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The coach at work

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Maximizing Fitness

For T. Chad Baird, owner of local gym, Zion Training Center, fitness is more than exercise—it’s a way of life.

“Physically fit, mentally strong, spiritually sound: Building these three things helps you become the strongest version of yourself,” Chad Baird says. And this supreme form of strength can only be earned, something Chad says he knows all too well. After all, he built his philosophy on personal suffering.

Soon after opening the gym in 2011, Chad’s wife, Ashley, was diagnosed with stage 4 triple negative breast cancer and given 18 months to live; shortly afterward, Chad was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. 

“Mine was way less severe,” he said, “but this was a dark time. The whole world felt like it was coming down.” 

During this time, “the gym was a saving grace for us,” Chad says. “The members surrounded us, lifted us up and gave us strength to keep going.” But with five young children to care for and overwhelmed with grief, Chad was forced to dig deep, to tap into his inner strength. And through adversity, new perspectives were born: “You realize what matters; the little trivial things no longer matter.”

Now, after a courageous battle, Ashley’s cancer is in remission and Chad is proud to say he and his wife got through it together, stronger than ever. He dedicates himself to continuing to embody the lessons he learned through his toughest times. “It’s a constant progression,” he says, “but I live and teach it daily.”

Chad and Ashley’s examples of strength and courage continue to inspire their gym members, showing up in their consistency, dedication and work ethic. These athletes—men and women of all ages and fitness levels, from experienced competitors to teens, moms, dads and seniors—have learned to persevere by doing hard things. They typically train in one of two domains: the CrossFit methodology under the CrossFit Zion program, which espouses “constantly varied, functional fitness performed at high intensity,” and Olympic weightlifting under the USA Wrestling-affiliated Zion Barbell moniker.

On any given day, the CrossFit athletes—led by Chad and his team of level one and level two CrossFit coaches—train in anything from cleans and jerks, snatches, squats and deadlifts, to strongman work with heavy odd objects, body-weight movements and gymnastics progressions. And because each workout of the day or WOD—in CrossFit parlance—is performed at high intensity, each workout, in addition to being a calorie-scorcher, pushes athletes well out of their comfort zones.

“When you consistently work on your physical state of being, your body forces your mind to adapt; you must become stronger mentally to match what your body is doing,” Chad says. And struggle not only strengthens the body and mind, but also “awakens you to a spiritual state and you become spiritually sound.” And this is why, to his athletes, Chad is the WODfather, equal parts spiritual guru and athletic trainer. The result? Zion members not only report reduced body fat and increased muscle, but less anxiety and depression, more confidence, more energy, more purpose. For some, it’s life-changing.

“All of our members are here for the same reasons,” Chad says, “to maximize their fitness for their sport or lifestyle. Some train to get better at Ironman, marathons, lifting competitions, CrossFit competitions, to be the best firefighter, to be better in law enforcement, the list goes on. Anyone who comes through our doors—big, small, older, younger—one thing is the same for all of them—they are here to build the best version of themselves.” 

T. Chad Baird has more than 12 years experience as a strength, Olympic lifting and CrossFit coach. He owns Zion Training Center, a local CrossFit and USAW affiliate and is a 2019 Masters National Champion in USA Weightlifting. Being functionally fit, strong, flexible and adaptable are among his top priorities.


  • The coach at work
  • Conquering cancer together