Spotlight Athlete Interview: New Kids on the Block

By Sarah Gonsiorowski

Experience in training means having a template for moving a self-guided fitness needle. Unknown to most beginners, experience can teach us what we’re capable of, how to approach our training, and when to lean into healthy competition. In an effort to see progress, we follow our instincts. 

But sometimes, experience can get in the way. Without us even realizing, it has the potential to roadblock curiosity or prevent us from recalling some of training’s earliest lessons. That’s where beginners have the advantage.

Nhil de Chavez and Paris Brooks are two of Defined’s strongest newcomers—and they came to us willing to learn.

“Before I joined, I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” Nhil tells us. Before finding us, his training felt unscheduled and random. He also lacked a motivating community of like-minded people to keep him moving forward: “There’s something to be said for having people by your side to go through the same physical and mental challenges as you do.” 

Paris came to us looking for community too—someplace that felt like home after moving to Chicago from St. Louis. “Once I walked into Defined, it honestly just felt right,” she tells us. “People actually leave here with a smile on their face.”

Their advice is intended for novice athletes, but we think everyone can benefit:

“Listen to the coaches.”

“Just stay committed.”

“Egos don’t matter.”

“There’s no shame in asking for help.”

New or not, their earliest observations are for all—and spot on. Read on to learn why they walked through our doors, how it feels to be new, and what they’re hoping to do next!


Sarah: What were you up to before you found us? What did your training look like?

Paris: I’m new to Chicago. It’s a much larger city than STL, so I assumed that finding a home gym would be an easy task. But seriously, finding a gym near me that I (actually) enjoy going to has been a REAL STRUGGLE! I was canceling my second gym membership in a year and said to myself, “Screw it. I’ll do everything on my own.” And then I joined Planet Fitness thinking that would solve everything. But that didn’t work because I didn’t have the willpower to keep it up on my own.

Nhil: For a while, I had no set training schedule. I did random workouts: minimal weightlifting, rode my Peloton bike, took walks, and played basketball.

Sarah: What’s something you couldn’t do before you joined us that you can do now?

Nhil: Before I joined, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had never tried Olympic Weightlifting. That obviously changed after joining. I still have a long way to go, but I do enjoy cleans and snatches.

Paris: Dudeeeeeeeeeeeee I lifted 95lbs once! I could never lift anything more than 20 lbs. before, so that was a beautiful feeling

Sarah: Why did you walk through our doors? And what made you stay?

Paris: I was seconds away from giving up whatever weight loss and fitness goals I had. Nothing was working. I was miserable. I felt stuck. 

Once I walked into Defined, it honestly just felt right. Since I moved here, I was always hoping that I could find a gym home that was similar to the place I had back in STL: a good community where I could still get my ass kicked with a workout. Defined is definitely that place. People actually leave here with a smile on their face. SMILING THROUGH THE PAIN!

Nhil: I have always been an extroverted individual and was really bored of working out by myself. I remember being on one of my random walks and saw the door on my way back home. I had been looking at possible places to train and remembered Defined from my research. I walked in and met David, who happened to be one of the owners. His dog took a nap on my foot, and he explained the training program to me. Watching a bit of class, I was enamored by all the movements I had never seen before. I saw the community and how people loved being there. I signed up for the Foundations class and quickly felt that same sort of love. The community is great, and the coaches have an amazing vibe. After that, the rest was history.

Sarah: What would you tell someone who might feel nervous about or intimidated by this type of training?

Paris: That’s completely normal. I remember wanting to crawl up in a ball when I first started going to classes outside of the Foundations course. Everyone was just so much better at everything than I was. But then I had to remember that we all start somewhere. Plus, the trainers are there to help! Trust me. I’m constantly asking them to go over something for the 12th time just so that I can get it right.

Nhil: There is nothing to be afraid of. The coaches do an amazing job prepping people to join classes and other athletes do an incredible job of welcoming you into the fold. The classes are designed for people at all different levels of their fitness. If I can do it, so can anyone else. Egos don’t matter here; what matters is your heart and dedication.

Sarah: Any other advice for beginners?

Nhil: Listen to the coaches. Take your time learning the techniques properly and ask questions. There is no shame in asking for help, especially if it means preventing an injury.

Meet as many people as you can. This is the type of community where the people you meet can help you progress and challenge you to levels you didn’t think possible. Plus, there is something to be said for having people by your side to go through the same physical and mental challenges as you do.

Paris: Just stay committed. You’ll be very proud of yourself once you complete a class. If you’re as new to these moves as I am, there’s gonna be a lot of awkwardness. But I think that’s part of the fun.

Sarah: Now that you’re here, what’s next? What do you hope to achieve while you’re at Defined? Big or small, any goals?

Nhil: I try to take it one step at a time, but my goal is to improve my endurance. It will take some time, but I know I will enjoy the process along the way. I also want to participate in Murph Day at some point. That’ll be a fun one!

Paris: To complete a run without feeling like I’m knocking on death’s door. (Hahaha!)

Honestly, my biggest goal is to just lose weight. The extra post pandemic weight was cute at first, but now…. absolutely not. And if I’m able to gain an ass in the process, even better.

Sarah: What’s your favorite movement or workout?

Paris: I really want to get more involved with Powerlifting. I assumed it was something I’d like before I started, but I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I do.

Nhil: I think I really like the back squats. I was never a big fan of leg day, but I really enjoy being able to lift heavy and seeing what my body can do.