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Hidden Gems: Meet Erica Buechner of Iron Core Oceanside

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Buechner.

Hi Erica, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My journey to becoming a kettlebell instructor and ultimately a gym owner began with meeting Os Aponte, my husband and business partner. I have been a professional dancer and instructor for 24 years, so I was always into cultivating my body as a tool to accomplish my goals. One area I was lacking was finding the right system to support my body as I aged. Dance is hard on the body. When I met Os, he was a personal trainer and a master of many physical skills. He was so good that he began dancing for the company I was also dancing for, and we had the opportunity to perform in many shows together for about three years. I started dabbling in kettlebell training during this time but didn’t dedicate myself to the practice. It wasn’t until years later after both of us had stopped dancing for the company that I began to take an interest in really learning what has now become The Iron Core Way.

Having always had an interest in skill-building, The Iron Core Way became the perfect tonic for teaching me new skills and strengthening my body in ways that nothing else has. I found myself with more strength, endurance, and confidence than ever before. I also found myself in less pain, which was welcomed after years of overuse injuries from dance. I was hooked! Of course, Os and I were very much a couple by now, so I kept pushing him to start his own business. His level of expertise was astounding and unmatched from anything I had experienced. This step is, of course, WAY easier said than done. I would spend hours looking up spaces for lease and daydreaming about owning our own business. Unfortunately, it always seemed like it would stay in the daydreaming category with our financial situation. We pursued a few attempts over the course of a few years that always turned out to be deadends.

At the beginning of 2020, when we were about to give up on the dream, I searched for businesses for sale. I had never explored this before because I figured we could never afford to purchase a business. To our surprise, a small gym in Oceanside was looking to sell for a price that didn’t seem entirely out of reach. We contacted them, and then long story short, everything fell into place. We actually looked at each other one day and wondered if we were on a game show because we couldn’t believe how everything was lining up. And then COVID hit, but that is a tangent to explore later.

After purchasing the gym, it became clear that it was time for me to get certified to teach kettlebells. I trained for several months and completed my StrongFirst Kettlebell Level 1 Instructor certification in January of 2021. This certification included a 5-minute snatch test in which I had to perform 100 kettlebell snatches with the 16 kg (35 lbs) kettlebell in 5 minutes. Once again hooked on the skills I was learning, I completed my StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor certification in August of 2021. This certification was harder to train for since I had to master the one-arm push-up and other challenging skills.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
No! It is so hard to start a business, let alone during COVID. There is so much “advice” out there on how to begin a business, run a business, or maintain a business, but ultimately, all of those are just empty formulas that worked for a few people. What they don’t tell you is that the best thing to do is be true to your vision. If we were going to follow someone else’s advice, we might as well be working for them. Owning a small business is about the freedom to share your expertise with people interested in the same thing you are. We didn’t take over a commercial gym to make a dime; we revamped a small independent gym to share our knowledge because we believe in it. We live it every day. The Iron Core Way is how we train ourselves. It is hard to compete with commercial gyms and the “quick-fix” mindset, but we dedicate ourselves to teaching people that fitness is a long-term practice of what works, not what is trending.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Iron Core Oceanside?
Iron Core was one of the first facilities in the nation offering an entire kettlebell curriculum. Things like barefoot training, a focus on building core strength, and the development of mobility without sacrificing strength may be all the rave now, but we were professing these features from our inception. In addition, our affinity for human movement performance has pushed us to continuously refine our service offerings to grow in tune with emerging fields such as functional neurology and various somatic practices. Martial arts and contemporary dance techniques permeate our bodyweight training curriculum, and the principles seamlessly transfer to our strength training regime resulting in a powerful tonic for the nervous system, guaranteed to cure traditional gym boredom.

As a StrongFirst accredited gym, we are known for teaching a pure form of the HardStyle kettlebell technique popularized by Pavel Tsasouline in the early double aughts. The beauty of our system is that we approach strength as movement and movement as a skill. The result is that as you progress through the system, there is an accumulation of bodily knowledge that will help the student navigate increasingly complex movement challenges that go beyond lifting weights but rather add quality to their everyday life.

We are most proud of our track record in helping our students enhance their lives by following The Iron Core Way. We have a strong focus on technique, and our coaching is so meticulous and patient that it gives Mr. Miyagi’s wax-on, wax-off method a run for its money. We relish the moment when a student overcomes an obstacle and experience what they are truly capable of doing with their bodies.

We want prospective students to know that we engage in genuine collaboration with them at Iron Core. Fitness is not a one size fits all discipline, but with patience (on your part), knowledge (on our part), and commitment (on both of our parts), anyone can achieve robust health and wellness at any age. All you need to have is an open mind. There is a better way. The Iron Core Way.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
The biggest thing we learned was how to look at both sides of the coin when it comes to small businesses and the crisis. We both took the pandemic very seriously, wanting to keep our students and ourselves safe, but all we experienced was more and more people dropping their memberships. Let’s face it, teaching online is not the same as learning in person. (I teach dance at a school also, so I know VERY well how much online learning lacks luster.) We had to negotiate how thin we could stretch and still keep our business alive. Not to mention we didn’t qualify for most emergency funding because the business wasn’t old enough. Luckily, we learned that through the power of communication, people were willing to support us along the way. It forced us to continually ask ourselves what “being true to vision” really meant. Ultimately we are still open and still smiling.


  • Month-to-month membership: $198/mo
  • One-year membership: $178/mo
  • One-year membership-Mil/First Responders: $152

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Image Credits
Doug McMinimy Sarah Marcella

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