When The Rubber Meets The Road

Matt Jackson – Owner of M.E.A.T. – Make Everyday A Transformation

A year into my training relationship with my nutrition and life coach Matt Jackson, I made a spontaneous decision to give Orangetheory a try, an intense cardio studio that had just opened up in Omaha. I’m not sure why I thought I could fly below the radar without mentioning it to Jackson. The Boss is the one who has turned around half a century of bad eating habits.  He knows my every move and has Dad-like radar that can perceive when I’ve been eating Pringles under the covers even before I turn in my weekly spread sheet. I won’t mention any names (Kim Schiltz) but she accidentally leaked the information about our play date. The sun didn’t go down without an audio message roaring into my iPhone essentially asking “Who the hell do you think you are signing up for that without clearing it with me?”

Well, Sir, I think I am a Ninja Warrior with the cool coliseum name of Balbina, able to scale walls and defeat any opponent that dares to challenge me….that’s who I think I am!

Thankfully what rattles around in my brain doesn’t always fly out of my mouth. I listened as the man who cares deeply for my health and well-being reminded me of my limited flexibility and the challenges of just box-stepping.  Note, Crossfit enthusiasts, I didn’t say ‘box jumping.’  Stepping was a challenge in the first months because my aging, overweight body had become so inflexible. Oh yeah, and there was that first workout that he had me do wall sits against an exercise ball:  my feet flew out from under me, landing me flat on my back, just shy of cracking open my noggin on the concrete floor. The real bottom line was The Boss was concerned about a weekend warrior injury at the Orangetheory Coliseum.  Playdate cancelled.

Slow and steady wins the race, and by 18 months of training and 40 pounds of weight loss my body was turning a corner.  It was a proud moment when Jackson passed me the permission slip to begin attending the Tuesday/Thursday evening Swole Sister advanced boot camp under Kendra Stauffer.

The thumbs up was not given lightly. Jackson is reserved in trusting his M.E.A.T. clients to other trainers, but he says of Stauffer’s ability. “She has the passion I look for in a coach and trainer. She cares about those she works with, giving phenomenal attention to her clients.” Care she does, and she is a woman who knows a thing or two about rebuilding.  She calls Sept. 20, 2009 the day her life began; it was the day Stauffer chose sobriety. She reflects, “I talked to God and begged him to save me from myself.  I never attended treatment or AA.  I left the bar and picked up a barbell.” She also left a six-digit executive income to become a personal trainer, as her passion shifted to a desire to help others build and strengthen their lives. Strong she is, with a clear God-given gift to call out teamwork in other people. She goes on the record saying,

Coach Kendra Stauffer – Her eye is on the prize ensuring every client reaches their unique goals.

“There is zero tolerance for anything less than 110% support of each persons individual goals. We are different ages, sizes, and walk in those doors with different goals.  We support each other…period. I tell them how brave they are for taking the first step and that they are about to be part of something really special.  Then I usually cuss a little and say Now let’s lift some shit!

Stauffer comes to the Activ8 Fitness Box ready to take care of business.  But behind the scenes the competitive figure body builder whose big heart exceeds her biceps strives to know all the goals of each and every Swole Sister. The word swole does take its roots in ‘extremely muscular,’ but on a close look you will find her client’s dreams cover a broad spectrum. Stauffer’s proud moments of professional achievement include one woman who wrote her, “I had a breakdown this morning carrying laundry up the stairs.  I got all the way up the stairs and set down my basket and for the first time in years I wasn’t out of breath and my heart wasn’t racing.”

Coach Kendra Sauffer and Brooklyn Staashelm in her prom dress

Take the testimony of high school senior Brooklyn Staashelm. She writes in her blog, “Five Months Later,” about physically and emotionally carrying 50 extra pounds into her high school years. Brooklyn came to one simple revelation. “Over eating was not what God designed me to do.” While health and well-being were her ultimate goals, she also listed her desire to look good in her senior prom dress.  She signed on the Swole Sister dotted line in 2016.  Stauffer was committed to Brooklyn, and Brooklyn was tenacious in putting in the time and energy, even at 5:45 am when no one but Stauffer was watching. Fast forward to Prom 2017: A slimmed-down and toned-up Brooklyn slithered into her stunning floor length dress, down fifty pounds from starting date. But it should be noted that the prom dress was only the icing on graduation cake.  Brooklyn’s senior high adventure also included competing in the state journalism competition and winning First Place in Advertising and First Place in Yearbook Theme Development.  Her school won overall state champions. Also, the girl that made cake pops for classmates throughout high school turned into the entrepreneur who birthed Cake-On-A-Stick. Brooklyn believes that never would have happened had she not embarked on the journey with Stauffer, and states “Strong in body made me strong in mind, and I began to believe I could do anything I put my mind to.”

Brooklyn Staashelm

As fate would have it, Brooklyn was the first to greet me when I arrived for my first Bootcamp under Stauffer.  She was quickly followed by 40 year old Kari Tex, another transformed star in the world of Swole Sisters. Stauffer was waiting for me, too, and as the team huddled she said, “Who is the youngest here?” to which Brooklyn raised her hand. “Who is the oldest?” was the slot held by me at age 59.  The reminder went out, “We all work together and we are all at different levels.  Let’s lift some shit.”

I struggled through the whole workout, as most every station required a new level of strength and flexibility. Stauffer kept me on point, pushing me when I needed it, but pulling it back if she saw risk of injury. Tears were contemplating squeaking out of my eyes, but within seconds Stauffer was in my personal space to say, “Comparison is the thief of joy…these women have been doing it a year…this is your first night.” I pressed through, and even went back again and again. The change in my flexibility and agility have been lifechanging.

But what I learned most is that success in any arena requires teamwork.  The empty treadmill at Blue Moon never asked me, “Where were you for yesterday’s workout?” but a team of Swole Sisters is all over my facebook page if I’m absent. As I’m repeatedly asked, “How did you lose 40 lbs.?” I must say a foundational element is that I’m rarely exercising alone.  The magic is being with friends, and that’s when the rubber meets the road.

Key Notes:

  • Marin Lebick best describes Kendra Stauffer, “Anyone can train. Anyone can go get a certification. The few, the great, and THE LEADERS will truly change someone’s life.” Choose your gym and trainer wisely.
  • Stauffer is offering a beginning boot camp on July 3, 2017.  It will meet Monday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 7:30.  Class is limited to six to ensure personal attention.  Cost is $100 for the month. Text Stauffer if interested at 308-390-8590.
  • The more advanced Swole Sister class will also meet on Monday and Wednesday beginning July 3, 2017 from 7:30 to 8:30. Cost is $100 for the month  Text Stauffer if interested in joining at 308-390-8590.
  • Be sure to read Exercising Friends vs. Exercising Alone in Healthy Living if you wonder about the benefits of exercising with friends.
  • Worried about ‘getting all muscly?’  Read Older People Must Work Out More To Keep Muscles.
  • I turned 60 on February 27, 2017. The facts are in. If you are over 60 and not exercising it is a prescription for trouble.  Read “What You Need To Know About Fitness after 60.”

On A Lighter Note:

  • Outsiders tell Stauffer, “I don’t want to look all muscly like you.”  Her reply is, “Then don’t.”
  • My goal is that my arms become tone enough that I can wear an upper arm cuff/bracelet à la Roman Coliseum gladiator girls – you know, with names like Balbina.
  • I’m probably a little old for that Pamela Anderson Bay Watch Barbed-wire upper arm tattoo.  The actress got the armband inked in 1995 for the movie “Barbed Wire.”
    • I was 38 years-old in 1995 – My arms were too Pillsbury dough-like to consider the coveted tattoo.
    • The 49-year-old actress had it permanently removed in 2014.
  • My friends got me a gift card to Big Brain Tattoo for my 60th birthday.  When I opened the card I thought it was to a book store. Hey, it said, “Big Brain!”

On a Holiday Note:

  • Happy Father’s Day, Boss. You’ve changed my life.
    • There are no Pringles on the menu for today.



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  1. Wow! Love this philosophy…that all the Swole Sisters are treated as individuals.
    Love your voice in your writing SO MUCH.

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain

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