Nick and Christine Chavis are a married couple and the coaching team behind Mauka Health & Fitness. A new up-and-coming personal training business with members all over the Springfield/Ozark area. But there’s something that sets them apart from your average fitness program. They’re both high-level rock climbers and like to mix climbing, with traditional fitness training when working with their clients. Christine explains their philosophy, “We love helping people move and feel better. Fitness should be fun! So we try to bring a lot of variety and personal attention to each training session. We figure that if the client isn’t having fun, why would they stick with the training over the long term?”
Nick and Christine have been training people together for over 5 years now. The two met in Hawaii, Christine was a teacher, originally from the Philippines, who had lived in Hawaii since she was 13. Nick is an Ozark, MO native and was a soldier in the US Army. They felt close to one another from the start. Both having a passion for adventure, they spent their time together hiking, surfing, and you guessed it, rock climbing. “We always loved spending time outside together doing all sorts of things,” says Christine, “but climbing really drew us both in. There’s a lot of skill involved, it challenges your hip mobility, upper body, and grip strength like nothing else. Technical climbing is a crazy workout but also feels like solving a puzzle, so it keeps you really engaged.”
After finishing his time in the Army, the couple wanted to live close to as much quality climbing as possible. So they set their sights on the mountains of Colorado.“ Moving to Colorado was a big step for us,” explains Nick, “I had been dreaming of moving there to pursue competitive climbing since before joining the Army. When we got there, we spent the first year just trying to explore and see it all. We had a lot of fun and we both took our climbing ability to a much higher level.”
They both got jobs coaching a youth climbing program at a local climbing gym. Meanwhile, Nick started to gain sponsorships and went on to climb some of the hardest routes the state had to offer. The two later moved into a converted Sprinter van and traveled all over the US exploring all the best climbing destinations the country has to offer. “Living on the road was a challenge,” according to Christine, “but we loved every moment of it! We had so many adventures together and built so many unforgettable memories.”
As the two continued to train young climbers, they also began taking on a larger group of adult climbers as well. Building a small rock climbing personal training business. Nick says “I started to realize that many of our adult clients really needed to work on their conditioning, strength, and nutrition in order to really improve their climbing performance. But other than what we’d learned in high school sports, we didn’t really have the knowledge or experience to help them in those areas. We realized this was a big missing piece in our service, and the way the climbing community thought about training. So we both got internships at a couple local athletic training facilities and spent over a year educating ourselves on exercise science and nutrition. We read books, took courses, and did quite a bit of self-experimentation. It was probably the most dense period of learning either of us has ever experienced.”
A little over a year later, they both had gained a much better understanding of sports science, functional movement, effective nutrition, the NASM training certification, CrossFit level 1 training certification, and plenty of hands-on experience coaching clients in a one-on-one and group setting. The two then brought what they had learned over to the climbing community and started introducing strength and conditioning training methods to their rock climbing clientele. Teaching good nutrition habits, helping prevent injury, and helping their climbing clients see unparalleled progress in their performance.
According to Christine, “The people we trained with couldn’t believe the results. On top of it all, they felt better in general and were dropping body fat. As we developed, we started taking on more and more general fitness clients. We found a real passion for helping people who needed to improve their health and functional fitness, not just climb harder. It felt like we were providing a more valuable service by improving their quality of life. But when we felt they were ready, we’d always get them into a climbing gym to introduce them to the sport we love so much. Just like that, our brand Mauka Health & Fitness was born.” Mauka is a Hawaiian word meaning “toward the mountains” and the couple loved helping climbers and non-climbers move towards their fitness goals or “mountain”. But just as they were gaining real momentum in the community, the COVID-19 virus hit Colorado.
The gyms, parks, and most businesses were all forced to close their doors, putting the training duo in a tight spot. “I feel like we adapted well, we went almost entirely virtual, and did online programming along with Zoom workouts,” Christine explains, “Then once the COVID restrictions started to lighten up, we started doing in-home training with our clients. The good news was that we were still able to go out to the more remote climbing areas, the time away from it all kept us sane.”
Then in the fall of 2020, after a lot of discussions, the couple decided to move back home to Missouri to be with family and put down some roots. “I love the people in SW Missouri,” says Nick “it’s a really great place to live. My good friends own the local climbing gym Zenith Climbing Center, so I knew we’d have a great space to train people out of. We both wanted to be closer to family so we made the move. The big challenge was going to be building an entirely new client base from the ground up.”
Now that Mauka Fitness had made the move to the Ozarks, they set to work building a community in the Springfield/Ozark area. With such good relationships, they quickly took on work training new and experienced climbers out of Zenith. But they knew they would need another space for their general fitness and athlete development clientele. “We checked out a few gyms looking for space to bring in clients. But I didn’t really like the vibe of any of them,” explains Nick “until we went to Freak Performance. It used to be a CrossFit gym and so it had lots of open space, pull-up bars, barbells, kettlebells, and even sandbags. The owners are awesome people, and we’d even have the place to ourselves when classes weren’t running. It was perfect!”
After building a relationship with the owner Jared Stevens, Mauka Fitness began training their athletes and general fitness clients out of Freak Performance in Ozark. That, along with their rock climbing development program in Springfield, got them off to a good start. Christine explains part of the secret to their success “We consistently bring elements of both rock climbing and functional fitness to our training sessions. Although we train people from both worlds we believe that our clients who do both get the most out of our program. We now have a handful of high school athletes and even powerlifters with whom we’ll use gymnastic stability training, and get in regular climbing sessions now and then along with their more goal-oriented weightlifting. We have a lot of fun and they really appreciate the added diversity in their sessions!”
Mauka Fitness continues to grow and accept new clients in Southwest Missouri. They use a mix of good movement, nutrition, intensity, and fun to help people move toward their mountain. Check them out at www.trainmauka.com, on Instagram @maukafitness, or stop by Zenith Climbing Center in Springfield or Freak Performance in Ozark and ask for Nick or Christine.