My Story

How I got here

My career with human movement began before I realized it. While I was aware of my passion for it as a young athlete, it officially started in May of 2006 while my dad was in the ICU recovering from a stroke and aortic dissection.

When the doctors told us that Dad might not ever have full function of his left leg or be able to walk again without assistance, I was determined to prove them otherwise. Just like you, I’m sure, I knew my dad was a superhero, and this wasn’t going to hold him down.

Day in and day out, I worked with my dad to help trigger nervous system pathways to help regenerate touch, feel, and movement, otherwise known as neural transmission. Repetitively moving his leg through space, touching it, poking it, rubbing it, and applying manual resistance to it, all while he was mentally engaged. We attempted to create a firing response from within the nervous system. Weeks went by with no response.

Then one day it happened. He voluntarily was able to move his toes. Days later and after more work, he was able to lift his foot just slightly off the ground from a sitting position. This was followed by a somewhat standing position for a couple of seconds with support, to fully standing with support, to relearning the walking pattern between parallel bars, to a walker with ankle assistance. The physical therapist and doctor were both impressed and credited me with my ongoing help. While I didn’t immediately recognize it, this was the beginning of my career.

Five months later, on October 19th, my dad passed away.

Failing to recognize my calling, I spent the next year-and-a-half trying to figure out my life.

In late 2007, between dead-end jobs, I moved back Pennsylvania and in with my mom for about six weeks, jobless, trying to figure out my next move. My only income was Thursday night bingo with mom and her friends at the local Knights of Columbus.

Fortunately, along the way, I met two people who saw the coach in me.

Zalman Shapiro (Z) – my “first client” – he was the guy who planted the seed, believed in me, and told me that this is my calling that I needed to follow.

Z and I were temporary paralegals at a law firm in DC. The only difference was, Z wanted to be a lawyer, and I didn’t.

Down the hall from our storage closet like-office was the building’s gym; that’s where I worked out. At the time, Z was an overweight guy who noticed my unconventional training methods, attention to detail, and structure and asked if he could be my training partner. From that moment on, Z and I crushed a workout every day together until our contract ended. Z lost 40+ pounds and became a different/new human being. I’ll never forget him telling me that I needed to do this for a living, help other people rediscover themselves, train smarter, and write a book. I laughed and said, “get paid to workout for a living?”

Z went on to law school, maintained his fat loss, plus some, and went on the open his own firm practicing in NY, PA, and FL, as well as representing Ambitious Athletics. 

In addition to working at the firm, I took on another temp job with a company that had us doing fan-based market research for the Nationals as they prepared to move out of RFK stadium and into their current location. We’d ask fans a series of questions about their experience at the ballpark and what they’d like to see at the new park. We would have to complete 20-25 surveys, then have the opportunity to stay and watch the remainder of the game. During one of my working days, I decided to forgo my seats and head for home. On my way out of the stadium, I was heckled to spin a wheel for a free gym membership at a local big box gym. I declined and kept walking until the woman behind the wheel said: “Have you ever thought about being a personal trainer?!?!”

That was 2007.

For the next three years I worked at a big box gym where there was no culture, no leeway to provide additional support, or room to really make an impact; all we could do was prescribe sets and reps.

By 2009, I was fed up and had a burning desire to create change. I had more to give. I got into this field to help people.

In 2010, I started Ambitious Athletics out of my backpack with a couple of resistance bands and a TRX; training my clients at their home, in parks, behind buildings, in apartment gyms, or at their work. I was tired of watching people overpay to rent access to gym equipment, hire overpriced personal trainers, and make little to no progress toward their ideal self. I knew that I could provide a better service and experience that added greater value to people’s life.

Mid 2011, when bootcamps were cool, I started my version of one out of an Aikido studio when they weren’t using it. This studio space became the start of my group training career, which paved the way for me to provide group training with corporate organizations like the Optical Society and The Travel Channel.

On April 20, 2015 I opened the Ambitious Athletics training facility at 2021 K ST NW Washington DC.

Carmen Sturniolo
Fitness and Nutrition Coach
Owner of Ambitious Athletics 

Where it began. The dojo

Where it began. The dojo

Where it is now. Ambitious Athletics training facility at 2021 K ST NW DC

Where it is now. Ambitious Athletics training facility at 2021 K ST NW DC