Check out my interview with Jonathan Christian in one of my favourite places: the John Denver Sanctuary in Aspen, CO!
Jonathan: Hi! My name is Jonathan Christian from We Make Stuff Happen, here in British Columbia, Canada and I get the joy of interviewing people all around the world who are making a very specific difference in their world. I love to meet local experts who have just double-downed on what they love to do and tell their story through their website, through social media, through video, and it’s my absolute joy today to meet and talk to the legendary Dirk Schultz.
Dirk Schultz: Legendary in my own mind, right?
Jonathan: So here I am in 12 degrees cold Canada, or 54 degrees in American and here’s you in probably 80-something degrees Aspen, right?
Dirk Schultz: I think it’s close to 80 today, but it’s beautiful today. Not a cloud in the sky, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Wow, and you are in a very special place right now.
Dirk Schultz: I’m in John Denver’s Sanctuary. It’s a tribute to the singer-songwriter, late John Denver. One of my favorite places in Aspen to come to just because, as you can see in the background, the Aspen mountains right here. He’s one of my favorite artists and song writers and I can just relate to him or his love for the mountains and the environment. I heard John Denver’s songs playing throughout the house when I was growing up. My mom was a big fan.
Jonathan: Wow. So how long have you lived in Aspen?
Dirk Schultz: I’m going on 14 years here. I’ve been in the area for about 20 years. I look like I moved here when I was 2.
Jonathan: Absolutely. But this isn’t where you were brought up, right?
Dirk Schultz: No, I was born and raised in a small town between Buffalo and Rochester, New York.
Jonathan: Okay, wow. That’s a little different, East Coast to the mountains.
Dirk Schultz: East Coast to the mountains, the snow is about the only thing that is similar. It was a very small, sort of a farming community, but it’s a great place to grow up.
Jonathan: Do you have many siblings?
Dirk Schultz: I have 4 brothers. I’m 1 of 5 boys. It’s so funny because you never know – We lived about 5 miles outside of town, so my grandparents farm was up the road. My aunt and uncle lived next door. Then it was our place. So it was all farm land. We would go and run around and be active outdoors or up on the farm. There was never a shortage of a brother to play with.
Jonathan: That’s awesome. So what was life? Was mom a stay at home mom? Dad a career guy? What was that like?
Dirk Schultz: Yeah, that would be nice, but no. My mother was a very … Mom was born and raised on a farm, so she knew how to work hard. She did all of her life. Dad worked for a division of General Motors for years. Mom worked about 7 days a week. 5 days during the week was a bus driver for the mentally handicapped for our school district and then on the weekends she picked up odd jobs at a donut shop or someplace else. She was always working.
The parents were together for, I would say the first 12 years growing up off and on. Then they split when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Then mom was working even harder to maintain the home life, if you will.
My father had an interesting journey. He was always struggling. He had his own demons and struggling with alcohol and came to find out my dad is a gay man as well. So he was dealing with all of that inside of a marriage and he was coming to terms with all of that. So they just didn’t realize that that wasn’t going to all work out. But everything does work out as we know, and my father is one of the most at peace and grounded men that I know. He kicked the alcohol habit for about 26, 27 years and he is doing great.
My mother unfortunately passed about 4 years ago. You want to talk about a spit fire, she was the glue that kept us together. She was 4’11”, but all the brothers…
Dirk Schultz: She was 4’11”. That’s where I get my height from.
Dirk Schultz: My mother could throw a look that would stop all the brothers in their tracks.
Dirk Schultz: My brothers are great. All of them were athletes in high school. 3 of them live back in our home town and 1 lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas as the diving coach, girls diving coach for the University of Arkansas.
Jonathan: Wow. So where are you in the hierarchy of boys?
Dirk Schultz: I’m #4 of 5.
Jonathan: 4 of 5, okay.
Dirk Schultz: I’m not quite the youngest.
Jonathan: So not quite that middle child scenario, but not the youngest baby either.
Dirk Schultz: No, I was closest to my mom I think. Mama’s boy.
Jonathan: Mmmmm, I’m kind of getting where some of this intensity of yours for life is coming from. And I’m also getting that grounded peace that you reflected on, from your Dad. I saw some pictures yesterday, Father’s Day, of you and your Dad. It’s so awesome that you’ve grown close again and reconciled and he’s still a mentor in your life.
Dirk Schultz: Very much so. We talk once or twice a week. He loves my husband Dave and he comes out every once in a while and we just have a great time.
Jonathan: That’s brilliant. I know you told me your Dad’s name is Wilhelm, but obviously it’s Bill in America.
Dirk Schultz: Bill, right.
Jonathan: Is there much of a German influence on your life in terms of that intensity and sort of work ethic that you have as well?
Dirk Schultz: That’s a great question. I never thought about it that way. You know, my last name is Schultz, so Dirk is very German, so maybe there’s some of that in my blood, but I think the work ethic and tenacity I get is very much from my Mom too.
Jonathan: So you are just like a living, breathing Audi to me. Now, we talked some time back and you were telling me as a kid you sort of came across some weights in a room and started lifting them, right?
Dirk Schultz: Well as you and I were talking about, Jonathan, I was, again, 1 of 5 boys. We were always active, but I was, after my parents split, I was dealing with that whole, something wasn’t right. I was dealing with a lot of stuff on my own. I had some past stuff going on with abuse when I was younger. When you are coming into your teens and the self-confidence, I was just questioning a lot of things.
Come to find out, I was dealing with coming to terms with being a gay man, but I wasn’t comfortable with myself and I was very small and scrawny. I told you my mom’s 4’11”. On a good day I think I’m about 5’8″, but my friends will say to you more like 5’7″.
Dirk Schultz: So we had some weights down in the basement and one day I just went down there and started messing around. What I really enjoyed about it, not just the physical feeling of the work out, but also how it gave me some clarity and how it helped me with my confidence. So I was working more on my head space and much as my body. The more I did that, the more it became a habit and it became something I longed for. Then I would expand, any time I could find a new piece of equipment to put down in the basement, I would do that.
In high school, I was on the track team in pole vaulting. We were always doing weights with the weight man. Then in college that increased even more. I was becoming more confident and more sure of myself, but I also liked what was happening to my body. The response the weights and the workout had to my body. But again, it was kind of that whole head space and how it made me feel. How it made me feel grounded. It was the one thing that I could control in my life that made me feel good.
Jonathan: That is awesome. I was looking at your website and looking at your list of credentials. You’ve done a lot of training over the years. How did you transition from high school and enjoying how it felt to sort of work out and feel good, to end up being a trainer?
Dirk Schultz: Well, it’s funny. I went to school for Natural Resources Conservation. I was going to be a Forest Ranger.
Jonathan: Oh, cool.
Dirk Schultz: I love the outdoors. I went for my Bachelors in Marquette, Michigan and Northern Michigan University. I started in Natural Resources and that just didn’t feel right. So I went to Recreation Administration, Outdoor Rec or Outdoor Ed. While I was working with Outdoor Ed going through that curriculum, I found there was this other curriculum called, it was just called Wellness. And I was always intrigued by that.
I’m on the track team and I’m doing my weights and I’m having a good time and feeling good and, let’s just bring the ego into this, I’m getting some validation from my workouts. I was responding really well.
I kept seeing this curriculum and I was intrigued by what they were doing. Then I graduated from college and the whole personal training, wellness coaching kept crossing my path. It wasn’t until about 20-something years ago, maybe it was like the 4th time it crossed my path, I’m like, “I should really look into this.” I love working out. I love helping other people. I was working out an outdoor retail industry, Eastern Mountain Sports, and it just wasn’t fulfilling enough.
I decided I was going to become a Physical Therapist. In the journey of doing that, I was living up in the mountains, so it didn’t really work out well. So I asked myself, “What can I do that has a lot of the components of a Physical Therapist?” I could do Massage Therapy, where I become a Massage Therapist. I could do my Personal Training, which I did. And then I became a Wellness Coach, because as a trainer, I wanted to be able to help people at a deeper level than just counting reps for them and giving them a great workout. Kicking their butt during the workout.
So whenever they would come to me and they’d have obstacles or certain things they were facing in their life like issues with weight loss or nutrition or something like that, we would just sit and talk and get to the bottom of it. We could work out and do some coaching around that.
Dirk Schultz: So, it just kind of started to expand more and more. Then I became a Life Coach – Wellness Coach. That’s what I’m in the practice of now is splitting my time between being a Personal Trainer and being a Wellness and Life Coach.
Jonathan: Gotcha. It’s so needed in today’s high powered work culture. Where most people sort of like me just work behind a desk or travel and speak a lot and quite honestly, lack in personal fitness, right?
Dirk Schultz: Yeah, you and I talked about it before. There’s a book called “Working Out Working Within” and I’ll be honest, I’ve never read the book. The title says enough to me. We can go and work out with intention and work within. If we have some stuff that’s going on in our life, let’s not try to avoid it or run away from it. Let’s bring it into our workouts and focus on it and try to uncover what it is. Get out of our own way and move through it.
Jonathan : Yes. Much needed, my friend. So along the way, obviously, you’ve done lots of different modalities. I know just of late you’ve been teaching in Mexico. You’ve been over in Palm Springs. You’re back here in Aspen. Do people physically have to be next to you for you to work with them?
Dirk Schultz: No, I’m glad you asked that question. A lot of people will work out with me one-on-one as far as my personal training and even my wellness coaching, but I have people … When I was working in Palm Springs I was working with people back in Aspen, either Skype or by the phone with some wellness coaching. I’ve also started doing personal training online. I will design and send an individualized workout plan for someone every week, every month, whatever works for them. But no, they can be … I have people from around the country right now that I’m working with.
Dirk Schultz: So it’s great. If I go to Palm Springs or when I was in Mexico teaching, I was working with people back here.
Jonathan: That’s amazing. I know that when you went back to Aspen a few weeks ago it was almost like “Dirk’s back!” and a whole buzz on the streets, right?
Dirk Schultz: It’s so funny because people thought … We took the winter and were in Palm Springs. It sounds glamorous, but I’m a working local, which I love. It’s so funny because people were like, “Oh my god, you’re back. I thought you moved away.” I’m like, “No, no, I’m here.” So it’s great to be loved, right?
Jonathan: No kidding. That’s awesome. With the whole work, body, life intention, you’ve obviously found balance. We’re about the same age. I’m a little taller than you, which is probably the only thing I can claim over you. What is it with people who have every good intention of looking after themselves, but more times than not they seem to do everything on the list except look after themselves? How do you help people with that mindset of well meaning, but not well doing?
Dirk Schultz: That’s great. I think you and I have talked about information doesn’t mean transformation. We have to create … And another term I recently heard is, “Common sense doesn’t mean common action.” A lot of us know what we have to do. It’s not rocket science. We know what we have to do. It’s that we don’t have a clear vision of where we want to go. We don’t have a vision that’s really going to be firing us up to get us up out of bed. Or, to put ourselves first.
It’s really about making the commitment, number 1. If we only give 50%, we are only going to get 50% result, right?
Dirk Schultz: It’s a mindset that, okay, this is what I’m going to do for myself. And creating a vision. And looking at … Here’s where a lot of people trip themselves up. We miss the patterns that either we’ve created in our head or we’ve heard from family members saying way back when that we’re still living off of. That, “We don’t deserve to be fit” or, “We don’t deserve…” whatever that looks like. Whatever messages we’re listening to. Or gremlins as we call them. It’s about shifting perspective and shifting the mindset and putting yourself first.
A lot of people trip themselves up by not having the commitment full on and creating a clear vision. Creating a new story around some of the old behaviors that we step into. What I find is, I’ve done some retreats where people come in to Aspen and they get really, really excited. And then they go and they are all fired up about a new lifestyle. Then they leave and life gets in the way. We fall into our old habits, old patterns, and then we don’t have the support.
It really takes a recommitment every day towards that new vision, the new reality that you want to create. Making new habits. Stepping into new habits. People always say, “Well, I have strong will power.” Will power can only take us so far, really. Then, our habits, what we’re creating, what we’re committing to, take over. It’s having a clear game plan.
Jonathan: Ideally, you want to do this before you have the heart attack or the stroke, right?
Dirk Schultz: Yes, exactly right. It’s funny because, I appreciate you saying, “You have the intensity.” I’m very fortunate that I developed some good habits early on. In part, it was out of necessity just to make some clarity out of a confusing time when our family was going through some trying times.
It is as much for me for my head space as it is for the physical. It is something that even I have to commit to, every day. I have to commit to myself, because I really believe in that ripple effect of when you commit to yourself then everything else falls in line and you are able to give to other people more.
Dirk Schultz: My mother was a good example of that. She had her first heart attack when she was 58. I was a vegetarian at the time. The Doctor, before they wheeled her into the Operating Room, said to her, “You’re going to want to become a vegetarian or as close to a vegetarian” at the time. Now Jonathan, at the time, my brothers were just standing around. They didn’t understand my mindset. They were like, “Okay, our brother’s a freak. What’s he doing? He’s a vegetarian.” My mother thought I was going to get shingles. They just looked at me and my mom was like, “Okay, I get it.” But again, information doesn’t mean transformation.
Six months, she was good and then she was in the mindset that she didn’t deserve to take care of herself or she would put everyone else first. We tried to change that perception. Unfortunately, it just never stuck. Her health was a result of not following through on some of that stuff.
The reason I share that with you is because it is … We need to give ourselves permission. We need to create a vision for ourselves. We need to be taking care of ourselves first. Even if we’re caretakers or whatever we are doing in our lives. It will have a ripple effect and have a positive effect in those that we surround ourselves with.
Jonathan: Wow. That’s amazing. Let’s just say hypothetically my intention and my motivation aligns and I want … I need to change. I turned 52 last week. It was my birthday Friday and I’m probably heavier than I’ve ever been in my life. I bought a Fitbit and I’m getting better sleep and I’m getting better steps, but I’m nowhere near, absolutely nowhere near where I should be. Am I too far down the road for you to work with me or what would that look like?
Dirk Schultz: Not at all. You know it’s funny because people would say, “I’m out of shape” or “I’m too old.” This is one of my favorite things when someone’s going to start working with me. I’ll see them on the street and they’ll say, “I want to work with you, but I want to get in better shape before I start working with you.” And I’m always like, “That doesn’t make sense. Come and work with me. Let’s get on a program and that will all come in to place.”
So, are you too far gone? Absolutely not. I have one of my favorite clients, who I’m going to start up with this week, he’s 85. He just turned 85 and we’ve been working together for years. We meet you where you’re at. We create, it’s co-active. Like with coaching, it’s co-active coaching, meaning I don’t have all of the answers. You know your life better than anybody else. I sit with you and say, “Okay, what’s realistic? What’s going to work and what’s not going to work?” And then we create an individualized plan from there.
Again, like we were talking, Jonathan, it’s about creating the commitment. A realistic commitment. Creating a vision of a new reality. Whatever you are striving for. Then we talk about what hasn’t worked in the past and any limiting beliefs that we need to address. Our excitement gets us into a program, but as we go through old habits try to creep back in. We have to recommit. We have to look at what’s the message. How are we talking to ourselves? What patterns are we stepping back in to?
Dirk Schultz: Create a plan around that. I will work with someone. We work with some foundation, meaning I’m going to see how you move. Off of the equipment, before I start loading you up with equipment. I really believe that we get you moving properly first. We get you thinking properly first. Change the mindset. Create the why you want to get in shape. Why you want to lose weight. Why you want to be a marathon runner. Whatever that goal, or that idea, or that vision you have for yourself. Then we create a plan together.
Jonathan : Mmm-hmm. Man, that sounds awesome. I also notice that you don’t just give to your clients, you also give back a lot to the community which I really resonated with. I read something about the Rocky Mountain Food Bank and the program you do there?
Dirk Schultz: Yeah. Thank you for asking about that. It’s one of my passions too. Growing up 1 of 5 boys, and growing up in a chaotic household with my parents trying to figure out their own lives along the way. We didn’t have much money. We didn’t have much money. When my parents split, the stressors got even more. We relied on some of the government’s offerings from the food bank. I know how important that was. I remember going to school and because we were on a low income household, we would get these vouchers, these tickets for lunch. Honestly Jonathan, I hated, I hated how I felt picking up that ticket and handing that in to the cashier. Everyone else knew what that meant.
When I hear that 1 in 5 kids in Colorado goes to bed hungry, I’m like how is that possible in the United States? How is that even possible in the world with so much abundance? How is that possible? So I’m the Creator and Founder and Director of the HIT program and the Aspen Club and Spa. A few years back I wanted to do more, so we created a 1 day event called HIT for Hunger where teams of 3 would come and participate in various challenges and raise money for the Food Bank of the Rockies. We’ve done that for a few years. This is our first year where we’ve taken a little break because the Aspen Club is going through a renovation.
I love giving back to that because some of the programs…
It’s to raise money and awareness, because 1 in 5 kids, and I think it’s even more. Even in this valley, Aspen’s known for it’s abundance and wealth. Some of these kids are going to school hungry and how can they develop properly, both physically and mentally, if they can’t focus. And what they’re focusing on is their hunger. So they have programs, like on a Friday kids can pick up backpack with enough food that easy to prepare that will help get them through the weekend. Then they can take advantage, especially during the school year, like breakfast and some of the lunch programs.
Dirk Schultz: The Food Bank of the Rockies is an awesome organization that does some great, great work on the lower western slope and throughout Colorado. I look forward to doing more with them.
Jonathan: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I feel like I’ve given you a bit of a workout being out in the strong sun up on the mountain, which is higher to the sun, so there’s probably more intensity in the UV and holding your phone straight for this long.
Dirk Schultz: I’m hoping I’m doing a good job, because I feel like I’m shaking a little bit.
Jonathan: It’s a little bit shaky now, but you’ve done amazing. So Dirk, if I was to work with you or someone else wanted to work with you, how would we best get in touch with you?
Dirk Schultz: You can contact me at dirkschultz.com and fill out … Sign up for a session with me, like a phone session, a discovery session. You can call my number, my cell phone number 970-309-4378. Or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan: Fantastic. And what capacity do you have to take new people on right now?
Dirk Schultz: Right now I’m fortunate to have my personal training clientele is just about full. I’m always taking people and looking to see if there is a fit to take on coaching or even training from afar clients. I have a little bit of time left and I’m always willing to talk and see what we can create together.
Jonathan: Fantastic. And also, I guess since I found you on social media as well, Instagram and Facebook are a couple of other places to look, right?
Dirk Schultz: Instagram and Facebook are great ways to find me as well.
Jonathan: Fantastic. Dirk, I have so enjoyed … I feel fitter for just breathing in that mountain air and being inspired by your story. What a great story.
Dirk Schultz: I appreciate that. What I tell people, small steps make a big difference. We don’t get in the shape that we’re in typically overnight, so it’s a lifestyle. It’s about mastering small habits first and then it’s kind of called the Zorro circle, where you create more and more mastery around your health and well being. Before you know it, you’re living a healthier lifestyle and you’re making smarter choices. I always say it’s one choice at a time.
Dirk Schultz: It’s recommitting to yourself every day and making it happen. Taking action.
Jonathan: I saw a post of you the other day and it says, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
Dirk Schultz: Right.
Jonathan : Okay. Let’s go make some changes.
Dirk Schultz: That’s right. I tell people, one thing you can do today, let’s look at how we are carrying ourselves. Our posture. We’re designed to be nice, strong and sexy. Tall and powerful. Make sure you are getting enough water. It’s such a small thing, but it has such a big impact.
Jonathan: Right. You are so right. Fantastic. There’s water in my coffee. Does that count?
Dirk Schultz: (laughs) Jonathan, we’ll talk. We’re going to start up our strategy session. Our strategy session together.
Jonathan: You betcha my friend. Okay, thanks once again. You’ve inspired me by yourself. You’ve inspired me by Aspen Mountain and John Denver and the legacy of that song Rocky Mountain High. My goodness. I’m jealous, man.
Dirk Schultz: I appreciate that. Thanks for sharing this with me.
Jonathan: I look forward to it. All right, take care.
Dirk Schultz: You’re welcome. Bye.