Tricks of the Trade: Q&A “Do You Have a Particular Client Who Inspires You? Why?”
I have been fortunate enough to help a diverse group of people achieve their potential. Each of them has fueled the desire in me to continue doing my best. Reflecting on the inspiring clients I work with at this time, I must confess that I have to “cheat” and select not just one but four, as they all highlight a certain something that propels me forward as a person and a professional.
The Szocs are an older couple who have embraced the ideals of an active, healthy lifestyle so they can enjoy their retirement years to the fullest extent. Exercise is an integral part of each day, and they jump into it knowing that, unlike many of their friends, they are improving their quality of life. The importance of their enthusiasm was nicely summed up by one of their sons, a world-renowned skier, who commented on how proud and happy he is that his parents are fit enough to share skiing, hiking and other adventures with him. This great couple underscores for me that it is never too late to be fit and that physical fitness brings joy to life on a variety of levels.
Claire is one of the top downhill mountain-bike racers in the world. For 5 years she has fought her way up the ranks, representing Canada four times at the World Championships—all with little to no sponsorship. Claire is awesome to work with because she pushes me! Besides thriving on training hard (and smart), she is a sponge—looking to learn all she can to make her the best at her sport. I am always motivated by her belief that as an athlete she has responsibility to her sport. Even working 10-hour days to make ends meet and then putting in time to train, Claire gets out there to be a wonderful ambassador for downhill biking—particularly by encouraging and mentoring young girls to excel as riders.
“Big Rich” is one of Whistler’s best bartenders. An enthusiastic sports fan, he was unhappy a couple of years ago when a back injury prevented him from doing his job well and being involved in the activities he loves. The “big guy” decided to change his life, and he has stuck to that commitment. For me, Rich is a study in consistency. From leading an “okay lifestyle, but not the healthiest on the planet,” Rich has taken the time to learn and try things that will make him fitter and healthier for years to come. By being persistent, he has knocked off all his goals, and he continues to set new ones, steadily progressing toward his potential. What’s the most personally inspiring point about Rich? Every Friday at the end of his workout, I get to wind up my week hearing him say, “I love this, man! Thank you very much, Di!” From where I sit as a fitness professional, there ain’t nothin’ better (or more inspiring) than that.
Director, Dynamic Core Fitness
NSCA Provincial Director
Whistler, British Columbia
For more than 4 years now, two and sometimes three times a week, I have had the privilege of working with my client Wally. I often wonder who is training whom! Wally is close to 80 years old and faces daunting health challenges: Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and significant neuropathy. In spite of—and because of—these challenges, he is very committed to his training and works hard.
Even when Wally is experiencing pain, numbness or frustration, his sense of humor gets him through his workouts. Humor helps him put up with shaking hands, numb feet and restricted motion.
I have regularly had to modify Wally’s routines, both to adjust to his declining capabilities and to prevent boredom. We have been known to do burlesque dance movements together, play medicine ball catch and use ballet moves for balance training, all while applying Pilates principles.
Wally inspires me to be a better trainer because I want him to continue to enjoy the quality of life he currently does. He is an avid traveler, always on the go, and loves to entertain visiting friends from all over the world. My “humor trainer” has taught me how to use humor to diffuse many difficult situations. As a result, my life is easier and more fun. I thank Wally for my new skills.
Joan E. Glick
ACSM-, ACE- and NASM-Certified
Sole Proprietor, Fit for the Ages
San Francisco, California
I’m presently training a senior client named Margot who has had two knee surgeries. Before working with me, she was considering a third knee surgery. I have been training her for 18 months, and she can now ski, belly-dance and cycle without pain. She also feels stronger and fitter than she did 10 years ago.
The opportunity to help Margot not only avoid a third surgery but also do activities she enjoys gives me great satisfaction.
Fitness Promotions Coordinator and
Personal Trainer, The Athletic Club
When asked to write about an inspiring client, I immediately think of Amanda Walton, a beautiful 25-year-old. When Amanda was 20, she was a sophomore at Yale and a member of the varsity field-hockey team. Driving home to Boston for the summer, she was hit by a car going 80 miles per hour. She suffered a severe head injury, a shattered pelvis, a sprained left foot and a broken right ankle. She lay in a coma for 2 months. After 9 months in the hospital, she returned home to begin a new life and meet all the challenges caused by a severe brain injury.
Amanda is an athlete at heart and has always tried to maintain a positive attitude and do her best. Her brain injury led to rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, which causes severe depression. Maintaining a positive attitude in the face of this depression is difficult, but she does the best she can. After her accident, she was determined to walk again and to be independent of others.
Having the opportunity to work with Amanda on and off for the past 2 years has forced me out of my comfort zone as a personal trainer. I have had to work with her physical therapists and her doctor and learn new training approaches. Every time I’ve trained Amanda I’ve been amazed by her determination and her belief that she will meet her goals. Working with her has taught me many things. I have learned that there is so much I do not know. I have learned the importance of constantly finding new approaches and techniques and being able to apply this knowledge. I’ve learned that the team approach is so important.
I’ve also found that my positive attitude has served me well, especially when Amanda has been depressed. I’d wish I could make everything better, and I’d have to accept that I could do only the best that I could do. I always say, control what you can control and let go of what you cannot control. I could not control what happened to Amanda, but I could control the belief that each day is a new opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life. I also know deep in my heart that Amanda survived this horrific accident and is making a difference in this world. What an inspiration she has been to me, and how much I have learned from her!
Having just moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, Amanda is constantly busy horseback riding, swimming, vertically skiing by holding onto a walker and much more. She is able to ski for a few hours at a time with the help of four assistants.
Personal Trainer, 2002 IDEA Fitness
Instructor of the Year and 2005 ACE
Group Fitness Instructor of the Year
I have several clients who really inspire me. One is a 99-year-old man who still rises at 6:00 am to get a start on the day, check the stock market reports, eat the healthiest breakfast he can and work out in order to stay on his feet.
Another is my heart patient. In December 2004, at age 54, he was advised to have a heart transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Since then, he has turned his life around with the help of a fitness program from me. He has lost 55 pounds, walks 5 miles a day, trains with weights and has gained 5% cardiac function in the past 8 months. He is to be taken off the transplant list and moved to a cardiac maintenance program.
My most inspiring client is a 95-year-old lady who maintains an independent lifestyle in Cincinnati in the summer and Naples, Florida, in the winter. (She works out with me when she is in Naples.) She has a treadmill, weights and a stability ball in both cities and another personal trainer in Cincinnati. She drives her Mercedes convertible day and night, often with the top down. She serves on the board of the local Philharmonic Center for the Arts, attends concerts and plays, and maintains an active group of friends. She is always laughing, doing needlepoint, reading, working on crossword puzzles and word games, shopping and traveling. Last summer she cruised from France to Portugal and visited family in Sun Valley.
She has had two total hip replacements. The second one was at 90, at her own insistence, after a doctor here said she should think twice about having surgery at her age. Incensed that he mentioned her age, she went to Cincinnati for the procedure and returned to Naples for me to do the postrehab.
This active lady uses her treadmill 10–20 minutes per day and trains her upper body with 5-pound weights and the Xertube®. For her lower body, she uses 2 1/2-pound weights, exercises with the stability ball and stretches on the floor. She is gracious, positive and generous to all around her. When I gave her the book Dare to Be 100 by Walter M. Bortz (Fireside 1996), she said she quite looks forward to being 100.
Olea DeFore, RN
The Fitness Nurse
Throughout my 14-year fitness career, I have been emotionally and intellectually inspired by many of my clients. One current client, in particular, has significantly inspired me.
She is 58 years old and has been fighting multiple sclerosis (MS) since she was 22. This disease has predominantly affected the right side of her body, specifically her right leg. I remember when she first walked into the fitness club. What made an impression on me was the matter-of-fact attitude she had toward her MS. She was so comfortable in her own skin.
She has always had an open mind toward the exercises I have prescribed for her. Because of her incredible attitude and willingness to learn and work hard, she has made some amazing gains, especially in the right side of her body. These gains include increased muscular tone and strength, corrected lumbopelvic rhythm, corrected firing patterns and a more functional gait.
I receive the biggest gift when I work with her: the gift of intellectual and emotional inspiration. Her inspiration reaffirms my purpose and mission as a fitness professional and a human being. She inspires me to give my best during every session and to continue furthering my education and strengthening my skills.
AFAA-Certified Personal Trainer and
Peak Pilates™ International Master
Personal Trainers of El Paso
El Paso, Texas
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