Thank you for taking your time to answer these few questions!
You are currently trainer as Awaken Gymnastic Strength Training in Denver, which is GymnasticBodies master affiliate. Could you share more about your background in sports before you started with Awaken?
Definitely! I’ve always been pretty active and athletic. I played volleyball and ran track in high school, and have always enjoyed biking, running, and hiking. After high school, I no longer had the accountability of team sports so I began long distance running on my own. Signing up for races gave me something to work for and kept me motivated. After several years of doing nothing but running, I started seeking out other ways to stay fit. I’ve never really enjoyed traditional weight-lifting, but I did take a couple yoga classes and enjoyed the class setting. That led me to become a yoga instructor, which began my career in the fitness world. Along with yoga I became certified in cycling, ballet barre, boot-camps, and personal training.
How did you find out about GST and what made you start practicing and teaching?
About 3 years ago, I was working at a fitness studio in Denver where Orench Lagman (current owner of Awaken Gymnastics) was running an “adult gymnastics” program. He would teach a couple gymnastics and shoulder prehab classes each week. I had wanted to try a class for a long time, but was actually a bit intimidated! When I finally did take a class, I was hooked instantly. It was fun, challenging, and the community was awesome. It was at about that time that Orench was working on opening his own facility and needed instructors. He put together a 200 hours teacher training for anyone who was interested, and I jumped on it. Initially, I actually had never heard of Gymnastic Bodies or Orench’s association with Coach Sommer. Over the course of that year, though, I gradually became more familiar with GB and the foundational concepts behind what Orench was teaching me. I began coaching at Awaken as soon as it opened, and I’ve been there ever since.
I know that you are Colorado native and that you love the outdoor activities like climbing and trail running. How has GST helped you in terms of conditioning, strength and injury prevention?
I think the biggest difference I’ve noticed in my outdoor sports is the quality of my running. I do a lot of trail running, which means running over very uneven terrain. Even if you’re extremely careful, it’s almost impossible to avoid rolling your ankles while trail running. I can’t tell you how many times I would land my foot on a rock the wrong way and twist an ankle. I can honestly say that in the three years that I’ve been doing GST (which includes a ton of strength and mobility work for ankles and knees) I have not twisted an ankle once. I still roll my ankles while trail running, but the difference is that now I can roll onto the inner or outer side of my foot, and continue running like nothing happened. The stability I’ve gained from GST has been invaluable for both running and hiking.
Many people believe that GST is only for professionals or that you need to have a certain level of strength before you start training for GST. What was your fitness level and what is your experience with the adults who come to train in Awaken?
At the time I began training GST, I was only running and doing yoga. I had some flexibility but not an ounce of strength, especially in my upper body! The transformation has been dramatic, and I am stronger and more mobile than I have ever been in my life. We have a wide range of ability levels that come in to Awaken. Some are previous gymnasts and love that type of conditioning without the pressure of competition. Mostly though, our clients are average people who want to get in shape and have fun doing so. Everyone who walks through our door has strength and/or mobility deficits, but those who are willing to put forth some effort see results. Sometimes it takes a long time to fix those deficits, but we’ve seen some pretty amazing changes happen at Awaken.
Apart from training people you are also a certified nutritionist and have your own blog www.zao-life.com . What is your personal recipe for healthy and strong body?
Honestly, there’s a ton of “information” on nutrition out there, and it can be really overwhelming. I would say that my approach is actually a bit more relaxed than some other nutrition protocols. I do not believe in extremes or fad diets that lead many people to become obsessive about every calorie or toxin. Your nutrition has to be practical, manageable, non-restrictive, and enjoyable! Everyone’s nutritional needs and preferences will be slightly different, but we can all benefit by eating more natural, organic, and nutrient dense foods as well as reducing junk foods, fast and fried foods, and excessive sugar.
You can follow Grace and her amazing strength and flexibility on her Instagram profile @zaolife
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