Interview with Shneur Shapiro – Fitness Through Strength

“You start small, show them they are capable and build them up from there.”
Shneur Shapiro

Interview with personal trainer and gym owner Shneur Shaprio of Kettleflex Fitness. Shneur has a great story from making the transition from training to friends to becoming a gym owner. He talks with me about his journey, his favorite resources on posture and realignment, an important lesson on retaining clients, and so much more. Enjoy!

Shneur Shapiro – Personal Trainer & Owner Kettleflex Fitness – San Diego, California

Hello Shneur! Thank you for talking with me on What’s New Coach? What are you passionate about right now?

My passion right now is learning and teaching people about body realignment. Helping people that are in pain take care and treat themselves to get out of pain. Surgery and pain meds should be the last resort.

How we move throughout the day affects everything. I tell my clients all the time, working out (with proper form) won’t cause injuries, but it will exploit them.  When a client comes to me with shoulder, back, knee, neck, etc… pain and I can help them understand why and how, and help them not be in pain, I feel satisfied.

What are some good sources to learn more about body realignment? Is it a challenge to keep this alignment on their minds when they are not at the gym training? (at home, work, etc..)

Katy Bowman has been on the forefront of really pushing the idea of alignment and nutritious movement. I highly recommend anything connected with her. Her book Wholebody Barefoot and Move Your DNA is a great place to start.

Kelly Starret- Ready to Run and Deskbound are a must have and a must read.

Katy Bowman introduced the idea of nutritious movement and to think about movement like you would eating. You cant just eat a healthy breakfast and then ignore what you eat for the rest of the day.

Movement and alignment is the same thing, a lot of people think they live an active lifestyle because they workout for 1-2 hours a day and maybe talk a walk in the morning, but what are you doing the other 20+ hours in the day?

How are you sitting at your desk? how is your feet position when you walk? Are you hunched over a computer or phone or your plate of food when you eat? Are you wearing shoes that is causing your body aches and pains?

When you can help your clients understand that really 1 hour in the gym is not much in the grand scheme of things, and as a trainer it is my job is to put you through a workout,  but really my job is to teach and help you understand what you can and should do throughout the day to help alleviate these pains.

Kelly Starrett introduced or made popular what I would call quick fixes to help you workout. For example, if your shoulder is hurting from being hunched over a desk, you need to prepare and loosen up your body using a lacrosse ball or resistance band to “reset” the shoulder before doing overhead presses.

If you are not moving a lot throughout the day, then you need to get your body “Ready to Run’ before deciding to run a few miles every day.

I always tell my clients one of my many #1 rules is to never leave the gym in pain and if something is hurting I will help you to ease up the pain. If you leave the gym in pain, you go home in pain, go to sleep in pain, wake up in pain because you haven’t done anything to fix those issues.

So I always try and give them some movements that they can do throughout the day outside the gym and a few alignment pointers to constantly think about.

How did you get started in fitness?

I had joined a regular gym, was just trying to put on muscle, without knowing what I was doing, following workouts from Men’s Health magazines.

After searching craigslist for a personal trainer, and I clicked on a post titled “Build Muscle, Lose Weight Quickly”, turns out it was some guy advertising a kettlebell class on the beach, having no idea what kettlebells were so I started searching the internet for what they were and came across terms “swing, clean, snatch” for the first time.

The first class my back was hurting, and because there were 10-15 other people in the class his answer was “just sit out for a few minutes”, that didnt sit well with me, to me if these “kettlebells” were a good way of training then you shouldnt get hurt, so I went home spent hours upon hours doing research hearing all the benifits of kettlebells and tips and tricks for the swing but only finding out from a quick 2 second mention about clenching your butt to support your lower back, and I figured out how to fix my swing, and this would be how I learned how to train and teach kettlebells, learning from my mistakes and how I had to fix my form etc…

Finally one of my friends decided that she would train with me, within a few weeks everyone started noticing changes in her body so other friends started joining, we would carry our kettlebells into the 24-Hour Fitness in Pacific Beach go upstairs and workout there.

After a couple friends joined, I realized I couldn’t workout with them anymore because I needed to make sure their form was good, and I told myself that If I am putting myself in a schedule to come train these people, I might as well put some ads up online and see if I can get people to pay me for this. In the first week, I got 2 clients so I was like “Hey, I’m a personal trainer”.

We started at the park, built up a small group class and I was really enjoying it. I decided to take this seriously, took a small loan from the Jewish Family Service for $7,500. and opened my gym.

That first location after pouring all the money into it failed within 6 months. I loved what I was doing and new that I could make this work, so after calling in lots of favors, we moved down the street to a small 900 sq ft space, and even though my goal was to be there for no more than 6 months we were there for 3 1/2 years. During this time I got Agatsu kettlebell certified and went through the Strongfirst Kettlebell Users Course.

I also figured out what KettleFlex Fitness was in terms of what type of gym we would be and in June 2017 we moved into our current 1200 sq ft facility.

I no longer classify KettleFlex as a kettlebell gym, we are building Fitness through Strength.

Your story is awesome! What was the most exciting thing about opening your gym, and what was the scariest?

When I first opened my gym I went into it very wet behind the ears, I didn’t even really know what I wanted out of a gym. I just assumed that getting 30 clients/members to walk through a door they don’t know is there, sign up and pay me a lot more than the local globo-gym, would happen within the first month.

I opened up KettleFlex in its first location spent all the money I had getting flooring, painting the walls, and purchasing some equipment. I think I had enough money for 1 or 2 months or rent after that. The scariest part was realizing that I have no money left, and I don’t know how to advertise the gym.

Thankfully I was able to convince a lot of friends and family that I knew what I was doing and the potential of owning a gym and they really threw me a bone and helped me financially when I asked and begged.

The most exciting part was opening up my gym in the location I am at currently, after 4 years of operating a gym I knew exactly what kind of gym I wanted, what kind of equipment. What you learn about business is that other people cant see your dream the same way you see it in your head, and throughout the first couple years I had a lot of people “advise me” to close up shop and that it wasn’t financially worth it. I tried going to investors to explain to them what I wanted money for and they couldn’t see it.

When I moved into my current location in June 2016, I equipped the space with all the equipment that I knew would make a great gym, and would make KettleFlex Fitness what I  wanted it to be. No one helped me financially and after they saw what I created, saw a real gym they were blown away by what I created.

Since then the KettleFlex membership has grown and I can truly say I have the gym I have always dreamed of.

What something in the fitness industry that you wish you knew when you were starting out?

Being a gym owner, my thought was “how hard can it be to get 30 clients” then you realize just because you opened your doors, doesnt mean people are going to walk through the door, and just because people walk through the door, doesnt mean they will sign up, and just because someone signs up for 1 month, doesnt mean they will stay with you for a long time, and just because someone has been with you for 4 years, doesnt mean that they wont leave to another gym too.

As much as you have a personal relationship with every member, this is still a business and needs to be run as such in order to be sustainable and long-term.

As a gym owner you see a lot of client fluctuation, what advice would you give to someone who just opened up their gym on this?

Trust the process and trust yourself. Clients come and go, but if you create the right environment you will have clients with you from the beginning, also another big thing is to not take it personally if one of your clients decided to go try out another gym, or cancels their membership.

The hardest part of having a classes based gym is that you are investing yourself into each person, at the same time you have to learn not to take it personally if they decide to go try another gym or just stop coming.

I learned that the hard way, I became good friends with this one particular client and one day she called me and told me she was doing classes at a local CrossFit, and that really bothered me. She was calling me to tell me how great shape she was in because of my classes and all I could think about is that she was going to another gym.

After that, I called and apologized to her for being upset, but also realized that this is the nature of the beast.

Members and clients come and go.

Any videos and favorite websites for info that you’d recommend to us?

If you are looking for quick fixes for shoulder, neck, elbow, or knee pain and to get your body ready before you workout check out Smashwerx on youtube. Great resource.

Other than that you will always find me watching hours of fitness channels on youtube, it is always good to follow people that are successful in business and get more ideas from them.

Can you talk about a breakthrough with a client, and what led up to it?

My client Lana came to me with a service dog, tells me she has a metal plate in her neck and back and the doctors told her not to do anything forever.  Her service dog was there to help her stand up when she fell down, she told me a story of falling in a department store and having to crawl to the nearest clothes rack to stand up. We worked on getting on the

We worked on getting on the floor, and standing up which she never thought was possible. Now she is swinging the 53lb kettlebell, squatting barbells and kettlebells, doing Turkish Getups like she has no injury, if you saw her you would never believe that she was restricted.

Lana sounds like an amazing person. Was she worried about moving around a lot when you first met her? If so, how did you change her mindset around this?

Worried isn’t the word I would use, she was very skeptical, She came in with her service dog and If I remember correctly she told me something along the lines of, “I want to give this a try but there is a lot I cant do so I’m not expecting much.”

Sometimes the best way to get through to people is to “scare them”  when you explain to someone that falling and not being able to get up is one of the leading factors in death for seniors that tends to really hit home.  Also instead of focusing in on what someone can NOT do, you focus on what they CAN do, and build their confidence.

Instead of focusing in on what someone can NOT do, you focus on what they CAN do, and build their confidence.

If I remember correctly we started with TRX squats, and maybe sitting in a chair and standing up. From their I had her lie on the ground and get up, maybe 1-2 times and that was her whole training session.

You start small, show them they are capable and build them up from there. Now you wouldn’t even know she was ever unable to do things.


What is your favorite question to ask clients before they start training?

The most important question to ask someone specifically when it comes to fitness is “Whats your goal”  do you want to get stronger, slimmer, be able to carry the groceries… whatever it may be, and then I can explain to them how our training will help that.

What I have come to learn training clients is they all have an idea of what they want, instead of trying to convince them that your way of training is what they really need instead you give the client what they think they want but you train them with your training modalities.

Can you expand on that?

Potential clients will come to you and tell you how they want to lose fat “here” and “here” they want to get strong without bulking up etc…

Instead of preaching the whole functional fitness and size doesn’t equal strength, muscle weighs more than fat etc., you tell them “That is a great goal to have and I will help you reach that goal.”

Most people will think they got a great workout as long as they achieved 2 things: they got sweaty and they did some ab work.

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT!!!

You will get sweaty and we will do abs, but here is a kettlebell or barbell that I will teach you how to use and we will do a 30 min circuit with that and afterward let’s do 3 sets of 10 situps.  People want to do situps and crunches and get sweaty so let it them, instead of this idea that “swings builds a strong core so you don’t need situps” or “bicep curls is only for looks and not function”  your clients are your “boss” don’t try and tell them that they don’t need a certain exercise, just give it to them in a way that they are getting what they want, but you are using the tools that you know works.

I guarantee if you ask anyone after a grueling workout that they can barely stand, if they want to do a quick ab workout 98% of people will say yes, abs are like dessert there is always room for it, so let them.

A good lesson is that if you don’t give clients a little of what they want, they will find someone else who will do exactly that. I believe we all learn that at some point. That was great Schneur! Is there any recent continuing education that you really enjoyed?

I did the first US Strength Matters Kettlebell certification in February of 2016, it was a great experience and I made connections with people that are still helping me out today.

When it comes to furthering my education, I am constantly reading and watching videos and learning more on a daily basis, in terms of certifications I hope to do the MobilityWod cert soon.

What’s one thing that you think is really easy, but works well with many of your clients?

Have fun with training and fitness. Fitness shouldn’t run your life it should be a part of your life. If you miss a workout, it’s not the end of the day.

If you don’t have 100% to give some days that’s ok. Do what you can, keep fitness in your schedule and long term you will be a healthy individual.

Thanks so much for his interview it has been great to hear from someone who has graduated from trainer to business owner. Any parting advice for us?

Shawn Mozen from Agatsu Kettlebells based out of Canada (if you have never heard of him, look him up) taught me something at his certification that I think really applied back then, it seems the fitness world has begun to understand it too.

He said, “I teach you how to use tools, not teach styles”.  There is no 1 way to move a kettlebell, there isn’t only 1 way to train, teach people how to use tools instead of preaching a certain style of training.

How do we get in contact with you?

Facebook: Kettleflex fitness
Instagram: @kettleflexfitness
Personal Instagram: @shneurshapiro
Email- KettleFlexfitness@gmail.com

Recommended Reading:

Wholebody Barefoot – Katy Bowman
Move Your DNA – Katy Bowman
Ready to Run – Kelly Starret
Deskbound – Kelly Starret