WelcOMe to my monthly coaching feature! This feature on my blog highlights one amazing coach/instructor each month that you MUST check out. Personally, I am always on the hunt wherever I travel and even locally for fantastic coaches, new tips, and how to improve as an athlete. I am delighted to share with you the best of the best instructors to hear and learn more from them out of the CrossFit Box or yoga studio!!!
Meet: Andy Vukela from CrossFit St. Clair in Pittsburgh, PA! I met Andy over the Thanksgiving break while I was there with family and knew immediately what a great coach he was working together over the course of a week. Everyone in my family trained with Andy that week all claiming he was "one the best coaches they'd worked with at a box." As my family returned home to our respective home affiliates in VA, NYC, and Boston, we all took with us many of the tips that Andy took time to share with us. Come Christmas we were all eager to get back to CrossFit St. Clair to train again. I'm pretty sure my husband didn't take a single rest day!
If you live in the Pittsburgh area or are planning a visit to Steeler's county check out the local affiliate, CrossFit St. Clair, where Andy coaches. CrossFit St. Clair recently opened and is housed inside of a globo-gym. No really, you have to pass through treadmills to get to the old racquetball courts that have been knocked down to make room for the growing CrossFit affiliate. I'm confident that this affiliate will soon take over the entire fitness club soon based on the warm-hearted coaches and staff like Andy! Be careful though, their WOD programming is based on OPEX and it's brutal!!!
How and why did you begin coaching? I had been doing CrossFit for over a year and the former owner/coach Jim Crowell of Integrated Fitness and I had a good friendship. I had told him that I really just felt at home when I was at his box. He then replied, "well why don’t you apply for a job?" I thought he was joking, but I ended up bringing in a resume and before I knew it I was working for him and teaching basics classes.
Before he could offer me the job, he wanted to know why I wanted to coach, I told him that I wanted to help people go through the experience that I did with my weight loss. I started CrossFit weighing 312lbs and now weigh roughly 215lbs. That process and journey is something that I want to help anyone who is willing to put in the work go through because there is nothing like the satisfaction you get when you reach that ultimate goal.
Describe a typical day:
I work 2 jobs, I bartend and I coach. I also have my own workouts that are programmed by OPEX so I have to get those in as well. So I normally wake up around 6am and hit a workout, then I coach classes in the morning then go to the day job. After that I get to come back and coach classes till about 6pm, then after I get everything together I hit my next workout till roughly 830, my days every week are like clockwork for me, but I enjoy it cause of all the people I get to interact with throughout the day.
Favorite Fitness books, Websites, Trainings:
My favorite training comes from OPEX which stands for “Optimum Performance Experience”. They are based out of Arizona and are a very elite training group. It’s headed by the 2007 CrossFit games champion, James Fitzgerald. My training comes from Jim Crowell who is one of their top coaches and was the man who introduced me to CrossFit and what it can do for the individual overall inside and outside of the gym.
I was actually given a book from Jim called “The Art of Learning” by Josh Waitzkin. The book had a huge affect on me because it is such a huge influence on the mental aspect of competition. It is a great book for anyone who has trouble maintaining focus in the gym or a new coach starting out or just for life in general.
Tips for New/Experienced coaches
I always have fun coaching classes; it’s always my goal to make everyone laugh or at least smile cause at the end of the day this is all about having fun.
People who start CrossFit often get intimidated and think they have to compare themselves to everyone in class, I always make it a point to help people realize that they are competing against themselves and not anyone else unless they choose to.
One of things I've noticed in my travels to different boxes is that there are coaches always ready to tell you everything that you did wrong and they never tell you what you did right. Because CrossFit is intimidating as it is I think it’s important for coaches to let the athlete know that he or she is doing things correctly. Positive reinforcement is often times ignored.
Most memorable moment
Going head to head against my coach who is a regional competitor in 14.3 in the CrossFit Open last year. That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The intensity and energy that came from going head to head and everyone watching us was crazy.
How do you find strength outside of CrossFit mentally or physically?
I was once told that CrossFit is 80% mental and 20% physical. So for me, when I'm out of the gym or doing something else, I think about what my new goals are and what I have to do to accomplish them. Goal setting is very important to me. My first goal was to lose weight and I crushed that goal and now I have my eyes set on new goals and hopefully I’ll be able to crush those too.
Finisher: Words to inspire/live by:
“I can and I will”
“Never Limit yourself”
My favorite is 3hs….”Humble, Hard Work, Honesty”
Musings on CrossFit, yoga, training, and essential oils!