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Meet Missoula’s Best Personal Trainer – Michael Scialabba [INTERVIEW]

Today, we finally catch up with Michael Scialabba, voted as “Missoula’s Best Personal Trainer” by our audience in a recent online poll. Michael takes some time out of his hectic schedule to sit down with Zoo FM to allow us to get to know him on a more personal level. If you are wondering who might be the best fit for your fitness needs, perhaps Mr. Scialabba will answer some questions that you might be curious about.

Let’s begin…

1)  Congratulations on the honors of Best Personal Trainer in Missoula! How do you feel?

Grateful.  I personally know of over 70 trainers in Missoula, so to know that the community that I serve acknowledges the efforts that I have made is very rewarding.

2)   Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where you are from, your favorite hobbies, etc.

My birth and young life were in Show Low, AZ – where I never wanted to leave.  My teenage years and HS graduation in Troy, MT – where I wanted nothing but to leave.  While my last 10 years have been here in beautiful Missoula – where I plan to stay.

I’ve never really liked the word ‘hobbies’ for some reason so let’s just say the ‘things I do’ consist of lots of physical movement, music, meditation and conversation.  I love those things so I spend my time doing them, a lot. Thankfully my #1 client and favorite person in the world, my 5 year old son, enjoys these same wonderment’s of life so it makes my favorite things to do sort of all encompassing.

3)  How did you first become involved in fitness? What made you choose being a trainer over other professions?

That’s actually an interesting question for me, but in a nut shell…

As a teenager, fitness became a good outlet for my chaotic mind.  Unfortunately, drug use also became a good outlet for the emotional strife I was under and I began to operate through two distinctly different worlds over the course of 4 years.  Once HS was over so were the sports, the weight-lifting, and the last of my positive community. However the drugs, they were still there.  Addiction sunk its fangs of self hate further into my soul for two more years and I ended up a homeless meth-addict with multiple felony warrants.  After fleeing from the law for another year and maintaining a powerful addiction, I began suffering from major panic attacks.  The panic attacks eventually led me to prayer.  The prayer led me to Love. Love led me to forgiveness.  Forgiveness set me free.  Once I was free I remembered how much I loved fitness.  My enthusiasm became contagious and I found myself teaching, caring, and giving back.  For the first time I felt purpose.  I never really had a choice in the matter, I suppose it was more like fate.

Since then I’ve performed 14,000 personal training sessions, published over 50 articles for wannabebig.com, consulted with STACK Magazine’s Gatorade Performance Training Center where I designed multiple strength programs for 4 different sports, achieved 3 publications in Men’s Fitness Magazine, one being a feature workout of the month, and successfully opened my own gym.

10 years later I still need prayer, love, forgiveness, and fitness.  Go figure.

4)  What is a typical training schedule like in the course of one week to one month? Specifically, what are some of the different sorts of activities and workouts that you engage your clients in? Is it pre-determined, or do you mix things up from day to day?

For the most part, every one starts the same and finishes similar.  Each person is given an assessment (we utilize Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen when assessing all of our clients), from there we determine what steps need to be taken to build a proper resistance plan to re-educate the individuals nervous system on basic movement mechanics.  Once the corrective strategies have successfully progressed the trainees abilities to the next level, we appropriately increase their work load and work more aggressively towards specific goal orientated modalities.

Each client performs basic and advanced myofascial release techniques, focusing on regions causing movement restrictions and/or pain, then executes a sequence of corrective exercises in response to the outcome of their movement screen.  They then move onto more compound resistance movements that depend upon the individuals needs, goals, and other circumstances.

Each client will learn and participate in vertical core training techniques in order to more properly stabilize the spine, scapula and pelvic floor.

From there, it all depends on the person.  Some people will spend most of their workouts repeating those things with some basic resistance movements, while others may move towards much more aggressive types of activity.  We teach power-lifting, kettlebell training, Olympic lifting, suspension training, plyometrics, etc., so there’s a long list of possibilities for each trainee if they’re capable.

On my programs no matter what you do, you will always strive to increase function and diminish dysfunction.  I refuse to knowingly allow any trainee to sacrifice long term health in order to fulfill a short term goal, no matter what modality we have a trainee utilizing.

Within the parameters of my programs ‘mixing it up’ only applies to cardio workouts and when someone is feeling burnt out.  I rarely or almost never ‘mix it up’ when it comes to executing a resistance program, but I have to admit, sometimes people just need a beach day.

Related: Does This “No Diet” Stuff You Hear On The Radio Really Work?

5)   Do you have an inspiring client success story you’d like to share?

At this point there are so many I’m not sure I could pick just one.  I’ve had kids go from one season of riding the bench with a coach thinking there’s no hope, to the next season averaging 15 points per game.  I’ve had women lose over 100lbs in less than one year.  50 year old men completely reshape their bodies and get their lives back. I’ve had over 20 kids go on to play collegiate athletics, one currently having signed with Ohio State Buckeyes and is still just a sophomore in HS. I’ve had people with terrible pains come in and find relief in just a few short weeks.

With all the successful clients I’ve still had plenty of people fail.  Personal training is not a cure all and often not the road map people actually need.  Sometimes they’re just not ready for it, and sometimes they just have unreal expectations.  But in the end each person that tries and continues to hope for change will eventually find it.

Every person that rejects to see failure as an identity and chooses to see it as a step in the right direction inspires me to continue my focus on offering better fitness services to the public.  You don’t fail if you don’t try and you haven’t tried until you’ve failed, at least not in my experience.

6)   We hear that you are now opening up your new training facility in town. Tell us more.

Three years ago I created a vision of a warehouse gym that would offer High-quality, Low-cost personal training in a group setting, while offering programs for young athletes that would be perfectly on point with their current position of development, also at a low-cost so that all students could have the opportunity at reaching their true potential.

Consumers are often confused about what they need when seeking guidance from a personal trainer and they usually end up paying way to much for what they get.

Young athletes are often misled and very poorly educated in the HS weight room, and it’s rare that their families have the finances to pay for personal training.

People that can’t afford personal training or who don’t think they need it end up falling somewhere in the cracks choosing to join a yoga class or high intensity bootcamp, while young athletes jump on the Crossfit bandwagon in hopes to improve at their HS sport.  Some people even take one step further and make their own attempt at following a program in a magazine or WOD on a Crossfit website, written with the ridiculous assumption that the person performing it will have zero dysfunction.   People then apply these programs to themselves with no experience on how to even execute one of the movements in the program ‘properly’, which is very important.

On the surface it sounds great, everyone is exercising!  The downside is that there’s rarely (mostly never) attention to the finer details of what the individual needs in order to truly correct the weaknesses that are holding them back, usually way back.  I know most people think they know their bodies, but in my experience the majority is slightly lacking in physical self-awarenes.  And that’s not an insult, it just is what it is.  I like to think I know my car, because it’s mine.  I’ll change the oil, the tires, wash it and care for it, but when it’s not functioning? Yeah, I take to a pro because my experience with properly diagnosing the problems and then fixing them is well, sub-par.

Long story short, what I set out to do was fix this problem.  I created a team of 5 people that I’ve taught and am continuously teaching to efficiently and perfectly know each exercise and modality written within my programs, to my expectations, and from there we have a team that’s ready to serve the community offering solid and time tested corrective, resistance and cardiovascular strategies.

People can now come to me and have a functional movement screen performed as a part of their assessment, receive a program written by me for them in accordance with their bodies needs and individual goals.  They then have a coach who guides them through their very own work out, being taught how move again properly and efficiently, without needing to stick to a strict schedule, 5 days a week for as low as $129/ month.  Normally what costs $50 per hour can be $6 a workout, as it should be.  We call this MUSTfit.

Through MUSTfit, you can now have low-cost training for whatever your desired outcome.  You can train for mountain biking, marathons, Crossfit, Pain reduction, Weight-loss, Football, Bodybuilding, whatever.  We screen you and create a progressive program that will get you where you want to go.

We also will be relaunching our Road to Strength program which is a Youth Fundamental Athletic Development Program I created a few years ago that get’s kids out of the desk and restores and concretes proper movement mechanics needed in order for them to begin more aggressive strength and conditioning.  I love this program and I’m incredibly excited to launch it again.  In the meantime we take young athletes and move them through our MUSTFIT program which works very well for them.

In conjunction with MUSTfit and the RTS Program, we offer One on One Personal Training for individuals who still need more attention than you may get within our MUSTfit program.  Some clients need not only the assessment, program, and coaching, but they also have a great need for someone to be consistently watching their every move at first, in order to gain optimal mind to muscle activation and coordination.  They can then either graduate to the MUSTfit program or just continue with their one on one personal training.

We also sell basic memberships to the public for individuals who would like to simply use our training center.  These members must apply for acceptance and attend on orientation on how to properly use our equipment and space.  These are limited and it will be capped at 300 members, while the price of $30 will increase to $40 after the first 150 people.  These members will get special discounts on products, clinics, and seminars that we intend to offer quarterly.

I really just wanted to created a fitness center that everyone could call home.  Fitness should be a place where we can all come together as a community to work towards bettering ourselves regardless of what kinds of events your training for, how you choose to do it, and/or what your current level of fitness is.  I wanted to create a place where there was something for everyone and I believe I’m accomplishing that well.  We have over 3000sq ft of turf, Olympic platforms, pull up bars of all kinds, free-weights of all kinds, tons of kettlebells, climbing ropes, battling ropes, sledge hammers, tires, treadmills, ellipticals, concept rowers, bands, slosh tubes, prowlers, fat bars, etc etc. We also have a full 4 lane 50 yard turfed region for sprints.  There’s really something for everyone who’s serious about results.

Related: 3 Free Apps I Used to Lose 55 Pounds in 4 Months

7)   Does your fitness program include nutrition as well? Do you set up a specific diet for someone to follow or do you provide them with foods to eat as part of the program?

We do offer nutritional coaching. It’s illegal for trainers to set up specific ‘diets’ for people, you must be a registered dietician to do that, heaven forbid you tell someone to eat a little more protein.  So instead we discuss all the things that all the research has consistently said over time, not just the things that Universities and the FDA think are the golden rules, and make strong suggestions as to what they should consider doing when it comes to the personal food bank.   Yes this consultation costs money, no we don’t prescribe specific diets.  We just print out really attractive menus that just so happen to look a lot like something that would cause the person receiving it much more impressive results.  But by no means are we telling them to do it.

8)   What is the average time that you spend with one client over the course of the program? What steps are taken to ensure they will still lead a healthy lifestyle when the program is over?

That depends on the program they sign up for.  People can spend 4 hours a week for the course of 16 weeks with me if it fits their budget, or they can spend way less money and spend 90 minutes with me being assessed in the beginning, and then up to 7 hours a week with my trainers. There are lots of options.

When they’re finished, our goal is to equip people with the tools they need to continue to prosper physically after they’ve successfully completed the program with us.  We also offer any previous customer 10% off any return purchase, such as nutritional consultations, movement screens, re-assessments, body fat testing, clinics, seminars, supplements (soon), etc. in order to keep them a part of a positive, fitness and healthy-lifestyle orientated community.

9)   Besides losing weight, what have been some reasons people have sought out your help as a trainer?

That’s a long list, but mostly to ‘feel’ better.  I can’t say we offer any type of pain management, but most people that see us realize that after a few weeks, they’ve effectively managed their pain by being a part of our program.  Weird how that works.  I’ve trained and continue to train NFL players, cyclists, tri-atheletes, bodybuilders, Crossfitters, weekend warriors, smoke jumpers, high-altitude mountaineers, little old ladies (my favorite), post-prego’s, prego’s, busted up blue-collar workers, hunters, and well, gatherers.  It’s been fun and continues to be fun.  I don’t care who you are, I’ll make you better if you simply trust me and make solid efforts.

I recently became the Strength Coach for the Missoula Maulers which has given me a great opportunity to help keep high intensity athletes functioning at their best throughout their seasons.

Weight-loss isn’t even the majority of the reason people come to see me these days, but it is still certainly a big part of my training.

10)   What do you think is the biggest mistake most people make when setting up a workout routine? Do you feel certain tenets of living a healthy life are understated?

Well outside of almost everything, if I had to pick one it would be not doing soft tissue work (think knots in muscles).  Even if everything they write in their self-prescribed program is wrong, consistently working on their soft-tissue problems would prevent a lot of the pain and/or movement pattern flaws developed by their program from creeping in so aggressively when they do.   People either need to get familiar with utilizing a Foam Roller, Theracane and/or baseball in order to keep fascial and muscular adhesion’s at bay, or they need to invest in deep tissue massage therapist monthly if they’re going to be working out hard.  They should actually do that even if they’re not going to be working out hard.  I would suggest to just invest in a professionally designed program from the start to prevent these issues as much as possible, but that’s just me.  For the people that have a little more education and can write themselves a decent program; the number one thing I see is a lack of attention to their weaknesses and almost always thinking their form and execution is better than it is with the loads (amount of weight) they are using.  Pride’s a real killer.

People should also drink more water and walk more.  That would probably solve lots of problems.

Bonus question: Favorite cheat meal

Bridge Pizza with a Coldsmoke.

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