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FITT Q&A: EMILY HUTCHINS – TRAINING LEGEND AND SWOOSH AMBASSADOR

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RYAN DEER

JUL 14, 2020

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IMAGE VIA @EM.HUTCHINS | INSTAGRAM

In a recurring series, we’re talking to inspirational people doing amazing things in Chicago’s fitness scene. Today, we’re connecting with the one and only Emily Hutchins — On Your Mark Training owner, performance specialist, and run leader.

Emily’s in elite company as a Nike Master Trainer, but it’s so much more than wearing a logo. We caught up with her about being a Chicago fitness OG, where to find the best taco salad in the city, and reopening a gym in the time of coronavirus.

YOU’VE BEEN A FIXTURE IN CHICAGO’S FITNESS SCENE FOR YEARS. WHERE DOES THIS START?

I had this come-to-Jesus moment in college when I learned you could make a living by getting in shape. But after graduating, I was working in a retirement community in Michigan with physical therapists, and I very quickly realized that wasn’t my scene. I’ve always been an athlete. I wanted to be able to serve others and impact people’s lives the way my coaches had an impact on me. For that, I knew I needed a bigger city, and that’s how I landed in Chicago.

THEN YOU TOOK A BIG RISK.

I was at a big-box gym here for three or four years, then split off to start On Your Mark Training in 2007. It started with personal training, then blossomed into teaching classes. That’s when we realized we had something special with small-group training as a bridge between personal training and group fitness.

This industry is ever-changing, and over the years, I’ve been growing and educating myself more and more so we can always put our clients in a place where they feel like athletes and are treated like athletes. Sure, there’s always this unknown whether or not people are going to come through the doors. But two locations... 13 years... I feel like we’re starting to figure out what we’re doing.

AND WHEN DID NIKE COME CALLING?

In 2013, Nike was launching their Nike Training Club app, and they were growing their community of trainers in order to reach as many people across the world as possible. They started doing something called NTC Tour all over the globe, scouring major territories like New York, LA, and Chicago looking for trainers with established names and who aligned with the Nike image of “athlete”.

A team had started taking our classes without us knowing. It was completely spontaneous. We got a call inviting us to their Central Territory Office on Rush Street in Chicago, and that eventually turned into an exclusive contract in the position I’m in now. I believe there are 20-some of us across the country that have this fancy “Master Trainer” title.

SO WHAT’S BEING A “MASTER TRAINER” ALL ABOUT?

Titles don’t impress me. It’s one thing to have the title, but to me, it’s important because I’m aligned with the most popular brand in sports across the world. And with that, I’m able to become a mentor for other trainers who are looking to be in my shoes one day. I want to lead this life where people can rely on me for quality information when it comes to training.

I’ve been fortunate enough for Nike to come to me for community activation too, like a 10-week program that led up to the Women's World Cup. And they’ve done multiple running events at my space for underprivileged youth in the city.

IS THAT A LOT OF PRESSURE?

The only pressure I probably feel is to stay on top of my game. Just continue to raise the bar in training and creating the right environment for people to be inspired to come back for more.

But there’s no pressure when I’m doing what I love and being a good human.

@em.hutchins | Instagram

ON TOP OF THAT, YOU’RE A NIKE RUN CLUB LEADER. DO YOU THINK COVID IS GOING TO SPARK A NEW RUNNING BOOM?

Running is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world right now anyway, and I think it will keep growing immensely.

I think people will really accept running alone without actually running alone, too. Nike has created Guided Runs in the app, which are like listening to a podcast while you run, only you’re being coached in intervals by athletes and hear their personal stories. I think it’s a great way to feel motivated to run.

WHAT’S A TIP FOR THOSE OF US JUST STARTING OUT?

Don’t go too crazy. New runners have the tendency to go a little overboard. That’s one thing a lot of us trainers have seen during the pandemic. Because running is free and simple, it’s easy to do it too much. But you don’t need to do it every day. There’s a process for running, and I think it’s important for people to continually educate themselves on how they’re doing it.

SO YOU’RE NOT DOING SOMETHING EVERY DAY.

No! I need the recovery time. I’d say I’m anywhere between four and five days a week. I do a little bit of running, a lot of strength training, and quite a bit of cycling. Life is dynamic, so we gotta train dynamically — doing the same thing over and over again just creates chaos.

IS THAT WHAT YOU’VE BEEN TRYING TO COACH VIRTUALLY, TOO?

After the first month of training virtually, people started complaining, saying “oh, my body hurts” — then they just keep working out despite it. We’ve got to take time to recover, and as we aren’t getting out of our houses as much, we’ve got to work on mobility.

At the moment we’re in, you shouldn’t be trying to bench 265. What’s important is that we do things like working on fundamental movement patterns and simple yet high-level exercises that we don’t do well. So when we get back to the gym, we’ve got a rock-solid foundation.

BEING ALL-ONLINE IS A HUGE CHANGE FOR YOU, THOUGH.

We “older trainers” learned how to hustle through face-to-face human interaction. I never thought that I would reach many people beyond Chicago because I'm usually working one-on-one with people in the same room.

But we want to continue to push content out on social media, even when people go back to the gym. I have people all over the states, and a few people around the world, who are really appreciative of some of the stuff that I'm sending out. It's crazy when someone from the UK sends me a direct message saying how great the workouts are.

Zoe Raine

WHAT HAS BEEN RAISING YOUR SPIRITS WHILE YOUR GYMS HAVE BEEN CLOSED?

During a pandemic? Zoom calls and virtual happy hours. Plus, I recently fell in love with Schitt’s Creek, and I’ve been enjoying the hell out of that.

You know, I’ve also been doing a lot more reading lately. I just finished Shoe Dog, from Nike’s Phil Knight. His hustle. His work ethic to create Nike. Incredible.

WHAT ABOUT A GO-TO SELF-CARE?

I'm a big vitamin D fan. I like to go sit in a park and soak up a little bit of sun (safely, of course). Going for walks with a couple of dogs, my hound mix and pittie mix. They’re a big part of my self-care. And they come with me to the gym, so they get a lot of activity.

ON THE TOPIC OF THE GYMS, WE HEARD YOU HAVE A PLAN TO REOPEN.

June 1st. We have our protocol ready. We’ve taken a lot of strict measures to make sure everyone’s safety is the priority, including the highest sanitation standards.

On Your Mark is already at a little bit of an advantage. We’ve always done one-on-one or small groups — classes average eight to 10 people at a time. We also have 55 yards of outdoor turf for classes at the [West Side] warehouse. We’re ready.

AND WHEN THE LOCKDOWN IS LIFTED, HOW ARE YOU SPENDING A SATURDAY IN CHICAGO?

After training, either spending the day hanging out on the balcony, maybe kicking back with little Kenny Chesney and a few Coronas... no pun intended. My home—the balcony in particular—is one of my favorite spots.

But I also like the South Loop side of the Lakefront. Either hopping on a friend’s boat or going to Promontory Point, which is even more south. It’s very quiet and a good spot to think.

Oh, and the outdoor patio space at Antique Taco in Bridgeport. I get the Antique Taco Salad with chicken every time. It’s so good.

//

Work up a serious sweat with Emily on Instagram, with On Your Mark on Zoom, or on the West Side turf this June. Up for a challenge? She gave us a full-body burn we’re still sore from, plus a playlist full of certified bops. Discover that and more from local faves on Fitt Chicago’s Insta.

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