Voices of the Fitness Professionals

For this weeks blog I tapped members of my trainers network asking two questions; Where were you in life before becoming a fitness professional? and What does being a fitness professional mean to you?

Responses came in from across the globe. These coaches range between those in their first year as trainers to those with multiple decades of experience and subject matter expertise.   A defining trait common in all is their passion and dedication to this profession and to those that they educate and lead.  I am as fortunate to know them as you are to have them as your coach.


Russ Moon (black shirt and shorts, center) presenting a Breathe! session at the Fountain of Goodness in Seenigama, Sri Lanka Sept.2015.  Attendees to this event included numerous national level athletes and even through interpreters the positive and immediate effects of Breathe! were felt and experienced.

Injuries have shaped me and my training.  A broken ankle (service connected parachuting injury), learning to deal with compensations working on a continuous basis to “undo” tightness in the opposite leg and instability on the injured side.  A torn meniscus, which I was told in 1985 “by the time you are 30 you will have debilitating arthritis in this knee”, so I developed my leg musculature to absorb much of the shock.  I like leg extensions because they protect my knee, not for vanity and that is why I continue to do them.  A shoulder bone spur, went from incline pressing 315×10 to being unable to lift my arm above waist high and having a frozen shoulder.

Enter the Kettlebell, it was a desperation rehab tool and it worked.  Came back a couple of years later to press the Beast Kettlebell (48kg/108lbs) seven times consecutively with that shoulder and six more with the other as a masters class (50+ yo) athlete.  During the course of my shoulder rehab I was taking treatments in neuromuscular stabilization and they helped a great deal, to the point my coach was nothing my very rapid progress.  That started evolved over the last 8 years to what is now Breathe!

I worked in a sports medicine clinic developing my own mix of all the therapies I had been exposed to and testing them on more than 2,500 students and patients, then after writing the first Breathe! book another 4000 students.  Two more years of refinement and Breathe! II was published in December 2015.  I was so relieved as a patient that I found something that helped my body mend and become stronger again that I wanted to share that with other people.

Being a coach has allowed me to share the learnings from a lot of challenging times and help people get back on their feet or take their fitness to another level. It has made me empathic to those who are not superhuman, as I have never been that and I know what its like to struggle.  I enjoy sharing what I have learned to help people understand that no matter how dark things may look at the time, there is a way out if they follow proven methods, with a coach and do the work.  You can do it yourself, but it takes a lot longer and there is no real guarantee you will ever find your way out of the maze.  For myself, I like having someone who can guide me when needed, which is more often than I care to admit and I don’t think most people are all that different. Using Breathe! II right now to help my body come back from injuries sustained in a car accident in September 2015, my therapist has noticed the difference….but that is another story for later at a workshop.

Russ Moon,Richmond,VA.  (Jacksonville,FL April 2016) Health and Performance Coach, Author of Breathe! II – Health and Performance Performance Edition http://www.newbreathe.com

N.Recania CFKidsPic-2

Naomi “Coach Ninja” Recania teaching rope climbing skills to the next generation of athletes.

In 2009, I left my career in the music industry to transfer into a field where I could make a positive impact directly on others lives and society as a whole. My initial plan was to become an elementary school teacher, but after finding CrossFit I realized that it was not in the classroom that I wanted to teach in but rather the gym.  I enjoy connecting with people of all ages and working with them in an active setting – getting them to move their bodies and challenging them so that they can see their potential.  Healthier people make for a healthier and more positive society.  To quote my favorite movie lawyer “…Exercise gives you endorphins endorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t” (Legally Blonde 2001)

I was a competitive gymnast for 12 years until the age of 18 and did not participate in any regular exercise or sport after that time until I started CrossFit in January 2010 at the age of 33.  That is when my fitness career began.  My experience as a gymnast has provided a strong foundation for proper movement, which translated into properly instructing clients and knowing what to look for in clients of all abilities and sizes.  As a coach and trainer, it is important to understand how to reach each client to ensure their success and fulfillment.  What works for one client may not always work for another.

It is my goal to encourage people to challenge themselves mentally and physically through fitness and to use what they discover about themselves during our sessions and apply it to their everyday lives.  My philosophy on being a coach, or in any leadership position is : “To be a coach is to be humble.  There is no place for your ego as it is not about you.  It is not about how great your think you are, but about how great your client/athlete/student can and will be.  Always train someone to be better than you.”

Naomi “Coach Ninja” Recania Santa Barbara, CA. CrossFit CF-L1 Trainer, CF Kids Trainer and CF Mobility Trainer, USAW Sports Coach,NASM CPT and Youth Exercise Specialist. http://www.coachninja.com


Jay Lopez bridges the gaps between Allied Health care and Strength and Conditioning in his clinic/gym.

I started getting into strength training at a young age for a myriad of reasons. I was a skinny kid who needed more self confidence and at the same time, I needed an outlet to help me deal with my personal issues during my teenage life. So I took martial arts and strength training to help discipline me and also help with self confidence. Because of this many positive changes happened,self confidence,strength self discipline. I am really happy that I undertook this during my teen years.

I entered the world of coaching people as an undergraduate student in Occupational Therapy.  I realized early on that I wanted to teach and I wanted to help people be better versions of themselves. In Occupational Therapy, the main goal of the profession is to help individuals reach optimal functional independence. I knew early on that this was what I wanted to do as well.

It was in my junior year of OT where,after being exposed to clinical work that I realized if people trained consistently and with proper instruction, they could avoid illness and injury for the most part. Add that to the fact that sports rehabilitation and strength and conditioning were beginning to be very interesting given that I had so many medical subjects that helped me understand the human body even more. This is where my journey began.

I was contemplating on continuing to medical school but certain circumstances prevented me from doing so. Still, I wanted to do my best to heal people in a way that I could.  Upon graduating, I worked as both a trainer and an Occupational Therapist , I started in a string of commercial gyms before I became a freelance trainer and now I run my own facility and am opening another.

5 years of being an allied medical practitioner and a strength coach has made me a better person in so many ways. I work from the rehabilitation/clinical setting all the way to the athletic performance level.  I learned so much in theory and practice and I also learned about relationships and about people.  In both the rehabilitative/medical and fitness/athletic settings, no day is ever the same.  I am constantly working on being better so I can do better for my students and patients. My learning never stops.

Being Jesuit educated, the virtue of MAGIC (meaning doing more than what is expected) and being a man for others was instilled in us at a young age. Being an allied health practitioner ad strength coach allows me the opportunity to practice these virtues everyday, and I learn from the people I treat everyday.

Doing what I do has made me stronger physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  To say that I am better as a person now would be an understatement.

Justo Maria “Jay” Lopez III,  Manila Philippines, OT,Msc, CPT,CES,PES, CKTP,CKTI, Occupational Therapist/Strength Coach, Owner Rx Strength Training Systems.


Izabella “Izzy” Jamrocha and her fitness journey from 2011-2015 resulted in her losing nearly half her bodyweight.  Izzy is currently the most in-demand personal trainer at her Illinois facility and is developing her own brand of fitness training.

Fitness saved my life; from addiction to alcoholism, from negative body images to obesity. Fitness changed me and made me realize I am not a product of my circumstances. It made me realize that I am in complete and utter control of my life, and that life is worth fighting and changing for.

You can read more about Izzy’s amazing story here: http://www.shapefit.com/success/success-stories-weight-loss-izabella.html

Izabella “Izzy” Jamrocha, Tinley Park, IL, NASM CPT


Mark Limbaga drilling the half-windmill position of the Turkish Get Up. Mark is presently the only StrongFirst certified coach in the Philippines and places the same dedication and patience into his students as he does his craft.

I was always the skinny kid as far as I can remember.  One of my martial art teachers once commented that “if your push ups are weak, your punch is weak” that was the first moment that lit a fire under my belly and I embarked on a new fitness journey.

I was initially a market research analyst but still believed I wanted to train people as my main source of income.  I got a chance when the gym I was a member opened apprenticeship slots.  I quickly volunteered and apprenticed for at least a year before I landed my first personal training client,after which, my client base slowly grew. It always pays to put dedication and patience into your craft.

Before signing up for my first kettle bell certification (RKC) I used to believe that only superhuman could do the certification. After meeting my first kettlebell mentor Ryan Sayco, I saw that the dream can be a reality but it required a ton of practice,patience and persistence.  I prepared about 9 1/2 months for my level 1. It always pays if you seek help and ask nicely.  I have been stuck in a training plateau or had a nagging injury several times but by reaching out ,several people have helped me and took me under their  wing for a period of time.  Jay Lopez, Ric Garcia,Artemis Scantalides,Gary and Reneta Music, Tim Anderson, Scot Iardell,Pat Flynn,Piers Kwan and Geoff Neupert to name a few have been generous with their knowledge to take my training to a higher level.

“You must always look at yourself the personification of the organization you represent and always set the bar high” is one of the most important lessons Dr. Mark Cheng imparted on my on being the consummate professional.

Mark Limbaga, Mandaluyong City,Philippines, SFG II,SFB, Ecplise Gym 24/7, Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines.  Facebook: Coach Mark Lumbago SEAL Kettlebells.


Elizabeth Coronado is a youth fitness and tennis strength and conditioning trainer that found her calling in life after losing more than 100lbs.  I have had the pleasure of personally working with Lis over the past year and watched her grow as a professional.

Fitness and health became a way of life for me after having horrible experiences with panic attacks and anxiety.  I was never really athletic or health conscious however I knew I never wanted to feel powerless ever again and without hesitation I started eating healthier and going to the gym.  Once a place of intimidation, the gym became my Dojo and where I found peace and to acquire strength.  The panic attacks went away and so did 100lbs of me.  I was working as a Secondary Education teacher and had 5 years teaching experience when I considered changing career paths to become a trainer.  I don’t regret my decision at all.

Being a fitness and health professional has given me the opportunity to teach and help others gain awareness over their own bodies through training and healthy eating habits. The quote “if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life” holds true.  I am passionate and on fire about being able to work with others so they can be the best versions of themselves.

Elizabeth Coronado-Ledenich, Las Vegas,NV, NASM/NFPT CPT. wwwLiztrainerlife.wordpress.com


Daniel Lee Han Yuan instructs his students in a multitude of training methods. Pictured here he is competing in Girevoy Sport (Kettlebell Sport) competition.

Being a Personal Trainer and Strength Coach to me has been a fun and wonderful journey.  I dare say a calling as it was really not my first choice as I stated off as a designer after graduating from college. I changed my career choices from a designer, to an auxiliary police in Singapore and finally as a personal trainer.  During the change many of my friends and colleagues convinced me that I should be in the fitness field because when I teach/coach and train I really do it with heart.

This is my sixth year as a Personal trainer and second as a Strength coach and I can honestly say that being a coach means to being able to inspire your students, to love everything you do, to be humble and willing to learn from new and old schools of thought.

Daniel Lee Han Yuan, Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia, ADAPT Certified Parkour Instructor Lv 1, StrongFirst SFG, Team Ascend and Pahlawan Girya Parkour and Kettlebell Teams.


Stacey Coleman, owner of My Fit 24 Gym and Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Southern Maine.

My goal in life is to empower as many people as I can, to live the the life they want to.  I believe that nay fitness pro can know the science and write you a fitness and nutrition program that in theory, will work.  What I offer is more and I believe that no one can change until they decide to change.  You cannot change on the outside until you heal the inside.  I have been helping clients successfully reach their goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle through inner healing for almost 15 years.

While I have my physical accomplishments including marathon and obstacle course racing and collegiate athletics, not one of these things were ever easy.  What I’ve noticed over the years of pursuing these challenges myself, and helping others do the same  is that there are patters that emerge from the process of living fit. What’s truly remarkable is that no matter what the physical goal is, and no matter what shape someone is in when they begin the patterns are universal. This is a continuous process and nobody is exempt from it.

In early 2015 I began to feel that I wasn’t living life to the fullest. I had done lots of cool stuff, but nothing that truly scared me. How was I helping people truly face fear I was not doing it myself?  I had many items on my bucket list and I wasn’t getting any younger, and in a person demonstration to prove my process, I took this big step right into some of my biggest fears.  I had to do something WAY over the the top to show that I can put my money where my mouth is.

To make a very long story short…I was a rookie on a semi-pro football team, a first time (like ever,ever) beauty pageant contestant and entered my first bodybuilding contest ALL in ONE MONTH.

Why? Because I wanted to be a role model for you.  I wanted to scare myself to death to prove that YOU can change your life. I wanted to challenge myself beyond my limits, to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk.  I needed to do something so far fetched that it got your attention.

It worked.  Putting myself through something so difficult and outside my normal comfort zone gave me the opportunity to connect with so many people that I hadn’t before. Sharing my struggles through that process helped others to see how normal it is when things aren’t easy. Do you know what else happened? I improved my own life too. I became stronger, healthier and happier. All because I faced my fears. I want to help you do the same.

Stacey Coleman, Gorham,Maine, BS Health and Fitness,NASM CPT, Strength and Conditioning Coach, University of Southern Maine. Author and Produces of My-Fit-Life.com


USA Triathalon Coach and Military Veteran Jeff Carstensen getting in the miles during  a road race event.  I’ve been collaborating with Jeff for the last few months on strength training.

Being a fitness professional is a huge motivation for me to show people what is possible. In May of 2013 I was 27 years old and had a very serious motorcycle accident which shattered my humorous and collarbone as was a leading to a small fracture to one of my knees. Armed with my knowledge of the human body I was able to recover quicker than expected.  I’ve had my share of setbacks in my journey like many others with nagging injuries and, but with the knowledge I have as a fitness professional I have been able to find ways back through the set backs.

I learned with dealing with my own nagging injuries that I can easily relate to clients who say “I can’t do that as I have a bad shoulder” “I can’t lift heavy”, “I can’t do XYZ as I don’t want to re-injure myself”  In some cases this is certainly true, but there is always another technique, exercise or method to get the desired result or reach a goal.

This is what being a fitness professional means to me, to be able to provide and be knowledgeable in those techniques, exercise and methods to help a client reach their individual goal. There is nothing more rewarding than when a client accomplished the goal and reached the results they love, or returning to the sports they love after injury, especially after having doubts if they would ever be able to do so again.

Jeff Carstensen, Las Vegas NV, USA Triathalon Coach Lv1, Owner, Multimovin Fitness, http://www.multimovinfitness.com






















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