San Diego powerhouse trainer Salina Duggan remembers learning the importance of healthy living from her mother, a health and physical education teacher who grew up on a farm. Since the Massachusetts native also loved moving, she added on a range of sports to round out a super active childhood.
Gymnastics, the first option she loved, was the most demanding and impactful, teaching Duggan not only how to gain strength, power, range of motion and core control, but also how to harness the most important tool—her mind.
That mental acuity has now blended with a friendly, functional, focused approach to fitness, and clients in California and beyond are stacking Duggan’s schedule. Read on to hear more about her approach and how she’s built her brand helping others.
SBS: What led you to open your own company? What was the process like for you?
Salina Duggan: I pursued my masters in health promotion management in 2011, and I’ve been working in the health, wellness and fitness space ever since. I worked in corporate wellness for several years as a program coordinator, health fitness specialist and health educator.
Over the years, my focus slowly transitioned more specifically in the direction of fitness. I started working for a prominent fitness figure who led her own small team in Washington, DC, where I saw firsthand what it was like to be a small business owner in the fitness industry.
When my husband and I first moved to SD, I had the opportunity to manage a mobile gym startup, and I jumped at the opportunity. When the startup didn't pan out, I was devastated and at a loss of what I should do. It was my husband who actually stepped in and told me I should take everything I had learned (my education, experiences, successes, failures, all of it!) and make my vision a reality. I took the leap of faith practically by working part-time as an independent trainer teaching corporate fitness classes for various organizations in SD in order to pay my bills.
I took a leap of faith emotionally when I had to pull from my savings to start my company. Although I truly believed in what I was doing, as a young person with a limited amount of savings, any investment is terrifying and risky!
SBS: What range of services do you offer?
SD: I offer private personal training and small group training. I train essentially wherever is convenient for the client and their busy schedule. I’m located in San Diego, so that allows the option to meet and train outdoors with the beautiful San Diego backdrop. I also train in-home as well.
Next, I offer virtual personal training. I conduct my personal training sessions via Skype with many clients. I have clients in DC, New York, and even Brazil. I will also engage with clients via coaching calls in order to keep them on track. Finally, I offer customized packages that include coaching for fitness, nutrition and overall wellness.
SBS: What's your unique approach to training?
SD: Many of us suffer from poor posture, chronic pain, past injuries and weak muscles, and our bodies need to be properly prepared and prepped before we add load. My style of training is focused on educating clients on proper mobility, motor control, breathing and form so that when they do lift weights, they can lift with maximum efficiency. My training style could be best described as a positive cheerleader! I am all about motivating clients towards success through positive reinforcement and self-empowerment
SBS: What should clients look for in a trainer?
SD: A healthy trainer/client relationship is important. Find a trainer who knows how to help you achieve your goals, not only from a knowledge standpoint, but from a personal one. Can they understand your specific needs and figure out what is needed to help you to succeed? Can they communicate in a way that resonates with you? There are plenty of great trainers out there who can get you results, but just like any relationship, sometimes it's got to be the right fit for both parties involved!
SBS: What advice would you give to new trainers? What do you wish you had known?
SD: Connect, collab and create with others in the field! By this I mean to, one, find a mentor. Shoot...find several! There are so many knowledgeable trainers and wellness professionals out there who have successfully (or not successfully) accomplished something you'd like to accomplish, so reach out and ask them questions! Take the time to learn from these folks. Nine times out of 10, people want to help. We are trainers whose primary job is to help others, after all!
Second, find a trainer/trainers who share similar training philosophies. There really is no reason we shouldn't be connecting with other trainers and wellness professionals in our field. I know many trainers who refuse to work with other trainers because they perceive others as the competition, but the truth is we all offer a different experience, and we all have different strengths. At the end of the day, it's about giving our clients the best experience possible, and what better way to do that than by continuing your knowledge and expertise by connecting with other experts?
SBS: What advice would you give to clients amping up fitness in general?
SD: Know yourself and use whatever drives you to set yourself up for success. If you know you are more likely to get your workout in by signing up for a class, sign up for a class! If you know you need an accountability partner, hire a trainer or call on a friend to keep you accountable! We are all motivated differently, so hone in on what your motivational drivers are.
SBS: What's your own wellness routine? How has it evolved?
SD: About 80% of the time I eat healthy whole foods, stay hydrated, exercise and get in seven to eight hours of sleep a night. About 20% of the time I allow myself to stray away from this. As a small business owner (even though I think it applies to anyone), I have a lot going on and life gets busy! I try my best each day, but I work with the understanding that my best day one day may not look like my best day on another day.
SBS: What's your approach to nutrition?
SD: I find that most of us struggle with nutrition. It can be complicated and confusing because there is so much (mis)information out there. So, I focus on keeping it simple and making choices that agree with me (and my body) that allow me to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I don't diet. I focus on getting in mostly whole foods. I enjoy a good beer or donut from time to time. I limit the consumption of foods that don't agree with me as best as I can. I ‘eat the rainbow’ by diversifying the types of fruits and vegetables I eat on a regular basis.
SBS: What are fitness and nutrition trends you love? Hate?
SD: I love seeing more companies, brands and individuals in the fitness world supporting inclusivity. Healthy looks different on everyone, and we should celebrate the diversity that exists by representing healthy bodies of all shapes, colors, sizes and abilities.
SBS: What are your top bodyweight exercises?
SD: Pull-ups, push-ups, planks, squats and lunges.
Salina’s Cali Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: True Food Kitchen
Splurge Restaurant: Basic Bar & Pizza
Nightlife Spot: Anywhere that plays 90's R&B
Yoga Studio: CorePower Yoga
Fitness Studio: Outdoors!
Fun Activity: Beach
Calming Activity: Reading
Books: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
The best, zaniest part of being Salina: My hair! It's always different, and I love to change it up. I wear it out and natural in a curly afro, I straighten it, I braid it into cornrows, box braids, twists, and most recently, faux locks for the first time, which was fun (they look very similar to dreadlocks).
Salina’s SBS Mantra: Be Happy. If you aren't happy, then what's the point?