Dogpound Founder Kirk Myers Overcame Obesity and Addiction to Open Hollywood's Go-to Gym (Exclusive)

The personal trainer — who works with Taylor Swift, Hugh Jackman and more — is bringing his methods to the masses with locations in NYC and L.A.

<p>Courtesy of Dogpound</p> Kirk Myers

Courtesy of Dogpound

Kirk Myers

Kirk Myers, the sought-after personal trainer responsible for getting superstars like Taylor Swift, Hugh Jackman and Adriana Lima into fighting shape, almost took a very different road in life. 

Nearly two decades ago, “I was going to school to be an elementary teacher,” Myers, 45, tells PEOPLE exclusively during an interview at the sleek Los Angeles location of his buzzed-about gym Dogpound. “My dad’s an elementary principal and he’s a big role model of mine, so I always wanted to do something rewarding. It’s funny how the universe works.” 

Growing up in Kansas City, Myers also played football. “I wouldn’t say that I was ever an amazing athlete. I played nose tackle because I was really heavy,” he says. “When I was in high school I delivered pizza. Not a good idea if you’re 300 pounds like I was by the time I was 16. My weight kept going up.”

<p>Courtesy of Dogpound</p> Kirk Myers

Courtesy of Dogpound

Kirk Myers

Years later when he was 21 and studying to follow in his dad’s footsteps, “I got really sick,” he says. “Basically I went into heart failure due to cardiomyopathy. It felt like the worst thing that could happen at the time, but it was actually the biggest blessing. It helped me focus on myself and changing my habits. That’s what got me on the journey of health.”

Related: Taylor Swift's Personal Trainer Says Her Workout Routine Could Make Someone 'Throw Up' or 'Have to Lay Down'

Myers says he began walking and limiting his sodium intake. And, “I figured out how to work out in the most effective way," he says. Soon, after seeing major improvements in his health, he wanted to pass that knowledge on to others. 

“A lot of my friends were asking me how I lost so much weight. So I studied [physical fitness] and got my certifications. I was super busy training people from age 23 to 30.” It was also during that time that he began partying, which, Myers says, “is not good if you have a heart condition.”

He explains, “I was going out and drinking and doing some drugs, and I got really sick again when I was 30. But this time it was worse. I lost everything.” 

Spending three weeks in the ICU with heart complications, “that was my rehab,” he says. Myers temporarily moved in with his sister in Memphis to fully recuperate before relocating to New York City to spend time with his brother and re-focus on his health. 

<p>Kirk Myers/Instagram</p> Kirk Myers

Kirk Myers/Instagram

Kirk Myers

“I had no money, a heart condition, a drug issue in the past, but I moved to New York anyway because I felt it was the right thing to do,” he recalls.

“I wrote down my goals in 2013,” he adds of listing off things like “Believe in myself,” “Get closer to family,” "Help kids with fitness" and “Train celebrities.”

He would accomplish the latter sooner than he thought. “The first celebrity client I landed was a huge act,” he says of being connected to Hugh Jackman. “He was training for Wolverine, and he found me just through word of mouth. Again, the universe.” 

Myers’ business grew exponentially from there, and in 2016 he established Dogpound, which offers group classes, personal training and recuperation sessions curtailed to each client’s individual needs. The gym also welcomes clients' furry friends, a tradition that started with Jackman and his dog Bomber and that inspired the company's name. 

<p>Courtesy of Dogpound</p> Dogpound Los Angeles

Courtesy of Dogpound

Dogpound Los Angeles

“It exploded,” he says of Dogpound's popularity. “The goal was never to even open a gym. It was just to be the best trainer I could be, but that kind of led to here.” 

In 2019 Myers opened Dogpound LA in West Hollywood, which boasts state of the art machines, a basketball court and a private driveway. It’s where he works with a host of superstar clientele, like Swift, who he recently trained for her Eras World Tour. But for Myers, it doesn’t matter if you’re famous or not — he just wants to help. 

<p>Scott Eisen/TAS23/Getty</p> Taylor Swift on her Eras Tour

Scott Eisen/TAS23/Getty

Taylor Swift on her Eras Tour

“The celebrities are one thing, but there’s all types of people that come and can just walk in, because the main thing is that we’re making an impact on people so that they feel better when they leave, and leave with a smile.” 

<p>Courtesy of Dogpound</p> Dogpound LA

Courtesy of Dogpound

Dogpound LA

One such client is Rich Altemus, founder of Sugar Free Rich Meal Prep. Prior to starting his healthy food service company, “I was almost 500 pounds,” he says. “I grew up cooking fried chicken and pizza at my family’s restaurant.” When his friend brought him to the gym in 2019, “I look to my left and it’s like Victoria Secret models and then Steve Harvey’s working out and I’m like ‘What the...?'"

But that same day, “Kirk paused this premiere session he was having and came over to talk to me. He has a special place in his heart for people who struggle with their weight. He offered me 25 sessions, so I committed.” 

Altemus says that after 10 months of training with Myers and also overhauling his diet, he lost 200 pounds. The journey inspired him to create his own company that helps others create healthy eating habits. If you ask him, “It’s been like one miracle after another.”

<p>Courtesy of Dogpound</p> Kirk Myers

Courtesy of Dogpound

Kirk Myers

These days Myers admits his own health has taken a backseat to the demands of his work schedule.

"Honestly, right now my heart function is not that good again,” he says of the results of recent tests. But just as in the past, he’s focused on doing whatever he can to get — and stay — strong.

“I’m super happy. This last year, I’ve been taking more time for myself, trying to get my health back," he says. "I’m thinking about what’s most important.”

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