Many of us ThirdSpacers just wrapped up the NSNG Challenge where we spent a whole 28 days NOT eating the sweet treats and everyday grains we love so much. It was difficult, but we got through it and we got through it together.

A major factor to our success came from the help of our beloved (yes, beloved because we love them dearly!) TS Coaches. They were there from start to finish pushing us, guiding us, and encouraging us to not give up on a venture that was completely new to us all.

I’m so inspired by their support and I’d like to start highlighting them on the TS Blog, along with our member highlights. It will give us a chance to get to know them better and maybe help us connect with some we may not know as well as others.

To start off, we are getting to know Coach Natalia Dondoyano today! She's a 28-year-old, San Jose native, who loves to move, stay active, and eat well. The NSNG Challenge proved she is one we can turn to for a list of healthy eating alternatives - even when it comes to desserts!


Take it away, Natalia!

How long have you been teaching at ThirdSpace and what brought you here:

I think I have been teaching at ThirdSpace for over two years. It was good timing when I found Thirdspace. I had just got back from traveling abroad for an extended amount of time and was looking for a new gym to call home. A friend had recommended me to Lance and the rest is history!

What classes do you teach?: (TRX/CrossFit/3SX/Yoga/Weightlifting/Other)

For Thirdspace I currently teach TRX, 3SX, Powerlifting, Yoga, Bootcamp, and Trx Yoga. I used to teach Crossfit, a Yoga/Mobility hybrid class, and Cardio classes too. DJ calls me their utility coach since I’m available to sub all the classes.

What inspired you to become a fitness instructor?:

I started as a personal trainer about nine years ago during college after the cream puff store I worked for closed unexpectedly. Two years into my work as a personal trainer I wanted to switch it up, learn other aspects of fitness and expand my business. I took a Group X certification with AFAA and really enjoyed it. I used to teach various aerobics classes where I’d jump around, yell and do most of the movements with the class. I do that occasionally in my Bootcamp classes still and there are some aspects of that style of teaching I want to get more comfortable with. From there I was lucky to have had a fitness manager that was willing to teach me new things and pull me out of my comfort zone. Seeing that side of fitness and meeting so many amazing group instructors really inspired me to be better; it still does.


Any cool certifications/training/classes you’ve taken to become a great instructor?:

I think all the training I’ve taken have helped me become well rounded, but I’ll name a few of my favorites. I took an Aquatic Aerobics instructor seminar early on in my career. Learning how to use water resistance in 360 degrees with buoys to target opposing muscle groups was mind-blowing. An example is how a typical bicep curl primarily targets your biceps but in the water, with buoys, you primarily target triceps instead! I took a Body Pump certification with Les Mills. It’s a muscular endurance weightlifting format that choreographs 800 reps in one hour. I didn’t pass this certification haha. I have never been a musical person and in this certification, I struggled to stay on beat. Everything I said and demoed was already choreographed- all I had to do was perform. I enjoy the creativity in programming my classes and Body Pump just wasn’t my style. I’m shy and the performing aspect of group fitness is something I’m always working to improve. Besides my Yoga certification, one of my most life-changing certifications was The Corset by Ido Portal. It’s essentially a mobility certification that focuses on bringing strength and flexibility to the joints in all ranges including hyperextension. It was a two-day 10-hour workshop that went over every single joint in the body. The certification pulled from all aspects of fitness: dance, martial arts, bodybuilding, yoga, gymnastics and more. I had never been so sore in so many various places. I’d say The Corset is by far one of the strongest certifications I have under my belt.

What are some of your goals for your students and classes?

For every class, I always have a personal goal and that can be anything from trying new cues to being more sociable. The goals I have for my students vary depending on the format. Often in yoga, I hope my students are able to surrender what they can and let me guide them through the class. In Powerlifting, I hope my students can take away proper form in the foundational lifts and feel more comfortable the next time they get on the bar. For TRX my goals for my students are proper core engagement. In Bootcamp, I always hope they get in a damn good workout and have a fun experience doing so.

Tell us how you know so much about nutrition and food alternatives:

Like most people starting in fitness, I didn’t know much about eating properly or how food can greatly affect your physical results beyond aesthetics. I think during the first six or seven years I experimented on myself and tried almost every diet. Depending on the diet I would commit four – six weeks, do research, test out recipes, and record my results. I love tracking food, eating differently to illicit drastic changes in my body, baking healthy versions of sweet treats and just constantly exploring all that. I have so many personal journals with different fitness formats, cool multi-muscle group movements, and my own recipe book filled with my favorites! I guess what really drives my eating experiments is my love for sweets haha.


Any upcoming fitness/health challenges/races/competitions and why are you taking them on?

The only fun challenge I committed to this year is Tough Mudder in June. I signed up for this as a way to reach my goals. I spent about eight months last year recovering from a severe injury and about four to six months after that trying to get my mental and physical strength back. I’m looking forward to doing something new and fun. I’ve been putting a team together for selfish reasons really; to create my own support system. I’m confident in helping other people achieve their physical goals but I know I need help from my own communities to push past my fears of reinjury. Join my team! We’ll give each other confidence! The Crossfit open is coming up at the end of February too. This time last year I was just starting to walk at a normal speed and couldn’t participate. This year will be the first time I’m unable to do muscle ups or lift more than 100lbs during the open. It will be five weeks of gratitude for where I am, what I can do and knowing where I can go.

Thoughts on the ThirdSpace NSNG Challenge?

I’m so proud of everyone who participated and even thought about participating in this challenge! It takes so much effort to slow down and look at what you’re eating let alone create changes to them. I know a lot of members saw amazing results from this challenge. I think its really exciting to show everyone how easy it can be to change your body when you’re consistent and dedicated.

Favorite workout?

Hands down swimming laps in the pool, then pull up variations.

Least favorite workout?:

Omg cycling. I want to love it but every time I pedal it feels like I’m doing weighted lunges haha. I just need to work on my tempo and form ☹

Favorite post-workout meal?


Proudest ThirdSpace moment:

This happens to me on a weekly basis, I would have too many of these to list. I’m proud every time someone asks a question pertaining to their goals, achieves a goal, or can move their body into the position I’m describing.

Strangest thing we would find in your gym bag:

It’s not strange to me but I always get surprised looks whenever I pull out my bag of snacks. I always carry a bag of healthy snacks in my bag!

What does ThirdSpace mean to you:

ThirdSpace is my home gym. I love the fitness model and concepts we strive to embody. It is a place where I go to learn more about myself as an instructor and meet people with similar interests.

Contributing ThirdSpace Blogger: Adriana Michelle, TS Member