With a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s in Business, it’s highly surprising that 41 year-old Gentry Bradley decided on a career in fitness training. Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Gentry was a sprinter before turning to coaching 11 years ago. In 1998, he was the national champion for the 200-meter sprint as well as being the World Intercontinental runner-up. He now shares his expertise training and experience with elite-level athletes who are preparing for events such as the Olympics Games, World Championships, Asian Games and Gulf Championships. His coaching specialty is in the sprint events of running which consist of 60-meter, 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter sprints. “I’m all about speed!”, he claims, “The athletes that I’ve trained have been ranked as high as #5 in the world, that’s saying something.”
He has worked for both the Saudi Arabian and Qatari track teams as well, doing consultation for teams in Lebanon, Iran, Uzbekistan, Malaysia and various US athletes and colleges. In addition to that, Gentry is currently creating his own athletics training group, GBJ Athletics, aimed at sprinters from the US, Middle East and Asia who are looking to train. Uvadahlia’s own Zatasha Kiran spoke to Gentry about life in the fast lane.
Uvadahlia Magazine: Tell us a little about your life growing up.
Gentry Bradley: I grew up in a city named Compton in California with two older sisters. My parents were always hard workers and they did whatever they could for me and my sisters. My sisters and I have always been in athletics so I’ve been familiar with the field for quite some time. I was always the champion in running at my schools and in my age groups. I was my high school’s first ever state champion, something I’m still very proud of. This achievement got me a scholarship to my college, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
UM: When did your passion for fitness start?
GB: I was always a fast runner as a kid. No one could catch me! I would even beat some of the older kids. But when I won my first official race at the age of nine, I was immediately hooked! So it wasn’t so much about fitness, it was about being fast! (laughs) But when you’re training and competing at this high level, you begin to understand how your body works and how it reacts to different exercises along with different foods. By understanding this more and more, and seeing results through trial and error, I began to appreciate the human body more.
UM: The field you work in now couldn’t be more different to what you studied, was that a conscious decision?
GB: Even though I had done sports most of my life, I originally had plans to be a teacher and perhaps open my own preschool. This is why I pursued my Masters in Business. I had planned on moving away from athletics but slowly I kept getting pulled back in more and more. All of my coaching opportunities just came to me, from helping a few friends to coaching international teams.
UM: If you weren’t into fitness and training what would you be doing?
GB: I probably would be in the education field, either teaching or an academic adviser. This is my other passion. Mainly younger kids but I can teach as high as high school. I love witnessing growth and development of people. And the same can be said about training my athletes. To see their progress is amazing. In the academic system, to stimulate a student’s mind is amazing. It’s not so much about teaching them but putting them in a position where they can think and figure things out for themselves.
UM: Who or what is your biggest motivator?
GB: My Dad and Mom by far! It’s by their guidance that I am where I am today and experienced all that I have. They both show their motivation in VERY different ways but it took both ways to get me here today. My mother made sure I had everything that I needed to be in athletics while my father kept the encouragement high. They always told me just keep doing what I was doing and I would go far. And far I went, travelling most of the world. This isn’t a luxury most people get coming from where I grew up.
UM: In 1998, you won the National Championship for sprinting, how did it feel to cross that finish line first?
GB: You know, at this time I was part of a group that had three Olympic medalists, World Champions and previous USA National Champions. At this particular event, EVERYONE seemed to have a problem and didn’t perform well. No medals for my group. My event was the last one. So when I came across the finish line in first, I could immediately hear my group cheering! My first thoughts were “I hope my mom and dad saw that on tv!” It was an unbelievable experience. Records are made to be broken, but a champion is forever.
UM: What made you leave sprinting for training?
GB: When I stopped competing professionally, I had friends who asked me to help them out. I was working as an academic counselor at a university at the time but I could manage the time. For me, it was fun. Then I got a call from a college to coach there – my university didn’t have a sports team – so I took the opportunity and I loved it. Then I got the call from Saudi Arabia to coach there. This was my big step forward. After seven months of consideration, I took the opportunity and never looked back.
UM: What’s your typical workout routine?
GB: For myself, I keep it basic. In the gym, I love squats, pull ups and push ups. My favorites. Personally, I’m not a long-distance runner. I love to sprint but with my age I don’t have the same power as before. So I manage to still do a few sprints to keep in shape. An example would be running 200 meters five times, each in about 26-30 seconds. And I take a rest of 5-8 minutes. For my athletes, it’s quite different and varies from week to week. But it mainly consists of extreme work in the gym followed by hard sprint workouts on the track. While I’m doing my casual 30-second run for 200 meters, my athletes are doing it 19-20 seconds!
UM: What are your strengths?
GB: I think I’m naturally strong so it doesn’t take much for me to get fit for the gym. I’m actually stronger on some gym exercises than my athletes and I don’t even do those things everyday. (laughs)
UM: What other things do you do to stay fit apart from exercise?
GB: Coaching keeps me in shape. It’s not a job where you can be good at by sitting down. I’m constantly moving and moving fast across the field. Other than that, dancing with my wife keeps me fit. I need to dance more! I’m an outdoor type of person, so I like to be out and always moving. I think just having an active life does great for the body and mind. Too many people stay at home, sleep too much and watch too much TV.
UM: Healthy eating goes hand in hand with fitness – do you follow a strict diet?
GB: I think because I spent so much time being very strict with my diet as an athlete, I’m not as strict today. I do pay attention to my body and know when I need to cut back on some things but I am a man who likes food so I indulge myself at times. But when I feel my body not reacting in the same way, I change things up to get my body back right. For my athletes it’s different. They have to treat their bodies as machines. Eat the right amount of proteins and carbohydrates. And even more important is when they eat their meals. Timing can be very crucial when it comes to how the body uses the foods we eat.
UM: Exercise and fitness requires discipline – are you generally a disciplined person or is that only in the gym?
GB: I can be a disciplined person. If I have a plan and I’m looking for a result, I stay focused on it. Whether it’s gym, an assignment, etc. I must have a plan and not just a goal. The plan allows me to be more disciplined than just have the goal.
UM: Fitness is a huge part of your life – do you have any other major hobbies?
GB: Fortunately with my work I have been able to travel all around the world. So traveling has become a hobby. Seeing different cultures and experiencing how other people live is awesome. And to be able to bring those experiences home is wonderful. It brings a new vision to the world you live in.
UM: Fitness, although rewarding can also be quite tiring at times – what do you do to wind down after a long day?
GB: It depends on what kind of winding down I need! If I’ve had a tiring and stressful day or week, I’ll usually go out with my wife or friends for small get-away. When I’m completely exhausted and I need to just rest, I sit at home and watch political news (I’ve become that guy!) It takes my mind off of my day.
UM: Millions of people all over the world dream of having the perfect body, is there any such thing?
GB: There is no such thing as a perfect body. But there is such a thing as the perfect body for you. People first should be happy with who they are and how they look no matter what their level of fitness is. We always think we could be in better shape and that’s good but don’t look at yourself in disgust. Be proud first. And if you want to improve your shape, go and try to do it. And make yourself MORE proud. Don’t look at someone else and say “I want to look like him or her.” But you can use them as motivation to improve yourself.
UM: Everyone has a different way and style of training and if you’re new to it you can get a bit lost – what’s the biggest mistake that fitness newbies make?
GB: I think one of the biggest mistakes is listening to too many people who aren’t professionals. There are people who generally work out on their own and they know what’s best for them. But they aren’t professional trainers. So they start telling people do what they do. This is wrong. A professional understands that there are different levels of fitness, different body types. Their objective isn’t to get you to look like them but to get you to look like the best version of yourself. I know one guy who loves to workout and he’s in great shape. But watching him train other people, he’s not so successful. He doesn’t know how to train them because he’s never studied training so he keeps losing clients.
UM: We all need that push – what’s the best way for people to motivate themselves to get fit?
GB: I would say first find a physical activity that you love. Some people like dancing so go and dance a little more. Maybe start taking hikes in the mountains or go on bike rides. Most people think of fitness as only going to the gym and doing various exercises and classes. Start doing physical activities that you love. What typically happens is the more you do these things, the more you end up pushing yourself to go further. That one extra dance, that one more hike up the mountain, or that longer bike ride. People need to create a habit of doing something physical then everything else will fall into place.
UM: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
GB: Motivating different personalities. You have to learn which words and forms of communication work for different people. But as a coach, even if you’re having a bad day, you can not bring it to the training. The people who look to you for inspiration every day may also be having a bad day. As a coach, your job is to teach the athlete how to stay focused on the task ahead of them. How to divert what ever energy they are using worrying about any issues they might be dealing with and apply it into training. And what I have discovered is most times when an athlete is having a bad day and we help them divert that energy, in the end they have had one of their best training sessions ever.
UM: What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
GB: My biggest accomplishment is seeing all the things I’ve learned about training as a coach and successfully applying these methods to my athletes and watching them get the results they want. The size of the result doesn’t matter. But to be a part of someone’s personal growth is an amazing thing. It makes you proud because you reflect on everything that was done to lead up to that. So I just want to continue to help people grow and reach their goals.
UM: Tell us a bit about the company you are working on and what’s next for you?
GB: My company that I’m working on, GBJ Athletics, wants to focus more on helping groups and teams develop themselves to be more successful in athletics. Some teams, nationally and internationally, do not have coaches with the experience and knowledge to create a successful program. So I want to be able to educate them in the sports so that they can begin to improve their programs. Through my travels and work, many coaches and administrative people have come asking me to help them out with their athletes. They’ve seen the success that I have had as an athlete and coach and want to duplicate some of my success. I began to recognize what many of these teams are missing and I believed I had to tools to help them out. I believe by doing this, I can assist more athletes in reaching their goals since my focus would be more on assisting groups and not just individuals. However, I still plan to work with individuals. I love the excitement of “building a project.” It gives me a chance to better my training skills, especially since each person is different. So I constantly need to adjust my methods to put together things that will work for that particular person. Athletics has been great for me from the very beginning and to be able to share my knowledge of the sport gives me great satisfaction.