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Meet Steve Hess, the chief performance operator at Panorama Wellness and Sports Institute, 1060 Plaza Drive, in Highlands Ranch.
Prior to his current role, Hess spent 21 years as head strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Nuggets. To honor Hess for his commitment to the team, the Nuggets in March named their weight room the “Steve Hess Weight Room.”
Hess, a husband and father of two, describes his journey with the Nuggets as a dream come true. Now, he spends his days working with physicians and performance coaches, researching and developing programs to help individuals achieve their fitness goals.
What is your background?
I'm 50 years old. I was born in South Africa. I've lived in London, Zimbabwe and upstate New York. I have an unbelievable wife, Alicia, who was born and bred in Colorado and went to Cherry Creek High School. I have two phenomenal sons: Jordan is a student at Colorado State University and Korey goes to Arapahoe High School.
When I finished my undergraduate degree in exercise science fitness and cardiac rehabilitation, I had one year to work in the field. I got a job at an athletic club in Denver called Forza Fitness and Performance Center, which 20 years later I would own.
I went to Ithaca, New York, to get my master's degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports medicine. I came back to Colorado and worked at Greenwood Athletic Club for a year before I became the head trainer. That's where I met the general manager of the Denver Nuggets. I was the first full-time strength and conditioning coach the Nuggets had.
Since I was 6 years old, I always wanted to do something with athletes. I wanted to be in the realm of helping people achieve their optimal performance. It was absolutely, unequivocally my dream to do what I'm doing.
What was a day with the Nuggets like?
On a game day, the team would be at the gym by 7:30 a.m. — I would be there at 6 a.m. We would do prep and rehab work. At 10 a.m., I would prepare the players with an active warm-up. Then we would do some conditioning and start pregame routines. We would watch the game, hopefully win the game and then after the game, we would work out some of the other players.
On a practice day, we would do rehabilitation on some of the guys and monitor the players who were practicing. Even if it's not a busy day, I am going to make it busy. I'm truly passionate about what I do. The opportunity to help people in this realm excites me. You have to learn how to communicate and function under pressure, and you have to understand that you are playing with a team. It's never about you — it's about the people around you.
When you look back at your career with the Nuggets, what stands out?
The experience I had with the Denver Nuggets is hard to put into words. Seeing an athlete come back from an ACL (injury), going to the Western Conference playoffs. I'd be on the road five to six months out of the year, traveling to see players.
Things that really stand out are moments like when I first got the job. It was unbelievably humbling and I was so incredibly grateful. I was on this journey that has been amazing all the way up to when they dedicated the weight room to me. The Nuggets took care of me and my family for 21 years — I should be getting them a gift. I'm very fortunate.
What is your personal fitness philosophy?
My personal fitness philosophy is simple: you have to feel good from the inside out. You have to simplify everything. If you eat well, stay hydrated, recover, sleep and keep your mind right, you have this unbelievable opportunity to do things with your body that you couldn't imagine. If you're looking for a quick fix, a magic pill, it doesn't exist.
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