The Weight is Over: Matthew, Matthew, Matthew!

Doni Chamberlain and Matthew R. Lister.

Doni Chamberlain and Matthew R. Lister.

Q: Thanks, Matthew R. Lister, for allowing me to feature you for this week’s “The Weight is Over” column. It’s been a while since I’ve bugged you to appear here, mainly because I know you’ve been busier than usual after Align’s relocation in January.

Who knew when we started this journey in December of 2015 that we’d both have come this far by now? I mean, we can look at the transformation of Align Redding’s physical space as a metaphor about the profound changes in both of our lives. When I started working out with you Align Private Training was on Pine Street, a modest space that was just right for you and your clients.

I don’t think we’ve actually made it public about the new space, right? This might be a good time for you to talk about Align’s new digs at Placer Street, right across from the downtown Redding post office. That building has been many things, including a carpet store and video store. It’s huge!

1516 Placer Street's former business. Photo by Google Maps.

1615 Placer Street’s former business. Photo by Google Maps.

We are so excited about the new space. We designed it specifically to optimize our clients’ experience in every aspect, from optimizing privacy in coaching moments to building spaces for community-building. We brought in a designer and I debated endlessly with her about client experience and culture. You know how big that is for us.

The old space was 1,200 square feet and the new space is 8,000 square feet, but it’s designed well. It’s not cold or vast. We wanted to hold onto what keeps us Align: Comfortable. Cozy. Community. Coaching. Results. That’s us. Moving spaces couldn’t change anything about that. I think we nailed it. I love the new space. If anything I feel like the sense of community and results have only gotten stronger.


1615 Placer Street: Align Private Training’s new digs. Photo by Doni Chamberlain before her morning workout.

Q: Yeah, I remember driving by the new space before it opened and wondering how a place that large could function without feeling cavernous, but surprisingly, it works, though I don’t envy your utility bill in a few months.

So, aside from increased square footage, what else does the Placer Street site have that the former location didn’t?

We have built it for our ideal customer: Someone who has challenges. Someone who isn’t an easy case. Someone who wants results and leadership to get them there. So it has what they need. It’s not about us and what we as trainers want. It’s about what our clients need. I say it all the time: We have to stay in a state of selfless service.

Q: When you talk like that I forget that Align’s a gym; sounds almost like a church. 🙂 But really, I like the new Align home a lot, and I’m also loving all the new faces. But thank goodness, since you can’t be cloned, you’ve brought in helpers, too.

The team is amazing. We each come from such varied backgrounds that we all have something unique to offer our clients. And we work together with all the clients so seamlessly because our space design creates that. So our clients get the benefit of all our history and backgrounds.

For example, Tina Brandt has scoliosis and hip instability. So she has unique insights into that side of things. Also, she has been working with our type of clients for at least a decade.

And then there’s Andrea Charroin, who has such a varied background, from psychology and education to being a chef.

andrea charroin cropped

Andrea Charroin, from pastry chef to plank master, hanging out at the new Placer Street Align Private Training.

So Andrea is an amazing nutrition coach, from the logistical cooking side as well as the nutritional/psychological side of things.

I’m super pumped with the team we have.

Q: I can see that! Congratulations.

No segue, Matthew, but some readers have asked for my progress updates, so humor me while I talk about what you already know.

I’m still working out at Align four days a week, but now that Andrea is opening the gym Fridays and Saturdays, I’ll have even more options for independent workouts … under supervision … which still seems to be the only way I can make myself work out. I was just telling one of my Align workout buddies on Wednesday, 10 minutes into my 30-minute cardio workout on the rowing machine, that if I’d been doing that at home I would have quit after about 10 minutes.

Regarding my transformation, as you know, my weight is holding steady, yet I continue to lose inches. I lost almost another inch from my middle the last time you measured me, so that makes me very happy.

Even so, I want to really work on bumping my weight down more, so I’ve returned to Jazzercise for a good low-impact, high-power workout early Monday and Wednesday mornings before I work out with you on those days. And I actually walked to and from Align Tuesday morning, since I live near downtown. That was interesting, but that’s column fodder for another day.

I guess what I’m getting at is it’s good to switch things up from time to time, right?

Yes, you need to continually push and challenge your body in a way that will be healthy and fun for you. So yes, switch things up! And now that we’ve fixed your foot issue you should have no problem with experimenting a bit.

Q: Gosh, thanks. But I hope when you use the word “experimenting” that’s not a euphemism for “running” … but we can talk about that another time.

Anyway, enough about me. Really, my intention today was to talk to you about you. Lately you’ve been putting out some videos on Facebook that have received a lot of feedback and comments.

Matther R Lister video still

Matthew R. Lister’s videos about his own fitness journey have created lots of buzz and speculation.

The videos are pretty gutsy on your part, because you’re actually disclosing personal information about you, and your journey. I have to say, I was blown away when I saw the video after you’d gone for a run – six miles or something crazy (to me).

The thing is, you look like the vision of health, strength and vitality, but the truth is you have some pretty serious physical conditions of your own that you deal with all day, every day, right?


As much as I stay focused on my clients’ results, sometimes they may notice that I am in pain every minute of every day. It has been a long road to get to this point. It started when I was 17 and I broke my back, tore a disc and damaged my L5 nerve doing stupid exercises. I was on a cane for a decade. I was extremely motivated to find new ways of doing things. I knew that I didn’t want to be the dad who couldn’t roll around on the floor with his daughter. And I couldn’t even put on my shoes. Those were some dark times.

What eventually helped me were multiple back surgeries, including a multi-level spinal fusion, and a lot of exercise therapy. I couldn’t have gotten to the point I am now without both of those things.

Q: That’s exactly what I’m talking about. So, yeah, all that. I think in part it’s the fact that you have struggled with your own serious challenges surrounding pain, injury and healing that makes you such an extraordinarily empathic trainer and coach. Really, if you were some untested young guy who’d never suffered, I think you’d be an entirely different kind of trainer. Every day I see you working with people with pain issues, and I always find myself thinking that they’re in the best of hands.

Having said all that … I hear you say in one of your videos that you’re training for a 100-mile trail run and I freak a little. One hundred miles! And you’re shooting to lose 20 pounds! Please forgive me if I’m out of line for asking but, WHAT THE HELL?!! Aren’t you afraid of injury? And losing 20 pounds? Seriously? I think you look fine. What’s the weight loss about? What are these goals about … again … if you don’t mind me asking?

OK, sorry. I’ll stop talking. You may answer now. Really, go ahead. Your turn.

Thanks, Doni.

So this goes a little deeper than just getting a six pack. It’s really about the triumph of my will over my broken body. And that journey looks different for everyone. For some people it might be just getting up off the floor. For others it might be climbing a flight of stairs. The important thing is the journey and the effort. Not the destination.

For me, I have allowed my body to dominate my spirit for, in my opinion, far too long. I don’t say that as a guilt thing. I have done my best. And my best looks different every day. And right now, at this point in my journey, I know my best is better than what I have been doing. It’s about the unending pursuit of a better life. I want to be healthier and happier tomorrow than I am today. I don’t want to allow my circumstances to dictate who I am.

Q: That’s pretty deep stuff, Matthew. I trust that you know what you’re doing, and I can see why you’d want to push yourself.

You know, I’d guess that the majority of your clients tend to see you as I do: Super Matthew. That’s why I’m so moved by reminders like this conversation today that you’re a mere mortal after all, just like the rest of us.

You drove home that point beautifully in this following video, which I think of as “trainers are people, too”.

So, you’re telling yourself the same things you tell us. Dare I ask, how’s it going?

Actually, it’s going better than I anticipated! My first week I ran six miles, and you have to understand, I am a runner in my soul. Running is my release, my meditation, my mental health drug. And so two to three hours of running is a Godsend to me. My body hasn’t allowed me to run in so long.

But after that six miles, I was jacked up. I flared my hip, my IT band, my calf, and my plantar fasciitis. Why? Because I didn’t spend enough time working on my posture before I went out. Lesson learned.

The last two weekends I have done seven-mile runs, and this weekend I will do nine miles. And my body feels amazing. And honestly, this is the best my mind has felt in a very long time.

It’s very exciting. I’m finally able to take steps toward becoming the person I am in my mind.

You have to realize, I spent my 21st birthday in crippling pain and couldn’t put on my own pants. That’s not what every 21-year-old envisions for his life. So I have some making up to do. 🙂

Q: Well, I’m really happy for you. But be careful, OK?

You’ve had a long day, so I’ll wrap this up. But if you don’t mind we’ll check back with you periodically for updates, because I know people will want to know how you’re doing. Hey, welcome to my world! There’s nothing like an audience as a supreme motivator. 😉

Seriously, Matthew, thank you for not just being an awesome trainer and helping me and so many others, but for being open and vulnerable enough to share so much of yourself today. That takes an entirely different kind of strength – stronger than any six pack.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I think you said it more eloquently than I could any day, Doni. As always I’m super impressed with your ability to help people tell their stories. You’re the best!

And yes! I would love to take people along on my journey. It won’t be smooth or glamorous. But if anyone wants to watch … well, let’s do this. 😉

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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