The Breakthrough Story
Breakthrough Personal Coaching & Wellness was Founded with Chris Gray’s
Lifelong Passion for Health, Fitness, and Sports.
This journey starts in the late 80’s in New Jersey when, as a child, I was first exposed to sports playing pee-wee football. I was just eighty pounds soaking wet and had no clue what I was doing, but I had fun and continued playing for four more years.
In the early 90’s, I moved to Delaware with my parents and enrolled at Polytech High School for what would be my freshman year. In the August before school started, of course I signed up to play on the freshman football team, attending my first ever football camp.
In early September, at the start of the school year, my future as I know it today began to take shape. I walked the halls with envy, passing by upperclassmen wearing letterman jackets, saying to myself, “I’ve got to get one of those”; this is the point when I began getting sucked deep into the vortex of sports, fitness, and health. To me, those guys were like Greek Gods with power, girls, and popularity, and I wanted to be just like them!
At this point I knew I had to get bigger, stronger, and faster, but really didn’t know how to do it. Then in the next semester, believe it or not, I had the opportunity to take an elective class called “Weight Training”, which of course I jumped all over!
On the first day of weight training class I didn’t really know what to expect, but once in the weight room for the first time, I was hooked! Hooked by the smells, the sounds, the sweat, the testosterone, you name it, I loved it! Then, to top it off, my weight lifting coach was a previous Mr. Delaware body building champion who would become my first role model.
Getting sucked further into the vortex now, what happened next has played a pivotal role in who I am today. As the weeks went by, while training in the weight room and around school, I started seeing guys walking around school wearing t-shirts that said “Bench Press Club” with the amount of weight they were able to max bench press plastered very large across their chest. This got my attention, to put it modestly!
What I saw was not just a t-shirt; to me it was like steel armor that was worn only by warriors! Soon after, I discovered that next to the weight room, painted on the wall for everyone in the school to see, were the names of everyone in the Bench Press Club and the records they each hold. This was a significant point in my life and had a profound effect on me!
To me… at that point in my life, wearing that Bench Press Club shirt around school and getting my name up on that wall was like becoming a gladiator who challenges all in the coliseum. I immediately went to my weight lifting coach to find out how I could get one of those t-shirts and get my name on that wall. He told me that I had to bench press one of the milestone bench presses, the first one being 225 pounds.
At this point I could only bench press 135 pounds, so I had to gain enough strength and muscle to bench press 90 more pounds to get that t-shirt. My mission was now clear and I knew what I had to do…..this marks the official start of my career in fitness as we know it today!
From that point forward, I was committed to accomplishing one of the first really important goals in my life. I researched everything I could from magazines, books, TV, Internet, and my coaches on how I could get bigger and stronger as fast as possible. Then I came across a book called “Body For Life”, by Bill Phillips, which also came with a video. In one night, I read the entire book and watched the video; I found these tools to be exactly what I was looking for! In fact, the methods I teach today are still based on those same methods I learned so many years ago.
Now armed with knowledge, I was working relentlessly to accomplish my goals. What I found was as a skinny kid, if I wanted to get bigger, I needed to eat every 3 hours and significantly increase my caloric intake. So here I am, a sophomore in high school, eating two full lunches every day and mixing up protein shakes and eating scoops of peanut butter at my locker between classes. This was the attention to detail that was required to succeed!
Before long another year had gone by, but something else was happening….I was getting bigger and stronger. Now, on Monday mornings, I’m hearing my name being announced over the loud speakers for my accomplishments in Friday night’s game. In the weight room, I’m progressing consistently, now gaining traction, I am stronger than most of the other students and I finally got that 225 LB Bench Press Club t-shirt!
Guess what…I wanted more! I wanted to be the best of the best in the weight room and on the football field, so I kept pushing day in and day out, focused on my daily victories to gain more traction. As my senior year came around I was now over 200 pounds and stronger than I have ever been. Bench pressing 290 pounds, being recruited by colleges, and being considered for athletic scholarships, my dedication to constant steady improvement was paying off.
Following high school, I pursued a career in another passion of mine, the emergency services, while playing semi-pro football for 3 more years. Now a career firefighter and paramedic, I again became part of an elite team of athletes to compete in the firefighter combat challenge. I was fortunate to travel all over the country competing with this team and participate in 3 World Championships.
All this time, there was one thing that never changed for me…my love for the gym. I was still in the weight room, now at the local YMCA, training just as hard to get bigger and stronger, however, I felt that I had now plateaued and needed more knowledge in order to keep moving forward.
It was at this point that I realized I needed a coach to guide me and hold me accountable, so I hired a personal trainer. One of the most important lessons I learned from my trainers is that form, technique, and nutrition must be held to the highest standards if you want to stay healthy and get positive results. What I learned was that I needed to have high expectations of myself and my training. Holding myself and those around me to a high standard was a recipe for success. This is where I learned the value of the statement “You get out what you put in!”
The valuable lessons showed me that if you do things right the first time, it will pay off in the end. Now, training with perfect technique, clean nutrition, and being held accountable, my results tripled what I had ever achieved before and in a very short period of time. I learned that every time you quit because you’re tired or hurting, cheat a repetition, blow your nutrition, or give a half hearted effort, you are simply sabotaging yourself and have no one else to blame for failures but yourself. If you want to accomplish anything in life, you have to commit yourself mind, body, and spirit, because no one is going to hand it to you!
Moving forward now, as my passion grew for fitness and health, I was competing in weight lifting and body building, and it seemed everyday someone was asking me for help or asking questions about nutrition or exercise. Everywhere I went people had questions and it was obvious that most people, just like me when I started, had no clue what they were doing when it came to fitness. Knowledge is power and played a critical role in my success, so now it became clear that I wanted to help others follow in my footsteps. This was the start of my personal training career.
Working as a personal trainer in multiple facilities, over time, I realized that despite my efforts, most people who attempted to get in shape or lose weight failed miserably. As I looked around at my counterparts, the reality was most of their clients weren’t getting the life changing results either.
Now after years of trying to put this puzzle together I reached a turning point. After countless grown men and women who had been trying to get control of their health for 5, 10, 15, some over 20 years, literally broke down in tears in front of me overwhelmed with frustration…..I’d had enough.
Frustrated and disappointed with myself as a coach after over 10 years, it finally became clear what was missing….. in not only my coaching, but for the majority of the fitness industry as a whole….
The missing piece was Integrity!
Simply put, we as coaches were not providing people with all of the necessary tools, information, and accountability in their fitness programs that was needed for them to achieve success, essentially setting them up for failure from the start. It is now clear that this is a wide spread problem in the fitness industry today, with the exception of a small community who has seen the same light that I have.
In many instances… even if all the necessary tools are being offered, they are each sold separately, making the cost of a complete program virtually impossible for most to afford long term, which is exactly what most people need….long term support and accountability.
It was at this point…. that my program as its known today was born. Now 2008 and the owner of my own personal training center, I have committed myself to providing a program that is driven by my own core values and experiences. A program that can truly change the lives of the committed by providing exceptional leadership, mentorship, and coaching.
Fast forward five years and another huge turning point in my life happened. At this point I was a career Lieutenant in the Fire Department for over 13 years, and running my personal training center on my days off. I came home from work one day, sat down with my wife Karen and said “I’m not going back to work”. Wow! Talk about a freak out moment. I was passionate about helping people change their lives, and it was time for me to make the sacrifices necessary to do that full time. I walked away from my career and everything I worked for to follow my heart, and it was one of the best things I ever did!
About a year later another defining moment was upon us that completely changed everything. We started a weight loss contest at our training center called the Total Transformation Challenge. We gathered together in a group for weekly check-in’s, coaching, and education for 10 weeks. About 3 weeks in, something amazing happened…people felt safe in our group meetings and because of that started opening up about real problems. I think it’s really easy to make it seem like everything’s okay on the outside, but in reality we can be in a real bad place on the inside. Before we knew it, our contest meetings became a life giving support group. By the end of the 10 weeks lives were completely changed. We realized in that 10 weeks that wellness has to start on the inside, before you’ll ever have lasting external wellness. We also realized that the path we were on as Punch Kettlebell Gym just came to an end.
Our support groups have continued now for over 2 years, and Punch Kettlebell Gym is no more. We realized through that experience that’s not who we are anymore. We completely transformed who we are, and everything we do since that 10 week experience. In 2015 we re-branded ourselves as Breakthrough Personal Coaching & Wellness, with a vision to completely re-define what it means to be “fit” and how one goes about getting “fit”. We know now that it has very little to do with exercise.
Thank you to all of you that have supported us over the years. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m more excited than ever to see what the future holds.
Breakthrough Personal Coaching & Welness