What do Matt Damon, Bradley Cooper, and Emma Stone have in common (aside from being Hollywood stars)? They’ve all prepared for big-time acting gigs with Jason Walsh, L.A.’s hottest celebrity fitness trainer. We caught up with Walsh recently to discuss his West Hollywood fitness studio, Rise Nation, which he calls “The first true 30-minute full body workout.”
Walsh learned the ins and outs of fitness at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he received a B.A. in Exercise & Sports Fitness and later became the school’s strength and conditioning coach, training 450 Olympic hopefuls. But he’s quick to point out that he acquired his work ethic, a principle he bestows on some of the biggest names in film, in his home state of Missouri.
LUXURY RETREATS: Who were some of your early influences?
JASON WALSH: At UNC, I met Greg Gatz, the school’s Director of Strength & Conditioning for Olympic Sports. I learned a hell of a lot from him. Later, I researched and found a man named Luke Richesson, the strength and conditioning coach for the NFL’s Denver Broncos. His philosophy on training really resonated with me. I hounded him for a while before he had me come work for him with professional athletes. Then I met a girl from Los Angeles and that made my mind up for me to come out to L.A. for good in 2006. I started working out here, built my clientele organically, and I’m proud of the amazing road that has led to me opening Rise Nation.”
LR: Why did you start Rise Nation?
WALSH: “Rise Nation is a concept I came up with four years ago because I was getting too many clients referred to me with injuries, especially lower back injuries due to overuse. I tried to correct the issue at hand which was almost always spinal flexion—the act of bending forward. A lot of them were young girls and they thought the newest, trendiest workout was going to get them in shape. But they weren’t strong enough to do the exercises they were doing, so the wheels would fall off.
LR: Rise Nation focuses on small groups. Why?
WALSH: I’ve never been a fan of large class training because it affects the big picture. It’s hard for a coach to train 30 or 40 people correctly, taking into account alignment and proper form; things get a little sloppy. A big trend I see in fitness is the mantra, harder is better—trainers just beat the hell out of their clients. It got me thinking: maybe I could find a solution that is highly beneficial, effective, efficient, and safe, which is the number one thing.
I came up with a 30-minute workout in an amazing environment because I wanted to put together a real experience. I started diving into methodology and how the environment affects the mind during exercise. Our Level 1 class is an intro class where we use music and tempos that are slow so people can understand the moves, how we do them, and what it’s going to feel them.”
LR: How do you make your workouts experiential?
WALSH: “Let’s raise the bar a bit. Let’s stop following the same blueprint as what’s already been done. I think we were one of the first to do a 30-minute workout, to use light to evoke emotion, and to use music.
I went to a Nine Inch Nails concert and I was jumping around having the time of my life while this light show was going on. That distracted me from the fact that I was actually sweating and getting a workout in. That’s when it started making sense to me that we should be creating an experience. I worry it’ll become gimmicky, but I hope it doesn’t.”
LR: How do you incorporate music at Rise Nation?
WALSH: “We have a methodology that has to do with tempo and beats per minute. We teach our instructors how to layer these songs and utilize them to contribute to the moves we do. Music is math; all the beats are intervals. It’s like dancing in a way because it’s all tempo-driven. So to make it unique, each instructor has the freedom to make their own playlist. I love Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine—music that has a lot of energy to it.”
LR: Why are the details so important?
WALSH: “Because they should be important. The client wants quality. I want quality workouts; I don’t want something with the potential to do damage. If the goal is to make millions of dollars, it seems like there’s a disconnect to me. I want to go into with the right motives, and then if it’s truly great the money will take care of itself because it’s fun, popular, and sought after. There are different perspectives, but this is how I went into it.”
Alison Brie hit 11 chins, pulled my 220lb ass on sleds(no turf), and piggybacks. She’s a total boss and exemplifies what hard work and dedication will do in the gym. So proud. Her new show GLOW on Netflix is out this Friday the 23rd!! Watch it! @officialalibrie #strongwomen #glownetflix #training #glow
LR: What’s hot in the L.A. fitness scene?
WALSH: “We’re seeing a huge trend upward in people working out in general. Even when I go back home to Missouri, I see people hiking nature trails and taking fitness classes, where before it was few and far between. There’s always going to be the mindset of taking advantage of any trend that comes up, and coming at it from a business standpoint. People have the business models and come at you with two or three different elements to make it look or sound new, but the market’s flooded so people are trying to come up with something catchy.
I started Rise Nation not knowing if it was going to make money—that’s not why I did it. I spent more money than anything on building my classroom with details like lighting installation and music to create an experience. Our why was helping people. How do we create something that’s beneficial and safe? That’s what got us to where we are now.”