Member Highlight: Fitness Coach – Kali Stewart

I met Kali through a friend of mine, and when I met her, I was 40lbs overweight. Going to college and working a desk job completely changed my body, and not in a good way. I asked her for help, I needed to lose weight. She put me on a meal plan and exercise routine that helped me manage my new lifestyle. It was all about creating healthy habits like eating smaller portion sizes, eating slowly, and stopping when I’m full.

The change happened slowly and gradually, and I’m still working on it. My surfing is getting back to normal and I’m feeling better and better every day. Because of this, I felt that I needed to share Kali with the world. She helped change my life and if you’re looking to change something but need help, Kali is the person for you.

How did you get into surfing?

We lived about 45 minutes away from the beach but my parents did an amazing job getting us there on weekends. I saw the boys surfing and I knew I was going to be a surfer too.

I used to wear my wetsuit around the house and I practiced popping up on my foam board laid across my bed.

How did you get into nutrition and fitness?

My mom is a dietician and both of my parents are pretty active. We spent many weekends riding bikes or going on hikes.

Despite my healthy surroundings and athleticism, I was always overweight and really self-conscious about it.

I studied exercise physiology in college. I had a pretty good understanding of the body but still struggled with overeating.

When I later got my masters in kinesiology and sports psychology and became a certified nutrition coach, I started to understand the mind-body connection.

I began to focus on eating psychology and how to help myself and others change their behaviors, not just what they were eating.

Now my focus is to help as many people learn how to nourish their bodies with foods and movement that they enjoy through behavior change practices. It’s awesome!

Kali Stewart Fitness Coach

What’s your philosophy/background behind your fitness programs?

Everyone’s goals are different. Some people want to lose weight, others want to get as strong as possible. Others just want to feel pain-free and have a healthy, functional body as they age. My focus is always on helping the client accomplish their goals by building exercise and activity into their lives in ways that work for them.

I love working with surfers in the gym because they really see and feel the difference in the water. Even though they don’t all love working out, they begin to really value the strengthening we do because of the noticeable improvement in their surfing.

My philosophy for greatest health and happiness: Move in the ways that you love! Find a way to exercise that you actually enjoy and you’ll stick with it forever!

What’s it like training an adaptive athlete like Dani Burt?
Before I became a personal trainer I was a physical therapist’s aide through high school and college. The experience of working with people with physical limitations from injuries helped prepare me for working with adaptive athletes. The experience taught me to think outside of the textbook and continually ask for feedback from the athlete.

Listening to what Dani’s goals are and then finding a way to strengthen her body accordingly follows the same guidelines as any other athlete and is built on the foundation of communication.

I feel that athletes need to learn how to tune into their body and coaches need to know which questions to ask. Dani and I talk a lot about what’s working and what needs to be improved.

Dani is an amazing human being and athlete. I think that much of her success in surfing and life comes from her consistency. This is the most important facet of training for everyone. Dani has nailed consistency. She always shows up and works hard. It is an honor to work with her.

Trainer Kali Stewart with Dani Burt

Do you have some fitness/nutrition advice specifically for a surfer?

If you know any fit surfers, you know that they surf a lot!

What’s cool is that while nothing beats time in the water, there are ways to strengthen the most common motions so that paddling feels like less effort, you’re faster, you pop up quicker, your recovery is better etc.

1. Mobility– having a full range of motion in your joints is important for surfers. Make sure you are spending time each week working on your flexibility and mobility by using myofascial release techniques (think foam roller), active and dynamic stretching, and walking. People underestimate the importance of walking, but that general movement is really important for keeping our joints mobile. I love hiking as a cross-training technique for surfers.

2. Paddling Strength/Endurance– performing 2-3 days per week of surf specific exercises that mimic the paddling motion and strengthen the muscles that perform that action will really make a difference in paddling power and endurance. See the examples below.

 3. Core Strength– There are deep back muscles that run along the spine called the multifidi. They function with the deep core muscles (transverse abdominis) to stabilize the spine before movement occurs. For example, before you make a turn, these muscles engage to keep your spine strong and you get a better transfer of energy without injury. One simple and effective exercise to include your program are side-planks and side-plank variations.

4. Metabolic Conditioning– This type of workout helps to train the different energy systems in the body and can be used for helping someone get fitter, stronger, or faster, depending on the way it is performed. For surfers, it is important to be strong for shorter, powerful bursts of energy (making big turns or paddling hard for the wave) followed up by paddling back in the line-up.

Performing total-body circuit workouts, also known as High-Intensity Circuit Training (HICT), is a great way to increase your metabolic efficiency while getting leaner and fitter for surfing.

Here is a quick routine you can do at the gym to increase your paddling power, core strength, and overall surf-strength:

Circuit 1
Lat Pulldowns or Pullups (10 reps)
Bulgarian Split Squats (10 reps each side)
Elbow Plank (30 seconds or as long as you can hold)
X 3

Circuit 2
Straight-arm Pulldowns (10 reps)
Modified Burpees (pop-up to surf stance) (10 reps)
Side plank (20-30 seconds each side)
X 3

Kali stewart fitness surf strength workout

I create 12-week custom workouts plans that can be used at the gym or at home. This is a great plan for surfers of all-levels that want to get fitter and stronger in the water or work on their overall fitness and health.

Twice a year I do an online nutrition and fitness coaching program. It includes everything: custom workouts, comprehensive nutrition counseling, and mentoring from me. It’s a year-long program that is meant to help people change their habits for life. The next class starts on August 1 and the registration is now open for people that are interested.

People can find more information on my website Or if they want to connect or have any other questions, I love to talk about surfing and fitness and meet new people!

Nicole Grodesky

Nicole is an avid surfer with over 20 years of surfing experience. Along her travels, she took her camera with her and started documenting the people and places that inspired her. In the early 2000s Nicole began submitting her work to online magazines and print publications. Her photography and feature articles have been published in Surf Shot Magazine,, Surf Life for Women and SG Magazine. Published works include: ASP contest coverage, NSSA contest coverage, Home Break with Holly Beck, Home Break with Erica Hosseini, Ornella Pellizzari feature article, Alisa Schwarzstein-Cairns interview, Jenny Quam feature, Costa Rica and Santa Barbara travel stories.