I’ve had a long winding road of a life up to this point, filled with plenty of highs and lows. My personal story of transformation is relevant to how and why I became a Personal Trainer. I’ll try to keep it brief.
Once upon a time, many moons ago, I was a happy kid whose life revolved around sports. Born to a (Dutch-Indonesian) mother who grew up in Brazil, and an Argentinian father, my athletic life started with soccer at the tender age of 4. At 8 years old, I gave up soccer and got into baseball (tee-ball to be specific).
This turned out to be the sport I was born to play, and I quickly grew into a skilled baseball player. Fast forward to 12 years old, I became a key player for the all-star team in the Toronto High Park Little League. We battled our way through the Regional, Provincial, and eventually National championship tournaments, until we were crowned as Team Canada, and sent to represent our country in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
To this day, attending the Little League World Series is my favourite memory of my childhood. Partly because my life took a dark turn the very next year.
Although my ethnic background sounds exotic to some, it was actually a major source of my severe depression starting at age 13. I’ll explain how. It started when I got injured during a baseball game. I had dislocated my shoulder so badly, that I ended up never being able to play again. That’s when the downward spiral into depression began. All of a sudden I didn’t know who I was. All these years my identity was tightly wound into being a baseball player and athlete, so once that was taken away, I had nothing to fall back on.
You see, I didn’t grow up with any particular culture. I felt no connection to my Latin American, Asian, or European ancestry. I didn’t even grow up with both of my parents. They had divorced shortly after I was born, and my dad was very loosely in the picture, at best. My mom, loving as she was, was also barely in the picture. Working as a realtor, she was out of the house for the majority of the day, every day. It was my grandma who spent the most time with me.
So, take a very lost and confused boy, with a lost sense of self or identity, mix it with a very absent parental unit, a low sense of security at home, no loving guidance or mentorship of any kind, and top it off with growing up in a depressed, poverty stricken neighbourhood, You now have the perfect combination for a seething mixture of anger, resentment, and other general emotional stuntedness. I quickly fell prey to street life and gangs, and ended up leaving my equally turbulent house at 16 years old.
Being involved in the streets led to nothing but drama and violence. Over the next 5 years I would be involved in dozens of fights, get arrested several times, and get kicked out of several schools to the point I just dropped out. Eventually the inevitable happened and I ended up in jail,
Going to jail was a huge wake up call for me. It snapped me out of my lost-ness and helped me realize who I really was. A happy kid who got mixed into a bad crowd through a series of unfortunate events. I ended up going back to high school (my 9th at this point) to finish my diploma. It was during one of the final credits that I happened to complete a working co-op term at my local gym, joining as part of the cleaning staff.
It was here, fresh out of years of being involved in the harsh ways of the streets, working as a janitor, in my 9th high school, that I discovered what Personal Training was.
I found a new direction for my life. I found out there are college programs specifically for fitness. I learned what I needed to get into the Fitness & Lifestyle Management program (now called Fitness and Health Promotion) at George Brown College, and I did the credits for it. I started working as a trainer in the meantime.
I ended up dropping out of college by the second year for two reasons: I wanted to focus on work, and a lot of what they were teaching was irrelevant or outdated to the path I was on. I quickly rose up the ladder as a Personal Trainer and became one of the top trainers in the company I worked for at just 23 years old. At 24 they put me in charge of a team of struggling trainers to help them improve their performance (surprisingly, all of them had degrees in Kinesiology or Exercise Science). I kept educating myself in my own way, reading about the subjects I wanted to learn about, and taking skill-specific certification courses and workshops.
Fast forward a few years and a few gyms later, I started my own Personal Training business. Along the way I got involved in the personal development field, insatiably consuming every book and workshop on the subject I could get involved in. I started the long road to healing the trauma I had been through, and finally came to terms with my past. I learned how to deal with emotions in a healthy “non-violent” manner, have challenging conversations, develop and maintain healthy friendships and relationships, and develop a sense of compassion and forgiveness for certain people in my past.
My business started gaining traction and I got noticed for my efforts in the media. In 2017 I was voted one of Toronto’s Best Personal Trainers by the readers of BlogTO, and got invited to various interviews and events as a result.
Today I’m in my 11th year as a Personal Trainer, and 4th as a business owner. It’s been quite a journey, tumultuous at times, but I don’t regret any of it. It’s through the serious challenges of my life that I built resiliency, determination, and courage, among other traits, that played a big part in my becoming an entrepreneur.
I’m still learning new things every day, and the challenges of life are not done either. My dad, who I became close with in the last few years, was diagnosed with brain cancer in early 2018. My grandma, who raised me, died that same year in December, after being in and out of the hospital for months. By the time she passed, she was skin and bones. It was a really difficult time.
Going through these tragedies has really put what’s important into perspective. It also taught me that there is a positive side to everything, if you decide to look for it.
Thank you for reading a glimpse of my personal story. I hope this helped you understand a little bit better why I’m so passionate about helping people develop themselves not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
I’ve done it, and I know that anyone who wants to can also do it. As soon as you set your mind to change, and start taking action towards your destination, positive things will happen. It may feel like walking through mud at the beginning, but eventually, things will smooth out and you will be a new person.
Wherever in the world you are reading this from, I wish you love, happiness, and success, whatever it means to you. Please, take a moment to appreciate something about yourself.
We’ve come a long way.
Dedicated to my loving grandma, Jenny Teresje Beer. 1927-2018.
Certifications & Credentials
Here is a list of certifications, courses, trainings, and workshops which I've completed that have served to enhance my fitness expertise and influence my teaching style:
Clinical Massage Therapy | Fiona Rattray
Fascial Release for Structural Balance | James Earls
Therapeutic Exercise Foundations and Techniques | Carolyn Kisner
Hypertrophy Fundamentals | DTS Fitness Education
Tantra Yoga Workshop | Ipsalu Tantra Kriya Yoga
Animal Flow Instructor | Animal Flow
Lean Body Coach | DTS Fitness Education
Myofascial Thai Massage | Howard Evans
Fascia, Movement, & Assessments | Canadian Fitness Professionals
Fascial Stretch Therapy Workshop | DTS Fitness Education
Thai Massage Workshop | Toronto School of Thai Massage
Joint Mobility and Movement Specialist - Lower Body | Agatsu
Joint Mobility and Movement Specialist - Upper Body | Agatsu
Primal Movement Chain Workshop | Stop Chasing Pain w/ Dr. Perry Nicholston
Fitness Instructor Specialist | Canadian Fitness Professionals
Mobility Trainer | Mobility WOD w/ Dr. Danny Matta
Healthy Eating & Weight Loss Coach | Canadian Fitness Professionals
Nutrition Coach | Precision Nutrition
Fitness Trainer | International Sports Sciences Association
Specialist in Sports Nutrition | International Sports Sciences Association
Personal Trainer | Canadian Professional Trainers Network
Bootcamp Instructor | Canadian Fitness Professionals
Personal Trainer Specialist | Canadian Fitness Professionals
Fitness and Lifestyle Management | George Brown College
MEDIA & SPEAKING
This section is a running list of times I've been featured in, or been a guest on, articles, podcasts, and shows of various media outlets.
I was interviewed on the Master Your Mindset podcast. The conversation mainly focused on how I have been managing my emotions with the inner turmoil going on throughout the year. Jeremy Fink, a close friend of mine, wanted to have me as a guest to speak about mental health during times of loss and tragedy. With my dad getting brain cancer, my grandmother dying, my girlfriend leaving me, mom losing her house, and more, all in the same year, I had a lot to say.
Listen to the episode here: MYM Podcast
For the second year in a row, the organizers of an adult digital-detox summer camp commissioned me to lead my FITSRETCH workshop for their attendees.
I took 40+ guests through a series of self applied massage and stretch techniques, and taught them a simple massage and stretch routine to give to a partner.
I was contacted by an editor for Air Canada's online frequent flyer community, The Altitude Report, to create an article with my top tips to stay active while travelling. With a large membership base (she told me it's in the millions), I felt very grateful they chose to reach out to me.
The full article is HERE on the Air Canada Altitude Report website.
I was featured in Toronto's popular online publication Blog TO, after being voted by it's readers as one of Toronto's Best Personal Trainers. With a readership of close to 500,000 people, this was a big honour for me.
Full Article HERE on Blog TO
Featured on the Podcast/ Youtube interview show "Infinite Mastery," hosted by Self Esteem Coach and friend of mine, Richard Kuo.
[From the website] In this episode, you will learn:
How Julian went from all-star athlete to jail and then to a top-performing transformational fitness coach
Why it’s important to put the past behind us
Why fitness is so much more than just good looks
How to love yourself
How to build up your mental sharpness
The importance of “sitting time” aka meditation
Featured speaker for the Share Love Celebrate event at the Peter Gilgan Centre.
Spoke about "The Secret Catalyst of Transformation." Building a strong relationship to yourself, through the vehicle of your fitness journey, will help you to show up in the world much more powerfully and purposefully. By working on identifying and transforming limiting beliefs, negative self talk, and other emotional blocks, while working towards your ideal physique, you are elevating your entire being in every area of your life.
"If you transform the way you show up for yourself, you transform the way you show up for the world."
Guest featured on a TV show, The Dynamo Entrepreneur, where I spoke about some of the biggest lessons I've learned as an entrepreneur, fitness coach, and as an evolving person. Featured on the Rogers Cable TV Network.
Interview from 01:25 to 11:27 of the video below
Shared my personal story to a full of around 40 people on how I went from an all star athlete, to a depressed, self-destructive teen, to a fitness entrepreneur. My first public talk ever!
Hosted by 9-to-5 Narrative.
Featured article in The Asian Entrepreneur where I spoke about my battles with depression, my excitement for the fitness industry, the best advice I've ever received, and more.
The organizers of Camp Reset, a digital-detox based adult summer camp, contacted me to lead a fitness workshop for their attendees.
I lead a group of over 30 guests through a self-applied massage and stretch routine. Then I paired everybody up and taught them how to give a simple massage and stretch session for a partner.