Subjects: Dawn and Tom Terwilliger
Company: Terwilliger Fitness

A Winning Partnership. Years ago as Tom Terwilliger prepared to shoot an episode of Muscle Sport USA for Fox Sports Net in Boulder, Colorado, he probably wasn’t aware that his life was about to take a dramatic turn. In his home state of New York, Terwilliger was on an upward swing, enjoying success as a bodybuilding champion and owner of two gyms. However, Cupid played gardener that day in Boulder and managed to effect a life-changing transplant for Tom, from the East Coast to the Rocky Mountains.

“[Dawn] was a kinesiology student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and working for a local gym at the time,” recalls Tom. “We hit it off big time, so I sold my gyms, packed my bags and moved to Denver. Together we opened our first training studio in Colorado and have been working—no playing—side by side ever since.” But Tom warns that working with your life partner can be a bit daunting and can require some extra effort to maintain homeostasis. “What we have figured out is that we have to take frequent breaks in the form of rituals like going for a quick cup of tea or coffee,” he says. “We step away from the business emotionally and talk about some of the reasons we’re in the business: our dreams.”

Transformational Coaching. From the very beginning, Dawn and Tom knew they wanted to offer an environment that was more than a place for sets and reps. “Our mission from the onset has been to serve others and to help them move from being stuck to moving forward in their lives with energy and passion,” says Dawn. Knowing that the mind plays a powerful role in how well clients proceed, the Terwilligers realized they needed to offer more than kudos for clients’ successes and began searching for additional tools to help clients. Both Dawn and Tom became certified master practitioners of neuro-linguistic programming and earned certifications in hypnosis to better understand their clients’ neural pathways and have a greater impact on clients. “When you’re training clients, you have them in a very altered state because of the physiology involved,” says Tom. “That altered state opens them up to powerful life-changing suggestions and behavior modifications. By using visualization techniques and very specific language patterns, we have the ability to help the client modify disempowering lifestyle habits, embrace new, more empowering ones and anchor positive rewards and emotions to the workout itself.” The program, called “Transformational Coaching,” has yielded significant results for clients, according to Dawn. “We have had clients move very quickly from smoking to competing in triathlons; from believing they’re ‘not worth it’ to loving themselves unconditionally; and from mediocre performance on the playing field to leading their teams to victory,” she says.

Inspiring the Inspirers. Despite running a successful business, Dawn and Tom don’t rest on their laurels; they firmly assert that their philosophies apply to their clients and to themselves. Having developed a program that has offered monumental success for their clients, they have set their sights on finding ways to affect change beyond the walls of Terwilliger Fitness. “Dawn and I put a challenge to ourselves just over a year ago,” says Tom. “I would put [that challenge] to all trainers: How can you help 100 times more people than you help right now?” The answer, according to the Terwilligers, is through the transfer of knowledge to fellow professionals. “That’s why we started Coaching Leadership Excellence LLC for fitness professionals, so that we could help other trainers discover and develop their powerful life-changing leadership abilities,” says Dawn. “By reaching only 10 trainers who then have a profound effect on 10 clients, we have achieved our mission,” adds Tom. With 1 year under their belts, they decided their previous goal just wasn’t cutting it. “Our new goal is to help 10,000 more people than we do now.”

SIDEBAR: Calling All Trainers

Do you own a business that breaks the mold? If so, e-mail [email protected] and let us know why you think your personal training business is unique.

Ryan Halvorson is the associate editor for IDEA and a certified personal trainer at Excel Sport and Therapy in La Jolla, California.