Achieve Personal Training: Changing Lives in Randolph, New Jersey

Photo by L.A. Byrne

Imagine a place where you have the opportunity to reassess yourself on nearly all fronts: workout programs, eating habits, the way in which you rest and repair. Your choices, habits and dreams—all may be open to discussion and overhaul, if you choose, all while you are pushed to your physical limits.

Sound like you might get results?

On the day of his wedding, Noah Miller, collegiate athlete in track and field, Wheaton College, spoke about Ken Brunskill of Achieve Fitness. “There isn’t one day of the year that goes by that I don’t do something that Ken has taught me,” Miller reportedly said.

Before starting Achieve Personal Training, a bright, sunny facility tucked away in Randolph, NJ, Brunskill worked as a personal trainer for a friend, utilizing established conventions in training. But he soon realized these methods didn’t address the individual; that adjustments needed to be made to accommodate unique history and body type. He decided to give his individual-centric formula a go on his own. 40 of 42 clients followed.

“It was the most humbling moment of my life,” he explains.

Brunskill’s workouts are centered on weight training with an uncompromising insistence on form that reduces opportunity for injury. Already injured? He’ll shift the workout to not only avoid the problem area but also to strengthen complimentary muscle groups to avoid future flare-ups. Not injured but have one of those nagging joint situations? Brunskill will adjust your form an inch or two with the precision of a racecar mechanic, tweaking to get the most from your lift with the least abuse. But, when you see results and want to train more frequently? Forget about it. He discourages over-training. He encourages rest.

In addition to a sharp eye for form and data-determined exercise choices, Brunskill long ago refuted the carb-heavy food pyramid the government not-so-long-ago overhauled. For clients struggling with weight loss, he suggests a food log and follow-up discussion. With it, Brunskill is straightforward and goal-minded. “I’m here to get the job done,” he explains.

As Morris County’s Strongest at age 34 and then again at age 35, he’s had some experience with meeting goals. But mention of his success is followed with a firm declaration of his integrity: “I don’t lie, cheat or steal.” In a sport that is plagued with chemical enhancement-based success, Brunskill explains, “I want to know it’s my training knowledge that enabled me to win.”

His rhetoric seems well suited for the endless flow of impressionable and ambitious young athletes in his facility. But what about the rest of us who weren’t born with size or athleticism? “It’s about positive thinking and hard work,” Brunskill explains. “And, I don’t give up on people.”

Achieve clients range from ages 10 to 75, utilizing the windowed facility with its Gold’s Gym-style mix of new equipment and almost comically huge free weights. Unlike Gold’s Gym, workouts are private, and conversations held in confidence. Within his walls, he has quietly helped countless middle school, high school and college athletes to gain weight and strength to make the next leap—either to new positions on high school and middle school teams or to college-level competition. Some extraordinarily talented young athletes have also come to him for weight-loss.

Jack Petrella – A Talented Athlete Sets a Goal to Play Football in College

Jack Petrella was always big. Tall, thick frame, shoulders like a chest of drawers—in younger grades, he didn’t pursue football because league rules precluded him from playing with friends his own age. Freshman year in high school, when he finally got a taste of the sport, he was immediately hooked. But by junior year, when Petrella had reached a towering height of 6’7, his weight had also increased to 380 pounds, causing a season-ending knee injury after his first career start on the line. Jack made the decision: he wanted to play college ‘ball. And, he needed to make changes in order to do so.

Friend and teammate Matt Kuhn introduced Petrella to Ken. To date, Matt is one of the two athletes to be inducted into Mendham’s 1200 Club (1200 combined pounds of weight in three events: bench, squat and power-clean). The other inductee was his brother John, also a client of Ken’s.

December, after his junior year season, Petrella started at Achieve at which time he benched 185 for 1 rep, box-squatted 95 pounds, and had never dead-lifted.

Jack describes how “we” set a goal for the June Mendham’s Strongest contest: with Ken’s backing, Jack vowed to squat 315, bench 240, and cut his body weight to a lean 325 pounds.

Less than six months later, he met every number.

How? The thoughtful and articulate Petrella was always a good classroom student, but he had to learn new skills in order to make sweeping life changes. In addition to building Petrella’s strength, Ken helped his new client to “build a drive, an attitude to lose weight that meant everything he did or ate was important to his success,” Petrella says. Over and over, Ken stressed Jack needed to “be accountable” for his decisions.

“I loved it,” Petrella says. “Every ten pounds that came off was a wake up. I was able to say no to things, to feel healthier and mentally more confident.”

In 2015, he was recruited to play football for Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania.

And, now, his senior collegiate season, Petrella is down to a lean 273 pounds and coaches moved him from second team to first team during spring ball. But Jack knows that just means he needs to keep proving he deserves the attention.

“Hard work pays off,” he says with the confidence of a young man who has lived it.

Brunskill's philosophy: to bring healthy habits into lives, to be efficient in work and working out, and to be steadfast in attacking problems head on. (photo by L.A. Byrne)

Jack Petrella met every goal with the help of an individual program from Achieve. (photo by L.A. Byrne)

For Jack, it comes back to lessons learned at Achieve. It means getting his game on in all aspects of life—and taking that attitude to the field and his training.

When asked his advice for athletes looking for big changes, either in weight loss or weight gain, strength, or other components of life, his words were simple, and vaguely familiar.

“Be accountable for your decisions,” Petrella says.

Stephanie Wolfe – A Professional’s Life Reordered

When Stephanie Wolfe realized her clothes had become a little snug, and that she had no intention of buying new ones, she did what any bright, go-getter would do: she Googled a solution. Achieve Personal Training popped up as a local training facility. After scanning the testimonials, she made the call.

“Ken was prompt, articulate and responsive.” High praise from a young attorney who has worked for prestigious law firms, and for whom time may be the rarest of commodities. She was immediately hooked by Ken and his message, but smiles as she recalls that first discussion. “I don’t think I made the same {positive} impression on him.”

With a young son, a husband, and a demanding career, Stephanie’s health had suffered on two fronts, and her stress was unmistakable. With Ken, she started to work on her body but realized there was much more to learn from this trainer. She also began to work on her mind.

Achieve- Stephanie

Brunskill’s philosophy: to bring healthy habits into lives, to be efficient in work and working out, and to be steadfast in attacking problems head on. (photo by L.A. Byrne)

While Ken spoke about his own journey, his continual effort to be open-minded to new things, to pursue the things he loves, and to be his own boss, Stephanie listened.

“In our busy lives we lose sight of the connection between physical and mental health. If you’re letting your body go, you’re letting far more go than just your physical appearance,” she explains in verbiage similar to that which Ken might’ve used.

Soon enough, Stephanie made the decision to pursue a new goal: to launch Breakaway Prep Morristown-Randolph, bringing quality tutoring to ACT and SAT prep, academic tutoring, and other big stress-producers for pre-college students.

“I love the idea of working with a group of professionals who take students’ success seriously but also use a relaxed (and carefully planned), approach to achieve results and help guide students and families through a stressful time.”

Stephanie knows a thing or two about stress—and, now, how to manage it.

Brunskill's attention to form helps to prevent new injuries and work around old problems. (photo by L.A. Byrne)

Brunskill’s attention to form helps to prevent new injuries and work around old problems. (photo by L.A. Byrne)

When asked about his Stephanie’s obvious success despite his initial concerns, Ken smiles. “I’ve never been able to judge {clients} when they walk in the door.”

At Achieve, workouts are holistic, and an opportunity to reevaluate and fine-tune choices. But for those who simply want a safe-yet-physically-challenging routine, with no questions asked about personal decisions, he’s accommodating and supportive.

He’s the first one to say, “I’m just a personal trainer, what do I know?”

Brunskill works with clients ages 10-75 to meet individually determined goals. (photo by L.A. Byrne)

Brunskill works with clients ages 10-75 to meet individually determined goals. (photo by L.A. Byrne)

 

Full disclosure: Achieve Fitness is NOT paying for this article in any way. However, I have been a client at Achieve for several years, as have been my family members, including my son. Tim started with Ken while rehabbing two wrestling-season collarbone breaks. Tim had attempted to return to his former routine but became frustrated with his inability to perform.

Pushing through pain is never a good idea,” Ken repeatedly states.

Ken adjusted Tim’s routine to accommodate his injury and provide opportunity for progress in other muscle groups—a welcome distraction during a long rehab.

By the time his shoulder had completely healed, Tim was devoted to Ken and his approach of not overtraining, eating right, and maintaining proper form to avoid injury.

Tim’s numbers:

Before Ken (HS sophomore year)
Bench 255
Squat 365

After Ken (HS senior year)
Bench 335
Squat 475

So, no one paid to bring this story to our readers but I have reaped the dividends of Ken’s approach—even personally. Years ago, I was told a ruptured disk in my back would require surgery and preclude running or lifting ever again. With Ken’s careful approach, I can squat and bench, among other things. Oh, and I’m killing it at chin-ups. Just saying.

Find Achieve Personal Training at www.achievept.net.

Find Breakaway Prep Morristown-Randolph at www.breakawayprep.com/index.php/who-we-are/morristown-randolph-nj.

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