Why We Do What We Do

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently:

Why does this gym exist? When it would be much easier and far less time to focus on personal training out of homes & online training…

Why do we focus on strength? When weight-loss is an easier sell…

Why do we want people to be strong for life? When competing every day and posting pictures of students falling over due to fatigue seems to create attention…

Well for one, if you know me, you’ll know that I’ve never been one to take the easy road. 😉

But also, I want to do what I KNOW is right for our students. What I KNOW will bring them long-term, sustainable results. And although I want to make a living doing what I’m doing, I wouldn’t be able to put my head on my pillow at night if I were charging money for a service in which I’m tricking people into thinking they’re making progress when they’re only spinning their wheels.


Here’s our philosophy:

Why do we have a gym?

We truly believe in personal connection. That’s why our studio is small. We don’t want classes of 30 or more. We want fewer than 12 people in each class and we want to make sure everyone is getting the most out of their training session, getting the personal attention they need, and staying safe and injury free.

We also know that by building a community, we’re stronger together. We’ve hiked, collected gifts for families for the holidays, and done fundraisers for friends in need. In this ever-growing virtual world, there’s still nothing like connections with real humans.

Why do we focus on strength?

I KNOW that life is better when you’re stronger. Everything is easier: from childbirth, to running a 5k, cleaning the garage, gardening, travel, getting up off the floor, the list goes on…

And what I’ve found with many students is they either believe they’re strong or they think they’re not. And a lot of times, those ideas are based on the presidential fitness test they performed in middle & high school. The problem is, no one ever took the time to TEACH them how to be strong. The test was… can you do a pullup or a pushup? The answer was: Yes or no.

The truth is, strength is a skill that can be taught to everyone! Yes, some people have more natural ability in the area of strength, but EVERYONE can build strength. And when you build strength, doors start opening to things you never thought you’d be able to do, physically (and mentally for that matter… but that’s a whole other blog).

Why do we want to be strong for life?

It’s popular now to be strong for a day – to push yourself to exhaustion and post on facebook about how you’re “so sore” you can’t train for another week. But when you think about that – you just lost a week of training!

I think we get that because we watch athletes on TV who are pushing themselves in professional sports games, the olympics, marathons, etc. We see people falling at the finish line or pushing themselves to the brink and either winning the gold or getting injured. We want to be like them!

But real athletes may push themselves to the brink once, MAYBE twice a year. And the stakes are high – they make their living competing in the sport or off endorsements from winning. They spend the majority of their time training moderately and pushing themselves every so often, in a very calculated way.

Most of us will never be in a situation where we’re being paid for a sport. But we can learn something from these athletes – to be in the best shape YOU can be in, train moderately most of the time, push yourself every so often, and train for something & challenge yourself once a year if you feel up to it.

That doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. Come try a class and see for yourself. It just means we’re smart about the way we design and implement our sessions. We want you to feel BETTER when you leave then when you came in, NOT beat down & exhausted.

We train the way athletes REALLY train, not how we see athletes compete.


Want to try a class?

Our TRX & Foundational Strength Classes are a good starting point. Come to these classes to sweat, stretch and learn the foundations of building strength. If you’ve never done kettlebells before, the TRX is a great place to start.
If you’d like to try kettlebells, email me at valerie@pacstrength.com & we’ll set up a time to get you to the gym to learn the kb basics!

Swings & Getups

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Those of you who know StrongFirst & who’ve read books by Pavel Tsatsouline, know that Pavel is someone who can get deep into the research side of strength training. He is also brilliant at simplifying that information so that we (the average Joe), can use that research to get stronger.

In a world where everything seems to be getting more complicated, this type simplification is a breath of fresh air.

Just for fun, let’s play “ask Pavel”:

Q: Hey Pavel, I want to get stronger. What do you recommend?
A: Swings & Getups.

Q: Hey Pavel, I want to lose weight. What do you recommend?
A: Swings & Getups.

Q: Hey Pavel, I need to increase my range of motion & joint mobility. What do you recommend?
A: See an FMS specialist. Then start Swings & Getups.

Q: Hey Pavel, I want to tone. What do you recommend?
A: Toning is stupid. But if you want that, do Swings & Getups.

The joke is that “Swings & Getups” are Pavel’s answer to every fitness question.

Although it’s funny. & simple. It really does work for all of those things. Changing the intensity, the duration, the weight can achieve the desired results for anything you want to accomplish.


Have a goal?


Come talk to me or send me an email & I’ll give you a Swing & Getup plan to meet your needs!


Better yet?… come to class all month – we’ll be breaking the turkish getup into parts so that by the end of the month, you’ll be an old pro!

TSC Training Starts February 19th!

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Seems so far away but it’s time to start training!

The Tactical Strength Challenge tests:

  • Max Strength with the Deadlift
  • Bodyweight Strength with the Pull-ups and Flexed-Arm Hang
  • Strength Endurance with 5-minutes of Snatching

There’s no better way to reach an all-around fitness goal than to train for these three events.

First, if you’re planning to compete, SIGN UP NOW through StrongFirst & get your official tshirt!

February 17th is 8-weeks away. I’d like to know who’s competing and who needs a program by February 12th so that I have time to write your programs!

Training Plan Options:
(1) Use one of your previous plans & train on your own or during regular class times ($0)
(2) Use one of your previous plans, I will change the numbers to reflect your current goals, adjust what didn’t work, & you can work it into your schedule ($50)
(3) Totally Personalized New Plan – An 8-week program training program that includes everything you plan to do for your training (including surfing, running, yoga, pilates, hula-hoop classes, etc)   ($100)

plus… Marilyn’s 79th birthday is the day after the TSC this year. Come see her compete in the deadlift & stay for a celebration!

2018 Challenge – Simple & Sinister

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For the 2018 Challenge, we’re adding Swings & Getups to your regular routing, a la Pavel’s Simple & Sinister.

I have a couple extra copies of the book at the gym you can pick up for $20 if you’d like to have one on hand. But I’m going to break down the routine for you here:



I’m making it even simpler than Pavel’s simple, because Pavel doesn’t really do simple =)

So our “Simple” version is for you to add this to any day you wouldn’t normally train:

  1. 100 Total Swings, any style (2-hand, one-hand, alternating), any weight
  2. 10 Total Getups, any weight, even no weight or a shoe

It’s really that simple. No time limit. Just go with how you feel.

*One stipulation: the swings should be powerful (not necessarily heavy), so when performing the 100 swings, do 10 powerful swings at a time, & shake out/rest as needed.



Our version of “Sinister” will be to hold yourself to the time constraints.

  1. 10 Single Arm Swings every 30-seconds for 5-minutes, switching arms each round
  2. rest 1 min
  3. 1 Get-up every minute for 10-minutes, switching arms each round
  4. Get heavier as it gets easier


A Couple Caveats:

  1. If you’re going for Sinister & you don’t feel awesome one day, do a Simple day
    • no judgements
    • no time
    • something is better than nothing
    • a light day when needed is better than pushing through a hard day when your body is saying NO!
  2. If you’re going for Sinister & you want to move up in weight, do so slowly
    • move one round (each arm) of swings to the next heavier weight (preferably the 2nd or 3rd round)
    • add more rounds at the heavier weight until all rounds are with the heavier weight
    • same goes for Getup
  3. Getup & Swing weights DO NOT have to move up at the same time or at the same rate


Your Challenge will include:

  • a calendar to track your training (because you know you need one for 2018!)
  • measurements before, half way, & at the end
  • reassessment & progress check half way
  • FMS before & at the end
  • a facebook message group for those doing the challenge
  • guidance from me on how to progress/handle challenges you may face


Click here to JOIN the Challenge NOW


The Pacific Strength 2018 Challenge

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I considered calling this the “be nice to yourself” challenge. Or the “let’s get real with our goals & expectations” challenge. Or the “feel good, move more, and all is coming” challenge. But we’ll stick with the PS 2018 Challenge. Here’s how it works:

Step 1:

  • Write down your 2017 accomplishments
  • Write down positive changes you made in 2017

Step 2:

  • Write down how you want to feel in 2018
    • strong?
    • happy?
    • healthy?
  • Write down what you envision yourself doing so that you can feel how you want to feel.
    • focus on form & how you feel while you’re training
    • spend more time with people who make you smile
    • fuel your body with good & healthy food so that you feel your best

Step 3:

Join this challenge and focus on feeling good, doing more, and enjoying your training. See how that works for you! Below are the Important Dates & nitty-gritty of the Challenge:

Week of January 15th: Sign up for the Challenge (CLICK HERE) – $149
Week of January 22nd: 
  • 8-week Challenge Starts This Week!
  • Start your 2-3 extra days of swings & getups
    • Simple
      • 100 SA Swings (50 each arm)
      • 10 Getups (5 each arm)
    • Work toward Sinister
      • Swings in under 5-minutes
      • 1 minute rest
      • Getups in under 10-minutes
Week of February 12th:
Week of February 19th:
  • Get your halfway measurements & reassess
  • Want to work toward Sinister?
  • 8 weeks before TSC
  • Start TSC training
Week of March 26th
  • Final Measurements
  • Final Testing of SA Swing & Getup
Saturday, April 14th

This is just so me. I had to include it! You know I’m excited about the challenge & the TSC & the daily teachings. I’m excited about everything!


Happy 2018!

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The New Year is a great time to reflect: To look back on 2017 and give yourself a pat on the back for the many things you accomplished as well as look forward and consider what you’d like to come into your life in 2018.

I think we all get a little weird when talking about “Resolutions”. I hear things like, “Why wait for the calendar to turn to make a change for the better?” and “I don’t need a New Year’s Resolution: I try to be better every day” and while I agree with both of those things, I do like a communal opportunity for a new day. Another chance. Another opportunity to be better.

So maybe instead of thinking about your resolutions as goals, think about your 2018 resolutions as intentions. Don’t say “I’m going to swing kettlebells 3 x/week, every week, no matter what”. Make your intention to move deeper into your kettlebell practice. Learn more about what your body is doing while you’re training. Try to be better every day and learn as you go. Maybe you want to do a getup with a really heavy kettlebell. Cool! Have that in the back of your mind. But focus on your movement and on what you can do to improve your training every day, what you can do to learn more about that movement. Be less focused on the outcome and enjoy the journey a little more.

Which leads me to…

How I feel about Weight Loss Challenges


You know I hate them. They are anti-everything we do here. For many reasons.

  1. They don’t work.
    • well… maybe they do for a little bit. While you’re in the ‘challenge’. But then once the designated challenge is over, you’re back to your old routine.
    • and then the weight comes back.
  2. I hate the mindset of typical weight-loss challenges:
    • Lose that 10-lbs you packed on over the holidays
      • read: You are a horrible fat slob & shame on you for enjoying your time with your family and friends.
    • Get your beach body back before summer
      • read: You are only valuable if you can wear a bikini at the beach and you’re ready for the cover of sports illustrated.
    • New Year, New You!
      • read: The old you is no good.

I like the old you

Why can’t we be nicer to ourselves?

Enter the Pacific Strength 2018 Challenge


Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes – From Melissa!

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We all know we’re going to overeat on Thanksgiving. It’s inevitable. I love me some mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream & I make a mean Pecan Pie. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be unhealthy. Below are some great recipes from our friend and Registered Dietician, Melissa Mathes.


Pumpkin Soup

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • 4 cups pumpkin purée (canned or fresh) (butternut squash may be substituted)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic


  1. In large pot over medium-high heat add 3 cups broth, pumpkin, onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer uncovered, about 30 minutes.
  2. Purée mixture until smooth, in small batches, using blender or food processor. Return to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes. Add remaining broth as desired. (Optional, stir in cream.)
  3. Pour into bowls. Garnish with parsley (or sprinkle of nutmeg) and serve.
Per serving(6 servings): 71 calories, 1 g total fat (<1 g saturated fat), 16 g carbohydrate, 3 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 284 mg sodium


Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

  • 1 small sweet potato, about 8-oz, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (peeled parsnip may be substituted) 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 2 medium celery stalks, 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 medium beet, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1.5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In large bowl toss potatoes, carrot, onion, celery and beet with 1/2 tablespoon oil, coating well.
  3. Arrange vegetables in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast, stirring several times, until tender and beginning to brown, about 50 minutes.
  5. In mixing bowl, whisk vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon with remaining oil and stir in parsley, cilantro and walnuts. Drizzle dressing over vegetables and gently toss.
  6. Top with crumbled feta. Serve warm or at room temperature.Makes 4 servings. Per 3/4 cup serving: 156 calories, 9 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 17 g carbohydrate, 3 protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 134 mg sodium.


Roasted Turkey Breast Porchetta-Style

  • 1 tsp. coriander seed
  • 1 tsp. fennel seed
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (5-7 lb.) whole turkey breast, bone-in
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth*
  1. Combine coriander and fennel seeds in small, dry skillet and toast over medium-high heat until seeds are golden and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes, shaking and moving pan in circular motion occasionally at first, then constantly. Transfer seeds to plate to cool.
  2. Make seasoning mixture in food processor by pulsing toasted coriander and fennel seeds with herbs and garlic until finely chopped. Add salt and pepper and whirl until all ingredients are very finely chopped, 30 seconds. With motor running, drizzle in oil. Set seasoning mixture aside for 15 minutes.
  3. While seasoning sits, use your fingers to gently separate skin from turkey breast meat, taking care not to tear skin. Using your hand, rub one third of seasoning mixture under skin on each side of breast and coat inside of breast with remaining mixture. Rub your oily hands over skin, coating it lightly. Seal breast in plastic wrap and set on a plate. Marinate breast in refrigerator for 4 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place rack in large roasting pan. While oven heats, unwrap turkey and let sit on counter.
  5. Pour chicken broth into roasting pan. Set turkey breast on rack. Roast turkey, turning pan in oven every 20 minutes to help it brown evenly. Breast is done when instant read thermometer inserted into thickest point reads 165 degrees F., about 2 hours for a 6 pound breast (allowing 20 minutes per pound). Skin can be dark without meat being dry, but tent foil over breast if skin is getting too dark. Because of brining effect of seasoning paste, skin near bone may look pale pink.

Let breast rest for 20 minutes before carving. Strain juices to serve on the side.

* May use 4 cup combination of low-sodium chicken broth and water.

Makes 8 servings (6 lbs.).

Per serving: 183 calories, 8 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 2 g carbohydrate, 24 g protein,<1 g dietary fiber, 316 mg sodium.


Curriculum Changes – September 2017

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As many of you know, I take great pride in planning your daily torture training and I thoroughly enjoy it. I’ve been spending more time recently and I hope you’ve been liking what you’ve been doing!

When I sat back to think about it though, in the context of you all as our students & Gina, Sharon, & I as your teachers, I think we’ve been lacking in the area of learning. I know that we are awesome when it comes to correcting in class & getting the most out of all of you, but I think we can do better. We’ve done skills clinics in the past & while the people who attend get a lot of benefit; not everyone is able to because we all have busy lives, kids, jobs, etc.

So how do we get the skills training in without NEEDING a 90-minute clinic? Well, we’re going to try to add it to every class. This means that class may be a little longer than 45-min (I’m thinking an extra 10-min will do!) and my hope is to tear apart every movement and build them all back up so that you come away with a deeper understanding of what you’re doing in here. We’ll still teach skills clinics for those of you who prefer a dedicated time to one skill (please check your email for a survey on when to do those!).

It feels good to make this change because it’s in line with how we do everything at Pacific Strength. We’re not a typical gym. We don’t just come to “work out”. We come to Pacific Strength to train, to train smart, and to be Strong for Life! Thanks for training with us!


– Val

Summer Challenge – 2017

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Cost: $100

This challenge will work on a point system.

Starting June 1, you will get points for every swing, squat, clean, press, snatch, pullup, row, lunge, deadlift, & getup you do.

You’ll get points for attending classes & workshops.

You’ll get points for jumping rope, for every mile you walk or run, & for every 30min of “other cardio” you participate in.

You’ll get points for the training you do while you’re out of town. All you need to do is log your training & add up your points!

The summer challenge will end August 31. After that, we’ll add up all your points & for every 50, you’ll get a raffle ticket.

All of the raffle tickets will go in a jar & one lucky winner will get half the pot!

The more people who participate, the bigger the pot.

The more you do, the better chance you’ll have to win!

Point system is as follows:


We have a lot of competitive people at Pacific Strength & we LOVE that! Go out and get earn your points!

***NOTE: For the work you do outside of the gym, it’s on an honor system. That means, please report accurately & when you’re training at home, DO NOT RUSH THROUGH & PERFORM CRAPPY REPS just to get points. For instance:

  • Squats should look like what we perform in class (full range, slow, tight abs, etc)
  • Pullups & pushups need to be in their FULL range of motion
  •  0.8miles walked does not = 1 mile =)


Thank you!!! & we look forward to a really fun summer where we all get more fit & one lucky person will win a big chunk of $$$

Strength 101 – Summer 2017

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Summer Strength Training Program for Teens

Many teens are told by their coaches to hit the weight room. Some even have a program they’re supposed to follow over the summer – but many are not quite sure how to do it.

It’s amazing how much a base level of strength can help with athletic performance… yet so many high school programs lack proper instruction &/or guidance in strength training. 

What these kids need is a coach who understands how athletic gains are achieved. The coaches at Pacific Strength know how to teach young athletes the basics of strength training that translate to athletic success at game time.

We focus on form and technique so you get better at the basics while building strength. These skills are the foundation for sports-specific training. Think of your training like a pyramid. The base of the pyramid is basic strength training skills. The next level of the pyramid is plyometrics and agility training. The top of the pyramid is sports-specific training. You move on to the top of the pyramid only once you’ve mastered the first two levels. If the foundation isn’t strong, the structure will eventually crumble and you could end up with an injured athlete.

Pacific Strength has a track record of helping student athletes up their game. We’ve trained national-level youth athletes in volleyball & hockey & can meet your athlete where they’re at with their strength training.

Come to Pacific Strength this summer, learn the basics, get crazy strong, and beat your competition in the fall!


6-weeks of Strength Training:

  • 12 sessions for $240 OR $25 drop-in (must sign in 24-hours before class)

Mondays & Wednesdays @ 10:30am
Strength Training for Males 13-18y/o

  • June 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28
  • July 7 (Fri), 10, 12, 17, 19, 22 (Sat – Testing)

Tuesdays & Thursdays @ 10:30am
Strength Training for Females 13-18y/o

  • June 13, 15, 20, 22, 27, 29
  • July 6, 11, 13, 18, 20, 22 (Sat – Testing)

Get Strong This Summer at Pacific Strength