Koa Fit Personal Training and Massage

Koa Fit Personal Training and Massage

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Meet the Intern – 10 Questions with Amy Briggs

We sat down with our new intern, Amy Briggs to get to know a little more about this strong woman.  Read below to learn more about her ultra running, piano playing, yoga teaching life!

Where did you grow up? In Canterbury, New Hampshire…on a small farm in a 200+ year old house!

Who is your family? My folks went through a ‘back-to-the-land’ phase in their 30s; hence the move to the Good Earth Farm.  I am the eldest of four; I have two sisters and a brother, and we are all in different parts of the country.  My mom, Janis, was a music teacher and avid organic gardener, before organic was popular. She passed away in 2013.  My dad, Craig, was a state court administrator and avid woodworker.  He now lives in North Carolina with his second wife, Frieda.

What do you spend most of your time doing? These days, I divide my time between playing and teaching piano (more on that below), teaching and practicing yoga (I teach classes at CorePower, Kondition, and prAna), and trail running.  I’m an avid ultra runner, and moved to Boulder two years ago from Chicago, partly because of my love for trails.  I also love the time that I spend at Koa Fit, learning about functional movement from Brenna, getting to know the team, and learning about all aspects of the business.

What’s you favorite hobby? These days, spending time up at higher altitudes, whether that’s trail running/hiking, snowshoeing, or backcountry Nordic skiing, which I started to do this past winter.

What’s the coolest thing you have done recently? I’m about to run the San Juan Solstice 50-miler; it’s supposed to be a tough race. I’ve loved training for it, and regardless of the outcome, it will be an amazing experience!

Where is the coolest place you have EVER been? Kathmandu, Nepal.  I went there a long time ago to play a concert, but want to go back and trek!

What is one thing that would surprise people about you? I spent a couple of decades + as a concert pianist.  I was the pianist for the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW ensemble, and played all over the world as a soloist and chamber musician.  You can find my recordings on Spotify and Amazon. I also taught on the music faculty of the University of Chicago for six years, before moving to Boulder.

How did you get interested in movement and exercise? I’ve been an avid runner since my late 20s.  I started a yoga practice around that time, mostly to heal or avoid running injuries.  My yoga practice became consistent a few years ago, and I completed CorePower’s 200-hour Power Yoga Teacher Training.  Trying to figure out soreness and injury from running and playing piano led me to reading about anatomy and trigger points; as I develop as a yoga teacher, I’m fascinated by the way the body moves most efficiently and pain-free. I’m really excited to work with people to help them feel better in their bodies, and be able to take on more activity in their daily lives.

What are you most excited to learn at Koa Fit? I’m in awe when I watch Brenna and Siri make evaluations of clients, either standing or walking.  I’m excited to learn how to tell what’s going on in the body, and then be able to find the best steps to undo patterns and relearn new ones.

What is one thing you want people to know about you?  I’m excited to work with people, one-on-one, and in groups, because I love connection, and the relationships that form over time with clients and students. I’ve had enough life experience to know that this is one of my strengths, and it feeds me!

Meet the Trainer – Brian Carver

Check out our interview with Koa Fit trainer, Brian Carver.  Scroll below to learn about Brian’s love of learning, his library of unique exercises, and his approach to setting and achieving your goals.

Tell us about yourself personally.

I am originally from Augusta, Georgia. My father was an officer in the Army and my Mother was a reference librarian. As I grow older it becomes more obvious to me how their personalities have shaped me and my approach to training. From my father I gained perseverance and discipline while from my mother I retained her veracity and resourcefulness. 

Growing up I was more into music. I spent most of my time playing in bands with my friends and learning music theory. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I really developed an interest in health and fitness. I used the gym as a way out of a pretty dark time in my life. I still remember my first workout. It was some meathead arm routine I picked up out of a fitness magazine. I never would have thought that something so petty could act as such a large catalyst.

How did you start training?

After my brief foray into fitness magazines I started reading every book I could get my hands on. I read everything from sports conditioning and periodization strategies to biomechanics and therapy manuals. I thought it was really cool being able to gain new knowledge and then apply it to my workouts and observe the results. During that time I was offered a job while working out at my neighborhood gym in Chicago. After a few months of training clients I had way more questions than I did answers. I decided to enroll at The National Personal Training Institute in downtown Chicago. It was a great start. 

How would you describe your style of training?

Although I love to learn, I am hypercritical of any information I am given. I question EVERYTHING, especially the fundamental aspects of human movement. As far as training, nutrition, and lifestyle coaching are concerned, there are tons of modalities and different schools of thought.  Instead of subscribing to just one I pull the pieces from each that I think are correct for the individual client. I even have a library of some unique exercises I created. By the time I left Chicago my “Carver Getup” had become quite popular with some of the local trainers.

How have you helped the people you have worked with?

I think a large part of what I’ve seen work for my clients is realistic goal setting and accountability. It can be easy for people to get comfortable in their routines and hide from forward progress by not setting goals. The people I see benefit most from my training are the ones that set clear achievable goals and then develop a plan of action. It’s my job to equip them with the emotional intelligence to make the right decisions and then hold them accountable. It doesn’t matter if its weight loss, joint pain, sports competition, or general well being, change can be a scary thing. Most people are relieved when they realize that the most important changes are usually much smaller than they imagine. Once I can get someone to realize that, then they have already won 90% of the battle.  

What’s your favorite part about training?

Wearing sweat pants to work.

Seriously though, helping people change. Whether it’s hip pain, binge eating, drugs/alcohol, or a nasty divorce, exercise can be a game changer. It’s great when people start training to “tone up” or “fix knee pain” and then walk away with so much more. I have seen some MAJOR transformations and it is great to be a part of it. 

What are you working towards or want to accomplish next in your career?

I hope one day that personal training will be more integrated into health care. Our current health care system focuses on fixing problems rather than preventing them and it is not sustainable. On the plus side we’re seeing more health insurance companies and work places that incentivize preventative measures. There are also more practices opening that track and analyze health markers and use them from more of a preventative perspective. As things progress and our health care system and personal training integrate I look forward to being able to use my experience to contribute to a more realistic and sustainable model.

What We Believe – 2018

At the start of the new year, the Koa Fit trainers sat down and wrote out a few things they truly believed.  Below are the answers in no particular order.

We Believe…

Fresh air and sunshine can cure any bad mood.

If you move the body, you move the mind.

Real food, eaten mindfully and with friends, is one of the great pleasures of life.

Working smart is far superior to working hard.

You can teach an “old” body new tricks.

Your support system does not depend on your physical location.

In doing things the right way, even if it is harder.

Peace must be found in one’s own mind before it can ever be found in another person, location, or object.

What goes around comes around.

Within a community where there is mutual love and kindness, we can creatively solve big challenges.

The secret to a healthy body is movement and hydration.

Our bodies are our partners.

Hard work and dedication make our successes taste sweeter.

Communities encourage understanding, love, and camaraderie.

That a walk in nature is some of the best medicine.

Exercise is always more fun with a friend.

Meet the Trainer – Annette Bray

Check out our interview with Koa Fit trainer, Annette Bray.  Scroll down to learn more about her background, her love for the outdoors, and how all of us can heal our trauma and move forward freely.

Tell us about yourself personally.

I grew up in the city of West Los Angeles with 5 siblings who I am still in close relationships with. Even though I spent my childhood in a big city environment, I took any opportunity I could to exercise my body in nature. I wove my way through the city on bike to get to the ocean or would find any greenway I could to walk or jog on. Every trip to the Sierras was an incredibly cherished event; whether it was to ski, hike or bike. I have always felt the pull of nature and how healing it is to physically engage in it.

As an adult, I have continued to pursue outdoor activities that put me right where I want to be. I have rock climbed, back-country skied, mountain biked, hiked and backpacked for 20 years. I moved to Colorado in 1997 to be close to my most cherished form of nature…the mountains. In my mid-30’s I experienced a set back with an illness that lasted over 2 years. My love and commitment to remain active and connected to nature has driven my constant growth personally and professionally. And has helped me regain my strength. I have, myself, experienced the need to tend to physical, emotional and mental health and how profoundly each one of these impacts a person’s happiness and fulfillment.

I deeply love my relationships with my friends, family and all those I engage with through my profession.  And I can’t leave out my sweet little Aussie dog! I believe that connection to our community of people as well as our natural world is fundamentally at the root of our ability to thrive. And I believe that these bodies were meant to move. I can’t think of a better way to live than for us to engage in this process of movement together!

How did you start training?

I began my career in movement with a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology. After 2 years of college I was seriously concerned that I would end up with a desk job and hadn’t decided firmly on my major. I loved moving my body and was curious about the nuts and bolts of how it worked. The study of exercise science popped out at me and from day 1 as a Kinesiology major, I was hooked! I worked in clinical rehab as well as corporate health which is where I started training clients. The more I continued to explore the science of human motion, the more I got excited about how it could change people’s lives.

As I worked with clients, I realized my interest was in the goal of helping people improve alignment and relieve the pain associated with poor structure. I followed the works of many talented physical therapists and researched the challenges associated with misaligned posture. After some struggle with my own health, I began to discover how profoundly physical movement could enhance an individual’s emotional state and vice-a-versa. At this time I studied yoga to become a teacher. I began to develop the philosophy (which I believe to this day) that musculoskeletal pain is associated with the body’s inability to mobilize joints and therefore whole body patterns. And the way we experience our world is reflected in the manifestation of our physical form.

What’s unique about your style of training?

I believe strongly in the ability to make changes when we are aware of our physical and emotional states of being. Along with the exercise tools, I guide people in the process of discovering how they hold themselves. In addition, I help them understand how their emotional responses effect tension and the ability to use their intrinsic strength. I provide them with the knowledge of how to realign their form and help them “feel” this so that their practiced repetition will create change beyond the workout.

I am a nurturer at heart. From this place, I exercise a ton of patience with my clients while continuing to hold them responsible for their own goals and commitments. I also have an intuitive knack for seeing what a person is capable of. With thoughtfulness I encourage my clients to pursue I higher bar for themselves to experience the personal meaning that comes from this endeavor.

How have you helped the people you have worked with?

I have seen dozens of people who believe their pain is something they have to live with because of the aging process. They have no idea that the way their body is positioned is largely responsible for the discomfort. Through this process of self-discovery, they see that the circumstances that have shifted them out of alignment can be “unwound” with specific guidance on their own physical and emotional patterns.

The result is, they see that intentional and consistent steps brings about positive change, even in the face of setbacks. They feel better physically and are empowered to realize that they can effect change within themselves. I have helped these individuals regain pain-free movement that reconnects them with the activities they love.

What’s your favorite part about training?

I love when my clients have these big moments of realization about why they feel the way they do and how subtle shifts can make them feel profoundly better. I believe that we are meant to function from the inside out in both physical and emotional capacities. When I teach someone how to create strength in this way, I do so by teaching them to truly engage with their felt sense. It’s fascinating to me that being present to feel one’s own body can make such a difference in effectively changing a pattern.

I am the professional who understands form and function, but a client doesn’t need that knowledge to make things work better. They only need the guidance to the improved way of feeling and engaging muscles. From here, their increasing awareness helps them practice the new way of being. I love that this simplicity in feeling can be paramount in getting stronger and more confident!

What are you working towards or want to accomplish next in your career?

I have been working on developing a concept which combines yoga and the science of biomechanics to create a system of movement for trauma resolution. This system is called MoYo Movement. It stands for Mobility Yoga and means heart in Swahili. I would love nothing more than to help the nature lover who has experienced trauma reconnect with their body and the outdoors. Those who have missed out on movement because of physical pain have an opportunity to release the compensating patterns and find true strength. I believe I am on my way to addressing the physical with the emotional by acknowledging that we each experience some degree of trauma in our lives that has dictated how we feel ourselves…or not.

Koa Fit Client of the Month – January

Whitney Prestwood

WhitneyWhitney started working with Ryan Tara to help relieve her chronic back pain.  After trying a handful of things, she wanted to take a little more control of her health and learn how to take care of her body.  Whitney made herself a priority and currently has her pain down to almost nothing.  On top of getting in control of her pain, she also lost weight, corrected her posture, and feels like an athlete again.  Congrats Whitney for taking charge of your body and getting yourself out of chronic pain!

What her trainer says:

“I am always very excited to work with Whitney. Over the past year she has been truly dedicated to improving her personal health. She has made some very inspiring changes to her physical fitness; reducing chronic back back pain, losing weight, and rediscovering her athletic ability and joy of movement. Whitney has really demonstrated to me the power we all have over our personal wellbeing, and I am happy and honored to help her along the way.”

-Ryan Tara

Meet the Trainer – Ryan Tara

Check out our interview with Koa Fit trainer, Ryan Tara.  Scroll down to learn more about Ryan’s philosophy and how he is helping people improve their lives both physically and mentally.  Also, try Ryan’s Kettlebell Twist at home to help ignite your core and improve rotation through the body.

Tell us about yourself personally.

I grew up in Boulder, and was raised by two parents who have been involved in health and wellness most of their lives. I was very fortunate to have been exposed to many different approaches to health from a young and age, and have always been fascinated by the body and how we maintain optimal vitality.

As an adult, I have had the opportunity to study and live in Europe and New Zealand. Experiencing other cultures, and approaches to health, has greatly informed my approach to exercise and manual therapies.

I have always loved movement and sports, and greatly value the fact that I get to continuously be in motion in my work. What’s more, I get to share my knowledge with others to help them find greater ease and vitality in their own lives. What a gift!

How did you start training? What interested you?

My first desire to teach others about exercise and movement came around the same time I started doing massage. I was always involved in one sport or another from a young age, but it wasn’t until I started doing Qi Gong that I experienced the relationship between movement and health. My martial arts and Shiatsu teacher, Ron Timm, was a big inspiration for me. His personal physical ability and teaching encouraged me to push myself further than I thought possible, and then to want to share that experience with others. After several years of study in martial arts, and Eastern healing modalities, I was curious to learn more about the human body.

I went on to study Exercise Science and Western approaches to massage in New Zealand. At university I started working more with clinical populations, and began to see that I could have a big impact on the health of my clients. I got very excited to think that I might be able to help someone out of chronic pain, or help an elderly person balance better such that they might avoid a fall and prolong their life.

For me this work is always interesting, because it is always changing. Every person is so unique, and even one person’s needs can change in a moment. Our understanding of the human body, and how to optimize health through exercise, is always changing and growing. The goal is always to bring the best of my current knowledge, try to identify where the person is and their needs, and then provide a supportive and safe environment for positive change.

What is unique about your style of training and bodywork?

I think the fact that I studied in other countries offers me a different perspective, especially my experience of Eastern methods of health. Not only does this mean that the exercises and manual therapies I apply may look and/or feel different, but there are differences in my philosophical approach to the body and corrective exercise. In martial arts, the distinction between hard and soft (opposing/yielding) styles are sometimes made. I think it is fair to say that both my training style and bodywork would fall into the ‘soft’ department.

For example, I am not a believer in the aphorism “no pain, no gain”. On the contrary, I might say “no pain to release to pain.” This is not to say that we intend to continually avoid things that are painful, but rather how to find an intelligent way out of pain. For me, corrective exercise is a lot about helping someone find greater efficiency in what they are doing. It is incredible how easy or challenging the same move can be, depending on how we orient and use our bodies.

I also believe that the mind is an often undertrained or ignored with respect to physical training. I approach this from a martial arts perspective (i.e. Yi leads Ki, or Intention leads Action), as well a scientific approach to Motor Imagery (visualization). One of the unique aspects of my training style is that I apply exercises that challenge and develop the mind, in conjunction with the body.

As it relates to bodywork, one of my teachers, Kishi Sensei, would often refer to the “one percent”. He would say that while we might be 99% bad, there is still one percent of good. The focus of my work is to bring that one percent to the forefront of our experience. For me the one percent represents the bodies’ ability to heal itself. I truly believe that the body has an intelligence for its own correction that far surpasses anything that I know. I see my job as a way of supporting and facilitating that process. One difference might be that I spend a considerable time on what is functioning well, as opposed to what is not.

“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well” – Hippocrates


‘If you are not attached to things or goals,

Beyond attachment you will be serene.

Originally, you are full of ki

And ki is naturally flowing and working.

Then sickness is not necessary.


If your body knows this through experience,

Your actions will be founded on serenity,

And you can observe reality.’ – Akinobu Kishi


How have you helped the people you have worked with?

I think the greatest help I have been to people is help them see that they have some degree of control in how they feel. My goal is always to try and teach people that there are tools they can learn and apply for themselves, to create a sense of autonomy with respect to their health. Over the past ten years, I have worked with thousands of people either with bodywork and/or exercise prescription. I know that many of them have experienced relief from pain, and greater ease of movement in their lives. The most satisfying thing for me though is when I see someone apply something I have taught them in a new or different way. To me that shows that they now have a greater level of control, and are better able to handle whatever physical challenges might arise.

For the past two years, I have focused heavily on working with seniors. It has been incredibly rewarding and at times very difficult. Many of my clients are in their late 80’s or 90’s, and often have serious health issues. I have been amazed at how much some of them have changed! One client in particular stands out; he is 87yrs and we have worked together for almost two years. His goal initially was to improve his shoulder so that he could write his name, in the appropriate “Palmer Method” cursive. He had lost the ability the lift his arm in front of him, almost completely. I am happy to say that he can now lift his arm to shoulder height, unassisted. His balance has improved, he lost weight, and his overall vitality is much higher. Almost every week he comments, “I didn’t used to be able to do that!”. I don’t know if he will ever write in cursive the way he would like, but working towards that one goal has given him a host of other health benefits that have improved his life dramatically.

What’s your favorite part about training?

There are many things that I appreciate about this job, but probably the thing I love the most is that I get the opportunity to have a positive impact in someone’s life every day. Sometimes the goals are substantial, and the progression slow, but every day we get a chance to help people improve in some way. I know from personal experience, what an impact pain and discomfort can have on our lives. It’s something that we often take for granted, but our health is our most valuable asset. Without it, life is hard to enjoy. Whether it is a sore neck from sleeping wrong, or hip pain following a replacement, it’s all pain and it all interrupts our lives. I find it very rewarding when I can help someone reduce their pain, or achieve something that they didn’t before think was possible.

What are you working towards or want to accomplish next in your career?

I am always trying to deepen my understanding of the body, and how it responds to different exercises and movements. Recently, I took a workshop focused on breathing. I feel this is an aspect of exercise that tends to be overlooked, despite its fundamental importance. I am also very interested in learning more about how our thoughts impact our physiology, and how that influences exercise capacity. This is a fairly new field of research, but is already showing us how important our thoughts are with respect to correct motor execution. I am currently working with how to best implement mental exercises in my training programs and classes. The other goal I have is to make this information more accessible, in order to help as many people as possible!