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Meet John Urena of Coach U Training and Performance

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Urena.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in the Bay Area of Northern California, about 25 miles from San Francisco, in a small town called Benicia. After 22 years of living in the Bay and attending Diablo Valley College, where I was a place kicker for their football team in 2008, I decided to head to Los Angeles to finish my degree in Broadcast Journalism. I attended California State University Los Angeles from 2010-2012 and received my B.A. in Broadcast Journalism in hopes of becoming a sports broadcaster. That did not pan out so well! But that’s ok because I learned a lot in school and someday I will use that knowledge for my career. Which brings me to how I fell into training and performance.

From the time I was a kid until right before I decided to play football in college, I was overweight. In the matter of just over a year, I lost 70lbs and then put on about 15lbs of muscle to get ready to play football. Going through that journey, many people asked me what I was doing and what my process was for losing all the weight I did. I wanted to share all of my work with anyone who asked. I got a lot of value out of helping others. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2010, I was still very active in the gym, even more so now because of how commonplace it was due to football.

I found a gym on Wilshire, near Park La Brea. That gym no longer is in business. I decided to take a position at the front desk so I could get a free membership and it was the closest gym I could find to me. Anyone who lives in LA knows the value of proximity, especially when it comes to self-care! I was also working for AT&T at the time as a sales rep and then school on top of that, so I was quite busy. After a few months, and getting to know the gym crowd well, an opportunity came up for me to take a position at the club as an operation and front desk manager, which was great because I was able to leave the sales position that I loathed and be in the gym all the time.

People would often ask me about training, what to do, how to do it and so on and it was at that point I realized I needed to get certified so I could train and manage. So, I decided to invest in myself and purchased the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s Certified Personal Training (NASM-CPT) course, in order to become certified. In December 2011, I became certified and had a client within a week. Boy was that scary! What is even crazier is that client is still with me today! He attended my wedding, I attended his wedding, I trained him and his wife for their wedding and now they just had a baby. I feel lucky and blessed with the clients I have.

After a year or so of training at this gym, I decided it was time for me to branch off and start my own business. I started off first by going to my client’s homes and lugging around equipment. I would meet clients at parks as well, especially with our weather in LA, it is so easy to be outside. It was a scary leap at first because you have no idea if you will get enough clients and you are responsible for making money and making sure money continues to come in. But it started to grow. I would get referrals and from there it continued more. My wife also uses to be a trainer and when we met, she was just about to start graduate school for psychotherapy.

Once she decided to leave personal training completely, I took over her clients and to this day, I still train all of them. Unfortunately one of the aforementioned clients passed away 3 years ago from a long battle with cancer. Some days she would come to our training sessions feeling like someone was stabbing her feet with needled because of the medication she was on, and she still kicked butt. That was one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen. I have days where I feel groggy and don’t want to move but she came in with needles in her feet and did what she could. She taught me to never take our lives and health for granted.

After 5 years of training, 3 years of taking pre-requisite science classes and 200+ hours of volunteer and paid time in a physical therapy clinic in preparation to apply for Physical Therapy school, I attended a Speed and Power Summit put on by Athletes Acceleration. This was in 2017 at the University of La Verne, just outside of Pamona. It was here that my career path was turned upside down. I was meant to be a coach. I was meant to lead. I was meant to help grow others and give guidance.

Within a month of leaving the conference, I had a volunteer gig at Hollywood High School, helping their baseball team with speed training. From there, I started studying more sports performance and human movement patterns than I had ever done before. The next thing to do was change my business model to align with my new path. I had to change my company name, logo and appeal. I couldn’t figure out what to call it, but the kids called me Coach U, mainly because my last name is not the easiest to pronounce. That is where Coach U Training and Performance came from.

Now I am training out of the most beautiful gym in LA, HVY Industry at 7819 Beverly Blvd. I do not do house calls anymore, those days of driving from Marina Del Rey to Larchmont and over to the Valley are LONG gone, ha! My mission now is not to just train people to lose weight or to get shredded. My job is to teach people how to build their strongest and best selves possible and reap the rewards that come along with it. I used to think fitness was all about macros and how good you look. Don’t get me wrong, I want to look good. We all do. That is part of the process, but it is not THE process.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been a relatively smooth road in terms of health, clients and business sustainability. I would say the toughest challenge and biggest obstacle is myself. It took me until this year to realize that I have a lot to offer. I did not see myself as valuable to others and I would go into states of paralysis. I would see other trainers on Instagram with tons of followers and promoting themselves and their products and could not do the same thing for myself. I would get upset and feel like I was nothing.

NOW, I cannot wait to share with others what I have to offer. My job is to help those who do not understand the world of health and fitness. My job is to get people moving and in the right way. My mission is to help my athletes become better human beings so if they do not make it to the pros, they can look back and take away a piece of what they learned from me and maybe that affects one more person and so on.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Coach U Training and Performance – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Coach U Training and Performance specializes in two things:
1) Giving athletes the best training to help them on AND off the field.
2) Giving general fitness clients the best training for their needs, as well as showing them what a healthy lifestyle looks like.

I am most proud of how we take care of our clients. They come first. If a client comes in and they have had a stressful day and training is the 7th thing on their list that day, I will make sure to meet them where they are. Every single day is a new 100% in terms of energy and what can be given. We know how to get the best of our clients each day, no matter what and we do it together!

We are here to give the best possible care to our clients and TEACH them. We are not on our phones, we are not filming everything they are doing and posting it on Instagram. If we are filming, it is so I can show clients what we are seeing and how we can correct it. We are coaching our clients UP. We care about the well being of our clients and their needs come before anything else.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
The future holds a Masters in Exercise Physiology by 2023 for Coach U and the expansion of our company. We want to train everyday adults who want to move like athletes, feel like athletes and look like athletes. There are so many adult sports leagues around LA which is fantastic! And as we age, injury risk increases significantly. So we want to host camps that will show “Weekend Warriors” how to take care of their bodies and decrease the risk of injury significantly. This is not like a boot camp where you go until you are sick.

This is a broken down systematic training style that is FUN and teaches people how to move like athletes in a safe fashion. We use outcome-based decision making when it comes to what drills, games and exercises we use. We hope to have camps all over LA in the next year. We want people to come learn how to take care of their bodies and move in the proper way. We want to create a culture of people helping people. Be on the lookout for adult strength and conditioning camps coming to a park near YOU!

And eventually, we want to have seminars where people can ask questions and learn about some of the latest research in our field as well. And of course get hands on!


  • Personal Training 1-on-1: $130 per single session
  • Personal Training 1-on-1: $110/session (1o session bulk price $1,100)
  • Personal Training 1-on-1: $100/session (20 session bulk price $2,000)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
David Gunning Photography, Grant Michael Haynes, Mark White

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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