From Lawyer to Gladiator – the Story of Gracie Tafoya
Interview by Bryce Smith

How have your training sessions impacted your fitness physically, mentally, and emotionally?

There isn’t enough space in all the world for me to list all of the impacts of my semi-private sessions with Bryce here in one place. I will try and boil it down to maybe three major points. First and foremost, I simply have noticed a change in my overall physical life. From things as small as making the run for a red light when crossing an intersection, running up a flight of stairs, to being able to hang out with friends and not worry about being able to participate in things, my sessions with Bryce have impacted each and every aspect of my physical life. Mentally, I believe that when I first started coming to sessions, he used to ask me about work more often, but I think he realized that the one hour a week we spend together is the one hour a week I have of absolute peace where I can just put my head down and put in work. I look forward to it each and every week, it’s the highlight of my week, and mentally allows me to buckle down and let out everything that is holding me back. Emotionally, I would have to say is similar to mentally, but it has helped me process emotions by eliminating this big black cloud in my life. I have said this before, but Bryce’s positivity and simple lust for life re-energize me in every aspect of my life. It’s like just when I think I cannot handle anymore, it’s 6:30 on a Wednesday and time for Bryce. Instead of breaking down physically, mentally, and emotionally, I walk through those garage doors and see his face and realize I can do anything.

How have your training sessions enhanced the quality of your life outside of the gym?

I mean it goes without saying I think that I am more physically, emotionally, and mentally balanced overall. I work in a high-stress profession, and having this outlet has created a more meaningful way of managing stress for me. I used to think I was internalizing my job, but now I see that I can deal with stressful situations better. I can focus, repeat Bryc-isms to myself, and get through my day. I used to joke with my husband on a regular basis when he would make me do things I didn’t want to do, “What would Bryce say?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hiking up a mountain, or running on my own, or whatever the case may be, and I hear in the background, “I’m proud of you, buddy!” Either I’m going insane, or Bryce has built himself into my memory so much so that I cannot let go. I’m lucky if I don’t drop down and give five burpees each time I say “can’t” in public.

What can you now do that you couldn’t do when you started?

Is get up an answer? I mean, again, the answers are endless. I couldn’t get up from a lying down position from the ground. I couldn’t squat without a bench to assist. I couldn’t hold and hang from a pull-up bar. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t jump. I couldn’t breathe. I was scared to do a box jump in the beginning and now I can actually do box jumps! Now, I can do all of that and more!

Can you share a little bit of your story and how fitness became a part of your life? What motivated you to start and what keeps you coming back?

This is a great question. I used to be active when I was in high school, but activity took a backseat to my education. In that, I felt I had to buckle down, work three jobs, and just do the school thing. So I did. And that lead me to late nights, bad habits, and a sedentary lifestyle for years. Eventually, after I completed law school and became an attorney, I think I started to realize that I just wanted to be able to do things with others without being out of breath or exhausted at the end. I used to walk by Invictus on the way to work. I saw them, the Gladiators as I referred to them in my head; working out and doing their thing, and I was instantly fascinated. It took me about a year to contact the gym. I contacted the gym and Jen was just so bright and inviting. Miss Karen was the first person I met and she seemed just so excited to have me. But I was still scared. I walked in, and I met Bryce, and for the first time, I thought, I can do this. Bryce reassured me in a way that gave me confidence to return. Working with him in fundamentals, I didn’t feel different, even though I was. There were people in there that had worked out for years, and were way more fit than me. But I didn’t feel like they got more attention than me, or were getting more bang for their buck. And most importantly, I think he saw something in me. He knew I wasn’t going to quit, and that if he just had some extra time with me, over the years, if I had patience, he could mold me into an athlete and a better human being. It was Bryce, it has always been Bryce that keeps me coming back. His positivity, scaling just for me, but most of all the progression that he sees in me and how happy it makes him. When I’m having a bad day, and I screw up positioning and get really down on myself to the point of tears, he points out how far we have come together. The next session is what keeps me coming back. I’m excited to see what next week brings and all we can accomplish together.

What pieces of inspiration can you share with other people to inspire them to make a positive change in their lives?

Don’t be scared. Take baby steps. Scaling is your friend. Eventually, you will make great strides.

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