“Most trainers are athletes but most clients aren’t” declares personal trainer Rhonda Major.
If all you knew of the profession came from reality TV shows like The Biggest Loser, you’d expect Major to weigh 95lbs and to shout a lot. You might also expect Major to follow up that simple, yet eye-opening statement with a diatribe about converting people into jocks. But she’s not your typical trainer.
Major, 33, is short with healthy curves. She’s warm, sometimes giddy, and talks with her hands constantly. Sitting cross-legged on the couch, her enormous brown eyes partially covered with the brim of a casual cap, Major is telling me how she got to this point: The first anniversary of her business, YouDefined. In addition to personal training, Major offers nutrition and life skills coaching. Her philosophy is about changing a way of a life improving overall mental and physical health, not crash diets or extreme workouts.
And Major knows whereof she speaks. Until ten years ago, Major led a mostly inactive life. Her formerly sedentary lifestyle helps her to understand the challenges one needs to overcome to live a healthier life and the necessary steps to get there.
The first step for Major was embarking on the first of many life changing journeys.
After university, she travelled to Australia in search of adventure and spent her first months in the outback village of Croydon – current population 255. It was there that she began to understand the way she treated her body was affecting her happiness. She began a regimen of walking at first, and cutting out beer and pasta. Later she developed interests in kayaking and hiking: “I didn’t know what I was doing. I just experimented.”
When she returned to Canada, she became a certified Life Coach and began a job working with troubled youth. But the experience was frustrating because the youth centre’s focus was only on emotional problems, not lifestyle choices that may have been contributing to them.
“Junk food kills brain cells,” she says passionately. “But I wasn’t allowed to talk about their eating habits or exercise.”
In her off time she became more active than ever. She began to run, cycle, and belly dance. She also started to “eat clean” – checking labels and avoiding processed foods as much as possible.
With her new love of exercise, she became a certified personal trainer – with no intention of becoming the kind of trainer she had worked with in the past or those who model themselves after TV stars.
“People don’t understand that seriously overweight people have actually changed their physiology. They need to re-train their bodies. Putting weight on takes a long time, so taking it off safely will take a long time too.”
She describes her training approach as “slow and steady wins the race.” She meets with personal training clients once a week at their homes or offices for an intense workout including cardio, resistance training, and, her specialty, core strengthening.
Major understands that long-term weight loss success only comes with a change in thinking and behaviour: “To train someone successfully you need to understand how to motivate them. . . . you need to figure out how to get inside clients’ heads.”
She also ensures each client is the right fit for her methods. Before beginning a training program, Major meets with prospective clients to discuss their expectations. Though many are nervous at first – everyone’s afraid of something, Major says – she’ll only work with clients who commit to changing their lives.
After ten years of seeking out challenges and excitement, she’s found stability: “What was really important to me was being my own boss and doing a job with integrity. I’ve got that now.”