Becoming an Adaptable Personal Trainer
Adjusting to a client's changing needs is imperative if the training relationship is to endure.
Personal Trainer:Anne Biscaldi, owner, Living Healthy Life
Location: Davie, Florida
When personal trainer Anne Biscaldi began working with Sandra—her very first client—the goals were simple. The client was interested in improving her strength, losing weight and shaping her body. Sandra, who was in her 40s at the time, had very little experience with a strength training program. “I couldn’t do a squat, couldn’t lift any weights for fear of pulling my back, and I had very little stamina,” she says.
Despite Sandra’s fears and inexperience, she followed her trainer’s guidance and gradually saw improvements in her body. “We both grew in confidence and experience, and we became friends,” explains the trainer. “I was always testing my new moves on myself, then on Sandra, before finally trying them on my other clients.”
With 2 years of training under her belt, Sandra felt strong and fit. Biscaldi recalls that Sandra “looked stunning” at her daughter’s quinceañera. Not long after, however, Sandra lost her job.
“It was time to cut expenses in my household,” she says. “One thing for certain was that I was not going to give up my training sessions. The savings would have to come from somewhere else. This proved to be a very good decision.”
Sandra would soon face yet another setback. She began experiencing eye and face twitches. “After lengthy medical exams and routines, it was found that I had an artery compressing two cranial nerves, and I needed brain surgery,” she says. Fortunately, the surgery was a success and Sandra eventually resumed her sessions with Biscaldi.
“I will never forget when I first saw her after surgery,” Biscaldi says. “She had lost so much weight and muscle mass.” Half of Sandra’s face was paralyzed, she’d lost hearing in her right ear and her balance was severely diminished.
“I was thrilled to have her back, but at the same time I was scared! I had never trained someone who had had brain surgery and had balance issues to this extent.” Undeterred, the diligent professional made every effort to learn as much as she could about the condition so that she could provide Sandra with the safest program possible.
The focus of the training sessions shifted dramatically. Instead of emphasizing strength, endurance and stamina, Biscaldi now incorporates exercises that require plenty of coordination, movement and balance.
Prior to each session—they meet three times per week for 30 minutes—Biscaldi carefully analyzes her client’s physical state and tailors the program to the needs of the day. “Sandra tells me on a scale of 1–10 her level of dizziness (now a chronic issue), which will impact her balance and in turn affect the content of the training,” says the trainer.
On days when Sandra is full of energy and feeling strong, she’s able to perform high-intensity exercises like mountain climbers and burpees. On low-energy days, she performs static exercises or strength-based movements using moderate resistance.
“We progressed from performing all exercises while staring at a fixed point (to help the brain and the eyes with a minimum load of movements and information) to mirroring my moves. Or [I give] her cues or change cues at the last second so that she has to react fast,” Biscaldi explains.
The trainer has recently incorporated closed-eye exercises to further challenge and improve her client’s ability to balance.
So far, the change in training has proved to be highly successful. “I have received invaluable professional assistance and treatment from several sources, including yoga, acupuncture and physical therapy, to name a few,” says Sandra. “However, one person who has been of significant benefit to me is my personal trainer, Anne. She completely redesigned my workout sessions to meet my new needs. She also took the time to research my condition and then include vestibular rehabilitation therapy exercises into our routine.”
Biscaldi is endlessly impressed with her client’s determination. “I have learned so much from her in terms of resilience and positive thinking,” she says. “There is not one ounce of self-pity in her body. As Sandra says, ‘It’s counterproductive.’” n