Fitness Fanatic

How did I become this fitness fanatic that everyone asks for advice on health, nutrition, and exercise?

The roots of it go back to my family.  I come from a family with a LOT of health problems.  Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, addiction, these things ran all through our family tree.  And that was only in the couple of generations we knew about, family health history 3 or 4 generations back was a complete mystery because our families had been displaced so many times.  My genealogy was surrounded by mystery, which also meant I didn’t know all of the health risks I might be carrying in my genes.  That meant I had to be careful, and I adopted a preventative health philosophy from an early age.

On the other side of the coin, I was blessed with two parents who put a high priority on health & wellness.  They taught my brother and I how to forage, to cook, to balance plant and animal foods in our diet, to avoid a lot of the junk that other people were putting into their bodies.  They also taught us to be physically active, spending a lot of time outdoors and participating in a variety of sports.

My dad kept a few dumbbells around and I liked to pick them up.  That was my first exposure to weight training.  I also did a lot of running, tree climbing, tons of pull-ups and sit-ups.  In the 90s, when everyone in the country was glued to their TVs on Thursday night to watch new episodes of Seinfeld, I would do 600-800 sit-ups & crunches during each episode.  I did 20 pull-ups every morning when I woke up and every night before bed and I could always win the pull-up contest. When I enrolled in Running Start in high school (a program that let high school students attend community college), I had open campus privileges and basically zero requirement to take high school classes. I signed-up for PE anyway and showed up every day because it was my favorite class.

My brother Nathan and I developed our own health code, kind of like the Mormons we knew, or other religious groups we were exposed to as kids.  We didn’t drink alcohol, coffee, tea, didn’t smoke cigarettes, didn’t take cough medicine or headache pills, didn’t even drink soda.  For me, this grew into being Vegan Straight-Edge, then just Straight-Edge (another story).

Things got crazy after age 18.  If you remember yourself and your friends at that age, you’ll understand.  My friends were maybe even worse troublemakers & partiers than yours.  People were exhibiting a lot of bad habits all around me.  I did my best to resist, but fell into beer drinking, late-night munchies, and junk food eating.  I put on 20 lbs of extra weight. At age 21, my appendix burst and I nearly died.  Ordered to 12 weeks of bed rest, I put on even more weight.  Released from bed rest and now 40lbs overweight, I decided to get serious about my health again.

I was poor, but I hustled.  I would get up at 4 or 5am for a run and some calisthenics.  In the evening, I would do a bike ride, pull-ups at the UW ROTC building’s outside workout spot, and some dumbbell workouts in my room.  I borrowed every diet book that the Seattle Public Library carried.  Trying all those diets, I found some that worked and some that made things even worse.  The worst was the Food Pyramid Diet (officially promoted by the US government).  The best was the Protein Power Life Plan.

It was around this time, in 2003, that my friend Gary Yetter introduced me to  We started doing the workouts posted on this website at the University of Washington gym.  Through this new high-intensity, constantly-varied approach to functional fitness, I learned a ton and started to get into really good shape.

In 2004, I visited CrossFit North for the first time. There Dave Werner Nick Nibler took me under their wings and taught me how to really get fit.  Dave taught me about Paleo and the Zone diet.  Nick taught me about Olympic Weightlifting.  I finally lost all that extra weight and became not only lean, but extremely strong and fast and capable.  I was hooked.

I built a home gym.  I prepped & cooked 5 meals a day for myself (almost exclusively meat & veggies).  I trained my first protege.  I held barbecues and workout contests at my house.  I competed in the first competitive fitness events in the world held at CrossFit North (these were Suffer on Saturday and the CrossFit Championships).

Though I’ve had my ups and downs over the past 16 years, this drive for health & fitness has not diminished.  I have built 5 or 6 home gyms, come up with compact packages of fitness tools for travel as I bounced around the world, and trained in every imaginable type of facility from top-end health clubs to functional fitness boxes and DIY backyard gyms in third world slums.  I was a student at the first CrossFit specialist seminar, when coach Mike Burgener came up to Seattle to teach us all Olympic Weightlifting.  I completed a National Outdoor Leadership Schools course in Mountaineering.  I did Yoga teacher training at the Center for Yoga of Seattle.

I turned this into a career after receiving my CrossFit L1 cert. at the end of 2012.  I went to work for Jordan Holland at Xplore CrossFit in Seattle.  The next year, we moved to Thailand and I ended up at Tiger Muay Thai & MMA in Phuket, where I ran the cross-training classes and began a successful Personal Training business.  Home in Sedro-Woolley in 2014, I helped a couple friends start a gym called Crossover Fitness & Training.  Then, I moved over to Riverside Health Club in Mount Vernon, where I was the Lead CrossFit Instructor at their CF affiliate, CrossFit RHC.  My role their grew into owner-of-record of the CrossFit affiliate, personal trainer, nutrition trainer, and eventually Personal Training Supervisor over the entire department.

While at Riverside, I completed a Precision Nutrition certification and my CrossFit Level 2 trainer certificate.  I also enrolled in the OPEX Coaching Certification Program.  This changed my life.  The program from OPEX was actually 5 certifications: assessment, program design, nutrition, lifestyle coaching, and business systems.  This was where I was exposed to the concept of Individual Design coaching.

I started to practice Individual Design at Riverside.  Soon I’d shut down the CrossFit affiliate, stopped taking Personal Training or Nutrition Training clients, and switched my entire business over to Individual Design.  In April of 2019, I left Riverside and started my own Individual Design health & fitness coaching business out of my garage [Smart, Fit, and Clean].

That’s where I am now; in my garage, surrounded by exercise equipment, sore from this morning’s 5am training session, with a full belly from a serious post-workout meal, happy as can be.

There are a lot of stories I could tell to illuminate and expand upon various parts of this one, but that’s where I’ll leave it. First blog in the bag and lots more to come.

In health,





Published by nicnakis

Nicholas |nik-uh-luhs| n. a male given name: from Greek words meaning "victory of the people" John |jon| n. a male given name: from Hebrew Yohanan, derivative of Yehohanan "God has been gracious" Nakis |nah-kis| n. a Greek family name derived from the patronymic ending -akis (from Crete) Amha |am-hah| n. an Ethiopian given name meaning "gift", from Geez Selassie |suh-la-see| n. Ethiopian name meaning "trinity", from Geez

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