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Meet Duron Patton: Zappos' Fitness Trainer

Written with heart Duron Patton

February 6th, 2017

Upon joining the United States Navy in August 1997, working out was fairly new to me.

Basic Training soon changed that perspective. Though I was very active in sports as a kid, fitness was never something I looked forward to doing. Of course, exercise became a necessity during my military career. Frequenting the gym started when I was assigned to my first duty station aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, where I became a proud “Plank Owner.” That’s a fancy way of saying I was there to assist in the building and outfitting of the ship before it was officially commissioned.

Duron Patton: Fitness Trainer

During the early days aboard the aircraft carrier, we didn’t have a complete gym. Equipment pieces for the gym slowly filtered in during the process of building and pre-commissioning, but we didn’t let that deter us from handling business. We would do pull-ups from the angle iron structures and push-ups, sit-ups and body weight exercises however and wherever we could. After a few months, it became an addiction. I always did and still do enjoy the way it makes me feel afterward. It’s like breathing new life into something you didn’t know was dead.

When I began my Zappos journey in 2007, I maintained that same love for exercise. After nine months on the call center floor, I knew that I wanted to do more. I wanted to create a thriving health and fitness community that would fit within our company culture. But making fitness a part of my professional catalog didn’t strike me until I was bedridden for three months with a 1.5” rupture in my right Achilles.

While rehabbing, I made the decision to stop playing basketball, the only sport I truly loved, and focus my time on something with deeper meaning. That’s when I made the call to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and ordered my study materials to become a certified personal trainer. To this day it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Not only did this newfound knowledge help speed up my recovery time, but it gave me the vital tools to help transform the lives of others.

It was always a dream of mine to open a wellness clinic. One that not only provided holistic remedies but also provided physical well-being. That vision played a huge part in me wanting to become a personal trainer.

Fast-forward a few years, and my passion has transformed into a full-time role. I’m proud to say I’m Zappos’ first official resident Personal Trainer/Group Trainer and Research & Development.

My ultimate goal is to help our Benefits team reduce the bottom line for employee medical claims. If we’re able to do that “in-house” and through fitness, that’s when I know I’ve done my job.

What's your favorite quote?

'Do what you LOVE, Love what you do.'

What's your favorite fitness quote?

'Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen. Together you have a kingdom.' - Jack LaLanne

Which workouts do you perform the most?

More than anything I find myself doing a lot more mobility and compound movement exercises. Mobility exercises help keep all of your moving parts moving correctly. The compound movements just give your more bang for your buck. For example, a burpee with a push-up is an example of a “compound movement.”

How often should a person be working out?

I recommend resistance training (lifting weights) a minimum of three days per week. On all the other days you should be doing some type of conditioning exercises. Examples include High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), body-weight movements or cardio of any kind.

Duron Patton: Fitness Trainer

I have no time to exercise, so what should I do?

MAKE TIME! You can get a good workout done in less than 30 minutes. This can be done with or without weights. First thing in the morning, after work or after you grab the kids. You just have to be focused and use your time wisely. There shouldn’t be any excuses. You make time to do 'other things.' Why not direct that time and energy into your health and well-being?

What are the biggest mistakes people make at the gym?

The biggest one I see in our gym is incorrect form. I make every effort to assist and educate people on correct methods and what the “bad way” is doing to their overall progression.

What exercises can be done at my desk without bothering my co-workers?

You could easily do squats, calf raises and lunges at your desk. You could also do a variation of planks and sit-ups.

What’s the best food to eat before exercising?

Realistically, you’d want to eat a well-balanced meal at least two hours before working out. That way you don’t have to worry about feeling too heavy. If that’s not possible, I recommend anything with a low sugar content, moderate carbohydrate content and high protein intake. For instance, you could have a slice of toast with peanut butter, preferably a natural, high-quality brand.

What are the best exercises to sculpt and tone arms?

A few of my go-to exercises are resistance band curls with an isolated hold, incline dumbbell curls, tricep kickbacks with cables and tricep rope pull-downs.

How heavy should my free-weights be?

Your body and your form will be a telltale sign when it comes to weight. If it feels too easy or light, you’ll want to increase your weight/resistance. If it’s too heavy, you’ll naturally want to compensate with other muscle groups that shouldn’t be involved in the move you’re actually doing.

Do you have a funny gym story?

This happened a while back, way before I became a trainer. There was a guy at the local gym attempting to bench-press about 300 pounds without using barbell clips. I’m sure you can guess what happened next … Yup! One side of plates slid off the bar and hit the ground with so much force it sounded like the floor caved in. Every single head in the gym turned his way. As dangerous as that was, he made it out of the situation unharmed. Can’t say the same for his ego, though!

What tips would you give to someone who’s looking to start his or her fitness journey?

Don’t overthink it. Don’t worry about what others may think or say. This is about you, not them. Just start. Don’t make excuses. Join a gym, pace yourself and try to participate in a group class at least one to two times a week.

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