How did I, an artist with a graphic design degree, become a strength coach?

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I wanted to start off this new blog with the story of how I became a strength coach! It’s been a bit of a journey, as I only got certified as a personal trainer in November 2020 when I was 28.

Moral of the story: Anyone, and I mean anyone, can start strength training and show up with who they are right now.

The Beginning

The story starts when I was a kid. I was always the art kid, and I vastly preferred sitting at a table painting something than doing anything active. My one exception was hiking at Girl Scout camp each summer. I never did any sports, not even 4th grade kickball or track like most everyone else did at my school. There was a brief fling with gymnastics class, but that was more about getting to jump in the foam pit than anything else…

From late grade school through high school, I was much more obsessed with learning new tricks in Adobe Photoshop than I ever was about any sort of movement. And honestly, nothing really changed until I got to college- art school, of course. I was on track to be a world-class graphic designer! (That didn’t end up happening, but that’s a story for another day.)

And then, at the beginning of my sophomore year of college… I found lindy hop.

Lindy Hop Life

I only joined the class with a friend because she didn’t want to go by herself, but I enjoyed the people and decided to go back the following week. After that, I was hooked. I had never danced or done anything similar before, but I was enjoying learning something new. I continued my dance journey, dancing and learning to teach it soon after, before I graduated from college and moved to Colorado in 2014. Dancing was pretty much my whole life by this point- my hobby, my friends, and the only way I was getting any movement.

Sarah, a strength coach, dancing lindy hop in 2012 in a black t-shirt and black and white skirt.

Say hi to baby dancer Sarah!

Colorado Livin’

By the time I was moving and getting enmeshed in my new Colorado dance scene, I was starting to get pretty good at the lindy hop thing. I knew that if I was going to hit the next level in my dancing (there were TONS of incredible dancers in Denver that were inspiring me at the time), I would have to do something more than just dancing a lot.

I’d heard before that fitness would help my dancing, but I didn’t pay it much mind until I hit this ceiling. I figured “why the hell not?” and signed up for a gym. I chose this gym because it was close to my house, knowing that I wouldn’t be motivated to hold myself accountable if it was too far away. But it was also expensive, so I signed up as a trade cleaner for the closest location. For the next year, every week, I walked to the gym and cleaned for two hours to get a heavily discounted membership. Worth it! One thing I learned about myself: will 100% clean things for discounts… And it did help me stay accountable! Why would I keep cleaning somewhere I wasn’t attending regularly?

I started going to all the new-to-me classes and got hit with a nice dose of intimidation. Everyone seemed like they knew what to do, and they could do it all so well…. and then there was me. The coaches leading the classes were nice and encouraging of course, but I was very in my head for a few months about what to do and “omg why does every other person in here know how to squat but me???”

The Need For Strength

Around this same time, I saw a dance video with a particular pro dancer doing a super cool variation- one that I knew for positive I couldn’t do. (Yes, I did go back and find the video so I could bring you this gif below. You’re welcome.)

A gif of two dancers, one doing a variation very similar to a squat, in the middle of a dance floor, inspiring Sarah to become a strength coach eventually.

And boy, did that light a fire under my butt! I wanted to dance like her! Those cool variations were for me! But wow, did I need to get stronger. I signed up for a new class being offered at my gym called Functional Athlete. Surprise, it was a strength training class! Over the next many months, my new coach Neil taught me how to lift weights. I (finally) learned how to squat without trying to copy the person next to me, how to lift a barbell, and how to do all sorts of exercise variations. I was getting stronger, and I started feeling changes in my body and identifying as an active person. It was a huge confidence boost and felt empowering every time I lifted a weight. And my dancing actually did get better!

Upon moving to Boulder to be closer as the Head Instructor of Boulder Swing Dance, I knew I had to keep strength training. It took a little searching, but I found a new gym. At Barbell Strategy, my strength training kicked into gear. I learned so much from my coaches Mike, Randy, and Jeremy as well as from all the other gym members. Most afternoons, we’d show up and just hang out while lifting weights. It was my favorite place to be besides the dance studio. In this welcoming, easygoing, and supportive environment, I fell in love with strength training. It felt amazing to be able to lift heavy things in lots of different ways, whether I was having a good day or a bad day. I learned more about barbell training and started kettlebell training, which quickly became my favorite way to train.

The Strength Coach Shift

In early 2018 I got the coaching bug and signed up for a Group Fitness Instructor certification. I was already teaching movement as a dance instructor five nights a week- fitness coaching seemed like the obvious next step. But, with life being unpredictable and all, it fell by the wayside when I decided to move back to Indianapolis (where I grew up) for a major reset.

Fast forward to April 2020… I was BORED. I had been sitting for a month thanks to the pandemic and I was itching to do something. What caught my eye? That very same Group Fitness Instructor certification. I flew through it and quickly bought a personal trainer certification thanks to a Memorial Day sale (later I would realize these certification programs are literally always running a sale though…). All the puzzle pieces seemed to fall into place. It felt right that I started my movement journey first as a dancer, then a dance instructor, then a weightlifter, and now a weightlifting coach!

Since it was still 2020, most gyms weren’t open yet or only beginning to open and not hiring. I took the leap and started my coaching business. Did I know anything about running a business, marketing through social media, or sales? Nope! But I learned, and I’m still learning. But at least I could put that graphic design experience to good use and make a website and some pretty social media graphics!

My journey as a strength coach has been a wild ride so far, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow, next month, and next year bring for me and my coaching!

Sarah Siertle

Hey! I'm Sarah!
I'm an inclusive strength & movement coach who helps people get hella strong so they can have fun and live their lives in full color!

My coaching is beginner-friendly, movement-based, and size-inclusive. I believe in coaching that is kind, not shaming or judgmental as so many fitness experiences are.

If you're ready to start your strength journey, you can check out your training options or get started with a free workout!

MindSet Tips

Blog Categories

Strength Training Tips

About Me & My Business

Hey! I'm Sarah!
I'm an inclusive strength & movement coach who helps people get hella strong so they can have fun and live their lives in full color!

My coaching is beginner-friendly, movement-based, and size-inclusive. I believe in coaching that is kind, not shaming or judgmental as so many fitness experiences are.

If you're ready to start your strength journey, you can check out your training options or get started with a free workout!

MindSet Tips

Blog Categories

Strength Training Tips

About Me & My Business

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