CATALYST: What is your background in fitness and athletics?
GARDZALLA: My background is in sports medicine and athletic training, and my undergrad is from Metro State University in Denver. I got started in the field early on. When I was registering for classes at a community college, I thought I wanted to be an architect. Before I registered for my architecture classes, I was looking through a catalogue and picked out a bunch of sports nutrition and exercise-based classes. I registered for three or four of those kinds of classes rather than architecture. I realized pretty quickly that it was not a field I wanted to go into and that exercise was a better fit for me. I had been an athlete growing up, so I was always around that, and really enjoyed exercising, the nutrition side of it and helping people to set goals and reach goals. That really drove me in this direction. I also wanted to work with athletes, and an athletic training degree guarantees the ability to work with athletes. My sports medicine background has given me a unique perspective and philosophy on training people and how to best suit someone whether it is rehab based or performance based.
What sports did you play growing up?
Football was the big one that I played in high school. I had the luxury to play a lot of sports and my parents always encouraged me to try. So I played soccer, basketball, and hockey. I grew up in Georgia, and unfortunately lacrosse was not well known or popular. I didn’t get to play. Looking back, I really wish I could have because I like sports where you can hit people. I played soccer in the spring to get myself in better shape for football, and I would have much rather played lacrosse and have gotten to hit people than play soccer.
What did you do after receiving your undergrad?
I started classes at UNC-Greeley. I realized there that their degree was not a great fit for me. Their degree was in exercise physiology, and, for a lot of practitioners, it’s useful. For me, though, chemistry is not a strong suit, nor is it something that I use in practice often. I sometimes fall back on the little chemistry I know when I’m doing nutrition consults and that sort of information. In terms of giving someone a chemical understanding of how their body is processing the energy while they’re exercising, it’s just not information I use very often and that is particularly useful for me. As we speak, I have applied to UCCS for their strength and conditioning program, which is more biomechanics based and more applicable to the way that I practice.
Where did you work before coming to Colorado College?
In this field I have done a lot of work with the Colorado Rapids with their minor league teams. I also have worked with Colorado Avalanche and some semi-pro football teams. As a part of my undergraduate degree, I worked close with a lot of high schools in Denver area. I also worked at a small gym prior to here. There were certainly a lot of benefits to being there, but I like working with the younger, more motivated individuals. It’s certainly a luxury I have working at CC. The other huge thing about working here is that I can now put college on my resume. One of the evil things about trying to work at a high level is that you need high-level experience to get the higher-level jobs. You just have to find a way in one way or the other.
How is CC different for you than the other places you have worked?
As a whole, it’s certainly a liberal arts school and a lot more open-minded of a school. It is certainly a lot nicer from a practitioner’s point of view because you can try a forward thinking idea with someone who is more open-minded to begin with. I’ve also noticed that everyone loves being outside. On a nice day, the gym is empty. I think it’s great. At other places, I haven’t seen that. Also the fact that my shift starts at 6 a.m. and it is not uncommon for people to be there versus at other campuses and places that I’ve worked, there are not very many young people who get up that early to work out. That’s a nice change of pace for me.
What is your favorite sport to watch/sports team?
My favorite sport to watch is football. My favorite team is the Denver Broncos. When we lived in Georgia, we lived there when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl, and I was the only kid at school wearing a Broncos jersey. I thought that was awesome, especially because they won.
Did you ever consider playing football semi-professionally or professionally?
That was something I considered. Early on I had a couple of knee injuries. Now, with the education I received, I’ve realized that the practitioners I worked with to recover didn’t practice to the level they should have. So my recovery didn’t really get good until I started to educate and take care of myself. When I started to consider playing semi-professional football, I got in a motorcycle accident. I dashed those dreams because I had previous injuries on one leg and a new injury on the other leg. I think it was a blessing in disguise.
What do you do outside of work?
I am a huge car guy. I really love tinkering with cars, even small little things. My brother recently bought a new car, and we were painting his calipers and debadging. I also love to do bigger undertakings, that’s more fun for me. I also really enjoy the mountains. In the summer, I like to hike as many fourteeners as I can. I hope to do every mountain in the state, which I know is sort of a lofty goal because you need to be able to [rock] climb. It’s not just hiking at that point. Unfortunately, I don’t have that skill set. It’s something I’ll need to barter with someone so I can get to the top. I also enjoy snowboarding and just most things that get me outside.
What was your favorite car project you’ve worked on?
My first car that I had when I was 16 was a B5 A4 that had a four-cylinder turbo engine. I spent my high school and shortly after graduation working on that car and was able to turn it into a 450 horsepower behemoth. It’s just a little small sedan. I loved that thing. It was a big project. There was a lot of things you had to do to get that power out of it. It wasn’t a show car, but being able to get it to the point where I could bring it to car meets and say, ‘This is my car.’
What is your favorite fourteener you’ve climbed?
My favorite was probably Elbert because it was my least favorite. I hated summiting that thing. It has how many false summits? It’s so frustrating because from the get-go, you think you see the summit. Then you get about three-quarters of the way up and you realize that isn’t it. And then you climb to the next one and realize that isn’t it either. It does that to you over and over again, and it’s really disheartening especially at that altitude.