About Bobby Gartrell
Certified Personal Trainer, NASM
Weight Loss Specialist, NASM
MMA Conditioning Specialist, NASM
Graduate of National Personal Training Institute
B.A. in Journalism, Ohio State University
Were you active and involved in sports while growing up?
I played several sports. My favorite was ice hockey when I was a teenager. I was also into baseball, basketball and soccer at various times. Even if I wasn’t playing for a club or league I tried to stay active by playing pickup football, street hockey or sandlot baseball with my friends.
Were you ever in poor physical condition or hate your appearance?
There were a few years between elementary school and the beginning of high school where I had let myself go. I knew nothing about nutrition for most of my life and was a picky eater. But I loved sugary junk food and paid for it with excess weight that took years to lose. There’s nothing enjoyable about being overweight as a kid, and I would argue that it may be worse than being overweight as an adult because of how vicious kids can be toward each other. But I think the stigma of that experience pushed me harder toward a healthier and more active lifestyle as I got older.
When did you start weight training?
I was introduced to weight training when I was 16 during high school gym class. I picked up on a few of the basics rather quickly and saw how it could change the body in a relatively short period of time. I started shedding fat and building muscle mass that I never had before. I was hooked even though I didn’t really know what I was doing, and neither did most of my friends and classmates. We just enjoyed the challenges and satisfaction that came from lifting.
Did you ever undergo a significant body and fitness transformation?
I only weighed 137 pounds when I started college. My bench press was 230 pounds and my squat was 275 pounds, which is decent for an 18 year old but nothing special. I enrolled at Ohio State, which has some of the best gyms you can find on a college campus, and probably spent more time in them than I did at the libraries. I also never went hungry on the OSU dining plan and grew dramatically bigger and stronger.
By the time I was 21 I had become a muscular but athletic 220 pounds, capable of sprinting faster and jumping higher than I could when I was smaller. I could bench press 225 pounds for 26 reps, which, in terms of strength, would have placed me among the offensive and defensive linemen who test at the NFL Combine.
Did you encounter any physical hardships later in life?
The gravy train wasn’t going to last forever. I still didn’t know anything about nutrition. Most of my diet was made up from pounds of red meat, greasy college takeout food and anything that came from a jug at a supplement store. The body becomes unforgiving if you don’t take care of it with balanced nutrition.
Although I was strong, I had no formal exercise training. I didn’t know how to design an effective long-term training program and I also didn’t know how to lift with the safest technique. Eventually I encountered plateaus that I didn’t surpass and developed injuries from years of poor lifting form, including rotator cuff tendonitis and shoulder impingement.
If I learned anything from those days it’s that the human body is resilient in the sense that it can thrive and sometimes even get stronger and more powerful in spite of you. I also learned that you shouldn’t assume a person understands fitness just because they’re strong or look physically impressive. There are many factors that account for a person’s overall health and performance, and some of them are hard to spot.
Why did you decide to become a Trainer?
I remained a gym rat even after I graduated from OSU. I still didn’t really know what I was doing in the weight room but I was still big and strong. Unfortunately there were several months-long stretches where I couldn’t train because of my mounting shoulder injuries. I started reading fitness journals and peer-reviewed studies in an effort to not only rehabilitate my shoulder but to also improve my workouts. It wasn’t long before I became so fascinated by the science and theories of fitness that I decided to explore personal training as a career.
I started taking night courses at the National Personal Training Institute in Powell and interning at gyms around Columbus while working an office job during the day. I enjoyed interacting with different people and got satisfaction out of helping them improve their lives. I could also empathize with many of them because of my own health challenges.
The process of becoming a personal trainer helped me realize the errors of my previous ways. There is a staggering amount of depth to training that I had been totally unaware of. My own health and fitness improved greatly by applying what I was learning to my daily nutrition and exercise routine. Overall I became leaner, stronger, faster and healthier than I had ever been. What's more, the pain in my shoulders and elsewhere throughout my body was significantly reduced. I completed the program at NPTI after eight months and became a Certified Personal Trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine shortly thereafter.
Why do you train independently and not at a commercial gym?
I worked at a commercial gym before going independent. The two biggest reasons for starting my own training business are because I wanted to reach out to as many people as possible, regardless of what gym they belong to, and I wanted to offer my clients the privacy, freedom and equipment that they would not otherwise be given at most gyms.
Training my clients out of The Warehouse Gym and Fitness provides them with an atmosphere free of the distractions and riff raff that you find at other places. As a gym exclusively for personal trainers and their clients, everyone is supportive and accommodating of each other while also being respectful of their privacy. Here the patrons do not awkwardly stare at others, make unwanted advances or offer unsolicited advice. Everyone is simply trying to better themselves.
Describe your training style:
I train my clients like a teacher. Exercise is as much of a learning experience as it is physical; therefore I welcome any questions my clients may have. I don’t yell at or humiliate anybody. My job is to educate others on all things fitness and encourage them to do their best, not to shout and make myself the center of attention or fulfill a sadistic urge.
What type of training do you do when you are by yourself?
My personal workouts used to be focused on heavy resistance training because my goal was to be big and strong. I'm not the same person that I was even a few years ago. Now I weigh 168 pounds with less than nine percent body fat and my workouts are mostly a mixture of high intensity cardio, bodyweight training and plyometric exercises because I want to be as balanced, mobile and explosive as possible. I still incorporate resistance training into my workouts but not with the same goals in mind.
Have you ever hired a trainer for yourself?
As a hobby I train under Brandon Willis at his MMA gym, where he teaches a healthy mix of boxing, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I attend his group classes throughout the week in addition to private training sessions with him.
I can understand why people may be apprehensive to hire a trainer because it is a costly and demanding endeavor that will require a substantial commitment for the best results. But doing so can make a huge difference in your performance, no matter the activity. They dedicate themselves to helping you and can expedite your development by correcting subtle mistakes you wouldn’t otherwise notice, providing in-depth instruction and steering you away from pitfalls.