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I began my professional career in 2000 when I got hired on-the-spot in a little personal training studio in Washington, DC. I will never forget the day that I showed up for an interview, and ended up substitute-training live clients because one of the trainers didn’t show. I guess it was destiny.
My informal career, however, began much earlier, in a way that seems like I’ve been training and educating my whole life. In the 8th grade, I ordered a scientific journal on exercise and my life has never been the same. I really applied what I learned in that journal. By the time I got to High School, and participated in various sports and exercise classes, it was obvious that I was not only doing things that others had never seen, but that I was confident doing so. That’s where I can honestly say that my career of personal coaching started—with my high school peers.
Still, I entered the University of Maryland without a clear idea of what I was going to do or be in life. I remember telling my undergraduate advisor one thing: “I just don’t want to end up in a wheel chair.” She suggested Kinesiology. It was a perfect fit. I was the type of student that would allow myself to get a “C” in Calculus without much worry, feeling that my A++ in Anatomy was more important. Indeed, as an undergraduate in an anatomy class of about 100, my teacher commented upon finally meeting me that she had been, “wondering who was outperforming all the post-graduate students.” I graduated with a BS in Kinesiology in 1999.
I loved that first job in DC. I woke up at 4am every morning in order to catch the 5:30am first Red Line train into Dupont Circle so that I could barely arrive in time for a string of clients: 6am, 7am, 8am, 9am. Then, I went to the studio owner’s home couch in order to sleep before my afternoon shift. That shift started at 4pm and could go as late at 10pm. I would then hurry to catch one of the last trains home to Silver Spring so that I could be in bed by midnight. It took only a couple months before I moved into the city.
I was then hired at the 5-star Sports Club/LA-DC, located in the Ritz on M Street. That’s where I met a roommate that would forever-alter my career path. Tao had the entire collection of C.H.E.K Institute corrective exercise programs and he was the kind of person who would stick the VHS tapes (I know) into the VCR (really, I know) even when he wasn’t watching. On the phone, cooking breakfast, taking out the trash…
Within the first year I had begun trying to fix people’s aches and pains using the techniques I learned from the C.H.E.K. Institute. There was definitely a learning curve, but I was able to use corrective exercise to help many people. I was soon known as one of the few “corrective exercise trainers” in the area. And business boomed.
In 2001, I was awarded “Trainer of the Year,” which means that I performed the most sessions and sold the most packages of any of the 40 or so trainers on staff in DC. The most amazing part is that I earned that title in the same year that I travelled on vacation more than three total months. It was not uncommon for my schedule to look like this:
Clients at 5:30am, 6:30am, 7:30am.
Break for 15 minutes–run downstairs to pee and inhale a can of tuna.
Clients at 8:45am, 9:45am, 10:45am.
Break for 15 minutes again-same drill as above.
Clients at 12noon, 1pm, 2pm
Break for 30 minutes–now I could actually sit down.
Clients at 3:30pm, 4:30pm, 5:30pm.
Break for 15 minutes–still running.
Clients at 6:45pm, 7:45pm, and twice per week also at 8:45pm.
In other words, I know what it’s like to love something, to live it and breathe it, and to be it in every way.
Then in 2002, I had another milestone in my career: I was asked to teach classes to the new hires. At this point in my career, I was deathly afraid to be in front of people. And I was even more afraid to be in front of people who would be asking me questions and expecting intelligent answers. I said yes anyway, but I made one personal condition with myself: so long as I prepared to teach in a manner so in-depth, so detail-oriented, and so ridiculously OCD, that I would know EVERY answer to EVERY question that could possibly be asked by ANY student. And I went to work preparing for my first course.
It turns out that my first opportunity to teach was for an eight-hour course on flexibility training. Eight hours?! I am pretty sure that I cancelled a few weeks of clients to prepare. I was on the phone every other day with those dear guys at NASM (Lenny and Rodney) who—bless their hearts—must have wondered what was wrong with me. I bothered them several times per day. Eventually, I was told that the nature of my question and answer sessions was “no longer appropriate” or something like that. I wished them all my thanks and told them that I would not bother them again. I did, however, continue researching elsewhere. I wanted to know EVERYTHING about this topic that I would soon be teaching.
I was determined to create the best course that had ever been taught on the planet. It must have worked, because I was soon asked to teach other courses too. It is only in reflection today that I realize how important this was for me to have begun learning the art of “training trainers” so long ago.
In 2004, I decided to move to Miami, and timed my arrival with the opening of the Sports Club/LA-Miami in the Four Seasons. I was “promoted” as one of the first Advantage Trainers, began taking my presentations to the corporate world, and continued to teach to the newly-hired trainers. This is also where I began teaching a breathing course to the new hires, which brought the same flurry of preliminary research as before. I combined the paper research with my practical intuition in fitness, including the years of private yoga, Pilates, and dance that I had enjoyed thus far in my career. I had a diverse experience with some of the best instructors in their respective fields.
During this time, I took an amazing opportunity to “intern” on several occasions with the Superwave Institute in New Jersey. Here, I listened to people with Parkinson’s Disease, cancer, and other dis-eases tell me that this special kind of exercise was their cure. The theories presented here really expanded my awareness of what was possible. I also began studying with Paul Chek more formally, following my passion to learn the Holistic Lifestyle Coaching Courses. I even repeated the highest level course—it was clear that the total holistic picture was where my passion burned.
What happened next was another major milestone in the history of Fit For Birth. I met Kimberly Nelli. She would not only become my friend, wife, and mother of my child, but also my business partner. Throughout the years, I have been referred to as many things, including “Carrot Boy” and “Holistic Nazi.” So it was really no surprise that when we found out that we were pregnant, I raced to the phone lines to seek the holistic prenatal specialist… And then I Googled to find the holistic prenatal specialist…and I found no one providing what I was looking for. I also researched the conventional side of things, but was consistently not impressed to hear that processed crackers and soda were the common solutions for morning sickness (among other classic conventional advice). By now in my career, I knew there would be more wondrous and exciting things to learn from “the other side.”
For example, I quickly realized that I, the holistic OCD guy, would not have my baby in the hospital. Kim said, “What do you mean?” I replied, “The hospital is for sick people, not for pregnant ones.” After some gentle encouragement, Kim agreed to at least interview with a midwifery clinic. After that visit to the Miami Maternity Center, she was in agreement and more. Kim even decided to study midwifery during her pregnancy and after. Natural birth would become her passion. What a match! Thank you Kim. Fit For Birth is Born!
Without an obvious prenatal holistic health coach expert to hound via telephone every day, I kept researching on my own.
I was shocked…horrified…saddened…angered…appalled…at what I was learning. And then I became inspired.
One: I needed to provide this information to the world, so that parents everywhere could at least make an informed decision about their fertility, childbirth choices, and holistic health options. In 2007, we formed Fit For Birth, Inc and began posting information onto GetFitForBirth.com
Two: I wanted my soon-to-be-born little girl (I was convinced that I would have a little girl–and we were waiting to find out on delivery day) to be able to join me at work as she pleased. So, I set up a home training studio and made Prenatal Personal Training business cards. I handed one out at Whole Foods Market each time I went. (There were always pregnant women there!)
And then a major blessing occurred. A New York editor of an international newspaper called the Epoch Times contacted me asking to re-print one of my fitness articles. And then she asked if I would be willing to write weekly for the newspaper. This was an amazing opportunity and I thought to myself: this is real!! I submitted article after article; the information I was researching and presenting was online and in print in a big way. GetFitForBirth.com was being visited each month from over 150 countries around the world, and Fit For Birth articles had been published into a dozen languages. It was awe-inspiring to say the least. People were craving this information!
That same year, my son was born. (No, not a daughter.) And man did I fall in love with him anyway. Then another fateful event occurred. Fitness instructors and health professionals started contacting us and asked if we had a certification or course that would teach them this info. This would prove to be the spark that ignited the Pre & Postnatal Corrective Exercise Specialist Course.
Life twisted and turned. I continued focusing my coaching practice on pre and post-natal clients, learning so much along the way. I applied corrective exercise techniques on pregnant bellies and bodies. I pushed the boundaries of fitness whenever a client was excited to test herself.
I also began teaching the incoming trainers at the other powerhouse of five-star training: Equinox gyms. With the Equinox Fitness Training Institute (EFTI) curriculum, I suddenly was teaching all sorts of courses, including Business class, Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics, Program Design, and many more. I travelled to all of the South Florida locations and was awarded “Special Recognition” for EFTI teaching excellence in 2012. It turns out that I had forged a new passion: I loved teaching fitness professionals; and I made sure to hold my personal level of excellence at every step.
Today, I am learning what it means to be the leader of a company that is changing the world. I have taken the reigns and am fully invested. Every week, I am finding myself on the phone with various students and former students (our team members), helping each of us fulfill on personal missions and passions in this realm, and having fun along the way.
I am dedicated to continuing to lead this company in a manner that reflects the trends I’ve stood for along the way: progressive, excellent, outside-of-the-box, holistic, years ahead of the curve, trendsetting. I will experiment, take risks and see what happens. I will have fun. I will ensure a structure that encourages all team members, staff, and participants to live their life to the fullest.
“Everything you want is coming. Relax and let the universe pick the timing and the way. You just trust that it is coming and watch how fast it comes.”