Movers & Shakers: Verdine Baker

The Manager of Crunch Fitness and Unofficial Mayor of San Francisco gives us the lowdown on his homeland, his inspirations and what it means to be truly healthy
December 21, 2016Words by Huckberry StaffPhotos by Jeff Masamori

Editors Note: For our third catalog, we thought it would be fun to mix it up and ditch the motorcycles and float planes to profile some of the customers, partners, and friends we’ve met on our six-year journey. Guys who’ve inspired us, and we hope will inspire you too. We're bringing you this excerpt from our Movers & Shakers catalog because, as Ernest Hemingway once said, “as you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.”

Strictly by the numbers, Verdine Baker is probably more well-liked than San Francisco’s actual mayor: during our interview he’s had to wave off at least ten people looking for some friendly small talk. The man talks to a ton of people — not just from eight years managing one of the city’s most popular gym chains, but because he just loves getting to know them. Growing up on the tiny Seychelles off the coast of Africa (sometimes called “the most beautiful islands on Earth”), he didn’t get to meet many, and it’s still what delights him the most. Like many great American successes, he ended up here by accident, when a promising career as a professional soccer player abruptly ended thanks to an injury during tryouts. In retrospect it doesn’t seem to phase him — nothing does — which makes us think that this soon-to-be father will make a damn good dad.

Verne Baker

Vital Stats:

  • Age: 33
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Occupation: Senior General Manager, Crunch Gym
  • Instagram: @crunchgym 

How’d you come to live in San Francisco?
I grew up in the Seychelles. I was 11 when my parents separated and my dad moved to California, and I thought it would be a good idea to tag along. At this point I’ve lived in California longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. 

It makes sense that you know so many people.
Part of my job is that I get access to a lot of people in San Francisco. But I’m also just really interested in people. People in Seychelles are just inquisitive in general, so I grew up being really friendly. I try to approach all conversations without any kind of agenda, and I think people see that genuine energy and are attracted to it. 

Verne Baker

"People can mistake being fit for being well. Fitness is a big part of wellness, but being well physically, mentally, and emotionally are all important."

How long have you been at Crunch? 
Eight years. I got introduced to it as a member. I was spending a lot of time there working out and one of the trainers was like, “Hey, you’re here all the time already. Want a job?” I fell in love with helping people make real lifestyle changes. Wellness really helps people long term. 

I like that you think of it as wellness, and not just about fitness.
People can mistake being fit for being well. Fitness is a big part of wellness, but being well physically, mentally, and emotionally are all important.

Verne Baker

Verdine Recommends: 

  • Podcast: The Pregnancy Dad
  • Underrated Vacation Spot: California Central Coast
  • Guilty Pleasure: Ice Cream, I’m a fat kid at heart
  • Instagram to Follow: @mistyonpointe. I found her while looking for strong female role models for my daughter

What do you think will be the next evolution in the fitness industry?
Powering the grid through exercise and kinetic energy. I think we’ll be looking for a more sustainable and environmentally-minded approach to fitness and wellness. 

Take me through your morning routine.
Wake up at 6:30 a.m. Look at reports for work on my phone for ten minutes. Get up, make breakfast for myself and my wife. I’ll foam roll in the living room watching the news or SportsCenter. Then I’ll either run, walk, or bike to work. 

What book has changed your behavior the most?
Pre, the biography of Steve Prefontaine, who’s my favorite athlete of all time. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift,” is something that I think about every day. It makes me want to be my best self to everyone. 

What’s your favorite Huckberry purchase?
My Mission Workshop backpack. It’s the most functional piece of equipment I use every day. [H]

 

 

Verdine Baker

 

 

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