What’s up, guys?! My name is Sophia Gradishar. I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Group Fitness Instructor through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the Athletics and Fitness Association of America. My specialties and other various CEUs through these organizations include but are not limited to Yoga, Indoor Cycling, Behavior Change, Performance Enhancement, Youth Exercise, Women’s Fitness, Group Personal Training, and Corrective Exercise. I earned these certifications over the course of the last 2 years.
I graduated from Louisiana State University as a disability student due to multiple nuclear sclerosis in December of 2020 as a Pre-Law student with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communication Studies with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. While at LSU, I taught a donation-based yoga class called “Yoga on the Lakes”, which I promoted via flyers at local coffee shops around the Baton Rouge area. We met at the LSU lakes at sunset once or twice per week. Students from the university as well as members of the community attended; and eventually I decided to create a social media account to promote the class. The class grew immensely in a short amount of time.
In March of 2018, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter Norah Veda, which means “honor”, “light” and “understanding”. I debated discontinuing the class to focus on school; but I decided to continue teaching yoga throughout my pregnancy for mental and physical health purposes while completing my degree, as well as working two other jobs during the week. I worked full-time as a research intern for the Louisiana House of Representatives at the Poynter Legislative Research Library and part-time as a sales associate at the Loft at the Mall of Louisiana. It was a challenge to make it to the gym in addition to working and studying; but I made a consistent effort to exercise daily. I particularly enjoyed the indoor swimming pool at the Louisiana State University Recreational Center and walking or biking on the Baton Rouge levy.
I had my daughter via cesarean section on December 19, 2018; and I graduated from LSU a year later on December 20, 2019 as a Dean’s List student with an overall GPA between 3.4 and 3.5. During that time frame, I diligently worked to rehabilitate my mind and body post-surgery. Over the course of my pregnancy, I gained about 75 lbs. I was between 205-210 lb at the end of my pregnancy. I was determined to lose the weight I had gained and motivated to get back on the bike and rehabilitate my core strength.
While I didn’t know it at the time, I was following the Optimum Personal Training model. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “The OPT Model is a 5-phased system designed to guide NASM personal trainers and their clients to effective programming.” The five phases include stabilization endurance, strength endurance, muscular development/hypertrophy, maximal strength, and power. The primary focus of the beginning stages of the OPT model is to improve joint and postural control, coordination, and increase proprioceptive demand along the way. Proprioception refers to mind-body awareness. To improve mind-body awareness, it’s important for athletes to focus on improving, stabilizing and developing the core, breath work and balance.
For me, after my cesarean section, I struggled with my core strength and weight loss; so I had to start with the basics. All I could handle at first was walking. Gradually, I was able to do light weight training and mobility work. I learned to give myself grace. I knew that results take time; and patience is key. In order to maintain ferocity, I watched motivational videos, researched exercises and nutrition, listened to music for dissociation during a workout, and joined multiple fitness communities to meet like-minded individuals that could motivate me to be my best self. I taught baby and me yoga classes with my daughter; and I had the opportunity to leave my daughter at my gym’s day care for 2 free hours while I exercised. At 9 months postpartum, I biked 50 miles in 4 hours on the St. Tammany Parish trace and subsequently squatted 155 lbs the first time I approached the squat rack in January of 2020. Needless to stay, the hard work paid off. From Pilates to Yoga to hypertrophy strength training with free weights and machines to cardio, I managed to lose the baby weight and build muscle over time.
Through my love of fitness, I earned my certifications via NASM and AFAA beginning in October 2020. Because of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to put law school on hold and focus on being a mother and earning my fitness certifications. Nowadays, fitness influencers are able to build a business from the comfort of his/her own home because of social media. I began posting exercises online; and my friends often sent me encouraging messages regarding my balance of motherhood, fitness and education. Motivating others motivates me!
Here I am, on June 22, 2022, and I have accomplished many athletic achievements due to my perseverance in my sports, passion for learning from and helping others, and determination to grow as a person mentally and physically. I maintained ferocity. My love for trying new things allowed me to climb the NASM OPT model. Along the way, I became a bodybuilder, powerlifter and now, strongwoman. My favorite accomplishment was on March 27, 2022, when I squatted 300 lbs for 5 reps; and my favorite newfound sport is strongman. I can proudly, humbly and excitedly say that for my first attempt at the yoke, I quickly moved 300 lbs on my back across the gym turf in 7 seconds. I’m not sure how far I’ll have to walk for a competition, but I’m excited to find out!
My journey in fitness is just beginning. I have accomplished many things in a short amount of time; and I am determined to continue to learn everything I can. As an athlete and trainer, it’s important to be humble. I really like the quote by the Greek philosopher Socrates, “I know that I know nothing.” Some people say that if you’re the strongest man in the room, you’re in the wrong room; but what defines strength? On Tuesday I may be able to squat 300 lb; but on Wednesday, maybe I can’t. On Thursday, my mind is clear and sharp; but on Friday, I feel emotionally drained. That’s life. Being an athlete has nothing to do with being the best and everything to do with believing in yourself, alongside love and understanding. Love and understand your partner, opponent or teammate. Love and understand the pain from emotional trauma or a difficult exercise. Usain Bolt once said, “I know what I CAN do, so I never doubt myself.” I learned this as I climbed the NASM OPT model. As I improved my mind-body awareness, I developed confidence in myself and understanding of the lengthy process of growing into the best version of myself.
Through my journey as an athlete, mother and student, my faith has also grown. Philippians 4:11-13 states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” God encourages us all to trust in Him. When we are able to humble ourselves before the Lord, we can be free from the worldly things that enslave us, like addiction, living in unforgiveness, pride, and anger. Jesus Christ encourages us to use our bodies and minds to glorify Him. 1 Corinthians 9:26 states, “So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” God wants us to glorify him by being our best selves. I truly believe this and will honor Him as a personal trainer and athlete. I’m excited for the journey of life; and I’m excited to meet all of You, my clients/friends. I have learned so much from each and every person whose paths I have crossed with in life. It’s an honor to listen to and talk with my friends. When we share life’s trials and tribulations with one another and encourage each other to be our best versions of ourselves, we heal; and through healing, we can conquer all things. Let’s be disciplined together. Let’s train! Release your inner titan! I’ll see YOU at the Atlas Strength Shop.
If you are within driving distance of Baton Rouge and need a place to train for your next strongman competition, powerlifting meet or weightlifting meet, check out the Atlas Strength Shop for all of your training needs. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for your next visit. You can also check out our apparel line and programming options on our website. Be sure to like our Facebook page, here, and follow us on Instagram, here. Do you need a high quality energy supplement that won’t leave you with that crashing feeling? Check out veteran owned strikeforceenergy.com and use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 20% off of your order. If you’re like me, and you like to bite down while lifting, you need to protect your teeth. Check out Impact Mouthguards and their custom molded mouth guards. Use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 10% off of your order.