Stef Corgel is not one to sit still! A Los Angeles-based strength & conditioning coach, athlete, and fitness model, Stef became passionate about wellness, leadership, and movement at a very young age when she was known for leg pressing her family’s coffee table at the age of 2.
After four years of college basketball, she fell into an unexpected modeling career while coaching a women’s college basketball team, lifeguarding, and teaching group fitness. This led her on a globetrotting journey that included a stop in Italy to play professional basketball, a stint in Portland, Oregon to model for Nike, Adidas, Lululemon, New Balance, and Under Armor, and finally back to Manhattan Beach, her hometown, to launch the entrepreneurial stage of her career.
Over the past few years, Stef has become a standout fitness instructor and a trusted and authentically silly social media personality. Starting at Tone It Up (fitness app and global women’s wellness community) and currently, with Vuori Clothing’s ACTV Club and Barry’s, she makes it her mission to keep clients physically motivated and mentally healthy.
Stef found Human Improvement while searching for the perfect protein powder to fit her busy trainer/athlete/entrepreneur lifestyle. She says, “Human Improvement is the first protein powder that meets my demand for quick muscle recovery, clean ingredients, consideration for the planet, and most of all: my digestive needs.” Chocolate or vanilla, Stef craves the delicious, smooth taste of Human Improvement after her daily workouts and is excited to share, inspire, and educate her community about this amazing product.
You’ll find Stef (and her tiny ankles) bopping around the South Bay, going for a quick surf, run, or yoga session in between brand meetings, teaching HIIT classes, and organizing fitness influencer events to keep the endorphins pumping!
A conversation with Stef
Q: At what point did you realize you had a passion for fitness?
My mom and dad would tell you: Age 2; baby Stef, legs under the coffee table, leg pressing.
Truth is, I’ve always been obsessed. Growing up playing every sport, I was never the biggest, strongest, tallest, or most talented, but found my advantage was in my endurance. I might have gotten knocked around, but I took great pride in the fact that no one could out-effort, outwork, or outlast me! Throughout high school, I began writing exercise programs and found it extremely satisfying when off-the-court training greatly enhanced on-the-court results. I went on to major in Kinesiology in college and naturally combined my love of coaching and sport with my knowledge of physiology to become a trainer.
Q: What are your goals for this year?
Get organized. Get comfortable on a road bike. Create my own signature cocktail and name it something cool. Expand my fitness community. Make people believe in themselves by serving them the gift of movement.
Q: What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
As I graduated college, I had my sights set on playing professional basketball overseas and was becoming discouraged because it had been months without a serious offer. Meanwhile, my fitness modeling career was really starting to take off, booking commercials and global print campaigns with brands I could have only dreamt of working with. A few months later, I got the call to sign with a professional basketball team in Italy. I was made aware by my agency that if I left to play ball, there was a high likelihood that my modeling clients would move on and that the industry may never present these opportunities in the future. There was no second thought. I packed my bags, kissed my loved ones goodbye, and pretended to be brave as I left solo to live in a foreign country for the love of hoops.
Almost two years later, when I returned to California, the modeling jobs slowly but surely trickled back and were even more abundant than before.
Moral of the story? Forget the money. Do what scares you! Get uncomfortable. Keep an open mind. Chase your wildest dreams…you won’t regret it!
Q: What advice would you have for someone trying to get back into fitness this year?
YOU know yourself best! Make your goals S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.) I see clients and friends make the mistake of creating overly generalized goals, such as “This year, I’m going to get back into shape and get a six-pack.” Instead, create a structure in which you can actually track your progress: “For the next 90 days, I am going to follow my strength + cardio plan for 30 minutes, 3x week.” Keep it simple. Believe in yourself, especially on the days you slip up. Stay accountable with a like-minded someone you trust.
Q: What lessons have you learned from fitness that have served you throughout your life?
Fitness has taught me how to live a life of discipline, consistency, work-ethic, and vulnerability. Through the journey of fitness, I have learned to love and respect my body and have the privilege of teaching others how to love and respect theirs. Above all else, fitness has redefined my relationship with failure. I applaud my clients for going for one more rep because they feel strong and clap even louder when they just can’t quite pull it off. There is always something greater to strive for and new hope to wake up with.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
I watch my mom run up and down the stairs, do jumping jacks, and regularly take on push-up challenges at age 72. My “why” has changed so much over the years, but really it’s longevity and the ability to move well, expressively, and independently that lights me up and makes me want to spring out of bed in the morning. Every day presents a new opportunity to pick up small wins that amount to great victories over time…and what’s even sweeter than small wins? Witnessing the small wins of others and celebrating with them to keep that momentum going.
Q: Do you have a favorite failure? How has that set you up for later success?
Like many female athletes, I struggled with an eating disorder and an overly self-critical mindset throughout my late teens and early twenties. Though I wouldn’t wish this type of stress/illness on anyone or their support systems, I know that I am a better coach, friend, and mentor because of what I’ve been through. Through my own vulnerability, I found a great deal of empathy for anyone dealing with fear or insecurity in an unhealthy way. By normalizing the conversation around eating disorders and by speaking openly about the role that therapy played in my healing process, I feel much closer to my friends, family, and online audience. Over the past few years, there has been such a positive ripple of openness amongst my community. I watch in awe as women encourage each other to seek the therapy, further education, and support they deserve. We are all students of life, perfection is boring, and we need to be able to lean on one another and lift each other up.
Q: What is your post workout recovery routine?
I try my best to be thorough! It makes all the difference when you’re constantly training back-to-back days. 5-10 minutes of stretching or digging in on a foam roller, then I guzzle down a Human Improvement shake, and hit the sauna and cold plunge for some contrast therapy. Most evenings, I’ll wind down in my Hyperice Normatec boots for 30-45 minutes while programming workouts for the next day.
Q: Do you have a nutrition routine? If so, what is it, what are the most important parts, and how has it changed over the years?
My nutrition routine has changed a lot over the past decade and is ever-evolving with new research studies and as my exercise modes and training goals shift. I now focus on how to fuel enough, for maximum energy, and for best digestion. Tracking my macros and calorie counting would drive me nuts, so I stick with some basics that work well for me:
- No breakfast before workout; I tend to feel sluggish, so just coffee before, then a Human Improvement shake right after, followed by a proper balanced meal.
- 80/20 guidance: 80% of the time, I eat whole, unprocessed, nutritious foods (seasonal veggies, fresh fruit, grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, etc.) Save the treats, fried food, and processed food for the remaining 20%.
- Dark chocolate anytime, for maximum happiness.
- ~3 liters of water/liquid per day. Add salt and electrolytes!
Q: Why is protein so important for you?
The harder we train, the more we break our connective tissues and skeletal muscle down. As an athlete focused on a balanced mix of strength, power, and endurance work, it is my responsibility to repair my body with the building blocks it needs to come back a little bit stronger and more resilient every session intended.
Q: How does Human Improvement fit into your routine?
I have a habit of living life at 100mph. Human Improvement lives at that speed with me! What made me most curious about the brand was the “easy to digest” claim. With multiple workouts, exercise content to film, and clients to train most days of the week, I am relieved to have found a clean, complete amino acid formula that doesn’t make me bloated and helps supplement my protein requirement. Most days, you’ll see me shaking up a travel packet of HI while walking out of the gym and off to my next adventure.