From Client to Coach – Theresa’s Story

From Fitness Skeptic to Empowered Coach: Theresa’s Inspiring Journey to Wellness

I would have lost a bet in Vegas if you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be not only working out (and enjoying it!), but also helping people reach their own health and wellness goals through fitness and nutrition coaching. 

Unlike many of today’s fitness coaches, I didn’t step into this role from a lifetime of sports or healthy living. In fact, you could say that fitness has been pretty much non-existent in my life – especially in my adult years. 

As a child, I preferred reading, art, and music. I was in choir, and took every art and writing class that my school offered. I hated gym class because it showcased how awkward and uncoordinated I was. And forget trying out for sports – they played those games in front of people! There was no way I was signing up for public humiliation.

And most of my adult life followed the same path. Given the choice, I would much prefer to spend my time in places devoted to the gentle arts – bookstores, museums, theaters. But for some reason, active people would find me. And they would invite me to do things with them – play beach volleyball, go white water rafting, hike through the woods. 


While I enjoyed spending time with these people, I loathed physical activity. I would slow down the others because of my lack of stamina. I would get out of breath quickly. I was embarrassed that I didn’t have the ability to “keep up”, but oh, how I HATED sweating and working out!

About a year after the birth of my last child, I bit the bullet. I joined Penance through a 6-week Foundations course. I was in my mid-30’s, and I was exhausted and stressed out all the time. My husband had been participating in group classes there for about 2 years (I told you, I find active people!), and he always came home happy and relaxed afterwards. I wanted to feel happy and relaxed, too.

In Foundations, I learned the basics. At the end of the 6 weeks, I knew what the different equipment we used was called, where it belonged and how to use it. I learned how to hold the different types of weights, and how to move my body with them and without them. 

But when I rolled over into the regular group classes, I was FAR from consistent in my attendance. Even though I knew the basics, I hadn’t developed any confidence. I still felt like that awkward and uncoordinated teenager surrounded by athletes. Because I was. There could be as many as 30 people heaving weights in these classes. I had to use an empty bar during barbell exercises. I couldn’t do real push ups. There were movements programmed at that time that I had neither the strength nor the stamina to perform. (Thankfully, we don’t do those things anymore.)

But, over the years, however, Penance evolved. The workout structures morphed from “fastest to lastest” to “everybody all together”. We stepped away from the barbell and stopped making pull ups the base standard. (One day, I may choose to work on building enough strength to do one, but until that day comes, I have a variety of pulling options to choose from.) The new structure helped me feel more comfortable during classes. I became more consistent in my attendance and started building real strength.

When I decided to take on the responsibility of helping other people reach their health and wellness goals, I’d been working for Penance for about 6 years in an administrative role. One of my most important responsibilities was membership management – which included our In-Person Consultation.

I had a string of these In-Person Consultations during the summer of 2021 with women who were looking for what we offered – a way to build the strength and endurance they craved while getting the guidance and education they needed to get there. And these women were our ideal clients – they were perfect for our gym. But they each had the same stipulation – they needed a woman trainer. They didn’t want to hear how awesome our male trainers were. They would only train with a woman. And we didn’t have one. 

Not just any ol’ woman would do. We needed to find the right fit for us. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the “right” person… So, after lots of conversations and looking, I decided to go ahead and get certified. It was scary and WAY outside of my comfort zone, but at the end of a year, I had it. And as I’ve gained confidence over the past year of training clients, I understand now what I was missing.

I haven’t morphed into this super-active person, I’m not. I still prefer a Saturday afternoon spent reading on the couch. But working out isn’t always about killing yourself in the gym. It’s building strength to complete any single daily activity I want or need to. I can lift and carry a huge bag of dog food without needing a cart (or a man). I can move heavy boxes without waiting for my husband to get home from work. I have the stamina to work in the yard all day or keep up with my husband and two sons (very active people) when we go hiking or camping. 

And I can do all of this without pain – which as a middle-aged woman is saying quite a lot.

I want my clients to experience the same sense of freedom and empowerment for themselves.