Our Members Say

Phillip Snell DC, Chiropractic Physician

In clinical practice, recommendation to patients to work with a personal trainer is often met with several standard objections:

1. ‘I worked with a trainer once and I got hurt.’
2. ‘I hate the thump, thump, thump of the loud music and all of the posers in yoga pants.’
3. ‘The last trainer I had was more focused on taking my money than on helping me reach my goals.’

When Chris Bathke arrived in Portland several years ago and set up Elemental Fitness Lab, I had heard of his reputation as someone who had honed his craft under some quality names in the strength and conditioning world. I was elated at the possibility to finally have a resource and a location to segue my patients from rehab to supervised training. My initial optimism has been surpassed by the actual wonderful results I have seen in my patient population over the past 4 years working closely with Chris, Blaine and Gabe at EFL. I can wholeheartedly recommend the services of Chris and his crew at EFL for no-nonsense, personalized, results focused training with an absence of the common objections above. Thanks guys for being there for me and my patients!!

Dr. Megan Zetter (Doctor of Chiropractic)

If you are looking for truly personalized and effective fitness training, EFL is your gym. EFL is not your traditional gym either, you work out in your socks or bare feet, which I love, and you may walk around with a beanbag on your head or hang from bars. EFL really is an adult playground! The trainers are phenomenal and having worked with them all, I am beyond impressed with their knowledge and understanding of how the body moves. As a healthcare professional, I have confidently referred many people to EFL and I have had nothing but glowing reports about their experiences. If you are intimidated about going to a gym, EFL is definitely for you! The environment is very inviting and extremely supportive of all levels of fitness. This is not the type of gym whose goal is to make you puke. They want to teach you how to function well in everyday activities, while feeling strong and confident. And if you are already a high-end athlete they can help take you to the next level

Emily Powell, owner of Powell’s Books

Thank you to Chris Bathke and Elemental Fitness Lab. It feels so good to be back and helping my body move and breathe right. The quiet brilliance of Chris’s work is inspiring. Portland friends, I can’t recommend Elemental highly enough.

Kyra Ahlstrom, massage therapist/Structural Integration bodyworker

EFL is fantastic. I’ve been going there once a week for about two years, and the functional changes in my body are amazing. They listened to exactly what I wanted to work on and designed a custom program. I feel safe going there, since the trainers are precise and exacting, so I can work smart and notice big changes after only a few reps; I’m not exhausting or injuring myself with zillions of reps in terrible form.
Also, as a structural integrator, not only do I get to geek out about anatomy and movement with the trainers, but this is where I refer my clients. I know that their tender knees, tricky low backs, and vulnerable shoulders will be met with custom plans, careful supervision, and smart options for increasing strength, mobility, and ease. Plus, the sense of community can’t be beat!

Dan Stiles

My only regret with joining EFL is that I didn’t do it 20 years earlier. I could have enjoyed years of strength, fitness, and proper movement rather than piling up injuries through a combination of ignorance, bad programming, and poor form. EFL has given me a targeted, science based program, and comprehensive training on the movements that is entirely unavailable at chain gyms. Beyond that, their level of education and experience puts them head and shoulders above other trainers I’ve worked with in the past. The cost of one reconstructive surgery would cover your membership for a decade, it’s well worth the investment in yourself. Every day I feel the benefits of the exercises I do at EFL.

Mark Larabbee

I love anything to do with getting outside on a mountain bike, a surf board, a rock wall, a pair of skis, a trail and in the mountains. But I struggled with low back pain for years. I’ve been working out with Chris for 18 months. He helped me target my weak areas, helped me build consciousness into my physical activities and in my daily life behind a desk. I am pain free, stronger, faster, more flexible and have greater endurance. I will never stop./blockquote>
Darren Aboulafia
Darren came to us having gained and lost then gained weight a number of times, and with some movement restrictions that kept him from being more active. Over the course of two years he lost approximately 100 pounds, and has since taken up mountaineering. He often climbs more than 5,000 vertical feet in a weekend now, something impossible a year ago. This is because of his consistency and hard work in gradually changing his eating habits and lifestyle, and our system of assisting him in moving better, then improving strength, resiliency, and conditioning so that he could slowly increase his ability to make longer hikes.Lokut3

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Jenn Zuba

“I just wanted to send you a little note to let you know that I am now close to pain free (even while climbing)! It’s been a long 2 years dealing with my injury and working on my muscular and range of motion imbalances while trying to fix the unusual movement patterns that my brain developed to compensate for the painful movements. I am now a far cry from the person who walked into EFL a year and a half ago who had such limited mobility that I couldn’t turn to the right or raise my arms and didn’t have the lower body strength do a proper lunge. I’m very grateful to you and Blaine for all the criticism, advice, and encouragement you guys provided me and I hope that you continue to provide this to your other clients in the future so that they can live pain free lives. Rock on!”

Sally Coulter

“This is noteworthy. Usually when I do gardening, I’m really sore the same evening, to the point of hobbling because my back hurts too much to walk properly. Today I lifted a lot of weight. I hefted 50lb bags of rocks and 40lb bags of potting soil, carrying them up stairs, maneuvering them in and out of my car. I dug holes. I moved large and heavy rocks. I lifted and poured soil from heavy bags. I did a lot of work on my hands and knees, usually with one arm outstretched and working hard. And the surprising thing is that I’m not that sore. I’m a little tight in my hamstrings, but apart from being just physically TIRED, I feel great. When Elemental Fitness Lab says “functional movement”, they really mean functional movement. This everyday AVAILABILITY of strength and flexibility, whenever I need it, is a revelation to me after a lifetime of immobility and weakness.”

Matt Kingsley

“Overall, I am extremely happy with EFL and feel like I’ve had an amazing return on my investment. I came in pretty frustrated with an almost 20-year history of frequent back pain. Since training with you the frequency and severity of my pain has been vastly reduced which has greatly increased the quality of my life in many other ways. My strength and mobility have improved greatly and this has led me to do activities I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing a year ago such as riding a bike or even sitting on a deep, plush sofa! For this I am very grateful (and to Dr. Snell for pointing me in your direction; I would have had no idea where to go). It hasn’t been a quick fix and I understand there isn’t one, but with your help my efforts have been rewarded for sure.”

Alicia Delaschmutt

“I used to think that a personal trainer was a luxury that I couldn’t afford. I’ve been a member of EFL since it’s inception and I’ve been working with Blaine for years. Training with Blaine is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. He has built training programs for me around challenging athletic events; marathons and 500 mile bike rides, challenging life events; serious illness recovery and my need to lift and handle my 100lb daughter during seizures and her other assistance needs due to her disabilities. Each day, each program is a little different based on what’s going on in my life, my health and my interests. He is a good man who loves his Grandma and pays individualized attention to his clients of all shapes, sizes, abilities and ages. He is not what I would consider your ‘typical’ trainer (no one at EFL is) and that it what has kept me coming back to EFL and to Blaine for all of these years.”

Caitlin Sills

“Training with Blaine has been a life-altering experience for me. I came to training after several years of ignoring the health of my body and mind. I knew I needed a change, but more importantly, I needed guidance. I was nervous about finding a personal trainer because I didn’t want to be pushed too hard, sustain an injury or feel intimidated by a gym environment. Now, I can safely say that hiring Blaine was some of the best money I have ever spent. Blaine listens carefully and is incredibly responsive to my needs on a session-to-session basis. He does not push, but encourages. He is a teacher at heart, taking time to explain and demonstrate in detail. And he does it all with a contagious exuberance and sense of humor. After three weeks of training, my chronic hip pain disappeared. I feel stronger and more capable in everyday tasks, like walking, bending or lifting. My mood has improved and I just feel good, period. Most surprising of all, the gym has become my happy place–a little oasis in the hustle. I wish I would have started training years ago.”

Karen Anderson

“Blaine Works With Every Body (even old and fat ones). I’ve been working with Blaine for over a year now.  I have myriad joint complaints.  Knee replacement is in my future and I want to be as strong as possible going in.  When we started, I could not get up off the ground without assistance.  I’m much stronger and more mobile now–up and down without issues. Some days are better than others, and Blaine has been very good at finding things I can  do.  He’s also great at finding cues that help me figure out how to do movements correctly.  I feel very comfortable at the gym (words I never thought I would say).  No shame for being who I am in the shape I’m in.”

Kelly Barnard

Kelly came to me originally wanting to drop some fat and get healthier in order to run some local events. Over the course of her training she has dealt with a host of health, medical, and lifestyle issues. We have worked with her physical therapist to deal with various joint and soft tissue injuries, and medical doctors for dealing with GI and other health concerns. We give her all the credit in the world for sticking with training through all of those challenges. Kelly’s approach to eating has drastically changed through trial and error, which has also resulted in positive benefits to her joints and is better able to do other activities with less likelihood of injuries occurring.

I hit my 20 lb. fat loss mark today! WHOOO! It’s official! The big difference for me was in changing how I ate – and doing it consistently together with training in the gym. It took awhile at first, but over time I realized how poorly I felt after eating “junk” and how much better I felt when I ate real food. I’ve learned to only walk the perimeters of the grocery store, cook instead of relying on convenience foods, and to use a food scale. Knowing that I am eating 5 oz. of chicken for a fact is a big deal.

My biggest lesson learned was that it’s all about changing your lifestyle, not just dieting or exercise alone. If you make change a priority, it eventually will become a part of you. All of this has taken me training for almost two years to really stick in my brain, but I got there.


Beginning strength training 2011

November 2012. 20+ pounds of fat gone and many pounds of muscle on.











Toni Sexton

I started with Elemental Fitness Lab for a variety of reasons.

1.  I routinely wanted to work out and every day I said I would and every day I just wouldn’t do it.

2.  I had pneumonia and I lost a lot of muscle tone while I was down being sick.

3.  I was so overwhelmed with all the information that is out there I didn’t really know what to do.

4.  I was avoiding stairs because I felt like I was going to fall, and when I did take a flight up I was out of breath.

Luckily a friend of mine was already working out at EFL and she told me about how great it was. I went in for the initial meeting with Chris and had no doubt that I was in the right place. Chris is very knowledgeable and pushes you to just the right point (we always keep good form)  while making it fun and different.  I was a little nervous about the small group training at first, but after my first session I LOVED it!  Not only have I met a lot of great people, I realized that being healthier is work that is challenging and that feeling is good for you. Watching others working hard to get it is motivating.

My first goal was to feel great and my ongoing goal is to lose fat.  I was feeling so much better after the first few weeks.  My fear of stair climbing and falling disappeared.  The more I went – the better I felt.  I know the more consistent I am with training – the easier it is to stay training.  So I make the effort to be as consistent as I can. Also I see the more consistent I am with healthy eating choices the lower my body fat is so I continue my work on that as well.

I am 47 today and I feel like I am in my 20s most of the time.  It is so great to have everything that I do feel so easy to me now – playing with the dogs and getting on the ground with them and then back up, going for walks, carrying groceries and so on.

Frances Portillo

Frances came to see me not too long after getting out of a wheelchair due to a bad fall. She still had metal pins in her feet from the surgeries which had limited her ability to even get up and down from the floor. However she was getting married in 7 months and wanted to lose the weight gained while being inactive after her accident.

Frances before she started training

By necessity her training had to begin with adjusting nutritional habits and working first on getting her moving better, which included increasing strength levels, especially in her lower body and core. As she progressed in strength and mobility we were able to start incorporating some metabolic training to increase the rate of fat loss. All the while we kept on improving her movement quality and strength.

Fast forward to July and Frances was down 40lbs of fat and had gained an appreciable amount of muscle. And she was not shy about showing it off on the dance floor!

From barely walking to dancing the Tango

Showing off a lot of hard work

Frances trusted in our process of proceeding with training in an order that ultimately allowed her to make much better, and long lasting progress that would not happen is she simply tried to do more cardio or join a yoga class. There are certain aspects of fitness that must be addressed in order for true change to happen, which brings us to the concept of building a wide base of movement quality.

Move better, then move often

Too often we think about fitness in terms of cardio capacity or strength, but largely ignore the concept of movement quality. Worrying about your cardio level if there are restrictions in hip or ankle function is like worrying about the type of gas in your car when it has a flat tire. This is why every EFL member does a full assessment including a Functional Movement Screen. The FMS was developed by noted physicial therapists Gray Cook and Dr. Lee Burton, and is widely used in the very best facilities and in many collegiate and professional sports programs.

As fitness professionals it is our responsibility to make sure you stay healthy while training, and the FMS is an excellent method for determining how well you move, which serves as the basis for developing strength, losing fat, or improving conditioning. All too often individuals undertake a quest to improve their fitness without addressing movement quality and soon bump up against limitations which often result in pain and injury. Our job is to remove those limitations and enable you to attain higher levels of fitness.

In addition to the Functional Movement Screen, new members do a fitness consultation and refine goals, and a strength assessment. Only then are we able to determine the best course of action and develop your program.