Julie is the first trainer I’ve ever worked out with that I didn’t, at some point, want to punch in the face. That’s saying a lot.
Julie is the owner and and head trainer at BAWS Gym. I’m excited to share her journey and wisdom with you today because I think she’s so inspiring. She comes from a place of humility and true caring and I think that’s the best.
Caitlin: When did you first become interested in fitness?
Julie: When I was young, I would watch my dad workout in the basement. He was in the military so like many Marines, he had a very strict regimen. I would go down the basement and watch him workout. I was always impressed with his pull ups. One day he got off the bar and said, “Do you want to try?” I was like ten years old. I got on the bar and I just hung there. And every day I went down there and hung until I could do a pull-up.
It got the the point (eventually) where we started doing round robin with pull ups. It was so fun doing something with him and I really feel like he was the one who inspired me.
Also, not many people know this, but when everyone was playing sports in school, I was always at the YMCA working out. I just loved weights. I loved them so much. And that’s really how it started.
I did get to an age where it was pissing me off that I was bad at certain things (running in particular) so I just kept working at them. And I just told myself, you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Caitlin: Well, that can kind of sum up the entire diet and exercise experience.
Julie: It’s so true. I train Spartan teams and that’s the biggest thing I tell them. I put them through rough workouts and I just say, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I think it really resonates with people and it just tells them, all right, when I want to quit, I just need to push myself three more minutes. And that’s all that I want from people. When you want to quit, just give a little bit more. It’s funny how much I’ve grown in life because of that attitude. I’ve totally put that quote to use in so many other areas of my life.
Caitlin: I would imagine that many of the people you train do, as well.
Julie: Yeah, I think so. I think that once you do that, you really start to train your mind to be stronger.
Caitlin: So tell me about your fitness and nutrition education.
Julie: I started as a floor tech at the YMCA when I was 14. I would watch this one women train her clients and teach classes. She inspired me and soon became my fitness mentor. She taught pilates. I took her classes and I started to really get into it. So, I got certified in that first. That women, Bethel, took me under her wing and taught me so much about fitness.
Then I went to West Chester University for kinesiology, but the program was really long and I was super antsy to get it over with. So, I dropped out and I went to the National Personal Training Institute and it was hands down the best experience and the best thing I could have
done. I don’t think I’d be where I am today if I didn’t do that. That got me certified in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and nutrition. I am also certified in kettlebells and Crossfit.
Caitlin: So you now own a gym. How did you get there?
Julie: I worked at a private personal training studio and the owner knew I had aspirations to open my own gym. He asked me if I wanted to buy his studio. I said yes. It was a franchise when I bought it and I tried to sever the ties to make it my own small business. But, the franchise came after me and said they would take me to court if I did that. It was a huge, huge mess. It was so frustrating. We eventually dropped it and I quit my job because more than ever before, I craved being a gym owner.
I had saved some money to get me by while I was searching for a location. I finally found a spot in Huntingdon Valley.
Caitlin: Tell me about that gym.
Julie: It was called Bryn Athryn Workout Studio, or BAWS. I loved it so much, but eventually I outgrew the space and my training style had gotten a little bit more “gritty”. And by that I mean, um, badass, I guess. Haha. I knew I wanted more of a warehouse like gym because I wanted a little parkour training, a litte Crossfit action, a little gymnastics, a little pilates, ya know a whole mix of stuff. The space needed to be functional for all of that.
Caitlin: That’s a good problem to have!
Julie: It is. So, I’ve been in my new location in Hatboro (Pennsylvania) since October last year.
Caitlin: What kind of programs do you offer?
Julie: I do personal training during the day. Forty-five minute, one on one sessions, all tailored to the client. And then I do classes at night. Cardio kickboxing, pilates, strength & conditioning.
I also hold all types of programs and obstacle course trainings. I get groups together to get in shape for a particular obstacle race and then we go tackle it as a team. It’s a lot of fun.
Every two to three months I try to re-evaluate and come up with new programs. So, it changes all the time. The biggest thing I try to do is make the programs fun, fulfilling, and rewarding.
Caitlin: So what is the most rewarding part of your work?
Julie: Seeing people change, emotionally and mentally. I had a 50 year old man turn to me, after two and a half months of training, and he had tears in his eyes. He said, “You know, I actually love myself again.” And I was tearing up because it’s just so gratifying to see people feel that way about themselves.
Fitness is such a big industry and it wouldn’t be so big if it wasn’t so hard. Being fit is a hard journey. To help people get to their goals is so gratifying. And, you know, I do little videos and I put stuff about food and everything online, but it’s not because I want attention. If I can help one person do better, that’s why I’m doing it.
Caitlin: I think what’s appealing about you is that there’s no ego. How important is it to you to be a real person to your clients?
Julie: Yeah, you know, a lot of people say they train with me because I’m real. I average a size six, I’m not a size two. I eat a donut when I want one. I don’t wear belly shirts and have six packs abs. That’d be nice, but would mean I would have to live life in such a strict manner. Unless, of course, your DNA is gracious to you. But, I try to be as real possible and let people know that it’s so important to live in a healthy way. And that means balance.
When I was younger I struggled with eating disorders and I don’t want people to go there. I don’t want people to be afraid of food or be obsessed with exercise. Instead, just focus mostly on whole foods, be kind to yourself and move a little almost everyday. If you find that balance, you never have to punish yourself. You don’t have to starve and you don’t have to overeat. You can find balance where everything just comes together.
Caitlin: And you’re also pretty balanced in the amount of exercise you recommend.
Julie: Yeah, I mean, I used to be that person who was all into cardio all the time (after I went through my weight lifting phase). But, I realized that you only need maybe four days a week of exercise and, if you do it right, only 20 to 30 minutes. It’s great because it makes your metabolism revved just enough to build muscle and burn body fat, but you’re not starving all the time because your workouts are so long!
Caitlin: I know for a lot of people to take that first step to get healthy is really hard. There can be a lot of embarrassment and shame. I know you really succeed in getting people out who otherwise might have been too afraid to join a fitness class. What do you tell people who might be afraid to take that first step?
Julie: You know, it’s a journey and everyone is battling something. The first step is to be kind to yourself. And if you can change one thing a week that will bring you closer to your goal, that’s awesome. Don’t be embarrassed with yourself because everyone is working on bettering themselves somehow, someway. People battle their issues in so many different ways and no one’s life is perfect. We never judge people who are overweight at the gym. We’re proud of them. Keep your focus on you and no one else. They don’t really matter when it comes to YOUR health. One of the things that I feel is great about BAWS is that it offers one on one training if you really feel you want to work out without others around.
I went through some hard stuff with health and fitness. And I believe the universe gives you those things so you can live and learn and teach people. I’ve had to gain weight and I’ve had to lose weight. And both are hard. I feel that I went on that journey so I can connect with people, empathize and understand their situation to some degree. It’s not going to be easy, but you have to want it.
Caitlin: I always think that no one is judging you as much as you’re judging yourself.
Julie: Yeah, you hit the nail on the head. That’s so true. You are your biggest critic. And we compare so much. I try hard not to compare myself to other trainers. I feel like I look like the average person in way-
Caitlin: Well, I wouldn’t say that, but okay (laughs).
Julie: Well, I don’t look like a Hollywood trainer. You just have to focus on yourself and stay on your own journey. That’s hard to do, but once you can, it’s really satisfying.
Caitlin: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Julie: With fitness: There is no quick fix. There is no pill, there is no diet, there is no cleanse. It is day in and day out, on the grind. But, want it, enjoy it.
With life, business and myself: Be patient. Many people will do so well, with whatever their goals may be, and then mess up and be so angry at themselves. Then they quit. Never quit. It gets you nowhere, but pissed off at the world. Trust me, I know.