AIM welcomes a diverse group of trainers with sights on greater accessibility to members.

Recently, AIM ushered in five new trainers to the personal training
team including Evan Le, Greg Higginbotham and Studio instructors Valorie Bellaci, Joni Stimpson and Jarren Begg. With a wide breadth of specialties, the AIM department is becoming more accessible to members of all types. Though personal training isn’t for everyone, a few of our newest trainers talk about their fitness backgrounds, personal experiences with trainers and how they approach training clients.

From Novice to Silver Medal Powerlifter: Meet Evan Le

HCIdentity: What does your fitness background look like and how did you transition into personal training?

Evan Le: I played sports growing up, but still felt self-conscious about my body. Looking back, it wasn’t a surprise. I ate awful—think instant pizza and ramen daily—and never learned how to strength train. Lifting weights seemed like a foreign concept—my parents weren’t athletes or anything so I was never taught that. But, I learned my freshman year in college and have been going consistently for seven years ever since.

During college, I competed and won a silver medal in a collegiate USAPL Powerlifting competition. After getting my NSCA Certification for Personal Training, I began training at a commercial gym, working with clients for the first time.

Eventually, I was hitting that gap where one to three hours of training a week wasn’t enough. I realized that lasting change happens not just in better movement, but in the food we eat and adequate amounts of intentional rest. That’s what caused me to get certified as a Level One Nutrition Coach with Precision Nutrition. It’s helped me think of movement, nutrition and rest as a holistic practice.

What is your training style?

I think of training as three layers. First, we have to make it fun. If it’s not fun, you’re going to quit and no one wins.

Second, make it effective. I’m not the kind of trainer who includes random movements for the sake of making people puke. Do the movements enough for the desired result and then go have fun moving in other ways.

Third, make it a lifestyle. Our gym time is great and I treasure that, but I also recognize that in order to reach deep health, we need to work on all of the stuff that happens outside of the gym.

Why personal training?

I always thought the world makes things more complicated than they have to be, which is especially true with fitness. That’s why I love helping people make things “click” in their minds. My proudest moments as a trainer are when my clients have literally spent years following different fitness trends going nowhere and I am able to get them more change in a month than they have in years.

Personal training is not for everyone—let’s make that clear—but, if you’ve tried a lot of options in the past and you haven’t been getting the results you want, working with a good personal trainer is like taking a shortcut to where you want to be. You still have to put the work in, but you get the confidence knowing if you stick to the plan, you’ll get to where you want to be.

As a personal trainer, what are your areas of focus and specialties?

My specialties are new lifters, nutrition and habit building.

Who benefits most from your training style?

I love working with what I call “Level One” clients. That means people who may never have considered themselves “athletes” before. I want to prove to them that they don’t have to be an athlete to reap the benefits of strength training and healthier eating practices.

I think the person who would benefit most from my training style are those who want to be confident and self-sufficient in working out and eating properly during and after we work together.

What advice do you have for those who might be intimidated by personal training?

To anyone who’s intimidated by personal training or AIM I understand. I was that guy who didn’t want to feel incompetent in any social setting. I usually don’t want to feel stupid.

As I grow older, the more I embrace that, while I’m awesome at a lot of things, I’m also bad at a lot of things. I don’t have enough time in the week or years to study for a degree and to get great at everything. That’s where AIM can help.

If your health is important to who you want to become, that expert guidance is extremely valuable. So don’t get too intimidated by us, we don’t bite.

Have you had a personal trainer and, if so, how did you personally benefit from getting help from someone else?

When life gets busy, we have to prioritize our time and take care of the people who matter. Sometimes, the last priority is ourselves.

As my hours got squeezed from time to time, having a trainer for myself has helped me stay afloat on top of my own fitness, when I’m busy handling family, friends and work. I can’t be a superman all the time so, a personal trainer helped me maximize the time I could spend in the gym.

What does your weekly fitness routine look like?

My current fitness routine this time of year is as often as I can. We’re nearing the holidays and it’s a busy season for me, so short workouts here and there during the week and longer sessions on the weekend. I’m currently working on improving my Olympic lifts and pull up strength.

What are your 2021 fitness goals?

I’d like to run an obstacle course race when everything returns to normal!

Focused and Compassionate Training With Joni Stimpson

HCIdentity: What is your sports or fitness background?

Joni Stimpson: I was a high school athlete in field hockey, volleyball, and softball. My family is not into athletics so it came as quite a surprise to them when I managed to find a way into sports. I feel very lucky that I went to a high school where competition was pretty limited and I could start as a 14 year old.

Have you ever had a personal trainer?

I went to university and my opportunities for competitive athletics ended. I started to go to the gym and found that I really liked weight- lifting. After the birth of my third child, I realized that I had been stalled for quite a while and it was time to get smarter about my training. I hired my first trainer and we met every other week. That was 13 years ago and the main constant in my life since then has been working with instructors and personal trainers…a lifelong apprenticeship.

How did you transition from athletics to teaching and earning your personal training certifications?

I moved to Hawaii in 2009 and joined a Stroller Strides class so that I could make friends. The franchise went up for sale and I decided to take a risk. My kids were 5, 3 and 1. I earned my Group Fitness certification and ended up running a program on the island of Oahu with 5 locations. Teaching Stroller Strides classes was the ultimate baptism of fire — we were outside, utilizing the environment and exercise bands while staying on the move, 10 seconds ahead of a baby about to break into tears because their stroller wasn’t rocking anymore.

I moved to Maryland in 2012 and earned my Personal Trainer certification with NASM. I taught Group classes and worked one-on-one with clients. Most important, I found a great trainer for myself who had two decades of experience in the industry. His preferred tool was the kettlebell and I earned a certification with StrongFirst in 2014. It took over a year of physical preparation to be ready for the skills tests—flex hang, squat, overhead press and snatch test.

What is your training style?

I like to stay focused, but I also want clients to enjoy their training sessions and feel like they have someone who cares about them and their success.

What’s your main goal in training clients? Why personal training?

I am a trainer who remembers how intimidating it used to feel to go
into the weight room. I want to make training feel accessible, remove the barriers to entry and teach the strength-training basics that will take you far. I like to include bodyweight mastery and spend a lot of time on Gait pattern—how well can you stand on one leg? These are the physical improvements that will help you age well.

I am less concerned with calories burned and much more interested
in movement quality and the sustainability of your fitness program. Sometimes all it takes is a short-term commitment with a trainer to learn how to use your time in the gym better. Others like the accountability built into having a regular appointment with a trainer.

What does your weekly fitness routine look like?

I love to take yoga classes. I hop on the Jacob’s Ladder for 5 minutes every time I’m at HCI (my favorite machine for cardio). I box for 10 minutes after I teach my Gravity classes. And I have kettlebells in my bedroom for a short session of swings and the Turkish Get Up. These are short bursts of formal exercise but highly efficient since I’ve learned what works best for me in terms of challenge and Will I Actually Do It. I bought a weighted vest during the shutdown and walked for an hour in my neighborhood each day.

What are your 2021 fitness goals?

My goal in 2021 would be to have a more consistent bedtime and master a 60-second handstand. So far, I’m at 20 seconds. I know that I feel better in every way when I move. It may have been outward focused in my younger years, particularly after having my third baby, but now, regular movement is how I manage my energy and mood and it always, always helps.