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“Free Yourself Of Judgment”: Sarah Gawron’s Onnit Story

Written by
March 14, 2022
Updated November 30, 2023

One of the most oft-heard expressions in any gym—apart from “How many sets do you have left?” and “It’s all you, bro!”—is “You’re doing it wrong.” When someone’s insecure about their own fitness, it’s easy for them to criticize someone else’s. The truth is, all of us could use a few form pointers now and then, but it’s important to remember that there’s no one right way to move that applies to everybody, and that exploring movement creatively is what exercise is all about.

This week’s Onnit Story, a live interview with someone who’s done something inspiring since discovering our brand, features Sarah Gawron—a New York City trainer. Gawron learned to embrace her dance background to open up a limitless repertoire of movement skills that have her clients not only getting great results but enjoying workouts with a whole new appreciation. See below for Gawron’s interview, conducted by Onnit Chief Fitness Officer John Wolf, as well as an edited transcript of the highlights, time-stamped so you can find those moments in the video.

Stay up to date with Onnit Stories by following Onnit’s Instagram TV (IGTV), where a new one appears every other week. 

Sarah Gawron Show Notes

5:00 – How Sarah Got Onnit

I am a strength coach in New York City, and I’ve always been drawn to a more unconventional type of training. My background is dance, so I’ve always focused on the movement side of things—not breaking the body up into parts to train. I like to train the way we move throughout the day, and explore different ways to move, whether it is running, jumping, crawling, and so on. I also train for longevity, because, like many other people, I want to be moving well into my 70s and beyond.

Years ago, I was teaching at a studio that also did unconventional training—a lot of bodyweight and kettlebells—and one of the trainers there asked me, “Have you ever looked into Onnit?” I was familiar with it, since I had read their articles, but I didn’t want to travel halfway across the country to visit the Onnit Gym. Finally, after a few years, I went out to Austin to take one of Onnit’s certification courses, and the moment I stepped into the facility, I thought, “This is unlike any other experience.”

There was something about the energy within the space, and everyone was very welcoming. Prior to that, I was always the person in the corner of the gym doing these funky kettlebell flows, or flinging around a steel mace, and people were like, “What was that?” Now I was in an environment that spoke a similar language.

Needless to say, I went through the certification course and it truly changed my outlook on how I trained, as well as how I live my life. I love how Onnit’s training isn’t black and white. How it recognizes that every human is built differently and will react differently. I think in the year afterward, I went out to visit Onnit about six times.

12:05 – What Sarah Has Learned About Movement

There were so many times when I would hesitate, or experience doubt, because of how I would approach movement. But it’s OK for movement to just be expressive. You can create many different ways to move—there’s no right or wrong. Onnit’s education system helped me feel comfortable with that. Fast-forwarding to now, it is really refreshing to see how many more people are approaching training in that way. Thinking that it can be creative and it should be expressive.

You can find moments in your training that are true bliss, where you’re being your honest self, and you’re in that flow state. It doesn’t matter what the tool you’re using is. Movement is nourishing. The mental state you get from it is just as important as focusing on the physical aspect of your training. I love finding that balance of not just training your body but your mind. So, for me, Onnit’s education system said, “Yes, Sarah. You can keep doing this.” Going through Onnit’s courses sent the message that I was OK to continue to explore, because that’s how I’ll grow and evolve.

19:40 – How Training Makes You Fit for Life

One of the things you’ll take away from training is how it relates to your work environment and every relationship you have. They’re all connected. Once you realize that, you make different choices. A light bulb goes on and you’re like, “Oh, if I can do this in training, if I can conquer my fear in the gym, then asking for that bonus at work won’t be as scary.” You learn that because you did something really hard in the gym you can do other hard things.

28:00 – Sarah’s Favorite Training Tool

I would say a kettlebell is my tool of choice. It is so versatile, and you can move in many different planes with it. You can do a lot with just one kettlebell. I’ve always trained with the goal of getting the most for my time and energy. So I might deadlift the kettlebell, then bring it up to my chest, squat, and then press overhead. That works the entire body.

I used to do flows like that without even thinking of them as a deadlift, squat, and press. I was just moving because it was fun. That comes from being a dancer. We would court dances and movements, and you would start with one movement and then just add to it. That’s how I used to train¦ and still do.

33:25 – Training as Play

It’s so hard, especially as adults, to trust that exercise can be effective without being so structured. Everyone starts out so worried, like, “Did I execute the move properly? Did I count my reps correctly? Did I do the correct amount of reps?” Yes, it’s important to develop skills and technique. But once you’ve got that down, allow yourself to be completely free of any judgment from yourself. Don’t, worry about what other people might think, and express yourself through your own movement. When you do that, it’s such a beautiful thing to see, because we all move differently.

Once they let their guard down, I see my students enjoy exercise so much more. I see it in their smile. One of my favorite things is to have my students do a free flow, where they just make up their own movements on the spot. I’m like,
“Yes, it might be awkward because you’re used to me telling you what to do, or having another trainer or coach tell you, but fight through it for the first 10 seconds and then you’ll see that your body’s going to move how it wants to move.”

At the end of the day, human beings were meant to move. We get stuck in a regimented structure, and we don’t allow ourselves to just move how we want to naturally. But when we do, it’s a beautiful thing, because how I move is completely different from how you move, and if we can be honest and express ourselves, it’s just a beautiful thing to experience.

37:15 – Sarah’s Favorite Supplements and Foods

I love the Onnit Plant-Based Protein. I am plant-based, and it’s really hard to find a protein powder that has a smooth texture and good taste and is also a clean product. That’s what draws me to Onnit products the most: the quality. Knowing that they’re clean and made from the highest-quality ingredients.

44:05 – If You’re New to Training, What Equipment Should You Buy First?

I’d say get kettlebells. You can do a lot with a light, medium, and heavy kettlebell. That would be an excellent investment. That will allow you to develop your basic movement skills, like your squat, your hinge, push, and pull. Then, if you want to pick up a barbell or another tool, those same skills will translate.

49:25 – Which Onnit Certification Should I Start With?

Foundations is the first one that you should go through, as it sets you up to do all of the other certs. You’ll learn the principles of the Onnit education system. You can take the course virtually now.

55:45 – How to Connect with Sarah 

If you are ever in New York City, in Manhattan, that is where I am. I train a lot of people online, virtually, but also in person, out of Solace New York. You can connect with me on Instagram, @_coach_sarah, or on my website, I love meeting new people. If you are visiting NYC, please reach out and I’d love to flow with you or grab some good, delicious food in the city.

Onnit Academy is the most comprehensive database of information related to Unconventional Training, a unique new form of fitness methodology that focuses on functional strength, conditioning, and agility using the most efficient means and tools possible. The online database includes articles, videos, tutorials, and workouts featuring alternative implements like kettlebells, sandbags, steel maces, steel clubs, battle ropes, and more.
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