A roller coaster ride with more twists, turns, ups and downs, than any amusement park could possible rival, and a surprise ending than was really a new beginning. Breakthrough Personal Coaching & Wellness, in Dover, Delaware shares a story of triumph against all odds.
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 vision 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! This was the first real goal I ever accomplished.
Guess what…It motivated me to want even 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.
The valuable lessons showed me that if you do things right, 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, it finally became clear what was missing, not only in my coaching, but for the majority of the fitness industry as a whole.
Simply put, we as coaches were not providing people with all of the necessary tools, education, accountability, and support in their fitness programs that was necessary for them to achieve long term success, essentially setting them up for failure from the start. The majority of programs today focus mostly on the exercise, and it was clear in my experience, that it wasn’t the exercise that was most important at all. In fact, the exercise was the easy part of the equation.
It was clear that this is a wide spread problem in the fitness industry today, with the exception of a small select community, and If I was going to do anything about this problem, I was going to have to start my own program, and do things my way. It was at this point that the seed was planted to someday have my own gym, and do things the right way.
In 2008 that opportunity came to fruition, when I had the opportunity to purchase the personal training center I had been working at for a few years. My wife Karen and I were super excited, and figured this gym will basically run itself. We thought we’d just pop in from time to time, and collect the checks! That couldn’t have been further from the truth!
Everything was going great at first…until it wasn’t! We were currently offering one on one personal and the average cost per month was $1,500 to train with us. When the economy went south, so did our clients. We lost a large amount of our clients who were cutting back, and before long we were paying bills out of our own pockets and began accumulating debt. The decision to close was looming.
On a whim, about 2 weeks before we planned to close our doors, I attended a workshop that was specifically for fitness business owners. This experience gave me just the breath of fresh air I needed to keep fighting. The message was clear…private training is out, and group training is in! Clients could bring friends, and share the cost of the training session. This was actually more fun, produced better results, and because you could share the cost of the trainer, it was more affordable.
It was at that very same conference that we were introduced to the founders of Punch Kettlebell Gym, and their training philosophy called Art Of Strength. The training was done in groups, with some very cool and unique tools, and it looked like so much fun! And then it hit me…this is exactly what we need to bring our program back to life!
The Art Of Strength studio was born. We came home from that conference fired up and began implementing the group training into our existing gym program. Some liked what we were doing, and some didn’t and stuck to their old routine. After a few months of struggling to get things turned around, we found ourselves going further into debt. We were going backwards and something had to change. We decided that we weren’t going all in yet, and we hadn’t burned the bridges yet. It was at that point that we decided to become a Punch Kettlebell Gym franchise.
We notified our current clients that we were selling all our equipment, changing our name, and becoming a group training center from that point forward. Punch Kettlebell Gym Dover was born, and the majority of our existing clients walked out the door. We were still in the fight, and believed in what we were trying to create. However after many months of grinding it out, we found ourselves still going backwards and getting further in debt. We once again made the decision to close.
Just 2 weeks out for closing we caught a break! Another franchise owner Rob contacted us with a new opportunity. He told us that he had been working with business coaches that only worked with fitness business owners, and that what they taught him changed not only his business, but his life! Wow that’s a bold statement! Of course I immediately contacted this company and signed on to work with them! I just knew in my heart that this was it…this is exactly what we needed to turn things around!
Getting a coach was a game changer for sure! We thought we had some idea how to run our business, but clearly we had no clue! Our coaches showed us everything we needed to know about running our business from sales, to marketing, to staff management, etc. And Rob was right…it working with these coaches changed my life forever! They helped me become a better man in all areas of my life, not just my business and I’m truly grateful for that.
Despite all we had done to turn things around, we just couldn’t seem to pull ourselves out of debt. We were a sinking ship, and something had to give. We had to hit the reset button and start fresh now that we have a much better idea of how to do things right. We downsized into a smaller space, cut everything back to bare bones minimum and filed for bankruptcy as a last resort. We moved into our new space which we call home now, and took off like a rocket!
In the two years that followed we had built a team of 10, and upwards of 70 clients. It was amazing! And then I woke up one day and it was all but gone! In what seemed to be just overnight, my wife and I were the only staff members standing, and we were down to 35 clients out of 70. It was time for me to do some soul searching! I had to look in the mirror at this point and ask myself “what am I doing wrong?”.
After much self reflection I concluded that I wasn’t ready to lead at that level, and If I was going to move forward I would need some help. I began building a team around me of successful business coaches, financial advisors, CPA’s, etc. I hired a board of directors to help guide me, and hold me accountable to what needed to be done. I became a member of multiple mastermind groups and leadership development groups made up of people who were very successful in what I wanted to do. And maybe the most pivotal thing I did was go through an intense 14 week Leadership Mastery course that changed my life forever.
At this point I was also 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!
Today our program is thriving! Two more years of hard work and dedication passed since our last fall in 2012 and now with the help of our team we are out of debt, rebuilt our program, and have the most amazing community of champions I could ever imagine.
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.
Throughout this process of self discovery, personal and professional growth, clarity on our values, purpose, and the huge vision we have for the future, it was clear that our name Punch Kettlebell Gym was no longer a good fit. It just wasn’t who were anymore, we had evolved into something completely different. In every transformation we’ve had the pleasure of being a part of, including my own, there was a series of defining moments…or decisions along the way, and it’s in those moments when we decide to take action despite our fears, worries, and doubts, that breakthrough occurs, and we take one step closer to the destination. Success is not this quantum leap, but a series of breakthroughs consistently over time. It’s in coaching people through this process that we believe we are at our best. As a result we said thank you and good bye to the name Punch Kettlebell Gym, and became Breakthrough Personal Coaching and Wellness in 2015, 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.
Our support groups have continued now for over 2 years since that first 10 week contest that changed everything, and we’ve had the opportunity to see hundreds of people completely transform their minds and bodies, and I don’t just mean dropping a few sizes or pounds.
That is the legacy we intend on leaving behind at Breakthrough Personal Coaching & Wellness, in Dover, Delaware for generations to come. Thank you to everyone who has ever supported us in the past to help us get where we are today, and everyone who continues supporting us today and into the future. I’m humbled everyday to have an opportunity to be a part of the life changing breakthroughs that occur here daily!
To learn more give us a call at 302-730-1600 or click Dover Personal Trainer.
Breakthrough Personal Coaching & Wellness