I have been involved in fitness since birth… I was quite literally born into it. My parents were top triathletes in Hawaii, and my mom continued racing while pregnant with me. After I was born, they used me as a “baby baton” and would hand me off between transitions. We moved from Hawaii to Reno, NV in the mid-90s where I would reside for a majority of my life. I was involved in team sports throughout my youth, but I wasn’t exceptionally athletic in spite of my pedigree. However, I found a passion for fitness in high school.
I signed up for a Strength and Conditioning class in my junior year (mostly to get out of PE), which was my first encounter with a barbell and I took to it immediately; the faculty noticed that I lifted “pretty well for a girl,” and recommended me for a student liaison program where I helped coach a visually impaired student in the weight room. That experience I what first sparked my interest for coaching.
As my passion for fitness was growing, my issues with drugs and alcohol were growing as well. My substance abuse problems began round the age of 15 and I wouldn’t shake them for a decade. I spent my junior and senior year of high school using and drinking excessively, and tallied my first (of three) DUI offenses among several drug related charges. After I graduated high school in 2006, I continued my education at the University of Nevada. While the drinking and drug use carried over into college, it seldom affected my academic abilities. I didn’t skip class (partially due the lovely ankle monitor which tracked my whereabouts that I had to regularly wear) and I had a high GPA. Despite being what most would call a “trouble-maker”, I wasn’t ever a deadbeat.
I started college in the sports medicine program, but it was cut at the end of my freshman year and I had to switch courses. Given that I had landed myself in the legal system a few times, I knew the judiciary system well. Thus I did what any smart repeat offender would do and went into the pre-law criminal justice program to carry out my bachelor’s degree, then attend grad school for criminal justice with a focus on criminal psychology. Still, I took nutrition courses as electives since it pertained to my lifestyle and I found it fascinating.
I followed in my mom’s footsteps and worked as a personal trainer throughout college, but treated it as a means to an end rather than a legitimate career path. I bounced from gym job to gym job with no real ambition because I was hoping to end up in law school eventually. I didn’t take personal training all that seriously and I often lost jobs because I chose drugs and alcohol instead of going to work.
I made my first serious attempt to get sober while I was in school, and pursued bodybuilding as a hobby to keep me distracted from drugs and alcohol. However, I was terrified of gaining weight because I was so gaunt after years of using. I developed an eating disorder along with an arrogant attitude. My health, and my arrogance, took a serious hit in 2008 when I was involved in a serious motorcycle accident that left me wheelchair bound for nearly 5 months after numerous surgeries. The accident turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I realized how unhealthy the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle was for me. Unfortunately, my substance abuse issues resurfaced in the aftermath of the accident.
When I finally got out of the wheelchair, off of crutches, off the pain pills, and resumed training a year later, I was offered a job with Anytime Fitness as the personal training director for Northern Nevada. Again, this was only supposed to be a job to pay the bills while I was in school, but a truly transformative experience happened while working there. I helped a client, Lou, lose 100 pounds while working with me. The feeling of truly changing a person’s life is unlike any other. I didn’t want to go to law school anymore; I wanted to get better at training and nutrition, which pushed me to become a certified FNS (Fitness Nutrition Specialist).
In the summer of 2010, I started outdoor boot camps all over Reno. The next summer I started my Instagram account. One day I posted a picture of myself in a sports bra, which perfectly accented the equally photogenic photo of my healthy breakfast. The response was overwhelming, and thus began my full-time fitness career. The Reno boot camps turned into traveling boot camps that were promoted via social media, and appropriately coined “BAMFit” (“Bad Ass Mother Fuckin’ Fitness”) by me and a friend whom I had met in the online fitness community. The boot camps went down to SoCal and ended up in New York City by 2012. While on this boot camp tour, my dear friend Dave Driskell helped me drink the CrossFit Kool-Aid and introduced me to the world of functional fitness, which was a big departure from the world of corporate gyms, isolation exercises, and aesthetics. I loved it.
It was also in 2012 that I was approached by Brandan Schieppati, owner of Rise Above Fitness in Orange County, and offered a coaching job. I packed my bags and relocated to Southern California. I was blown away walking into RAF. It was like functional fitness on crack: everyone was in insane shape and covered in tattoos. I had found my people! It was here that I realized I didn’t know much about fitness, and I used my time at RAF to learn everything I could from the extremely knowledgeable coaching staff. Shortly after I started at RAF, its popularity took off. I had more clients than I knew what to do with, and I finally felt like I had really found my place in the industry. However there was one very serious problem: I was not managing my alcoholism and addiction.
My first year in SoCal, my addiction demons repeatedly battled my fitness angels. I would learn so much about strength and conditioning, powerlifting, nutrition, and mobility at the gym during the day, only to go home and drink a bottle of whiskey and make poor decisions at night. This behavior continued until I woke up in the hospital from alcohol-induced seizures on May 28, 2013. I never took another drink and I am still sober to this day. Getting sober was the hardest thing I have ever done. I went back to the “stay busy” method they teach in rehab, and it worked. I got involved with Westside Barbell, got a job offer at Taylor Ramsdell’s Chain Fitness in LA, started speaking at seminars, and completed a dietitian internship.
Getting sober made me realize that SoCal wasn’t the best environment for my soul, and in December 2013 I left LA and headed to New York City to pursue even more for myself. Upon moving to New York I’ve had the opportunity to work with an NFL franchise, was voted one of “The 30 Most Inspirational People Under 30” by Dick Talen’s Fitocracy, and started my powerlifting career as a drug free, raw USAPL lifter. It was there that I also wrote two books about my nutrition philosophies (Flexible Dieting and Flexible Dieting 2.0), started my own apparel company & lifestyle brand (Doughnuts & Deadlifts), and launched Black Iron LLC which would lay the ground work for opening my first gym.
On April 1st, 2015 I became a gym owner. I relocated back to Northern Nevada in the fall of that year to put my focus on Black Iron Gym and CrossFit Knurling. Upon being back in the mountains, I found my love for nature again. Residing in the Tahoe area, I am able to hike, backpack, swim, cycle, climb and more. Multiple adventures in 2016 lead to the start of ELLO Supply Co, my outdoor brand.
It was also in 2016 that I relaunched my nutrition consulting and coaching company, Black Iron Nutrition. BIN employs four full time nutrition coaches and has coached thousands of athletes into competitions and body composition goals. As our client base continues to grow, so does our team and we are able to continue to produce incredible content and information.
In July of 2017, I acquired my second warehouse space which in now the new home of DNDL and ELLO. It is also the home of my newest venture, Flagship Merch. My boyfriend, Ben, and I are so excited to embark on the journey of merchandising ranging from apparel design to screen printing.
I have been fortunate enough to contribute to this industry in many forms. As a bootcamp instructor, a personal trainer, a speaker, an athlete, a coach, a t-shirt slanger, a mentor, a podcaster, a YouTuber, a voice of reason, and more. With eleven years under my belt, I am confident in my methods and my work ethic. I truly believe I have built one of the best teams in the industry and I am excited to continue to contribute in every way possible with one goal in mind: to improve people’s quality of life through fitness, nutrition, nature, and my words. Everything I have done for myself over the years is my direct way of making myself more for those who listen to me, in hopes that is has a ripple affect.
If you made it to the end, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my story.