“Darlene is in her 70’s and she had gotten used to her routine and lifestyle, so any type of change would prove challenging.”


Trainers are a lot like Super Heroes. Some of us have super speed, some have super strength, and some have seemingly impossible ranges of flexibility. Whatever our super power may be, we all have the power to completely revolutionize someone’s life through fitness.

Today, I’d like to talk about one of my own personal experiences with a client. Her name is Darlene and she is a very special client; unlike any other I have had in the past. Darlene recently lost a loved one and had to take on a lot of new responsibility that she was previously unaccustomed to. During this transitionary period, she realized how stressed and upset she had become, and wanted to find a way to refocus that energy to do something for herself. What better way than to embark on a fitness journey. Today I would like to share that journey with you.

I met Darlene in October of 2018 and boy did she know how to make a first impression. We initially talked about her goals, the usual toning and weight loss that accompanies most fitness patrons, and we were quickly off to do our cardio warmup. And then it happened, the moment that I thought would challenge any opportunity to build rapport. Darlene didn’t see the 2-inch raised platform leading up to the cardio machines, she tripped, and she fell flat on her face. In that moment, I was immediately concerned for her safety, but before I could show concern, she jumped right back on her feet with a huge smile and said, “Well that’s one way to make a first impression,” laughing through her words. From that moment on, we would share countless stories and countless jokes making each and every workout one that I would look forward to in my week.

The greatest challenges for Darlene would be motivation and organization. Darlene is in her 70’s and she had gotten used to her routine and lifestyle, so any type of change would prove challenging. First, we needed to establish a training frequency, how many sessions she would need to get to her goal and what types of supplements were going to fill the most gaps. We settled on seeing each other 3 times a week with 2 cardio sessions throughout the week as well. I showed Darlene a protein supplement, an amino acid supplement, and a hydration supplement. We would use a traditional training program with a “go-ahead” frequency. Nothing special so far. Before anything else, we wanted to establish good habits and develop an accountability system.

Through the first few weeks of November, Darlene tended to enter the gym feeling low energy, complaining about a couple of aches and pains and how stressed out she was feeling. I would treat the sore areas with some foam rolling and stretching for her sore muscles. I would ask her about her granddaughter and her job to keep her attitude positive. I was hoping that the exercise would pump her full of serotonin and she would be sent away floating and happy. This routine would continue for a few days, and then a few weeks. When her mindset didn’t really improve, I quickly realized I may have to do more than follow 5 pillar programming of Food Intake, Cardio, Flexibility, Resistance Training, and Professional Assistance. So, one day, I challenged her with a simple pro and con list. It looked kind of like this:

Stress Inducers Stress Relievers

Initially, she didn’t feel super comfortable with the mental exercise because, well let’s be honest, it can be scary to look within yourself and objectively pull out hard truths that describe yourself. Truths that you may have been trying to hide from yourself and the world. Understanding Darlene’s hesitation, I told her that I would do the exercise with her, so that she would feel more comfortable disclosing that information with me.

At the beginning of our next workout, I pulled out my piece of paper with all of the things that stress me out and the things that relieve my stress, and I asked Darlene for hers. She “forgot it” … okay, no problem, I can still make my point with my piece of paper. The point of this exercise was to identify what PTA Global calls “stinking thinking,” or “mental prisons.” This is so important because our thoughts don’t become real unless we right them down, or communicate them to others. Otherwise they are just our thoughts and if no one knows that we have them, it makes it easy to hide. When we make our thoughts known to other people, we can actually make action on them. In some cases, we can celebrate achievements, but in this case, we can come up with strategies to reduce or eliminate stress, more importantly taking control of our emotions and completion of objectives. After sharing a few of my stress inducers, and their complimentary relievers, Darlene mentioned a few of her points that she remembered from the exercise. Some examples might include the following:


Stress Inducers Stress Relievers
When the house is a mess When the house is clean
Feeling like I didn’t get enough sleep Waking up feeling refreshed
Losing track of time Having extra time in the evening


As you can see, the stress relievers section is a bunch of different goals that we can use to create strategies for. Similar to how we work on body composition or strength goals, we can come up with a “program” to clean the house, or a “program” to find time at the end of your day. For the former, pick one room per day to clean, and then the house will always be clean. This way you won’t have to spend a hard-earned weekend strictly on cleaning the house, and now you have extra time in the evening as well (2 for 1 deal!) The greatest thing about this whole exercise is that Darlene and I really started to understand each other. Our rapport grew exponentially, and our relationship would blossom. Darlene would begin to feel more comfortable talking to me about the stress she was going thru, she would start to bring a notebook to our sessions, and she would become a lean, mean, fat burning machine in the weeks to come.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision as a trainer, and Darlene helped me realize this in a massive way. Our clients don’t (usually) workout with us to geek out on the science. They come workout with us to make their lives better. In some ways that could be to have more energy to enjoy summer hikes, or it could also be a way of blowing off steam after a long day at work. Whatever the reason, that’s for you to find out, focus on your client’s weakest link and strengthen it. Then find the next weakest link and strengthen that. Literally any trainer or online article could tell you what exercises to do and how many of them for how much weight, but a Life Changer has the power to go outside of the box and revolutionize the way someone engages with the challenges in their life, and we get to do that all in the name of fitness!


Blog written by BCPTI Instructor, Josh Russell


Client Inspiration & Story: Darlene