I think it was a springboard to TV. We were filming in LA, then the show gets canceled. I’m like, “Well, now what do I do?” Do I ask for my bartending job back? My degree, I went to University of Kansas, my degree’s in sports administration, do I try to work back with the university? I really didn’t know what I was going to do.
My folks were great. They’re like, “Listen, home is always going to be here. Stay in LA, see what you can do. Just give it a shot, whatever that looks like.” I thought I was hot shit, saved some of that Gladiator money, got myself to LA. Within like a month and a half I was like, “Oh, I can’t afford to live here.” [laughs]
I had all this money saved and I had not enough. I’m like, “I can’t make it six months.” I’m like, “I can’t make it a half a year.” I was like, “OK, I need to make money and I need to figure out a gym.” I was getting really depressed. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m like, “I should start working out and I should start making money.”
I started my fitness career not until 2009, the year after Gladiators. I tried to be the greeter at a gym. It was called Pulse Fitness Studio. It’s still in Sherman Oaks, California. I just want to swipe people in and say, “Hi,” because then I can get a free membership and then I can make an hourly rate.
The owner, Mark Harari, he’s the one that gave me my start in LA. He just said, “I don’t know. You’ve got quite a personality, I think you should coach.” I said, “Oh God, no, never. I’m not coaching. I just want to greet people.” He gave me a free membership and said, “Just start to take my classes, start to learn, just watch.”
I eventually had the courage to start teaching group classes. It was like treadmills, and dumbbells, and bands, and stuff, so a little bit of a circuit vibe. I started teaching and I would have two, maybe three, people come to my class. Then, at one point I had six or seven, and I was like, “Oh my God, I’m at 10” and at double digits.
Within a year, I was at capacity like, 30-plus people in my class. It started just to pay the rent. I started having fun, and I started to realize that I had this greater purpose in me as a coach. I just love the way…fitness to me was a conduit for such greater things.
When people were consistent and feeling good in the gym, they were feeling better about themselves. They would make better eye contact, they would walk a little taller. Maybe, they bought a brighter t-shirt to wear at the class.
Those nuances opened up a whole chapter in my life. I was like, “Oh my gosh, there is something else here,” because up to that point I was only training for performance in college, or for looks for Gladiators, and I never knew there was another layer.