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Pu’ali Fitness helps put a little ‘aloha’ in your workout

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

Brigitte Crawford used to dread going to her high school gym class.

“When it came time to line up for choosing teams, no one ever picked me,” she said. “I was the 98-pound weakling. I was never athletic.”

Even after she entered adulthood, married and had three children, she was never one to stick to a workout routine.



“I would always start, then quit — fitness was a challenge for me,” Crawford said. “I floundered along and never asked for help.”

But five years ago, things started to change. While routinely shuttling her children to various activities, Crawford found herself with a lot of free time to kill while in town.




“One day, while I was waiting to pick up my son, I decided I would find out about hiring a personal trainer for just three sessions,” she said. “It was either that or a mani-pedi.”

The three sessions turned into six, then nine, and as Crawford started to feel and look different, she was hooked.

Her personal trainer was so impressed with Crawford’s commitment that he suggested she train for a “figure competition,” a type of physique exhibition for women that emphasizes muscle definition over muscle size.

After 13 months of intensive training, Crawford proved to be a worthy competitor.

“It was crazy — there I was, in heels, a bejeweled bikini and a fake tan doing silly poses,” she said. “But it was really fun. I’m very goal-oriented.”

Judges at the show were impressed by the fact that it only took Crawford 13 months to become fit enough for the competition circuit and encouraged her to become a certified personal trainer.

“That changed the direction of my life,” she said. “I was ready for something different.”

Two years ago Crawford — whose professional past included working in human resources for a Grass Valley tech firm — opened Pu’ali Fitness, which offers health and fitness services in an intimate setting. A true lover of all things Hawaiian, the word “Pu’ali” means warrior, said Crawford, whose business “resounds with the spirit of aloha.”

The entire bottom floor of Crawford’s Grass Valley home has been converted into a studio, complete with state-of-the-art gym and fitness equipment, including the Surfset Ripper X, a simulated surfboard that helps with balance and core strengthening. A certified instructor for the innovative board, Crawford has integrated stand up paddling exercises into the program due to popular demand.

“I’ve always been a cheerleader of sorts — I like bright colors — I tell my clients they can only wear one article of black clothing when they come,” she said with a laugh. “I painted the weights to look like pieces of candy and reupholstered the gym equipment. I call workouts ‘play dates’ because they should be fun.”

Today, Crawford’s clients range in age from 22 to 76, and she says customizing workouts to fit each individual is the key to a safe and successful fitness plan. Many older clients have come in with previous injuries or have not exercised in years, she said.

“I had one client who sat at the top of my driveway on the first day, afraid to come down,” she said. “Even if you’ve never been active, it’s never too late.”

When the weather is cooperating, clients often work out on Crawford’s large deck with an expansive view looking out toward the Sutter Buttes. Her two beloved mascots — English bulldog puppies Ulu and Lono — are often close by.

“Brigitte really did a good job of assessing our needs,” said client Julie, 54, who comes in with her partner, Dennis, 74. Both preferred not to use their last names. “It’s fun, and we love her studio. I came in with no muscle tone and a frozen shoulder. Now I’m looking pretty buff.”

Crawford said she knew she was doing something right when her own doctor began referring his patients to Pu’ali Fitness after seeing her transformation.

“I like to think that my clients enjoy my help, enthusiasm and expertise,” she said. “I doesn’t hurt that I put a little ‘aloha’ in everything.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, you can email her at cfisher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.


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