We had the good fortune of connecting with Kali Stewart and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kali, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
There are two main reasons that inspired me to start my own business: creating a positive, supportive environment and giving clients the best experience possible. I have been a personal trainer since 2008. In that time I have worked at and managed a large corporate gym and smaller private studios. I found that between the two environments, I often connected best with my clients in a more intimate studio setting. Fitness studios offer the ability to curate the experience for each individual. If I was working with a client that wanted to lose weight and preferred the privacy of a smaller space with less intimidation, I could create that. If a client came in and needed to really crank out some aggression, I could turn up the music and get some boxing gloves out. I realized that having more autonomy and control would enable me to create the best experience possible for my people. An important part of what makes fitness inviting, welcoming, and fun, is the people. If you show up to see your trainer and the studio is clean, the people are positive and you feel comfortable, you will want to come back. I wanted to create a fitness studio that not only had all the equipment I would need to give the best workout sessions, but I also wanted to build a team of people that were great to work with. I feel fortunate to have that team of people that I love and can trust. They are smart, motivated, and very heart-forward. The through-line between all of us is the innate desire to help others. I think that having this type of team really makes our business special.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
When I graduated from college in 2008, I wasn’t sure which path to take next. I became a personal trainer because it was an easy transition from being an athlete and I thought it would be a good summer job. However, I was far from my fit, competitive days by the end of school. I graduated overweight and out of shape. I did end up finding a job at a big, corporate gym. After my interview, my manager pulled me aside and asked the sharp, direct question, “what are you doing for your own health and fitness?” I felt called out. I looked good on paper with my degree in Exercise Physiology but I wasn’t taking care of myself. I decided to start running and counting my calories. I lost 40 pounds that summer and attracted a full schedule of clients who wanted to do the same. Even though my methods of losing weight were questionable, I knew that helping people become healthier and stronger made me feel like I had a purpose in my life. For years I stayed smaller and healthier. I liked the way I felt but in the back of mind, somewhere, I knew that the way I was living wasn’t sustainable. I was running every day and not eating enough. A couple of weeks after running a marathon, I tore one of my hamstrings. Running as a means of staying slim was out. It took a long time to recover and in the process, I used food restriction to try to manipulate my weight. Knowing that this also wasn’t sustainable, I decided I needed to learn more about nutrition and healthy living. Like many people, I felt overwhelmed by the information coming from every direction. What foods should we eat or not eat? How do I actually help people make sustainable changes? And what is the safest and most effective way to do so? The more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know and this compelled me to pursue a graduate degree in Kinesiology and Sport Psychology, a two-year certification in nutrition, and numerous other certifications related to fitness and nutrition. I think that making an effort to learn more and follow our curiosities provides a passion for the day to day and respect for the people we are working with. I never want to stop learning for myself and for my clients. At the start of COVID, I had to close my studio. I hadn’t had downtime like that since college. With the time to reflect, I realized that having a poor self/body image was tied into a lifelong pattern of overeating and this was taking away from my highest health and happiness. And getting more certifications, degrees, and knowledge wasn’t working to change my behavior. I needed professional help from experts. I decided to find a therapist that specifically worked with disordered eating and was eventually referred to UCSD’s CHEAR Program. I was able to enroll in a research study that specifically aims to treat patients with Binge Eating Disorder using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Working on myself in this way has helped me feel optimistic and excited about my future. When I can show up and be honest about my struggles, it helps me to feel more real and authentic with my clients. And my clients are being more honest and open with me as well. I am seeing better results with everyone. The fitness industry and society in general places a huge demand on how we look. I want to continue to help people love their bodies and recognize their strength and ability instead of focusing solely on how they look. I know this process will take time but it becomes easier and more genuine every day. It’s a win-win.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When people come to San Diego, I want to have them experience the things that really feel like San Diego to me. Surfing and good Mexican food! Starting the day with surfing is spiritual. It allows me to connect with nature in a unique and beautiful way while being active. Surfing is grounding to me. If the people visiting are brave enough, I take them to San Elijo State beach to go surfing. It’s rewarding to teach people and I get the same reaction every time I see them ride a wave to the shore- pure joy. I feel like I am experiencing the same elation. After surfing is the hunt for great food and coffee! There are so many incredible places for tacos in San Diego, but my wife and I have really fallen in love with City Tacos. I will say as a nutrition coach, and also someone who greatly enjoys food, that having a balance of eating delicious food and living healthy is a priority to me. I always tell my clients that cognitive dissonance, or having inconsistent thoughts, happens when we are eating and drinking in a way that doesn’t align with our goals. We can eat and drink the items we love and still make progress as long as our day to day behaviors still reflect our goals. Look at your habits, not your outliers. After some really good outliers and a flat white, I would probably take my friends up to Ramona to see my family and play with their horses and dogs. I LOVE animals and so does my mom. To me, animals are a gift from the universe to provide levity in our lives. Nothing takes me out of my head faster than seeing a puppy. They’re a gift. After a trip to the farm, it’s back to South Park where my wife and I live. In pre-pandemic times, I would take my friends to go watch one of her gigs. My wife is a professional drummer and recording artist. It’s a blast to go watch her play with one of her bands like Dragontree Funk. And that would be it! Coffee. Surf. Tacos. Dogs. Music. Friends. Sounds like a pretty good day to me!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In December of 2018, my grandmother passed away. We were very close. I was fortunate enough to be with her at the moment of her passing. And in an instant, I was able to see my whole life unfold. I saw all of my fears and what had been holding me back appear in front of me. I saw and felt that I could easily get to the end of my life and never accomplish my dreams because I was too afraid to start. My grandmother gave me a gift that day. She helped me to have a macro-view of my own life. It became clear to me that now is the time to go after our dreams. We cannot wait. I called on a commercial space I had been eyeing and within the next six months, opened my first fitness studio. It’s called SCEND FITNESS. Scend means to be lifted up by a wave. That’s what I strive for every day. To lift others up to their highest health and happiness.
https://www.malloryolenius.com/ Mallory Olenius