OUR STORY: The Long of It

The long of it features the contributions of countless community members, two very important Beccas, a lot of persistence, and following your nose. The long of it is a pretty good story, and worth a read, if you’ve got the time.


Zach earned his B.S. in exercise and sports science from UNC Chapel Hill, which was where he met this story’s first important Becca, Rebecca Gerdon. It’s also where he met Dr. Eric Sobolewski (Dr. Swol). The three shared a quirky sense of humor and memberships to the local CrossFit Gym, CrossFit Local (where Zach also was a coach).

Upon graduation, Zach supposed the natural course of action was to apply to physical therapy school. What else did people do with a passion for exercise and sports science and the desire to help others? While taking post-bac prerequisites, he moved to Asheville and took up another coaching job, this time at a CrossFit gym, CrossFit Asheville, which was connected to an exercise rehabilitation facility, the Stay Active Clinic.

Zach, Dr. Sobolewski, and Becca (back row, center) with other friends from CrossFit Local in 2013

Zach, Dr. Sobolewski, and Becca (back row, center) with other friends from CrossFit Local in 2013


Zach and Becca with one of their first athletes, Emily, in 2016

Zach and Becca with one of their first athletes, Emily, in 2016

Zach coaching Becca at The Athletic Lab in 2016.

Zach coaching Becca at The Athletic Lab in 2016.

There, Zach was introduced to the idea that exercise could be a healing mechanism and this story’s second important Becca, Rebecca Lee. Zach and Becca bonded over their dedication to being excellent coaches, a love of ice cream, and a fascination with the sport of weightlifting. On top of their individual training clients and CrossFit class obligations, the two started a Weightlifting Club at the gym.

As time passed, Zach and Becca not only gained experience helping individuals of all ages recover from and stave off injuries, but they also became increasingly involved in the sport of weightlifting. Becca Lee began competing in local and then national-level meets with Zach as her coach. Becca Gerdon, who had signed on as an athlete at Muscle Driver USA, also hired Zach to coach her. She wanted him to help her with a wrist surgery that was affecting her training.

With Zach’s coaching, Becca was not only able to weight lift with less pain, but she also grew stronger in areas of training that were less weightlifting specific. Thrilled, she referred teammate after teammate to Zach.

These MDUSA athletes had back pain and knee injuries. They had physically demanding schedules and serious athletic goals. Zach loved it. He poured his passion for exercise and sports science and his desire to help others into it. Then, something big happened.


Travis Cooper, one of Zach’s clients and MDUSA team member, hit PRs in both the snatch and the clean and jerk on the international weightlifting stage in Kazakhstan. After a suffering a back injury in 2014, Zach had helped him not only train pain-free, but also prepared him to compete at the elite level. Later, Travis invited Zach onto his podcast, and the two discussed the inner workings of their success.

After the podcast aired and more athletes began reaching out to Zach from all over the world, he realized: This could be a profession. Not only that, but: This could be a business. With the help of his old friend, Dr. Sobolewski (Dr. Swol), Zach continued to learn about the science behind performance and refine his programming.

So he set aside the physical therapy idea and applied for an LLC. He also appealed to his wife for a company name. “Strength Ratio,” she said. “Because the way you help people overcome injury and get stronger is by balancing the relationship between their training, fatigue, stress, and…well…life.” The name stuck, and Zach started to offer his programs under the auspices of the little blue button.

Travis Cooper competing at the 2015 World Championships in 2015

Travis Cooper competing at the 2015 World Championships in 2015

Strength Ratio logo

Strength Ratio logo


Kyle’s trap bar farmer’s carries

Kyle’s trap bar farmer’s carries

The crew

The crew

In the meantime, Kyle Clechenko, a University of Iowa student who was studying business and exercise and sports science, interned at CrossFit Asheville. He was enthusiastic about strength training, coaching, AND ice cream, which meant he was instantly inducted into the Zach Greenwald and Becca Lee friendship inner circle. He became such a close pal that once, when Kyle returned to Asheville after a semester at school, Zach broke the gym door in his excitement to see him.

From Zach’s perspective, the next big business move was a no-brainer. Becca had a multifaceted background in outdoor education and leadership, experience as a competitive climber and weightlifting athlete, pragmatism, and compassion in spades. Kyle possessed business expertise, experience as an athlete in multiple team sports including basketball and football, equanimity, and kindness as impressive as his calves.

They both shared Zach’s lifelong commitment to learning about coaching and exercise and sports science. And, when Zach asked if they would join him in ownership of Strength Ratio, they said, “Yes!”

There they were: A team made up of great friends who wanted to do good, and who wanted that good to be improved health, fitness, and performance, for all!


They drew up business plans, they built a website, and they grew their client base. They began coaching remote athletes from countries all over the world, including Australia, Ecuador, France, Ireland, Canada, and England. They trained weightlifters, CrossFitters, powerlifters, and strongman competitors. As their athletes experienced success after success, as they overcame injuries and overtook their performance goals, the Strength Ratio trio began to think…

Couldn’t this coaching and programming methodology benefit people who aren’t strength sport athletes? What about people who are endurance athletes, or outdoor sport enthusiasts, or who just want to become healthier and fitter? Certainly they could benefit from the Strength Ratio way. And that’s when Kyle, Becca, and Zach decided to establish an Asheville, NC headquarters.

In half a warehouse that the crew sublet from Kyle’s father, David (he stored his tools and work equipment in the other half), the three Strength Ratio owners opened their doors to anybody that wanted to train sustainably. They had three squat racks, four barbells, and a lot of drive. They offered strength and conditioning classes, weightlifting classes, and personal programming. It wasn’t long before word got out in Asheville that Strength Ratio was the place to come for attentive coaching, programming that drives calculated and measurable results, and a community that’s inclusive, positive, and wholly supportive.

Kyle taking a break from assembling equipment in Strength Ratio’s brand new gym space in 2017

Kyle taking a break from assembling equipment in Strength Ratio’s brand new gym space in 2017

Strength Ratio’s first gym space in 2017: half a warehouse, 3 squat racks, an air dyne, some plates, and a lot of potential

Strength Ratio’s first gym space in 2017: half a warehouse, 3 squat racks, an air dyne, some plates, and a lot of potential


Strength Ratio onsite pool party summer 2018

Strength Ratio onsite pool party summer 2018

Some of Strength Ratio’s awesome remote athletes at the 2018 Athlete Camp

Some of Strength Ratio’s awesome remote athletes at the 2018 Athlete Camp

Both the remote and the onsite athlete communities grew. David took all of his tools and work supplies to the warehouse next door. The Strength Ratio crew ballooned into the new space, then got bigger. So Kyle’s dad took his tools and work supplies home. And Strength Ratio took over the second warehouse. (Thank you, David. We are eternally grateful.)

And then Strength Ratio hosted their first athlete camp. Their Asheville headquarters had always been a haven for remote athletes seeking some in-person training and a vacation in the mountains, but the athlete camp was the event that really solidified the unity among the onsite and remote athletes. It also solidified Strength Ratio’s role as a champion of exercise and sports science and a conduit of research findings. Dr. Swol and his wife, Olympic Gold Medalist, Amanda Polk, were kind enough to provide free lectures on the basics of training and nutrition for all who attended.


Today, the Strength Ratio team continues to grow, both in Asheville and across the globe. It has established its identity as the performance constant— the team that supports its members in accomplishing goals through sustainable training. Strength Ratio continues to apply the principals of exercise and sports science to help people, which is what it has always done, even before it had a name, even before it was a team.

 

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