Client: Colleen Donofrio

Personal Trainer: Nicole Simonin

Location: Monroeville, New Jersey

Starting a fitness program can be daunting, especially when your only exercise is the occasional walk or yoga class. But when Colleen Donofrio, then 57, heard about personal trainer Nicole Simonin’s successful program, Shape It Up, her motivation to improve her health—and her yoga poses—outweighed her fears.

“Colleen was great to work with,” says Simonin, an ACE-certified trainer and health coach. “Anything I asked her to do she was all for.”

Still, Colleen’s work to increase her flexibility and strength began slowly. “She started with basic compound exercises and then progressed to heavier weights with interval cardio exercises mixed in,” explains Simonin. “She was training with me four times per week in person and using online training to supplement.”

Enduring Hardship

Nicole Simonin Training Colleen Donofrio

Personal trainer Nicole Simonin helping Colleen with her form.

Colleen’s promising start was soon tested when, shortly after beginning her program, she was hit with the devastating loss of her husband.

“I really believe that people come into your life for a reason,” says Simonin. “I think coming to her personal training sessions helped her cope with her loss.”

Despite her grief, Colleen pushed forward. A commitment to her health—along with Simonin’s support—gave her the drive to transform her loss into self-improvement. “Colleen had always put everyone else first, and now it was her turn to do something for her,” says Simonin.

But Colleen’s challenges didn’t end there: She faced another significant setback when she tore her ACL and meniscus and sprained her MCL in a skiing accident.

Just as she had persevered through grief, Colleen rebounded from her accident through committed work and Simonin’s support. “Because I have a background in physical therapy, I was able to work together with her physical therapist in a fitness capacity,” explains Simonin. “We got Colleen back into skiing condition only 1 year later without surgery.”

A New Life

Colleen Donofrio Before and After

Through her difficulties, Colleen stayed persistent and made impressive strides: She dropped 40 pounds within the first 8 months and has since gained strength and improved her flexibility.

“She started out doing 5-pound dumbbells for shoulder press and now easily does 20 pounds,” remarks Simonin. “[And] she can touch her toes without any problems.”

Colleen’s journey shows how it’s possible to completely transform a client’s health, even when there are major struggles along the way. Simonin knows the key is to keep training personal.

“I find that figuring out the ‘why’ is the most important for client results,” she says. “Once [clients] get the correct mindset and then see what their body is capable of doing, it changes them inside and out.”

This couldn’t be truer for Colleen who, now 61, has reached her best fitness level to date and leads an active life with frequent skiing and hiking trips.

“I am so grateful that Colleen came into my life,” says Simonin. “She really is an inspiration to women over 50. [She] continues to have dedication and commitment to her health and is living life to the fullest.”

What’s Your Story?

Do you have a client who has overcome the odds to achieve new heights in health and fitness? Send your story to [email protected], and you and your client may be featured in an upcoming issue of Fitness Journal.