I first encountered Dustin almost exactly a year ago, when he helped open Go Row in the basement of Go Cycle on North Avenue. Around that time, my best friend in New York had been talking about how much she loved rowing classes (at the incredibly popular NYC spot Row House) and I was so excited to see the concept opened in Chicago. It only took one class with Dustin to fall in love with rowing and to become a regular in his Monday night class.
When Studio Three opened last fall, I was so excited to see that Dustin was moving over there to bring not only his top-of-the-line rowing coach skills to the HIIT studio, but would be teaching in the Peloton studio as well.
Thank you so much for sitting down to chat with me!
One of the reasons I think you’re so awesome is that you have taught me so much about rowing. When we met, I had barely ever been on an erg and you taught me the basics, and as I progress have continued to find ways to push to me to improve. Where did you learn so much about rowing?
DH: I started as a personal trainer. I had a lot of clients who were runners and wanted to run non-stop. As you know, that can be really tough on your legs and it always focuses on moving forward with your anterior muscles. Rowing was a great way to bring in the posterior chain and work your back, posture and core all while still getting that same cardio effect. I decided to learn about the rowing machine and proper form so I could bring it to my clients.
How did you become a trainer?
DH: I’ve always been an athlete. I ran track and played basketball, and went to school for exercise science. I realized I wanted to be a personal trainer during my second deployment; I’m in the Army Reserve and I’ve done two tours in Iraq. I had soldiers under me who were not passing their physical fitness test and I took it upon myself to help them pass that test. I found that I really enjoyed being able to impact them and see them better their lifestyle, live healthier, and perform better, and that stuck with me. Now, when I personal train or teach and someone comes up to me and says they can put on their jeans for the first time since having kids, that absolutely makes my day. Just knowing that I’m helping people live a better and happier lifestyle is huge to me.
How do you think you bring your experience in the military to your classes?
DH: I think one of my strong suits at Studio Three in the HIIT studio, with three areas of work at the same time, is that I have strong management and organization. I’ve been able to manage a lot and multitask to pay attention to everyone in class. But I’m not a drill sergeant! It’s more about motivating, which is a big thing in the military as well. You have soldiers underneath you who you have to motivate. It can’t always be that hard, tough drill sergeant. You have to find what motivates different people in different ways. Even within a class, if I’m trying to give someone heavier weights or clapping for them, I can see if they’re not responding to that and adjust.
When people come to your class, what can they expect?
DH: I’m going to push you to try your best in this class. You’re never going to reach your goals and see progress unless you step outside of your comfort zone. I think my goal is to assist you in stepping out and that’s what I’m going to do in class. At the same time, I bring a personal training background to this. I’m a stickler for form and a well-balanced workout where you’re pushing, pulling, and moving laterally. We spend so much time moving in one direction, that it’s so important to get different planes of motion.
It’s not just our job to make you sweat. Anyone can put you on a treadmill and say go and you’ll sweat eventually. It’s our job to teach you something about your body, make sure you’re safe, and make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
In addition to training, you’re a pretty accomplished Triathlete, qualifying for the International Triathalon this year. How did you first start doing triathlons?
DH: That was me stepping outside of my comfort zone and always wanting to try something new. I did not grow up swimming or cycling. I had a few coworkers doing Chicago a few years ago, joined them and loved it. The first year, I competed for a charity and got first place in the charity division. It’s just given me motivation to keep training. It’s so easy – especially as a trainer – to let my workouts fall by the wayside because I’m focusing on my clients. Goals are huge. So knowing that I have triathlons ahead of me push me to keep working.
What do you think triathlons have taught you most about yourself?
DH: Besides the fact that I suck at swimming? With anything in athletics, it teaches you that you can always be a little bit better. You can always improve. To do a triathlon is challenging. It’s 2 ½ hours of work. It lets you see what you’re capable of. Until you step out of your comfort zone you’ll never know what you’re capable of.
What advice would you have to people thinking about picking up the sport?
DH: When I first started, I thought I would do a sprint, but I think I could go out and do a sprint without training. The best advice I got was to pick a distance that would challenge you, that you have to put the effort into; that was huge for me. And save some money because bikes are expensive.
Are there particularly great places or ways to train?
DH: The first race I did was for a charity, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team-in-Training, which was great because it puts you with a group that trains together and you’re working towards a great cause. It was a really great way to meet other athletes, get tips, figure out what I was going to need. I knew nothing about clipping in or setting up transitions. Surround yourself with people who have done it before and don’t be afraid of it. And get in the lake for sure because open water swimming is totally different than swimming in the pool!
Outside of fitness, you have a strong passion for cooking. What has been your journey into food?
DH: I love food. I grew up eating very humble food but I remember being in elementary school watching the Food Network. I worked in the restaurant industry through college serving and bartending and realized anything prepared right can be really good. That made me start experimenting on my own at home in my kitchen. Food is something that brings people together and tells you everything about where someone is from and where you’ve been. The biggest draw is that it creates family.
You host monthly pop-up dinners through your supper club. How do you create that sense of community through your dinners?
DH: I think Chicago is a melting pot of people with different backgrounds and careers. I wanted to bring people together to collaborate over food and make connections and learn about seasonal and local foods, and have a good time. Each month, I put together a dinner and sell 15-20 tickets on Eventbrite. Anyone is welcome and should expect to meet interesting people, have some good food and drinks, and have fun. It often ends up being a dance party afterwards.
Right now, I’m working on a four-week series with Real Good Juices and Studio Three that will combine workouts and small bites. It will be our kickoff to Spring. We’ll combine all three studios, and then you’ll be able to meet people and have some great food. Stay tuned for more info.
If our readers want to take your class or join you for supper club, where can they find you?