I work with them every day; so I know how awesome Precision Nutrition’s coaches really are.
Today you get to meet one of them, Brian St. Pierre. This way you can find out too.
Brian St. Pierre wears a T-shirt labeled “Scary Coach.”
I know he’s used to training high performance athletes, so I’m not sure what to expect from the workout he’s designed for the PN Team.
Maybe he’ll bark orders and push me until I puke. Maybe he’ll sneer at my ineptitude – after all, until a couple of years ago, I never lifted anything heavier than a tin of tomatoes. Or maybe he’ll just ignore me, like all the lousy gym teachers I’ve ever known.
But no. Instead, he guides the team through a dynamic warm-up. Then, as we start the workout proper, he scans the room, checking to see who could use the most help, and quickly going to that person’s aid.
Now he’s showing Lindsay from Customer Service how to adapt for a recent injury. Now he’s conferring with Paul or Chuck – our big, heavy-lifting Scrawny to Brawny coaches. Now he’s sharing a laugh with JB. Now he’s suggesting a spine-protecting alternative to PN Coach Cynthia. And now he’s leaning next to me, patiently demonstrating the sequence of movements he wants me to make in the stability ball rollout.
“Move from the hips, like this,” he says. When I don’t get it right the first time, he explains another way, and waits until I show him I understand.
“Sometimes it takes a few tries for the body to catch on,” he reassures me. “You’re asking it to do something new, and that’s never easy at the start.”
Brian’s voice is calm, and even though I know this stuff is pretty basic, he actually seems interested in my experience. He doesn’t condescend. He genuinely wants me to learn. Suddenly I feel muscles working where I’m supposed to feel them working, and for the first time ever, this exercise makes sense.
At the end of the workout, I feel more confident and energized. The next day, I’m just a little bit sore. Enough to make me want to keep moving. Enough to make me eager to exercise again.
If that’s how scary coaches work, I want to be scared some more.
If ever there were an advertisement for the wisdom of following your bliss, Brian St. Pierre is it.
His interest in fitness and health dates back to high school, when his parents began making it a priority. His formerly fit dad had gained some weight, become fed up with himself, and decided to lose the extra pounds. “But instead of just talking about it, the way a lot of people do,” Brian says, “he actually did something.”
In total, his father shed 25 pounds, and in the last 15 years, he’s maintained that weight loss – and the active lifestyle that preserves it.
“He’s been a terrific example to me,” Brian says. “He made me very aware of the power of daily action.
“It’s so important just to do it instead of spending all your time wondering and worrying.”
Yet despite his longtime interest in health and fitness, when it came time for college, it never occurred to Brian to consider a career in the field. As far as he knew, personal trainers couldn’t make any money – certainly not enough to help support the family he hoped to have someday.
And although he was fascinated by the relationship between food and health, he just couldn’t see himself administering hospital diets, which was the only role he knew of for nutrition professionals. So instead, he chose to go into engineering.
“Bad move,” he admits, with a wry shake of his head.
It was during his college years that Brian became an avid visitor to the John Berardi.com website, reading JB’s blog “obsessively”. JB’s “Massive Eating” became Brian’s bible, just as it’s been for many other young guys looking to get bigger and stronger. And when the PN system launched, Brian was an early and enthusiastic supporter.
“I would go so far as to say I would not be in this field today if I had not come across JB’s website,” he says. The more Brian learned about nutrition and exercise, the more he wanted to learn. He was fast on his way to becoming an amateur expert.
His skills and knowledge didn’t go unnoticed. As an assistant captain of his Junior B hockey team, he helped lead them to a berth in Junior Nationals. And in his junior year, he joined the U. Maine Rugby Team, soon becoming their strength and conditioning coach and team nutritionist. Eventually, as President and Captain, he helped transform them into a Division II national powerhouse.
The only problem? Brian’s fascination with health and fitness was getting in the way of his engineering studies.
A top-notch high school student, he’d been used to earning excellent grades. Suddenly, he was doing badly in most of his courses. It ate at his confidence, and made him feel increasingly ashamed. And eventually, it caught up with him.
“It was bad,” he says. “Really bad.”
Bad enough that he was asked to withdraw from engineering school.
“That was my rock bottom,” he says. “It felt like such a waste. I couldn’t understand myself. I hated to think about the expense to my parents and myself. And I wondered what on earth I was going to do with my life.”
Never a quitter, after a short break, he resolved to return and finish his program. “This time I’ll nail it,” he told himself. “All I need to do is apply myself some more.” So he grit his teeth and did his best.
But it didn’t take long for him to recognize that it wasn’t going to work. “It still sucked.” He was smart and he was determined, but all the intelligence and all the will in the world couldn’t help him manufacture interest in a subject that bored him.
At last, the solution hit him. Why not follow his bliss and see where it might lead?
Fitness and nutrition were his passion; why not build his life around them? At least he could give it a try. After all, what did he have to lose?
From that point on, Brian’s never looked back.
“As soon as I made the switch to nutrition, I rocked it,” he says with a laugh. “I rocked it because I liked it.”
Now a Certified Sports Nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutritionists as well as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association – not to mention, PN Certified — he’s just wrapping up a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. And he brings all that wealth of knowledge to his work as a PN coach.
Book learning is important, but for a high-level fitness pro, it’s never enough.
Experience in the field is key. So Brian set out to learn from the best.
By a lucky chance, he contacted Eric Cressey just as Eric was launching Cressey Performance, his now-renowned facility for training high-level athletes. Eric invited him out for a visit, and right away put him to work building the power racks. By the end of the day, Brian had trained with Eric and the guys, managing to keep up with the world-record holding power lifter. Eric was impressed.
Soon Brian had joined Cressey Performance as its very first intern. Eventually he became the first employee, working closely with Eric and Tony Gentilcore and other members of the team. Not only was he gaining valuable experience, he was learning from the top people in the field. It was an exciting, heady time for Brian, and he’s enormously grateful for the opportunity.
Eric was a fabulous mentor. By example and precept he continually encouraged Brian to learn and grow.
“In essence, he told me to expand my repertoire. Though he probably wouldn’t have used exactly those words,” Brian laughs. That led Brian to writing blog posts, to consulting, to establishing his own website, and to more and more publishing.
As a result, he’s become a popular author on T-Nation, Prograde, The Fitcast, and other sites – including, most recently, Precision Nutrition, where he contributes a regular research review. (His recent research review on coffee has already received the most hits ever on the site.)
With a new and growing interest in the role of toxins in our food, Brian aims to educate us about how we can minimize them in our diets. But he’s not one to overcomplicate things.
His main focus is on leading a healthy life – physically, mentally, socially, and he’d like to help people make that as simple for themselves as possible.
It all goes back to the example of his parents. He wants his clients to be able to follow through, to do instead of just wonder and worry.
“Eat real food,” he advises. “That’s it. If you focus on that one piece of advice, that probably covers 80% of your nutritional needs. Eat real food.”
As a coach at Cressey Performance, Brian’s had the unusual privilege of working with and alongside some amazing clients. Not just the famous ones, like bobsled Olympian Bree Schaaf, USA National rugby player Jake Sprague, or come-from-behind baseball star, Tim Collins.
But also regular high school kids, like the boy who showed up at the gym at 6’4” and 135 pounds – and left a few years later at 6’6” and 220 pounds, ready to tackle just about anything, or the woman who arrived simply hoping to fit into her jeans again, but over time, learned to love the weight room.
“As coaches, we don’t just help people change their bodies. We transform lives.”
“It’s so satisfying to know that you’ve helped somebody come that much closer to reaching their dream.”
Now married to his high school sweetheart, working in a profession he loves, and the proud father of a baby daughter, Brian has achieved a few of his own dreams.
But after enlightenment, there’s still the laundry. “Actually, there’s a bit more of that than there used to be,” he jokes. There’s always more laundry and less sleep when there’s a baby in the house.
Not only that, but as the work-from-home spouse and the family’s resident nutrition expert, Brian also does most of the cooking.
Juggling work, household responsibilities, parenting, and exercise – Brian knows the PN Coaching balancing act from the inside. “Becoming a parent has made me more empathetic,” he says.
“I get that it’s not always easy. But it’s always possible to do one small thing and it’s always possible to improve.”
Back at the PN team workout, Erin Weiss-Trainor and Krista Scott-Dixon are hamming it up with Brian, pointing at the “Scary Coach” logo on his shirt – and he breaks into a sweet and very unscary – but very “Brian” – smile.
Patient. Kind. Athletic. Exceptionally knowledgeable. A superb communicator. Able to meet each client where he is and help him improve from there. Brian St. Pierre is a scary coach.