Debbie Morris Portell
Health & Nutrition Coach + Trainer
I decided to become a trainer almost 15 years ago.
Suddenly, my health began to decline significantly. After visiting 22 different doctors we determined I have Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto's is an auto immune disease of the thyroid. I spent years seeking a diagnosis and suffered everyday along the way. I experienced weight loss, weight gain, and other extreme debiliting symptoms. I finally found a team of doctors that was willing to work with me, and that truly made a difference.
The biggest improvement came from changing my food. That was the integral part of my life and health change. I completely eliminated dairy, gluten, soy, corn, pork, shellfish, peanuts, and sugar. I was a completely different person as a result.
I have always worked out, since I was a young child. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be just like my dad. He was always working out. He rode bikes, played team sports, ran, played hockey, and lifted weights. I always wanted to do whatever he was doing and I did. I even learned to play hockey. On ice!
I started lifting weights in the 6th grade. I’ve been taught by him and some of the best trainers in town. In 8th, 9th and 10th grade I was blessed to have the opportunity to workout at George Turners Gym. I haven’t been in a gym like that ever since. Powerhouse was a close second but George Turner and his iron factory was one of a kind. The gym probably had less than 10 females in it much less teenage women. His squat cage had a 45lb plate that remained in it. I guess he thought, if you cannot squat that you don’t have any business squatting.
I was so fortunate to learn from such hard working amazing people. Body building was different back then. It was real. It was not about who you know and how many drugs you can buy. It was about how hard you worked. They ate real food and a lot of it, but clean food. They were not constantly popping pills and powders. Only what was important like vitamins and minerals.
If you're not sure what I mean, just look up a picture of George Turner. We hang his picture in our gym. His physique looks chiseled like a sculpture. He doesn’t look like some over inflated giant super hero. After George closed his gym we moved to Powerhouse. It was a great gym as well. It started to become a little bit more about leotards and the sexiness of the sport than it was at Turners. I remember the strongest guy at Turner's gym wore jean shorts or cargo pants with a flannel shirt no sleeves and boots.
Each gym I've moved to on my journey became a little bit more about how you look and how quick you could do it versus how hard you were willing to work. I spent 12 years with Powerhouse gym and Roger Semsch. He is one of the hardest working people in the industry. He has always prepped people to have a healthy life not to just look good. He has always taught me that I get what I give. If I work hard day in and day out I will reap a benefit. If I give 50% I will get 50%. I have truly had the opportunity to learn from amazing people and they have helped me to become who I am today.
The first one was my Dad though. He was my first motivator. The first person I could follow. My Mom supported us both through it all. She worked 2 jobs to help me afford my hobbies. She was always there to cook for us and cheer us both on. She still is. Dad and I are very lucky to have her.
When I decided to become a trainer I knew I could really motivate people to live differently. I wanted to inspire them to change their spirit. The focus they put on how they cared for their body and the way they viewed it had to change. I have worked as a trainer in all possible capacities but no matter what the environment I’ve always been driven to keep people from settling for status quo.
I found that no matter what location I was working out of at least half of the trainers hated me. Ha ha. No really they did. At 5 am when they were leaning and drinking coffee while training looking like they came to work in pajamas I was perky and excited to help my client. I always had make up on and tried to look presentable. Over time other clients would watch me and my clients train. Enthusiasm is contagious. You can sincerely download it into people. You can also download defeat and garbage into someone.
I have worked at Renaud Spirit Center, General Motors Fitness Center, 24 Hour Fitness, Powerhouse Gym, Rhino Fitness, Complete Fitness, Ladue Pt, Anytime Fitness and all of those places birthed Integrity. I’ve worked at 4 gyms at one time before. They were all over town. I remember for 3 years making an hour drive to and from to train a client I trained for 8 years just because she was such a hard worker. I drove through sleet, rain and snow to get to her and to all of my clients. I’ve worked sick and I’ve worked very tired. I just do my best to hide behind my smile and keep my clients going where they need to go. I feel I am an old school, body building, strength training trainer that was baptized in functional movement and mobility. I combined all of it together and that is how we train at Integrity.
I learned half way through my athletic sports career that if I don’t focus on flexibility I will never achieve 100% of what I was seeking. Whether striving for speed, strength or agility, the foundation of it all was flexibility and mobility.
I train every trainer and every client to be this way. Another thing I do different than most is I keep everyone in the best shape they can be in. We jump rope on shoulder day. We use the rowing machine on back day. We flip tires on arm day. We sprint and run stairs on leg day. There is no excuse to not stay cardiovascularly fit. It will benefit you in everything you do if you start.
Just start moving anyway that you can. Slow movement is better than no movement. I sincerely love what I do and I live for it. I live for the Lord first but the beautiful thing is that I am walking in his presence everyday on the job. He directs my words and my actions everyday. I try so hard to stay faithful to him in all that I do and all that we do at Integrity. I jump out of bed to do what I do because I work with amazing people. They never give up on me. They always give me all they have.
I love to help people that have give up on life and themselves, I jump out of bed begging God for his will to be done but praying that very day would be the day for their turn around. The day they end their love affair with food. The day they look in the mirror and like what they see or more importantly, the day they surrender their hearts and life to the Lord. Without Jesus we will never be satisfied. We will wander lost forever.
This gym is more than a gym. It is a ministry and each person is here for a season. A life changing, spirit strengthening season ordained by God. I am blessed to be part of it.