Trainer’s Call by Brenda Rule-Osburn
BY PHONE AND FAX, FITNESS COACHES ARE MEETING THEIR CLIENTS’ NEEDS
Story by NANCY TIPTON Photographs by MARLA BROSE of the Journal
Debbie Kennedy has always been good at losing weight. “I’ve been on every diet known to man. And I was successful at them,” she says. But what the 46-year-old Albuquerque resident didn’t get from any of the diet plans were tools to help her keep the weight off. “Diet is the operative word here,” she says. “What I needed was a life change.” Enter personal trainer Brenda Rule-Osburn. Kennedy’s husband gave his wife a gift certificate to meet with Rule-Osburn, who, it turns out, is more than a personal trainer. She’s a coach. Kennedy and Rule-Osburn are part of a growing national movement in the fitness industry involving people who want more than six-pack abs and trainers who do more than change weight stacks and count reps. Coaches aren’t just for teams and elite athletes anymore.
“You need someone to look at the big picture,” says Cindy Miller, a certified personal trainer who owns Heart Zones Personal Coaching. The California-based company uses heart rate-based training for a variety of athletic endeavors. “Some people don’t know where to start with a program, others just aren’t getting results they want. Both can benefit from a coach,” she says. “It works great for the self-directed athlete who just needs a little accountability.”
The Heart Zones program works like this: After a brief interview with Miller, the client is paired with a Heart Zones coach who can best meet the client’s needs and goals.
Heart Zones offers four- or eight-week programs that include a weekly phone consultation with a coach (additional weeks may be purchased anytime) and can include specific training plans for a triathlon, a 5K/10K run or walk, weight management, a long-distance event or any other goal.
More information, including prices, is available on the company’s Web site, heartzones.com.
Rule-Osburn’s approach was developed by another California resident and personal trainer, Susan Block, and it’s called Fitness by Phone. Block says she stumbled onto the method almost a decade ago when a former client called Block, frustrated because she had stopped working out.
In an article for Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, Block writes, “Beverly wanted to find a way to overcome her scheduling obstacles and get back on track with her fitness goals. I had an idea and though neither of us knew if it world work, we were willing to give it a try.” Block’s idea was to have the client use a heart rate monitor and an accelerometer to measure her activities. She had the woman keep a record of what she was doing. And, once a week, the two had a 20-minute phone conversation.
It worked so well that Block developed a program to teach other trainers how to incorporate phone coaching into their businesses.
“The approach is really empowering,” says Rule-Osburn, who was named Fitness by Phone’s Coach of the Year last year. “We give people the tools and they become empowered and self-motivated,” she says. It isn’t a quick fix. Rule-Osburn asks clients to commit six months to the program. And she starts at the beginning, having clients keep diaries of what they are eating and how much they are exercising. Then she has them use a Calrac, a device worn on a belt that measures steps taken and calories burned. She develops a cardiovascular program and, a little later, a strength training program. She talks with clients by phone. She also has converted her garage into a gym where her clients can work out.
Moving more For Kennedy, it was the personal attention that made the difference.
“If you don’t call Brenda at the appointed time, she’s calling you,” she says.
Kennedy has worked with Rule-Osburn since June and has lost about 60 pounds.
“But what I’ve gained is that it’s expanded my thought pattern.”
She travels for her job and now picks hotels based on whether they have workout facilities. She also says it isn’t about the weight anymore. “I feel better when I exercise. I found I like to walk … I like to move. “I don’t feel guilty when I eat a dessert. I just exercise more.” Although the concept is catching on, finding a coach can be somewhat challenging. A check with major gyms in Albuquerque found none offering “phone coaching” as part of a regular package.
Heather Morgan, regional fitness manager for New Mexico Sports & Wellness, however, says some of that organization’s trainers are starting to work more by unconventional means like email and phone.