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Tawnya Nguyen

Episode 049

Ballet: The Give and Take of Purpose

Tawnya Nguyen is a strength coach based out of Los Angeles, California. She is invested in helping people commit to a sustainable lifestyle while achieving their greatest potential through movement.

Tawnya’s love for movement started when she was dancing at the age of 7, with focuses in ballet, contemporary, and various choreography styles. From there, she was always seeking different ways to explore movement athletically and artistically. What gravitated her toward fitness was the ability to unlock the human potential by utilizing numerous schools of thought through the medium of science. Fitness not only rehabilitated Tawnya’s chronic injuries but has also elevated her day-to-day and athletic performance. These experiences have shaped her into the coach she is today, and she hopes to share that passion and knowledge with others to help them in their personal journey.

Tawnya specializes in Athletic Development + Performance, Strength and Conditioning, Rehab, Dance, and Animal Flow. She is certified in ISSA, as a Certified Functional Strength Coach, in Precision Nutrition 1, IOM, the Kettlebell technique, and in Conor Harris Biomechanics.

Company: Movement Society,

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Tawnya Nguyen Quotes

  • “Trainers and fitness play such an essential role in our society, and I try to connect movement in a way for people to recognize their physical and mental strength.”
  • “Movement unlocks so many feelings and releases a creative wave in your mind when you take care of yourself physically.”
  • “It’s driven me to be the person I am today and allowed me to work with dancers specifically, but it was also a source of physical and mental pain.”
  • Tawnya Nguyen is a strength coach based out of Los Angeles, California.
  • She found her love of movement when she joined a dance studio to learn Ballet at 7.
  • After college, Tawnya decided to pursue her love of movement by working with artists athletes and helping them realize their mental and physical strength through movement.

What is your profession?

I’m a strength and conditioning coach and work primarily with artists athletes.

Artists athletes are those people who are in the performing arts. I work with dancers, singers, actresses, actors, graphic designers, and videographers.

How important is the connection between a coach and a client?

I really value the connection with my clients. Training is a two-way street. It’s not just me coaching the client; it’s also them giving themselves to me.

Is your role to get someone to look a certain way?

My role is to get my clients to feel a certain way and to feel like themselves.

Personal training has a very downplayed role in our society. People often think of trainers just as sets and reps counters.

Trainers and fitness play such an essential role in our society, and I try to connect movement in a way for people to recognize their physical and mental strength.

Our world is so predicated on how much output our brain can do, but we’ve lost the focus on how much our bodies can do.

Do you want a client who doesn’t do anything fitness-related?

I actually do want those clients. I want to show them what exercise and movement can do for them.

I have dancers and performers who tell me they don’t want to be here but know they have to.

I let them have that space and tell them, “Look, I know you don’t want to be here right now, but in 3 months, you’re going to love this.”

Movement unlocks so many feelings and releases a creative wave in your mind when you take care of yourself physically.

What is your connection to San Gabriel Valley?

I was born and raised in Rowland Heights. I stayed in the San Gabriel Valley until I was 18, went to San Francisco for college, and then came back when I was 23.

Did you always plan to come back to the San Gabriel Valley?

I didn’t have a plan to come back, but I didn’t have a plan to stay away. After graduating, I moved home for a little bit, then to Lincoln Heights with my partner, and then to Pasadena, and I love it here.

I like where I am right now; I’ve found a lot of happiness and comfort living here and plan on being here for the long run.

What did you study in school?

Initially, I was studying journalism and public relations, but I hated it. I studied history in the last two years, specifically US and European History.

What drove you to become a strength and conditioning coach?

Imposter syndrome and a lot of fear. I had considered going to get my Masters and teach at the community college I attended.

But I was terrified of becoming a teacher because I wasn’t a good student, and I thought, “How could I teach students if I wasn’t a great student?”

I was lost for a while and didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. Then I sat down with myself and had an honest conversation about what I liked and what made me happy.

Training made me happy and allowed me to teach in an area where I felt comfortable.

Do you suffer from imposter syndrome now?

I think about that often. I think imposter syndrome will always resonate with me. I feel it still, but it’s not as paralyzing as it used to be.

You entered the fitness world to be confident but look different from most trainers. Can you share what that was like with us?

I didn’t start off confident. I was very intimidated to be working in a male-dominated field, and I had a tough time being comfortable talking to other coaches.

I kept replaying in my head that I am this small, young woman who didn’t know what she was doing or didn’t belong in this industry.

Social media has really driven the aesthetics of what a personal trainer should look like, but that’s just not me.

Once I realized I didn’t have to know everything or have every answer, I was able to gain confidence and own my own space.

When did you start dancing?

I started Ballet when I was seven years old.

Was it something you wanted to do, or did your parents make you do it?

I wanted to do it. I saw my cousin do a competition in a beautiful rhinestone costume, and I begged my parents to put me in. I’ve been dancing since then.

Have you evolved your dance?

I have. Ballet is my favorite style because of its discipline and structure. I’ve also done lyrical, jazz, contemporary, housing (dancing to house music), tap dancing, and hip hop, although we don’t call it that.

How has your career been in the fitness industry?

It’s been really smooth. I put almost all of the obstacles in my way myself, and once I got a handle on that, things went really well.

What kind of tools did you develop to overcome negative self-talk and anxiety?

It’s a little cheesy, but affirmations and positive self-talk helped me. Once you start talking to yourself in a positive manner, you really start to believe it.

Another thing that helped was social media. So much of our business is on social media, so I just started filming videos, putting them out there, and showing them what I was capable of.

So you use social media to help people with issues you’ve been through?

Absolutely. When I began to use social media, it was a constant self-comparison, and many young women out there glorify these unrealistic bodies and lifestyles.

I want to put myself out there as a symbol of what is real.

What do you think caused your negative self-talk?

It started when I was really young with dancing. I would have such stage fright before a performance, and somehow, it carried over into the rest of my life.

It was this constant “you’re going to mess up, you’re going to mess up,” and it got so bad that it would make me forget choreography.

So the same thing you loved is the same thing that caused this anxiety and negativity?

It is a walking oxymoron, but I find a lot of joy in dance, and Ballet gave me this discipline I never had and something to work towards.

It’s driven me to be the person I am today and allowed me to work with dancers specifically, but it was also a source of physical and mental pain.

Can you discuss with us the experience you had recently?

It was late August when I went out to have a couple of drinks and dinner with my friend. What was supposed to be a chill night turned into a traumatizing night.

We were there for a couple of hours, and we ordered a drink, and I asked if I could change the tequila out in my glass.

The bartender came over and started explaining why they don’t switch out the tequila, and he gave me a taste test to show how it was better.

I thought he was going above and beyond, but he took a strong liking to my friend.

He started coming to our table a lot, giving us free drinks. About twenty minutes after we ordered our first drinks, he brought out another round of drinks.

We tried to refuse it politely, but he asked us just to take a sip. We did and then set them off to the side.

He then pulled up a chair and sat at our table, and in the camera footage we would see later, you can see him putting his hand on my friend’s leg.

So, towards the end of the night, I completely blacked out. I only had two drinks, and the last thing I remember was calling my boyfriend and telling him how the night was going. After that, it was all a blur.

I got home that night around 11, and my boyfriend was upset because he thought I drove home drunk, which I would never do.

He said I was really incoherent and had thrown up five times.

My friend, who was also throwing up, had passed out on my couch, rolled off, and didn’t even move.

It wasn’t until later the next day that I started putting the pieces together that we might have been drugged.

So as we started digging into this, we realized that the bartender who gave us drinks that night had worked at another bar with a string of druggings, where a woman had been assaulted.

We went to the police a week later, and now a case is being investigated.

How can people get a hold of you?

The best place to get a hold of me is on Instagram @coachtawns, and my gym, Movement Society, will be open by January.

Picture of Tawnya Nguyen

Tawnya Nguyen

Boiling Crab. This was one of my first serving jobs and has played a big part in my life. It taught me a lot about patience.

Puente Hills Mall. This is where Back To The Future was filmed. Puente Hills is where I would go hang out with my friends. Every Friday night, my dad would drop me off in front, and my friends and I would see movies.

Dellos Dance Studio in Walnut is my childhood dance studio. I spent a lot of time there, and it’s where I realized dance is my passion.