he does. Okay, that’s what I thought but you were the coach’s coach kind of keeping everything running. Yes. Got it. Very cool. And Chris, just briefly background for you.
Yeah, so I am fresh out of college. So I got my level one, which we’ll probably talk about later, for CrossFit, my sophomore year of college and coach throughout that those three years. I went to school for exercise, science, kinesiology, and graduated with that, as my major with a minor in biology. I just developed a passion for movement, specifically, CrossFit really fell in line with what I learned throughout school. So I valued the scientific knowledge behind their thinking and their programming. So I started working part-time throughout college. And then my now husband got a job in St. Louis. And I was on the search for a gym and Natali reached out to me, and now I’m coaching across the valley Park. I specialize with adaptive athletes, so people with special needs or any form of limitation, I work with them closely on scaling and making sure that fitness works well for them. So that’s kind of my, my role there. And Natali has been mentoring me and strong fit and just really working me into this gym space. And it’s been a great journey so far. Awesome.
Very good. So, Natali, how did you get from OT, all the way to trainer? I know they’re related? They’re obviously health and wellness related, but But what was the motivation to go from full-time OT to full-time trainer because as a PT, obviously we’re in very similar fields. So what was kind of that, that motivation?
So I think just growing up and playing sports and being active, I just loved, I love that. And I through college, I just ran on my own and kind of did my own thing. And when I found CrossFit and tried it for the first time, it kind of brought back all of those really awesome memories about like the competition of something. Not it wasn’t just working out and by myself, but it was this really positive, competitive atmosphere that drove me to go harder. And I hadn’t experienced that since I played sports. So that was immediately something that I grabbed onto and ran with it. And as I kind of developed as an athlete I saw you know, at first I saw the body composition changes like I never even though I was healthy and working out I never really saw much as far as my strength gains or muscles, I guess you could say. And I noticed that started happening when I started CrossFit and started doing it regularly. So it was it was really addicting. I mean, to be honest, I really really loved going I met a lot of people. People, the community was a big part of it as well. So as I got more into it, and, I’m naturally I love to learn new things, I love to, you know, research things that are interests that interests me. And so as I started doing that, and like learning about CrossFit, I wanted to get my level one. So I got my level one and had my daughter. And at that point in time, I kind of went back to occupational therapy just on a part time basis. And so I had more time, I had a couple days during the week where I could be at the gym longer, or, you know, spend some time while she was napping, you know, looking things up and learning and watching videos. And so it kind of just was my own self exploration with with what it was. And as I started learning more, I was at a gym that had two awesome owners, that were really good mentors. And I kind of spurred me to take the next step of coaching and coaching beginners, and I really, that I learned a lot through both my mentors there, and then also just coaching people that had never done it before. And so kind of my skills relating to people in occupational therapy of all different backgrounds and limitations, gave me the, the skills, the patience, and kind of the ability to take something that looks really, really complex and hard, and break it down to a beginners level and have and see people succeed. So you see, so I see patients succeed in, you know, self care tasks, and, you know, range of motion tasks in the clinic, but then it easily carried over to what I was seeing actually in the gym, and then I just, I liked being in the gym, I liked the atmosphere, I liked having the freedom to give people what they needed, and not have to explain it on documentation or be on the clock, so to speak, making productivity but actually being able having the freedom to help the person in front of me to, you know, buy, excuse me, like whatever the way they needed without the constraints of like a corporate ties and expectation. So that I think is what really tipped me to, you know, really consider coaching, a more of a full time job coaching and take kind of the good parts of the OT and bring it into the gym. And, and kind of meld the two that way. Love it.
Yeah. And I can imagine that with your background as an occupational therapist, that being able to break those things down into their base level, helps you to be a better coach. And it also helps you to be able to teach. And so I think this is a great dynamic to have to have you here because like you said, Chris, you know, being fresh out of school, you may not have the experience she has, but you have the knowledge of that, you have your degree, and you’ve got an awesome teacher. So of course, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get to where you want to be as a coach someday, that’s awesome. But back to Natalie, of course, you know, I love the breaking away from the corporate dynamic, because that’s what I’m all about here. But I, I think that really shows a lot of you can help people in a completely different way. And in some ways, you’re probably seeing more results at the gym than you might be in the clinic.
Yeah, I think, you know, one of the things is that I do really still love about people coming into the gym that have never tried it or don’t think they can do it. Whatever those self limitations are in their head, it’s really nice to watch the journey of someone doing something they don’t think they they can do. And being a part, a little small part of it and helping them see the potential they have. That’s always been something that whether I was in the OT clinic, and, you know, assisting a stroke patient that, you know, can’t raise their arm to feed themselves again, or, you know, a little small tasks that you that everyone doesn’t even, you know, think about or takes for granted. having them do that it parallels to having somebody you know, pick up a weight that they never thought they could lift or you know, jump up on a box that they didn’t think they can do or run and they never thought they’d be a runner you know, those types of things are so different but they give the person that same you know, success in that same feeling inside so I think that’s the thing that’s chase that I chase is like, that’s that you know, light bulb or that’s that expression on their face that you’re like, Oh my god, you did it like you You did this like you and I get to see this. So that’s the really cool part.
And the success stories in the active population are so different than And the neuro population, which I know you’ve worked in before, just because I know where you’ve worked. Yeah, just listeners, my wife and Natalie have been co workers kind of in the past, you worked PRN at one of the clinics that she has worked full time at. So yeah, just kind of a funny how we meet kind of story. But that’s just the way things go here in St. Louis. So. So back to back to Chris, tell me tell me more about kind of what brought you into wanting wanting to be a coach, I know you you had the athletic background and you you liked working with active people. But why quite this?
Yeah. So actually, I initially went into college. Just like, totally wanting to be a doctor, I had it in my head that that’s what I wanted to do. And so I went the biology route through my school, which I loved had some great professors there. But as I shadowed doctors, and started to kind of dig into what, what field I would actually want to go into, I started to get a little frustrated with the defensive side of medicine, not that we don’t need people there, because we do need people on that side. But I was like, if we can do something about this, why aren’t we so I kind of wrestled with that for a little bit, because I don’t like to quit things. So I was like, Well, if I step out of this major, I feel like a quitter. But reality moving into the Exercise Science Department of my school was the best thing I could have done because it helped me pursue that preventative side of medicine and helping people recognize that their actions every day now will affect how they are in 10 years. And I wanted to be a part of that. And I wanted to help them see that. So. And I agree with Natali, on the chase of seeing those progress points in the checkpoints that people get to, to me, and I crave that I crave that for people, because I’ve had that myself. So I’ve been able to see those progress points for me and how addicting that is. And I’ve also, I’ve also just always been in sports, so I didn’t know what to do without those. And so the community that CrossFit specifically develops, was something that I was really attracted to. So just in my search for being a coach, I didn’t actually know what field or what organization I wanted to go into, looked through like anything from like orange theory to yoga, which people who know me now know that that would be a nightmare for anybody, but, and CrossFit really was the one I was most attracted to, just in terms of the skills that I had, and in the passions that I had. And so So yeah, I think coaching was kind of, for me, it was a lightbulb for, for what I wanted to do with my life in terms of preventing people from having, you know, heart disease and different types of like, obesity and all those kind of things. So, yeah,
yeah, I think I think that to the preventative part is like when you’re in it, and you’re working with on the backside of, you know, diseases, and you’re seeing the things, you know, up close, that can happen to someone that doesn’t take care of themselves, or, you know, has that run in their family. And you, you know, after a while you get a little help are hopeless, you know, you’re like, what, what, there has to be more to do than just, you know, the medicine and the and the after care, so to speak of these things, that there has to be something on the front end that that everyone can do, and why not focus on that and to prevent all of these things down the road. So, you know, that functional piece that people you know, as you get older, you stop getting down on the floor and crawling around you stop, you know, bending over to get something you stop, you know, you stop doing the things that help you live, and then you know, before you know it, there’s something that happens that takes away a lot of your independence. And so, a completely agree as far as like being just, I think, being a part of the front end and helping people realize like you can move now, you can do this, you know, you can do hard things. Do them now, while you still can and also do them with joy. Like, it doesn’t always have to be like a grueling, like workout, it can actually you can actually like while you’re working out, thank your body for being able to do what it can do, right? And so why not, why not be a part of that? And I think personally for me, that just gave me a little bit more hope as just in my profession, as well. So
I think too, as as I’ve been growing as a coach, I realized that some of the barriers, most of the barriers aren’t actually physical, a lot of them are a mentality. So getting people past that point is not in my schooling. But it’s something that takes time as a coach to read people and know, their mental barriers and helping them push through those things, to recognize that their bodies can do far more than they think they can so that as they get older, and as their body starts to change, and it looks different, and all those things, they can still be mentally strong and be able to push themselves further, when those things happen. That’s
huge. Absolutely, that that mental side of being active is, like you’d set early, those self limiting beliefs, they come into play all the time. And I envy you guys, because you are kind of that frontline, front line of defense, and you don’t want to play defense necessarily, you’re trying to prevent things from happening. But I get so frustrated, sometimes when I get someone that comes in, I’m happy to have them as a patient. But oh, my shoulder has been bothering me. Oh, okay, how long has it been bothering you? Oh, four years? Oh, boy. So frustrating. It’s so frustrating to hear that, because they could have been doing something four years ago or six years ago, to prevent that from happening. And and it’s just, it’s frustrating on my end. And, you know, I’ve being a private practice owner, I’ve tried pushing the proactive approach to PT, whether that’s having like a yearly screen or a quarterly screen, or whatever, it might be a movement screen trying to see the bigger issues before they become issues that you notice. Right. And, and it’s, it’s challenging,
I think, I think, you know, to that, Greg, I think, you know, when people do have, you know, a nagging shoulder or, or a hip or a knee and, and one of the things that that we that we look for, and we’ve been developing at CrossFit Valley Park is, you know, kind of seeing some imbalances in people and how they move and really observing what they are doing and what they look like when they do a certain movement. And then you know, kind of identifying that and giving them feedback there. But you know, there is a certain sense, there is a lot of responsibility on the person that you give the information to, you know, they, it’s not all really fun, and you’re not doing anything fancy when you have to fix something that doesn’t feel right. And I think sometimes people want that like, like quick fix, and that they don’t want to give it the time and the attention that things take to get better. There’s not like a magic number two that but there is like, there is a certain amount of time that you have to be willing to, you know, pull back and do the not so fun exercises, and actually think about what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Not just you know, I know, I know, a gym can be a place where people come in and kind of tune everything else out, like that’s your hour. And that’s your hour to, you know, de stress and not think about all the things outside of the gym, that has its place as well. But I think we are calling our members to also think about how they feel when they do a movement. So it’s not just about what it looks like, but how does it feel? Where is the tension at what muscles are working? Where are those muscles, you know, calling attention to actually your body and getting in tune with your body. And that sounds so simple, but it is not easy for people. It slows people down. Lot of times makes the movements harder because you’re not allowing them to compensate. So they’re having to do a little bit more mental work,
and then have to be mindful of every single motion. Right? If it’s somewhat uncomfortable, or they’re moving improperly. Yes, I see it all the time. Yes. And it’s an in a frustrating thing for me is seeing other coaches that will say, Oh, well, you have a knee issue where we’re not going to do any squats, right. But that doesn’t
make any sense to me. So then you’re going to go back and do a squat Two months later, and it’s going to hurt. So exactly,
you’re not fixing the problem. You’re working around the problem. And I see that a lot with upper body stuff. Because, of course you can avoid a squat and daily life, whether that’s getting up and down out of a chair in and out of your car. But you can always use the other arm euregio right. Mm hmm. And so I’ll see that a lot where Oh, I haven’t really done much with my right arm because every time I do it hurts. Well, that’s a time not to avoid exercise on that. But to do the right thing. Yes. And I see a ton of that. So I can definitely appreciate that doing the right thing trying to solve the problem before it becomes a bigger problem. Mm hmm. That’s huge. Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. So let’s move on. you’d mentioned strong fit. What is strong fit? I know CrossFit is but what is strong fit
so strong fit is a principle of movement. It’s taking, it’s taking a broad view of what movement is, and applying it to
all exercises, all breathing.
mindset, it is all-encompassing really, it’s kind of like you can’t necessarily like, define it specifically, I feel like it is something that develops with the person that you’re working with, or with the people in front of you. So it’s very, what’s the word, pliable to who is in your class, and what they need, involves nervous systems. It involves breathing, it involves nutrition. But, but I would say the big I guess the biggest thing that has changed the way I coach is looking at the individual in front of me and learning how I can help them through multiple different ways. And that has come into our programming by using different pieces of equipment, not necessarily like-new pieces of equipment, they’ve been around forever, doing, learning about how the body is connected. So upper and lower body, learning the what the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems do, and how to use that flow that fight that flight in the freeze cycle in our workouts, it’s a natural thing that happens every day to people in different situations, taking that and cultivating it through movement, and getting people to be able to express sadness, anger, joy, through movement, and they may not know what is happening, but watching it and observing the diff that cycle, when people are in a in a workout, you can start to see it. And having members leave the gym feeling better than when they came in, whether that’s through expression during a hard workout, whether that’s finding a flow, finding a breathing pattern that allows them to connect with their body and actually like internalize what they’re doing, and not have everything be outside of them. So it’s hard to maybe like conceptualize, like, put a finger on it. But it’s more of a broad wide principle that we use to
focus our programming. Okay,
so it’s, it’s something that the coaches go through, like a program that the guy has to learn to be able to better work with the clients.
Guess in gym? That’s Yeah, that’s a general like, goal of it. I was in the strong fit mentoring program for three years. So I specifically went through the mentoring and kind of was in it working homework calls, things like that. And then my job was to then educate my coaches about why we’re doing what we’re doing. Why does it matter? If someone’s nasal breathing? Why does it matter if they’re finding tension in their hamstrings in a deadlift? Why does it matter, that they’re right glute isn’t firing in a squat? You know, those types of things and starting to allow them to first understand it? And then practice seeing it? And then what do we do about it when we see it? And what are ways we can help a person realize that they’re not doing it and then realize why it’s important to do those things or not do those things? Sure.
So. So it sounds like that’s a great way to personalize each each individual’s workout, because you can see the specific faults rather than these are the things that we’re working on today. These are the things that everybody has to do today. You can individually say, Yes, Mrs. B needs to work on this thing. Yes, to help her be able to do XYZ exercise.
So strong fit started really, as a one on one. setup, it was never a group dynamic.
So that’s kind of what it sounds like more of a person. So
it kind of it does lend itself to be more one on one but doesn’t mean that you can’t take those concepts in and bring them into a group. group setting, it does make it a little bit more challenging because like you said, you can have some people, you know, that come into, say, a 6pm class after working all day, and they need to blow off some steam right away, they’re not ready to, you know, traditionally a class, a CrossFit class starts out as like socialization and a warm up, and everyone is, you know, chit chatting and whatnot. And that person may just not be able to engage in that because they’ve had a really crappy day. So they mean need to go and, you know, punch a sandbag, or, you know, use a sledge hammer on a tire or like, get some aggression out, so that they’re able to come back around and socialize, and then start the class. And so you can do that on it. Like, if I was seeing this person one on one, you can have them do that right away, it’s harder to do have, you know, that freedom, and that safety in a class of 10 people, or some people need to go do hitting, and some people need to chit chat and do a run and socialize while they’re running, you know, doesn’t mean it can’t be done. But you also have to know your clients, and you also have to know why. why they’re doing Why would they need that. So there is a lot of training and, and knowledge behind behind seeing something like that. And so, I think, you know, trying to not make it perfect, like we’ve we’ve incorporated it now for two and a half years, I think. And at first it was really a hard transition from like, straight up traditional CrossFit to more of incorporating the strong fit principles and using different things and you know, not killing ourselves every single day in a workout. And knowing why we’re not doing that. But I think our our gym members now that are there, understand what’s happening. And they’ve stuck with us and have seen the benefits of the changes that we’ve made. So now when a new person comes in, we’re sure to, you know, identify with, hey, we’re different. You know, we’re a CrossFit gym, but we do things slightly different. And this is what we do. And if it’s a good fit, if you think it’s gonna be a good fit for you, if you’re looking for these types of ways that we coach, great, you know, welcome. If not, that’s cool. There are so many other gyms out there are a lot of great CrossFit gyms that you know, would probably be more what you’re looking for.
Gotcha. Okay. So Chris, kind of what is your experience been? Did you have other CrossFit experience before coming to Valley Park? And kind of tell me maybe what your perspective on the difference is going from a non strong fit trained gym to Natalie’s gym, where they are obviously incorporating the strong fit principles pretty heavily,
right? Yeah, so I worked at a gym throughout college. Who Yeah, it was your traditional CrossFit gym, they had, you know, the RX weights on the board, and we wrote all the scores on the board, and we were practicing snatching and clean and jerking all the time and things like that, which is there, those are all good things. I found myself at those at that gym and another gym that I briefly worked at getting a little frustrated with the injuries that would occur more frequently than I would have hoped. Because I wanted to be on the preventative side of injury and needing and requiring medicine. It was, I was like, man, like we’re doing something wrong if we’re causing those things, like I don’t want to be causing the issues either. So and I think that’s, that’s where CrossFit
can kind of get a bad rap. Yeah, you know, like, from a PT perspective. Some people that are biased will say, you know, what, don’t ever do CrossFit? You’re gonna get injured at CrossFit. Oh, for sure. Yeah, that’s, that’s the perception that a lot of people have of CrossFit in general. So right, I’m gonna allow you to kind of keep going here to kind of squash that because I don’t believe that, but right I want you to kind of say what the difference is because after talking to Natalie, I know her my belief stand with the with the strong fist.
Absolutely. Yeah. So I I was getting I’m with you, I was really frustrated by that. And by the reputation that CrossFit had, because scientifically it it made sense to me what the body was being asked to do during CrossFit. But if you take that too far, like any good thing can go too far, and it can turn into a bad thing. So So actually, when I was in the hiring process with Natalie, she was pretty straightforward with me. She was like, Hey, listen, like this is not your classic CrossFit gym. Here’s why. She started listing these reasons like we’re more intentional. We listen to the body more we slow down more we try and do injury prevention. We think about our food, we think about our breathing all these things and I was like, man, like this sounds too good to be true. And I came in visited and got to hear her heart behind it and truthfully as a Like I could see through her that she cared more about each member individually because of strong fit that it required her to understand her the member in front of her like she said, on a deeper level and got to understand what makes them tick, what are things that they struggle with what are areas that they excel in and to harness those and, and to empower them to do the right thing for them. And so as I transition from your classic CrossFit point of view into the strong, fit, strong point of view, I learned just a stronger approach to coaching, I would say, your average CrossFit gym, no matter where you go, it’s dependent on who’s who their coaches are. So you’ll get good gyms, you’ll get bad gyms and gym I worked at before had great weightlifting coach and a great conditioning coach and everything like that. And they’re doing great things. But this gym fit the bill for me and I understand more about the human body and I can use my schooling to a greater extent because of strong fit. And so I think the intentionality that strong fit brings to the table is really what has empowered me as a coach to have more confidence in my skills and my knowledge, but also to be able to relate to our members more and to help them the best that I can. And to keep them from being injured. And that’s like, my whole goal. I don’t but you want it. That’s what I wanted. Right.
So and I think the the word you use there that I took the biggest is that intention? Right? You know, it’s very specific to what they need today. Yeah, so I can definitely appreciate that.
Yeah, because without the intent without having that intention, you can do the same workout 10 different ways. And I think with the reasoning behind it, and the what we’re going for, and what we’re asking of the members, and, you know, with that that piece is huge for people, I think it’s changed a lot of people’s minds about certain things that they do or don’t like to do in the gym. It’s given them, it surprised them on what their capacity has been, just by changing a breath pattern, or giving them kind of a mindset for the workout. You see a lot of people that doubt themselves and, you know, traditionally don’t go there, be able to start to like, try to find the intensity, and finding intensity and finding intent for people are really tough. You know, and I think we do, I believe that we do a great job of giving that to them in classes. That’s awesome.
So that kind of reminds me in general with the with the strong fit stuff. When I first met with Brandon, the owner at Valley Park, he was telling me kind of his personal story and his reasoning for going towards the strong fit stuff. And I’m probably gonna butcher this story, but I’m going to tell it the best I can. Where he was basically he was a beast. He was doing workouts six, seven days a week, he was killing it. He was a big guy. He was strong. He was doing everything that he knew to do per CrossFit. And he felt like crap every day. Yeah. And he was just getting worse and feeling like more crap every day. And eventually he kind of realized this can’t be this can’t be it. This can’t be how it’s supposed to be. So hopefully I didn’t do that too poorly. That’s what basically Yeah, but basically, he was so frustrated with doing everything by the book and never feeling good. Feeling
good. Right. And that was how I kind of stumbled upon strong fit is that I was, you know, working out, probably, I don’t know, five or six times a week pretty hard. And also feeling I was like I shouldn’t feel this bad for is not of workout that I do. You know, this isn’t like there, there’s something not right. And but no one is really talking about it. No one’s really bringing it up. And this was like, I don’t know, back in 2015. And I had like kind of a little bit of a hurt shoulder and you know, I just kind of ignored it and kind of went on because you didn’t want to not go to the gym, you didn’t want to not you know, miss a workout. You don’t want to miss your friends and but at the same time, even though I would seek out, you know, physical therapy or a chiropractor or something to remedy this problem, eventually would always come back. And so it was frustrating. And I happened upon Julian pinos podcast, barbell shrug podcast and that’s where he started saying all the things I’ve been thinking for so long about how CrossFit is in itself. Great. But there’s all these injuries happening and why are they happening? And he just dove into that. And from then on, I was like this is he’s speaking what I’ve been thinking for so long I need to go with this and like, figure out who this guy is, and, you know, try to learn all I can from him. And that’s kind of where it began. And then it just kind of started snowballing from there and went out and met him and did his first weekend course. And it just, it just went from there. And I was learning so many things that were, you know, just eye opening, it’s like, why don’t we Why don’t we build a structure, you know, in somebody, before we ask them to do all these special movements, you know, we just kind of skipped a bunch of steps of foundational steps of someone that you’re asking somebody’s body to do all these great things without having the foundation to support it, eventually, it’s going to break and that’s what I kept seeing and seeing and seeing. And so now, I think at Valley Park, we’re intentional about hey, let’s build like, everybody up, like from the bottom up, and then then we can get fancy and fun and, and do all those things that you see on traditional CrossFit athletes doing but not putting people at risk of, you know, hurting a shoulder or pulling labor from, you know, hurting their hip, etc. So
very good. So, while we’re talking about how you guys are different, what would a what would a typical workout be for you guys, that’s what’s so much different than the typical CrossFit gym. Because I know after talking with Brandon, the biggest thing was kind of not using the barbell every single day for every single movement. I think that’s a another kind of stereotype that CrossFit has in general is it’s all heavy bar. There’s lots of cleans, lots of reps, lots of snatch work, and that’s all great if you can do those motions. Sure. And so kind of how are you guys different kind of working your way to those, those foundational movements that move towards the higher level Olympic lifts? Well, I
was gonna ask Chris what she thought when she first came, because I think that I have been going at it for a while. And I know what I will say, but I want to know what you think when you first started coming, because you have some great, you’ve had some comments and like interesting things like okay, like, I would never have thought we would do that here. Right? Things like that. So,
yeah, well, when I first came that Natalie was started mentoring me, I kind of ramped up into my role now. But she, she’s like, Alright, we’re gonna, you know, grab a two and a half pound plates, and we’re gonna test your shoulder mobility. And I was like, okay, I’ve been snatching for years, like, I do muscle ups, I can do all these things. Like, why do a guy mobile, you know, 22 at the time, and I feel like I can move like a champion. Oh, and so we, we did what we call openers, which are very eye opening, for me, at least, which really tests somebody, not their flexibility, but their mobility, how much tension they can keep, while breathing properly and engaging the right muscles. And, and I was like, holy cow, I can’t move my shoulders at all. Like, I cannot keep tension in my pecs or my shoulders, like at all. And I was so surprised by those things. And just trying to understand I thought she was a crazy woman at first. And then I was like, hold up like, this is this is some real stuff and prove you right? She did. And I yeah, and answered a lot of my my questions, I had done some local competing for a long time and had some elbow problems and shoulder problems. And I’m like, Well, no, duh, I can’t move my shoulders the right way, you know, so that, for me was like the, the biggest difference that we implement those openers into our class, we implement mobility testing and keeping in thinking and processing the right muscles, and keeping them active at the right time, which typically in your, you know, average Joe CrossFit gym, you do your warmup, and you do the workout, no matter what’s on the board, you do it, whether you can or not kind of deal and you scale, the best you can, which is what CrossFit does really well they scale, a movement and it keeps the same movement pattern, but maybe makes it easier or less body weight involved, things like that. But here, everybody kind of knows now what their limits are and say, You know what, like that movement, I can either mimic the movement with lighter body weight or I can do something different that will help me engage the right muscles to get the most out of this this workout that I can so I think that the openers and the mobility focus for me were the most like, yeah, different but eye opening experience and I was like man, like, not everybody can move as well as they think they can. Because once you start thinking about the muscles, you’re like, wait a minute,
yeah, sensation that you see. And I you know, the openers, we call them openers, because they are exercises that require you to hold tension in a certain muscle through range of motion. So once you can easily see someone start to compensate if they can’t do that, and, and then also layering The, the nasal inhale through that range of motion. It’ll kind of it’s kind of an easy way to check if you stop inhaling through, you know as you Sorry, when you stop inhaling you’re moving stops, because that’s really your body telling you that you’re going to go beyond what you can hold tension. And so we’ve started to train the members to understand like, Okay, if I’m practicing and doing the hinge opener, and I’m trying to activate my glutes and hamstrings, I shouldn’t be feeling this in my low back, I should be activating my core in the front. And I’m going to breathe. You know, as I do this thing, I’m going to inhale and once I can’t inhale anymore, then I’m going to stop moving and note in my mind, like, what do I feel it? So these openers are slowing people down and getting them to actually feel tension in their muscles. And then when what that does is that brings awareness to those muscles. So then I can go and say, Okay, we’re gonna do deadlifts today, after we did our openers, those muscles that you found in the openers, you need to find that same feeling when you’re doing the complex movement now. So it’s helping people identify and taking not just what a deadlift should look like, but what it should feel like and driving that home. I think that’s huge.
Yeah. Is it doesn’t always have to look the same to be the same activity. Yes. And I think that’s big because people want to lift the heavy weights and see the most plates and maybe they need to be lifting a sandbag, maybe write it to be wearing a vest, rather than focusing on how big is the or the plates that I’m right.
And I think I think with the use of our sandbags, our sandbags are really dynamic. I mean, they’re very basic sandbag, they’re not they don’t have handles on them. So they’re requiring you to actually hold and carry in a very, like, primitive way. I would say, people find that a simple sandbag carry is not easy at all. And if you know you’ll, you’ll definitely find weaknesses, both physically and mentally with somebody doing a 400 meter sandbag carry. It’s it’s eye opening, that somebody that can, you know, clean and jerk a lot of weight, you know, has their back blows up when they’re holding a 60 pound sandbag for afford it 400 meter carry. That’s, that’s, you know what, what’s happening there? Why is why is that, you know? So the sandbags have, you know, it’s a different story when you’re front squatting, a sandbag, and you’re running a barbell, I mean, the barbell is nice, and everything’s displaced. And even. And that sandbag is just so dynamic. And it just tells a story. So it’s pretty cool to a pretty cool tool to use. I
think that also something that we learn when we get our L. One is verbal cues, tactile cues, and things like that. And I had not really use tactile cues all that much where you’re actually physically touching somebody and helping them feel the right things. And that’s something that I, I always joke with our members like, man, we should have a glass window right now, cuz people would kind of do a double-take, like what is going on in there. But they, yeah, we just get a chance to be able to help members feel the right things at the right time. And I remember when I first started, Natalie’s, like, poking on my stomach, and I was like, what she went. And then she kept telling me like, press your, like rescue legs out, press your obliques out, like under pressure. And I it helps. It really does. And so being able to help somebody tactilely has been a new journey for me as a coach, because at first I was really uncomfortable, like, getting permission, like, you know, but now like it does, you know, your members, you know who who needs that. And I can now offer that because I’ve learned how to do that. Well.
I always like to laugh because you know, in the clinic, I’m always moving people and touching people and moving their arms and legs. And it’s kind of a grind, you’re touching people. So I had to really like watching myself in the gym because I would always I wouldn’t even think twice about I just come up and start poking people. And everyone you know, no one knowing that. Yeah, like, right here, right here. And they would be like, whoa. And I remember one time we had we were doing I think bird dogs or something on a mat and everyone’s on all fours. And so I was walking around the room and I had like, saw something and I just went right up to the girl and I like poked her and she screamed because she didn’t know I was behind her. And so she screamed, and she’s like, Oh my god, I didn’t know you. And I was like, Oh my god, I’m so sorry. And I was like, I knew that was gonna happen at some point in time. But like, I knew I was gonna scare someone and someone’s gonna scream. And then I screamed, and it was just it was like, yeah, myself, I get to like, chill out about
poking. But the tactile cues are super important. Yes, absolutely crucial to being able to get that feedback internally, you can’t necessarily feel your scapular muscles kicking in until you can feel them
and some people don’t even know where they are, like helping them identify that is helpful.
So that’s definitely huge. Love it. So let’s move on to let’s talk about your members. So one of the things that we had talked about before meeting up today was that you guys are investing in your members. Obviously investing in yourselves is one way to do that, but maybe go into a little bit more detail of what that means.
So I I think our members are what makes Valley Park Valley Park and it sounds so cliche but truly, I’ve had people that don’t go to the gym, friends, family pop in here and there over the course of the years, and everyone has said, Wow, people here are so friendly, they’re so welcoming. And it that’s nice to hear. But truly, like, people are not above saying hi and introducing themselves when a new person walks in the door every single time. And that is just something that Brandon has cultivated over the years, he’s instilled that as a coach, he always is wanting the coaches to, you know, introduce themselves say hello, when you walk in the door, you know, be present, you know, engage. And I think that’s, that’s one thing. I think everyone kind of is invested. At the beginning, in the end of class, they check in on people, they, they encourage people, but there’s more to it. I think outside of the gym, you have, you know, different social events and different things where, you know, we’ll come together as groups, and people truly are our, our friends, and they know what’s going on with each other’s lives. So that in itself makes it easy as a coach to kind of come into that community. I mean, I was new, obviously, when I started three years ago, and this gym has been around for so long for 13 years. So it’s a well-established group of people for the most part. And coming into that I never felt unwelcome it was it was from the start people as a new coach, you know, everyone’s unsure, and they don’t really know how your coaching style is, and if they can trust you, and it was really open-armed. And I feel like since that was given to me, then I want to return that to the members as well. And Chris can speak to that, because she just started not even a year ago. So
yeah, I I would say that was definitely the first thing I noticed when my husband and I came in visited we both left thinking like man, like those people were very open, armed and encouraging. And just like personally, like, as a young coach coming into this role where I’m leading people, many years ahead of me, it can be intimidating, to be young and to be providing information and hoping fingers crossed that they believe you you know, and that was something I struggled with at my old gym, of just feeling like I wasn’t credible to them. But everybody here has been able to understand who I am and my passion and see that first instead of my age and put that aside and been able to listen and ask good questions and really helped me just adjust to this community so quickly. And I’m a people person, I love people just anyway, but this gym has been just such a good group of people to help kind of welcome me and get me into this role, way quicker than I could have asked for. And I think that the strong fit mentality does help with that because it takes away that competitive edge a little bit. And at some of the other gyms that I’ve either worked out at or worked in, I’ve noticed that that can drive wedges between people, whether they like know it, or Believe it or not,
and just leave maybe Yeah,
yeah, they’re, you know, wow, that person can, you know, they look like me, they’re my age, but they can lift way more than me, I don’t get it. And then they kind of there’s just this tension. Yeah, there’s a comparison, whatever. And I think that because we don’t have that mentality, or that approach to working out that I think the community is more yet strengthened because of that, like they, they are more encouraging the person to do what they can do that day. And that was something that it was hard for me because I am competitive. So I’m like, like, why isn’t anybody like trying to, you know, be the person next to them. But it helps me recognize my own competitiveness and how that can’t. It’s not always healthy. And so I’m able to not compare myself to the people next to me, but to create better community with them, as I’m encouraging them and what they can do and what I can do.
And I think it’s a huge
Yeah, I think also just like, just being a listener, listen, listen to the people that are in front of you. I believe that we do a good job of that communicating. Brandon is big on wanting us to communicate things to our members. as best we can get feedback. And really be a sounding board. I I know that I’ve taken time before individually to have people come in my office, sit down and just talk for 15 minutes, and I’m like, what, oh, what’s the agenda? Like, there’s no agenda. It’s just, I want to know what you want to talk about if you want to talk about it. And that was, you know, building that trust and building that. I’m investing in you has, you know, You see things change, and people then start to invest in themselves a little bit more. And, you know, that comparison, taking away the comparison between individuals has been huge. But not to say that the that we that we just all don’t care about what were you know that the what we’re doing in the workout, that’s not it, it’s just, it’s not the leaderboard and the constant stress of that it’s really like trying to meet that individual where they’re at and then push them, it would by their own self limiting beliefs, you know,
right. And that kind of comes full circle to that the statements you had earlier that people hold themselves back. And occasionally they need to have that thank your body mentality. And I think that’s huge. Just being able to foster that mentality amongst your members, is investing in them and is trying to get the best out of them that you possibly can. Yeah, because people aren’t going to be 100% in every day. Mm hmm. But if you can encourage that, and that’s the the with their expectation is when they walk in the door, they’re more likely to be the best version of themselves. That’s cool. Love it.
I need us restroom.
So another thing that we had talked about before you guys came in today was overcoming challenges, right? So overcoming challenges as coaches or as professionals, you each had a kind of a different answer. So I’m kind of interested to hear what you guys think about the challenges that you’ve had as being a coach and how you’ve gotten to the confidence level to, to take on those challenges.
Yes, so specifically, challenges that I have had over the years. One, just as being a new coach, feeling confident in what I was cueing in saying on the floor, especially like Chris had mentioned, like, when I was younger, feeling like, the older members were going to take me seriously. And like I knew what I was talking about. But obviously, through the years, and through my own education, and just getting more confident and how to coach and just doing it more just experience, right? You kind of get over those things. But I think challenges now, just as more of a leadership role at the gym is, you know, the success of the gym, and finding in making our gym, stand out, stand out as something a little different. And in being able to have that be successful. We think, you know, there’s lots of CrossFit gyms out there. There’s lots of really good other gyms out there and say, how do you pull yourself apart? You know, it’s good from the inside? How do you know? How do you let people know from the outside how good it is? I think that’s one of the challenges that I continue to wrestle with. And then, you know, it’s sad when people leave, you know, it’s still something that I have to not take personally, and understand that, you know, people come and go, and it’s, it’s for their own personal reasons, it has, you know, little to do with me, but I still have invested in that person. And so, every time somebody cancels their membership, or, you know, puts their membership on hold, it’s like, oh, man, what did you know, I always immediately think, well, what could I have done differently? What did you know? Why did they think they needed to leave or, you know, whatever. So I think taking those things to heart, you know, can be hard over the course of the years. And the other thing too, is for like, you know, developing really good coaches, I think, you know, that is a art form that a lot of people in general don’t understand until you’ve had a really great coach or a really terrible one. And the really good ones right now I feel like I can’t make a living on just coaching. It’s just not it’s not there yet. And I think the challenge for me is being able to do my passion and do what I love, but also contribute to my family and be able to make a living doing so. And so I think that’s personally a challenge that I kind of, you know, ping pong with every couple of times a year when you know, things are going really great. And then things kind of slow down. And it’s like, you know, you’re constantly kind of on that hustle to you know, make a significant amount of money to be honest with you. So there’s there’s definitely that challenge for me right now my life so
yeah, I would.
The I was just talking to Natalie about this the other day, but like working on that because we care so much about our Members, we want to be there for them in and out of the gym. But I find myself bringing a lot of either the good things, but sometimes like the hard things home and trying to find that balance of, yes, I am invested in this person, and I care about this person in and outside of the gym. But that doesn’t have to occupy all of my time either. Because we need boundaries to and to have, that has been something that I had didn’t realize was a challenge for me until quite recently, actually. And so just yeah, that balance of like, I want to make this my full time job, I want to feel like my time is valuable. But I also like there are a lot of moments where sometimes it’s a thankless job, the people come in, they come out and you know, you kind of you don’t know how they felt about it or, or things like that. So just trying to, again, not take things too, personally. But then also finding that line of like, how can I invest in this person on a deeper level to like, make them know that they’re seen and that they’re known, but not taking all of that into like, like, we don’t determine their emotions or their feelings? Like that’s, there’s a responsibility on their part to so. Yeah, that’s been hard for me, I think. But
and I think that’s just the nature of putting so much into your clients. Yeah. Right, the time and effort that you’ve put in invested into your clients, right, like we talked about in the last question was, of course, you’re going to have that the negatives of that as well. Right? And unfortunately, it probably affects you guys more than it affects them. Yeah. Because you’re, you’re taking them hard when someone cancels a membership or puts it on hold? Maybe they’re moving,
right? I mean,
they’re not thinking about it is like, right, we have to break up like an emotional,
yes. And then that is something that I’ve gotten better with, you know, but I’m, like, I’m naturally want to do a good job and do a good and have my services be something that people want. And so I think when somebody cancels or says, this gym isn’t for them anymore, for whatever reason, you know, I immediately look as it’s like, my responsibility, like, what did I do? Did I not, you know, did I, you know, multiple different reasons. And like you said, it could just have nothing to it most likely has nothing to do with me. But, you know, being in that role just lends itself to those thoughts.
Sure. And, you know, going back to Chris’s statement earlier is, you know, are you are you taking those negatives home with you? I feel like I do a lot better now than I did three years ago of when I had a negative experience or something that just aggravated me, or I wished I could have done something differently or better. It would always cross the threshold, you know, go go home with me, it aggravates you the rest of the day, right? Maybe you know, the effects what you’re doing at home, and that’s shouldn’t be how it works, obviously. So it’s kind of that can you decompress on the drive home? And that’s, that’s usually how I’m trying to, to handle any negatives in my day is you can’t change them. You can address them the next day, it’s not going to fix themselves at 8pm. Yeah, so. So you know, it’s, it’s not worth worrying about. After you go home. Right? You can worry about it again the next day. But it’s it’s tough. I mean, it’s, it’s, we’re empathetic people we want to have everybody like us and care and feel better and do well. And, you know, there’s there’s always that that feeling of wanting more for our people that we work with. And it’s it’s hard to not be happy or sorry. It’s hard, hard to be happy without perfection. Yes, sometimes. So.
Yes, learning the perfection is
good. And I I applaud you guys that kind of goes back to with the strong fit. You guys didn’t force perfection. You started it. And I think that’s huge. You’ve started it, and it’s gotten better, and it’s gotten better. And it’s gotten better to where you’re teaching it. I mean, that’s amazing. But there are probably some coaches that would have gone to all the courses and taken everything before they ever started to implement anything. And that was not what you guys did. And I, I struggle with that myself. I want it to be perfect on launch day for a project I do. Right. And that’s unrealistic.
Yes. And that was a learning process for me, because I’m very much a perfectionist. So when I was rolling it out and trying it, and just starting it. I mean, I look back and there’s so many things I worried about that right now, that does not even cross my mind. But you know, you want it it’s new, it’s you’re bringing something people are trying it and judging it because it’s brand new. So you have a lot of I mean, I put a lot of pressure on myself in general, but, you know, doing those things, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s better if it’s not, you know, and people are forgiving, and they get it but you you know create all these stories in your mind that it has to be a certain way. But you just need to start and I’ve found that over and over and over again is like if you Too much in your head and you’re too much thinking about how everything has to be perfect and you don’t take any action, you just get caught up in that silly cycle of just non action, and then and then nothing happens. And then you don’t do anything. And then all the great things you’ve learned, just go away. You don’t do anything, just sit in
a notebook. And then yeah,
they don’t get Yeah. So by all means, I like a disclaimer, as you know, strong fit. I’ve implemented what I’ve gained from them, but it’s certainly not everything. And it’s certainly not perfect. But I definitely think it’s a better path for myself and the gym in general, and people in front of us to do what we’re doing now, instead of what had been happening, you know, three years before.
Alright, so we’re getting close to the end here. I definitely want to touch on Chris, which you’d mentioned in the intro, something that you’re passionate about is working with folks that are differently abled. So I want you to kind of tell us what you’re doing what what that’s all about, and how we can help you.
Yeah, so
just a little background, my little sister has Down syndrome, she’s 17 now. And so I just kind of thought that was just like a life circumstance, that just, I mean, I’ve loved every moment of it. I’ve learned so much from her, she teaches me how to love people better, and how to overcome obstacles in new ways, which has been a lifelong learning process for me. But I just I didn’t really think anything of that until I started looking into coaching. And when I was transitioning from med, medicine route to the coaching route, I actually was on the phone with my sister, and we were just catching up for the week. And she was like, Well, you’ve always like, you’ve always loved me and my friends and you love sports. And for some reason, that simple phrase clicked that I want to help kids like her, participate in what I’m doing. And I don’t know, like, it was like, just this moment of light bulb came on and whatnot. And I remember that conversation like it was yesterday, just because it changed the trajectory of my life. And so I decided to pursue, I was in the process of pursuing CrossFit, because they had an established a deaf adaptive athlete program. And I thought that was very unique. And then I was on the hunt for my first brave client to kind of work with so I met my, my now mother in law, who has a son with down syndrome, who was 15 at the time. And he has three brothers and just wanted to be as active as they were. And she was like, oh, my goodness, like, absolutely, let’s get him in the gym, let’s, you know, introduce you guys. Let’s get them, you know, three times a week, whatever. And so we started meeting, we started meeting twice a week and the confidence that grew in him and his ability to move and things that he had always seen his brothers do that he didn’t think he could do, he started to do and turned into videos that I would send his brothers and all these different just milestones that he would hit that his dad would walk in the gym, and he’d be like, Dad, look what I learned today and all these things that were empowering him to be a version of himself that was able when the world sees a lot of downs, kids or autistic kids as maybe physically disabled and so it’s actually how I met that’s my husband’s brother. So that’s actually how I met my husband, which is really cool. Which is like, that’s just like a crazy story. But so I worked with him until I graduated and that was like the hardest goodbye ever. But I am now pursuing starting an established program through crossbow Valley Park. So my, I decided that I wanted to call it uniquely able because that’s how I see these kids. They aren’t necessarily as able as Natalie and I in certain areas. They’re low tone, they don’t always have some of the smaller would you like stare? Yeah, like dexterity or dilation? Yeah, that like, maybe we would have but you can find ways to help them gain those things. And in some ways, it kind of mimics OT and in weird ways, but teaching them how to overcome like, like tactile uncomfort and things like that. So yeah, so I wanted to call it uniquely able because I that’s how I see them and so I now have three sweet 13 year old Down syndrome girls that work with me every Saturday
and gym
at the gym. Yep, Valley Park so that we work on Saturdays. And we started off by learning how to squat and how to squat properly because believe it or not kids with Down’s like are phenomenal with flexibility because They’re low tone, but they don’t know how to engage the muscles. So teaching them how to do those things. We started there, and they were sled pulling last week. So I mean, you get those cool milestones where they can do things they didn’t think they could before. And at the end of the day, I want them to see themselves as able, able to do things physically, but also like mentally overcoming things. And I want to create a sense of community where they learn to encourage one another and get each other motivated and, and hold hands with the other person while they’re carrying a sled like that was something we did last week, the girl didn’t, one of my girls didn’t want to move the slide. She’s like, oh, there’s like a five pound plate on it, I’m scared, I’m scared to move it. And her friend, one of my other girls in the class was like, Oh, hold your hand, and we’ll walk to their side together. And they, she pulled it like no problem. So the community aspect that they can create is really unique as well. So I guess at this point, I am really just diving into these three girls and just investing in them. And the reality of it is you can’t have too many in one class, because you want to be able to specifically work with them to on a deeper level than maybe we would with an average member. But I would like to start a bigger program where I can have multiple classes a week, where I have three to four students in each one where I can work with them through through their abilities, and enabling them to do more than I think they can. So that’s kind of
me spitballing excitedly because I’m so excited about it. But
I love listening to her talk about it. Absolutely true passion, and it’s so awesome. You should have seen her like talking to the parents. And, and the the girls the first like introductory night, I was just sitting there and like tears in my eyes because it was like, This is so awesome. She’ll do, she does a great job. And she’s so passionate. It’s really refreshing and awesome to be a part of just like just watching it unfold. So
that’s been really cool. Congrats, that is really special. So I think that’s the thing, it’s, that is not necessarily the population that I would want to work with. Right. And I, you know, I’ve had folks ask if I work with folks with special needs, and that’s just not something that I do. But there is, you know, obviously a need for assistance with that population. So I applaud you. That’s,
I think that’s where when reflecting on just my life, I like my sister was not just there for no reason, like I firmly believe that the Lord put her in my life to enable me to do what I do now. And so that has been very cool that the experience that I’ve had growing up with her is translating into how I communicate and relate