Sick and tired of the same old gym atmosphere? Looking for a space to work out with your partner where you’ll be supervised closely by a certified strength and conditioning coach? If so, I’d like to introduce you to Elemental Fitness Lab (EFL) owner Chris Bathke.
My wife and I visited for a personal training session where Chris did an initial assessment, worked through some common movements and exercises, and put together an exercise program for us. We enjoyed the personal touch and the pleasant environment inside the EFL. We think you will as well! Chris was also gracious enough to answer some of my questions for Portland Family Adventures (PFA).
PFA: Before I ask you some specific questions for parents, could you tell our readers a little bit about your credentials and experience as a personal trainer?
Chris: I’m a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, which is still the gold standard for certifications in the U.S.. I also hold certifications from the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, the World Kettlebell Club, and am pre/post-natal certified. Before starting EFL I was training trainers at Equinox Fitness in Santa Monica, along with regular clients since 2006. Before that I taught some martial arts and trained a few people part-time while working in the music field. I was fortunate to get to know some of the smartest individuals in the health and fitness world around 10 years ago who encouraged me to go into training full-time. I started going to conferences, workshops, and studying as much as possible and haven’t stopped since.
PFA: Your business, “Elemental Fitness Lab,” is a unique space in the world of fitness. When I walked in, I immediately noticed the open-space and lack of more traditional gear like barbells, dumbbells, and rows of fitness machines. Of course, you have some of that equipment, but it seems like Elemental has a different philosophy when it comes to working-out. It seems that larger gyms try to fill their space with as many machines as possible. Your gym has open space. Can you talk a bit about your philosophy and equipment?
Chris: My philosophy is to help people move better first, then look at other qualities. If a person lacks hip mobility, has shoulder pain, or is limited by core strength then having them do the latest “hardcore” metabolic workout can potentially do more harm than good. And for those reasons I don’t use any machines that lock you into fixed planes of motion. It’s simply not as effective in improving movement quality, not to mention strength. Over the years I’ve used just about every piece of equipment out there, and keep up on the research, so what I choose to use here is simply what I have found to work the best.
PFA: No doubt, many of our readers are probably involved with group fitness classes. What are some of the differences between semi-private training/small group training and group training? What are they missing that you can provide?
Chris: In general group classes are less effective in that everyone naturally has different levels of strength, endurance, mobility, injury history, or other limitations so what may be a good workout for one person may be way too easy, too hard, or even injurious for another. The nature of group classes limits the ability to improve strength as it’s not possible to safely coach technique with that many people at once, and since strength is a fundamentally important aspect of improving fitness then. I’ve seen more people get injured in cardio classes than those who lift really heavy weights. What we do is write programs designed specifically for each individual so that not only is it safe, but more effective.
PFA: How do these individualized programs work once inside EFL?
Chris: The way EFL works is everyone does what we call semi-private training where there are 1-3 members with each coach per hour which cuts the price by about 1/3 of a normal 1 to 1 personal training session. Each person will be doing a different workout than another using the program designed for them yet enjoy the camaraderie of training together with others.
PFA: The first thing we did at EFL was the “Functional Movement Screen” (FMS). After the FMS, you put together a workout based-on the results. For our readers, what is it? Why do you use it?
Chris: The Functional Movement Screen is just one part of our assessment process, but is vital in allowing us to gauge how well a person moves. It was developed by physical therapists Gray Cook and Dr. Lee Burton, and is now pretty standard among collegiate and professional athletic programs. Yet the beauty is it is the screen is a measure of human movement, not just athletes. Athletic programs use it because they recognize it has real value in helping to keep their clients improve.
PFA: When we walked in for our appointment, a couple of parents were finishing up a private workout with your supervision. If parents want that type of workout, what can you offer them in the Elemental Fitness Lab?
Chris: We have quite a few couples that train here, some together, and some separately depending on schedules. If two people wish to train together than that fits in perfectly with our semi-private training structure. Both people can enjoy training together yet using a program designed for each individual. It’s much more efficient, and safe in that everyone does exercises that will benefit them most. We are all busy so it is better to avoid wasting time and energy on cookie cutter “workouts of the day” and instead do something that will help you achieve your goals.
Other Posts of Interest...
Windells - Off Season Access on December 12th, 2011
Cooper Spur: A Family Resort on March 5th, 2012
Hardesty Trail Loop Hike on November 26th, 2012