CLIENT: Harriet S.

PERSONAL TRAINER: Gabrielle Furlong

LOCATION: Los Angeles

You’ve done your homework. You’ve earned multiple specializations from esteemed certification organizations. You’ve worked with lots of clients over the years. So what else do you need if you’re going to benefit those who seek your help?

Flexibility, says Gabrielle Furlong, a Los Angeles–based trainer with those very credentials. “There is always flexibility in [our programming], because we cannot fully gauge clients’ abilities until we see them in action.”

Flexibility is just what Furlong relied on when she started her journey with Harriet. Like many older clients, Harriet came to training with myriad challenges, having gone through a fall, heart surgery and a knee replacement. “When we work with clients with this much happening in their lives, we always need to get medical clearance from a doctor,” says Furlong. Armed with specific goals defined by Harriet and her physician—such as walking on her own again—Furlong customized a training program.

Changing Together

Trainer Gabrielle Furlong

Personal trainer Gabrielle Furlong.

The focus was on rehabilitation, Furlong explains. “When designing the program, I used her measurements and assessments, combined with her goals, to incorporate exercises for areas that needed strengthening, stabilizing or some kind of improvement, so that walking without an aid could become natural again.”

Helping Harriet become stronger and more flexible has required the same skills from Furlong, who says the program changes daily, if needed, and as new progressions occur. “Every day is different for the client as far as how she feels, good or bad, and I designed the program to work around that. She tells me her pain level, and we adjust accordingly. Some weeks we may add bands, [do] new movements, or not hold on for balance, and those are each huge achievements.”

Harriet is up for the challenge. “She will do what she can for as long as she can with no complaints,” says Furlong. “Harriet enjoys pushing herself, so the session definitely has a sense of fun and productivity to it.”

Flex for Success

Furlong recommends her flexible approach to other trainers: “Know that there are multiple ways to help your client that don’t have to [disrupt] your original program. It requires an understanding of your client, creative thinking and patience.”

Today, Furlong says that Harriet “feels stronger and has begun walking without the use of a walker, but not 100% of the time yet. We still have work to do to get her full quality of life back. She is so willing, motivated and hopeful—her mindset helps her to keep moving forward, figuratively and literally!”

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