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Kristina Centenari Draws on Challenges in Her Past to Inspire Others

This motivating new coach will test your limits and build your confidence.

Tonal Coach Kristina Centenari

Growing up, Tonal Coach Kristina Centenari thought she had her future all figured out. She played tennis her whole life and planned on competing at the college-level before turning pro. 

Those were her best-laid plans. Unfortunately, a series of injuries threw her off course but ultimately taught her more about herself—and her purpose. That experience drove her dedication to learning about mobility and the foundations of healthy movement, and realized she could help others do the same. 

“I had a knack for using movement and language to help people climb out of their own mental cages,” she says. “I knew I wanted to spend my life helping people feel as empowered as I do when I move.” 

Name: Kristina Centenari
Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland
Credentials: Registered Yoga Trainer, RRCA-Certified Running Coach, Functional Range Conditioning Certified
Areas of Expertise: Mobility, injury recovery, endurance, athletic training

Here, we caught up with Kristina, one of Tonal’s new New York City-based coaches, to learn more about her fitness background, coaching style, and what to expect from her workouts.

What’s your vibe as a coach? 

Encouraging and challenging. On my team, we push each other through positive energy only. You will be supported, and you will be heard. I’m a very grounded coach. I’m not going to yell at you or intimidate you, but I will motivate the hell out of you. 

I want you to learn a thing or two about your body while putting it to the test. As a coach, you can expect more from me than just the physical guidance. We’re going to be building mental resilience, building this capability to handle micro challenges, so that when you walk out into the real world, those macro challenges seem doable. 

WATCH: Introducing Kristina Centenari, in her own words. Disclaimer: Apparel is owned by the Tonal coach featured. Nike and other brands are not affiliated with Tonal Systems, Inc. or this video.

Why should we train with you?

I’m hoping that people find a different relationship with moving through the way that I coach. I’m going to teach you how to move like a better athlete, but first you have to move like a better human being. I will push you to places that maybe you don’t think you could have reached. But by the time you leave, you’ll know you can reach them. You’ll walk out feeling more empowered, resilient, and stronger. 

Because I’ve suffered from injuries in the past, I’m way more passionate and curious about the concept of performance more so than just fitness. Every human performs on a daily basis, both with body and mind. Performance to me is more about a mentality and way of doing things rather than just squeezing in a sweat because we feel obligated. It’s a sustainable methodology that looks at life as the game itself and asks: How can I keep playing this game better? 

"I'm hoping that people find a different relationship with moving through the way that I coach. I'm going to teach you how to move like a better athlete, but first you have to move like a better human being." - Kristina Centenari, Tonal Coach

Tell us about your athletic background. 

I was a serious tennis player growing up, and my goal was to play professionally. I was never the most naturally talented player, but I was always the hardest worker in the room. I made it to college to play, and I realized that it wasn’t exactly what I expected, and I got injured. I also played lacrosse and rowed crew in college, but I kept getting hurt because I wasn’t prioritizing my body’s durability and longevity.

It wasn’t until after college that I learned how to be more versatile and balanced in my training. I learned the importance of conditioning and recovery. Now, I can compete in Ironman triathlons while staying healthy, because I put those foundational movement patterns first. 

What challenges have you overcome to get where you are today?

I began to struggle immensely with my mental health after I had to stop playing tennis due to injuries. When you put in so much work every single day at a sport, but you have something that seems so out of your control, like an injury, it’s debilitating. I had to take some time off to deal with that loss of identity. Along with learning how to move better, I also realized I had to stop taking myself too seriously if I wanted to enjoy all my athletic pursuits. People think I take myself very seriously because I do these very intense things, but I don’t. I just go into something with an open mind, and I’ll probably come out of it joking.

I have overcome a lot of these mountains, which now looking back look a little bit more like molehills, but I think that’s because you just have to go through it to know you can do it. 

Collage of images of Kristina Centenari growing up and playing sports over the years.

How did you decide to pursue a career in fitness?

Taking a spin class with an especially inspiring instructor was the catalyst for my career in fitness. I just loved the energy it gave me. I wanted to be that person leading the room giving all of these other people that energy and helping them realize that they are enough.

You were raised in Baltimore. How has that shaped who you are today?

Growing up in Baltimore has made me more grounded. Baltimore is an underdog city. I feel like that underdog energy has been ingrained just in me. I don’t expect anything without a little bit of work and grind behind it.

"I will push you to places that maybe you don't think you could have reached. But by the time you leave, you'll know you can reach them."  - Kristina Centenari, Tonal Coach

Do you have a philosophy or motto that resonates with you? 

My whole approach to life is: How limitless can we get? How much capacity can you build to do whatever you want to do—whether it’s an Ironman or just being able to grab both your kids while holding grocery bags and walking 10 blocks? 

I’m obsessed with this idea of limitless capacity. I want to help people understand that just by having a body and a brain, you have more than enough to do whatever you want to do. Sometimes it just takes someone to help you see that and help you learn how to use both those things to reach your fullest capacity. Nothing is more rewarding than realizing you’re actually more capable than you thought.

What does strength mean to you? 

I realized true strength was more than just physical when my brother was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2005 at the age of 14. He had to re-learn how to walk, and he eventually went on to play Division 1 tennis and make it onto the professional tour. I’m continually inspired by how he used his mental strength to push through. His experience taught me that strength means standing staunchly in your own corner and being your own biggest advocate. It’s sticking with it when it gets hard and being kind to yourself through the process.

Follow Kristina on Instagram.

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