We (virtually) sat down with Daniel Volz, host of The Weight Room podcast, to talk about Weighting For Warriors.
Daniel, Samantha, and Will (and Dozer) started off the interview with introductions! (If you watch the video, you can see our adorable mascot in action!)
Daniel: Kinda getting in to your dancing and theater [background] and everything like that, how did that start off? Was that something that was maybe like something that your family did and you were kinda going in line with what they were doing? Or was that something you kinda like bust out and said "oh I want to start doing this?"
Samantha: I have two older brothers, so they were not into it at all. However, my father went to school for light design and theater, and he has always been in the world of theater, especially on the technical side. I always loved that. I was always a dancer--literally my first dance class was when I was two and a half.
Come high school, I think I auditioned for a play because I thought "okay why not," because my dad was working on the sets at the high school. And then I got in the play and I was like "oh okay, I'll do it." And then I just fell in love. It was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and that was my first big thing... and the first time I was like, "I could really do this."
I remember growing up everyone was like "I want to be a doctor," "I wanna be a nurse, I already know it." I never had anything like that, and I thought "oh, why don't I have that?" Then when I came to theater I just knew... I was like, "why wouldn't anyone want to do this? You get to play dress up as an adult."
I thank God every day that I have the most supportive parents in the world because not a lot of people take that career path seriously. But I think they absolutely do, they root for me, they want me to go for it. I mean, even with COVID in this pandemic, I'm sure you can imagine how hard that hit performers all over the world. And still my parents are the people behind me--and Will, of course.
So, yeah it was a family thing with my dad, and then I went to school for it. I actually wasn't planning on going to school for theater. I went to Wagner hoping that I would make it in the theater program because it was too late by the time I decided my senior year of high school that I even wanted to do theater. It was too late to audition in to any of the programs, so I transferred into the program my freshman year at Wagner, which was probably one of the biggest accomplishments of my entire life. Transferring in is really hard.
From there, I fell in love even more. I will always be in love with it. I would say personal training and theater are both my dream jobs, but at the end of the day theater will always have a special place in my heart. It's just a different type of thing for me. It's a different type of job. I do love that I help people in personal training, but I also think I do help people when it comes to theater. I think that when you walk into a theater, you kind of escape reality and you escape what's going on in the world. I think maybe that's what we need the most right now.
Daniel: I feel like a lot of entertainment is to do that, you know? Just escape what's going on and that's one thing I've noticed: it's so hard to escape it. Even on TV, even sports now, it's just become this bigger movement where you can't really just like escape into a different world or a different time.
Daniel: It's definitely become harder to do that. But kind of going to that, the theater and the dancing and performing side of it, do you feel yourself using those skills in what you're doing now?
Samantha: So it's funny--that's actually a really fun question. Whenever I do group fitness classes... where I have to be really motivational and upbeat and stuff, I do think in a way [I use those skills]. One, knowing how to use my voice because you can lose your voice very quickly when you are--uhh, not yelling at people, you know, but being encouraging.
So taking care of my voice and taking care of my body like as an actor. Dnd I think people don't really understand this, I know everyone think actors (*air quotes*) look good, but taking care of your body is huge in the entertainment industry. But in the theater world, musical theater, it's no joke. I mean, singing, acting, and dancing all at the same time, it's not a joke. The cardiovascular endurance needed is huge, right?
So I do think that when I started training five years ago... I noticed it in auditions. You know, at auditions in New York you have two minutes to dance as hard as you can and as best as you can. I noticed immediately that my cardiovascular health was so much better, I could move so much better, I knew how to maintain flexibility, blah blah blah, all that stuff. I think it ties so nicely into personal training, and I think that's why--(gestures to Will) we always talk about this--I wake up every day genuinely excited to do my job...
I think in terms of just knowing how to talk to people. In the theater industry, it's huge. In an audition, you're judged right when you walk into that room, before you even sing or dance. The way you talk to someone is noted, right? And you can not book a job because of the way you did or didn't talk to someone.
I think in the training industry, something that you look for in a trainer is in some ways the friendship. It's someone that you're opening up to, it's someone that you're relying on to help you reach these certain goals that you have. Knowing how to communicate and how to talk to people and communicate, that's important in all jobs but I think it ties nicely with theater in the personal training world.
Daniel: Yeah, definitely. I feel like having those skills just to be able to communicate and be confident in front of people too. Do you think that other trainers could somehow benefit from that? How do you think they would gain that experience without that background? Is it just doing it?
Samantha: A personal trainer without a theater background?
Samantha: Well, you know before COVID, [there were] workshops and ways to become the best trainer you possibly can. There are really good resources and workshops and things that you can go to to really, really gain experience with working with others, with gaining that confidence. That public speaking role is huge as a trainer, as you know, but you know it's all experience.
I have to say it on this podcast, I say it on every podcast I'm on, I do owe it a lot to Equinox. I'm not sure if you're familiar, it's a luxury gym. Equinox really treats their trainers well but they also educate their trainers even better. Every day I would work at Equinox, and then I would be sent to another Equinox in New York City to gain sales experience, public speaking, pitches, like all these things that I don't think when you're a freelance trainer or when you get your NASM cert and then run off with it, I don't think you gain that experience. That's great, absolutely, I'm not knocking that one out whatsoever, but Equinox helped me there and I think any trainer could benefit working for six months tot two years at Equinox...
I think there should be more resources in a way for the business relationship between a trainer and a client. We talk about it a lot here at Weighting For Warriors because it's super easy to just become friends with your client. I mean that's super easy, right, we want to make friends with these military wives and military moms and dads, and patriotic civilians who support Will and us. We want to become friends, but at the same time, we're trying to kick ass and hit goals, and that's that...
Like for doctors and nurses, half of their schooling is [going] to clinical hours in a hospital. Many of my close friends are PAs and nurses, and that's when they truly learn... and experience these situations that they would have never learn in a book...
Daniel: Someone asked me the other day, "how much of your schooling do you actually apply on a day-to-day basis?" And I'm like honestly stuff that I learned the first year, I apply on a daily basis. Everything else is just kind of like stuff you understand and you accept that it's the laws and the rules of physics and whatever else. But it's like, yeah okay now teach me how to interact with somebody, teach me how to do these things that actually I'm not going to do on a daily basis. I can definitely relate to that.
Something I think is really interesting, and I'm curious about your [Will's] experience with asthma. At what age were you diagnosed with that?
Will: Probably three years old... So it definitely affected me from the beginning. There wasn't really a time when it wasn't part of who I was and the challenges that [came from that] were all part of my life. You know, I haven't used an inhaler in like 15 years... but it's something that ended up being liberating at the end just because it was something that I had overcome and it kind of left me in a state where I'm like okay if I had a legitimate excuse not to do all these other things.
I push through because I want what's on the other side of this. What other things in life are there that have legitimate obstacles but they're obstacles that I can push through. It's definitely been a good learning point for me as far as just like being persistent and over time just not giving up, not quitting.
Daniel: I think it's pretty cool because that's something that can't really be coddled away. As a parent, you can kind of like shelter your kid and keep them from trying things and doing things but [that's something] you really can't kind of coddle away, you know? It's something that's gonna be there, it's something that you're going to have to adapt to, and you know, adjust to and figure it out.
I think it's kind of cool because you know a lot of problems in today's society is almost like "well, let's just protect everybody so much that there's no problems and there's nothing to overcome and there's nothing to learn from. Did you kind of hit a certain age or a certain grade in school where it really hit you in terms of when you finally were aware of being like "okay, I now understand that I have this certain thing I have to overcome," and if that happened, did you have a period of being--not depressed, but you know you can just kind of get down--did that ever happen to you?
Will: Yeah, let's see I was in either kindergarten or first grade. Ms. Cox, if you're out there, I was in Ms. Cox's class. I had an asthma attack in class, and I didn't really know what to do so I just sat there and I kind of froze. I sat there for several minutes not being able to breathe and then the teacher looked up and she could see that there was something wrong.
So she pulled me out to the hallway, and they ended up calling an ambulance, and it was like a whole ordeal. I'm going to the hospital and obviously like when you're eight or whatever age that is, it's pretty embarrassing. That happens for your whole class, you're just like "I don't want to be the asthma 'guy,'" you know what I mean? I don't want this to define me, and that [experience] was definitely something that had an impact on me, and probably still does to this day.
I had other health issues, like I ended up being allergic to food for a while and all these other random things going on there so... I just remember like I don't want to be the guy that can't eat whatever the rest of the class is eating or that you can't go out at play [during] recess because of asthma. Just figuring out how to get past it, if this is not what I want for my life, how do I get past it?
I think what you're saying is super valuable that we as a society are so afraid, you know we just are so worried about something going wrong. We kind of bubble wrap our lives to the point where yes, we probably avoid some of the bad things, but I think we also [bubble wrap] to the point that we avoid some of the really good things. Different people have different opinions on different topics like that.
In some ways, yes, you should put your kid in a car seat, I think we probably all agree that it's definitely a safe thing to do. But in other ways, like part of my job is parachuting and it's something that I really, really enjoy, and to me that feeling of being--just for the few seconds you're out there--you're just kind of free falling. It's exhilarating. The couple minutes before you exit the aircraft, especially the first couple times you do it, your stomach's all up in knots and you're just like "why did I ever sign up for this? Like, why would I do this?"
But I find that as soon as I'm out the door, and even before the chute's inflated, it feels amazing. It's incredible, you know. That's kind of like how I see a lot of life, where most of the time we just want to stay in the aircraft, we don't want to leave and we want to just protect ourselves, just take the safe way out. But if you don't get out the door, you won't experience the joy, the exhilaration that the parachuting actually has for you. So I guess that's kind of my thoughts on safety versus cushioning an experience. Bubble wrap versus living life to the fullest, definitely with balance. I mean, I'm not saying go out and do like, heroin right now, but find a balance...
I think we do it not just with physical things but mental things or like emotional things. Or "I don't want to quit the stable job I have and try to do what I'm actually passionate about..." For [Samantha], the one thing--if nothing else--you really have to give her credit for always doing things that she's very passionate about... It's definitely a leap of faith [and] takes a certain amount of confidence to say "I'm betting on myself that I can do this and I can make this work."
I feel like as a society we lack that willingness to take risks and we just try to protect ourselves instead of saying "how can I live my best life? How can I make decisions that I'm going to be proud of? I'm going to find fulfillment." I hope we can bring a little bit of that to people's loves through this business...
Daniel: When did you start up Weighting For Warriors?
Samantha: So Weighting For Warriors was created around this time last year. That's when we started brainstorming... April 16th is when we filed the LLC. But I'll take you back a little bit just to explain how we even got into that whole thing.
So Will went to Ranger school last January for military training in the Army. It was kinda the first time that we had a situation where we weren't going to be able to talk on the phone. We had been long distance since the day we had met obviously, but we had never have a situation like that. We both knew it was gonna be rough, everyone knows Ranger school is rough, it's 61-plus days of just letters and that's that...
So during that time, I was living in New York City, I was about to actually head out for a [theater] contract in Arizona that I had. And I was thinking "there has to be some other way that the loved ones of Ranger school candidates... communicate other than a catty Facebook group"... I kept thinking that it would be really cool to have a community where we all worked out together and that's what we all talked about to keep our mind off of the fact that our boyfriend or husband or son or daughter or wife was in Ranger school or deployed or in Navy Seals training or in whatever.
My wheels kept turning and turning and turning and then I kind of went off and I did my contract and then Will graduated Ranger when the pandemic hit. Like he came out of Ranger and there was no meat in the grocery stores, everyone was wearing a mask, and he was like, "what the hell is this?"
During this, I also got laid off and theater kind of shut down. As in, Broadway in New York City shut down. I just remember one night, I kind of mentioned it to my parents, and I mentioned it to his mom, this idea of starting a company that would cater towards military families, loved ones, friends. I mean friends are a huge thing too, right? When your best friend goes to Ranger school, that still sucks. And also, like I said, patriotic civilians.
One night I just sat him down and I was like, "what do you think about this?" And if you know Will, you know that he's honest, he's blunt, but he's also reasonable. I will never forget telling Will this idea and he was like, "that's a really effing good idea." And I was like, "wait really?" like... if I had said a not-so-good idea to him, he would have been like, "oh Samantha, I love that idea but maybe let's--" he would have given me the really great response that was nicely worded but you know, criticism in a way.
No, he was like full-blown "I think we should do it." So literally from April 5th to the 16th we brainstormed ideas for this company. I remember we were gonna wait until May to make the Instagram and all these things because we were like, we want to have a photo shoot, we want to do these things to make sure we can advertise ourselves in a correct, proper, professional way.
Once we started telling people the idea, they were like "just do it, just make the Instagram, who cares? Put up random workouts, just do it." So we went up to his room and got on our computer, we made an LLC for 150 bucks and we had Weighting For Warriors. It's crazy to think about right now because it's coming up on a year, but that's how we started.
Daniel: Is there a specific kind of training that you focus more heavily towards?
Will: It's pretty well-rounded I would say. We both have a pretty wide range of experience as far as different types of working out. Obviously for her, there's a lot of dance, a lot of cardio, she used to do a lot of running. Then she worked through Equinox and she got a bunch of certifications like with kettlebells, TRX, different kinds of bands.
I'd done a lot more traditional powerlifting, and then the Army was... very into the calisthenics, so [I got] some of that, and then I boxed through college. So being like a collegiate athlete and using boxing--which I think is arguably the best full body targeting workout you can do.
Will: So we end up with a pretty broad spectrum of things that we're comfortable teaching, that we feel like we have a pretty good base of knowledge. A lot of it also is continuing to expand what you know. [We're] going and finding new certifications and online courses, or even just working out with different people, like "hey what do you do?"
And you don't have to love everything they do, you don't have to copy it exactly. You can just take one or two things from every person about what they do and turn around and be like "hey, how does that fit in to what I know about fitness?"
We do a lot with weights. I know she works with a lot of gals who are super worried about getting too jacked or whatever. (Samantha: Yeah.) It's the best thing, it's just getting people out of their comfort zone is good, and so we ended up doing a lot of HIIT with different forms of weights--dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells--and obviously progressing people from one level to the next.
Daniel: What would you say is kind of unique and what really brings your theme into the picture? What do you do that kind of ties it all together as far as making it feel like a community and bringing these people in and just having that there?
Samantha: Our biggest thing in general here at Weighting For Warriors is to kind of bridge this gap between civilians and military. When we first started, we read so much about how if you're not in the military or if you don't know someone in the military, people don't really understand what goes on in the lifestyle of military members...
But there are a lot of patriotic civilians out there who genuinely are like "I want to support and help the military. So our biggest thing here is to blend that gap and to create a space and a community for everyone to train and have fun and get some cool merch and you know, do their thing here at Weighting For Warriors.
We're actually working on a forum right now, so we're gonna have a huge forum for anyone who does like a group class. We have a bunch of group classes over Zoom, and anyone in a certain class can go on and be like like "you know, today's class was killer, blah blah blah, what was your favorite part?" and that's like an awesome way to meet new friends and perhaps one of those people that comments is a Navy wife and the other one is an Army wife, right?