Sam Leicht hasn’t been very good at hiding that he’s gay for much of his life. He’s also not been able to hide that he’s an exceptional athlete.
Growing up in Kimberly, Wisc., about a half hour southwest of Green Bay, he competed on the high school soccer and track & field teams, finding particular success in the hurdles. Even as a teenager, before coming out, Leicht told Outsports he wasn’t very good at hiding that he was gay.
“My best friends in high school were all soccer players,” Leicht said of his time at Kimberly High School. “Did they know? Probably, and they were all chill.”
How did they know he was gay without Leicht telling them? He said it wasn’t difficult for most of the kids to figure out. In middle school, he got disinvited from trick-or-treating with a group of friends because one of them suspected he was gay. That was a big deal for the middle-schooler.
That carried over onto the high school soccer team, as well as the track and field team where he was surrounded by football players looking for a spring sport. At first, the football players ostracized him. Yet when he started placing in races and scoring points for the team, the gap closed between him and his track teammates.
“You go from being bullied and exiled from the group to leading practices,” Leicht said of his growing success on the track. ”Once you start doing well, you’re one of the boys.”
He’s found the same thing in CrossFit.
While he’s landed in a fitness career, for several years he was focused on a career in theater, as an actor and in production. Over the course of many months, while touring with a show, he visited about 100 CrossFit gyms, all over the country. I could summarize my conversation with Leicht about this, but I’ll just let him do the talking:
I was on tour with a show for a year and CrossFit was a big part of my educational experience in health and wellness, and I tried to drop into as many gyms as I could on the road, like 100 gyms across the country.
It was a similar experience to what happened in track in high school. I’d walk into gyms in a tanktop and short shorts and I’d get kind of a cold shoulder [because they identified him Leicht as gay]. I’d talk the coaches’ ears off and almost every single gym it was hard to do that because they’d set me up in the corner to start.
But when I started working out they’d see I was a good athlete, and it kind of gave me credibility. They’d forget about the gay thing because I was a good athlete. This was in Cheyenne, Wyo., and in liberal places as well.
Given his journey from high school sports through theater and now in personal fitness, Leicht shared his three suggestions for anyone looking to blaze their own path to a career in fitness. He gave three tips:
1) Fall in love with movement.
“Fall in love with whatever sport you’re working on, exercise program you’re working on. Being a good trainer requires that you have a love of moving your body and seeing it as a sustainable lifelong part of your life. You exercising isn’t just so you look a certain way, but it’s what you’re going to do to treat your body well.”
2) Don’t let looking a certain way guide you
“I think I’m constantly fighting against the idea of just working out to look a certain way. When we focus on our aesthetics we go about health and wellness in a pretty backward way, while we can get better results if we focus on exercise as a way to feeling better, or getting better sleep, and moving better, making it easier to get up off the couch at 80 years old. That has been my battle in New York City, and the focus on aesthetics is a battle worth fighting.”
3) Choose movements you and your clients love doing
“Make sure what you are choosing to do for movement is something that you’re not only doing to get a result, you’re doing it because you see it as something you love and doing it longterm. Maybe me playing in a rec soccer league isn’t going to make me jacked, but is it something that is sustainable and something I want to do? There’s no point in us trying to get you to weight-lift five days a week if it’s something you hate. It’s not going to get you the ‘results’ you want anyway. You have to love what you’re doing. You can grow into what that is, but it’s really important.”