A Q&A WITH HCI’S PERSONAL TRAINERS
From personal training abroad to teaching college-level fitness courses, a couple of our top trainers share their stories.
Branching off from the AIM department, HCI Personal Training will lead the way in offering accessible training to members of all fitness levels and backgrounds. AIM coaches will also continue to personal train while focusing on athletic training for youth and adult athletes through one on one sessions and small group classes. With these forthcoming changes, HCI Personal Training welcomes in fresh faces including new HCI Personal Training lead Sandy Brockman. A couple of our newer trainers talk about their unique fitness backgrounds, personal experiences with trainers and how they approach training clients.
From Training Athletes to a Client with Parkinson’s: Meet Greg Higginbotham
HCIdentity: What does your fitness background look like and how did you transition into personal training?
Greg Higginbotham: At the end of my athletic career, I found myself in terrible shape and needing a new outlet to channel my energy. This led me to strength training, and after seeing the positive impact it had on me, I dragged a friend or two along. Once I saw the impact I had on helping others achieve their goals, I was hooked. I went on to study Kinesiology at the University of North Texas because of this.
Through the relationships I built at UNT, I went on to get my Masters in Exercise Physiology. While in grad school, I taught a variety of undergrad courses including Health Principles, Weight Training, and Bio-mechanics. This experience helped me grow as a teacher and coach, having to present a wide array of topics to many different learning styles. I also served as the Graduate Assistant Coach for the softball team at UNT during this time.
When I finished my time at UNT, I went down the personal training path at a commercial gym where my training and coaching skills were challenged and developed further. Previously most of my time was spent training athletes and now I had clients who had goals ranging from qualifying for the Boston Marathon to getting off blood pressure medication. A typical day would look like training a client for her first Spartan Race in the morning and a man trying to mitigate his Parkinson’s symptoms in the evening. It was a great challenge and helped further cement the wide benefits of movement and the positive quality-of-life impact physical activity has on people.
What certifications did you start with and what does upkeep look like?
In 2013, I became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. With this cert, you need a related degree and there is continuing education that goes with it to make sure my research knowledge and training application is always current and up to date.
Why personal training?
I’ve had clients with every goal imaginable. I just really enjoy seeing positive changes in the lives of the people I work with. Helping people break down their goals and what they’re really after is a fun challenge, and I love seeing the confidence that results from people doing things they didn’t believe they could do before.
Why do you recommend personal training?
Having a professional work with you and create a game plan is a huge advantage. Most people have blind spots that can be spotted with an extra set of eyes. When corrected, that leads to huge returns on your training and, potentially, your overall quality of life. Accountability is the other huge area. Many people struggle making time for themselves, but having a set time and date to meet with a trainer makes a huge difference on exercise consistency.
What type of client do you typically work with?
I’ve worked with all sorts of clients, from professional athletes to people who have never set foot in a gym. If you have an idea of what you want to achieve, I can lay out a road map on how to get there. Whether it’s having a better golf game or looking better in a swimsuit, the beauty of personal training and my job is to set you up for success by prioritizing your goals.
Have you had a personal trainer and, if so, how did you personally benefit from getting help from someone else?
Yes, I have! I love having the extra set of eyes to make sure my form is where it needs to be and not getting sloppy. I also enjoy getting new ideas, movements and coaching cues from other trainers that I can utilize with my own clients. I enjoy some variety and mixing things up from time to time.
What does your weekly fitness routine look like?
It varies on what I’m training for, but generally my body performs best lifting four times per week with two upper body and two lower body days; and conditioning and mobility sprinkled in once or twice a week. If my schedule is a little tighter, I’ll do full body 3 times per week with conditioning and mobility once or twice a week.
Have you ever experienced a physical challenge and how did you overcome it?
After my athletic career was over, I struggled walking up multiple flights of stairs! I knew I basically had two options—continue on the same path or take control of my health. I started lifting and running, and that has led me on a lifelong journey of prioritizing physical and mental health.
What are your current fitness goals?
I don’t have a set date for it, but I’ve always got a return trip to Big Bend in the back of my mind as I train. Making sure I have the endurance to carry a loaded backpack through the Chisos always motivates me during conditioning.
Aside from that, I’m making sure I stay consistent with my workouts and nutrition so I can be ready for whatever challenges and adventures life throws at me.
A Worldly Training Outlook with Valorie Bellaci
HCIdentity: What does your sports and fitness journey look like?
Valorie Bellaci: I have always been active from youth sports, equitation and high school cheerleading. After attending college in France, Germany and LSU my job led me to Houston. Sitting all day was awful and I couldn’t wait to workout and socialize after work! Becoming a Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Lifestyle Health Coach seemed a natural fit for me. My journey began over 35 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
What certifications did you start out with and how did that lead to personal training?
Starting out with Group Fitness was wonderful as I could lead many people at one time towards their goals. Soon, however, I saw that many participants needed one-on-one guidance on how to achieve their goals safely and effectively and this motivated me to get certified as a Personal Trainer and a Lifestyle & Weight Management Health Coach. As I continued to “get younger” as I taught fitness classes, personal trained and led Fitness workshops in the USA and internationally, I real- ized that the needs of the Senior or special needs populations were not being met. This led to further certifications at Senior Fitness Specialist, Functional Aging Institute and Ageless Grace. Our family has recently returned from living overseas in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. During my time in the fitness industry abroad, I was selected as the IDEA International Representative for Saudi Arabia in 2016 and 2018 and was able to network and share knowledge with so many wonderful people that have fitness in their lives. I look forward to continuing to work with others here and abroad to incorporate healthy lifestyles in their future.
What is your training style and approach?
My personal training styles include one on one, partner and small group training groups of less than six. I feel there are advantages to all of these styles and clients can choose which one works best for their healthy lifestyle journey.
I focus on the many aspects of a clients individual needs to achieve their goals. A fitness analysis is done at our first meeting so we can evaluate strength, flexibility, balance, range of motion and discuss their goals. From there, we work together to create a plan to achieve their goals that include fitness training, nutrition, time-frame, accountability and any recommendations from their physicians. I design programs for clients of all ages and abilities and love to FUN options—working towards a healthier lifestyle and achieving goals does not need to be boring at all!
Who do you recommend personal training to?
I recommend personal training to anyone interested in learning how to improve their posture, balance, mobility, strength, endurance and all around health. I feel a common misconception about working with a personal trainer is only for gaining muscle and lifting weights. My client base also includes those recovering from medical conditions and surgeries and they are anxious to learn how they can return to their functioning level and avoid further injuries by creating a stronger muscular frame.
What would you tell a potential client who might be intimidated by personal training?
Working with a coach or trainer may seem a bit intimidating at first if you have never worked with one before. Rest assured, we have all been there and I am here to focus on your goals and help you feel inspired to learn more ways for you to reach your goals. In the AIM area or on the gym floor you will see me as a personal trainer training clients towards a wide range of fitness goals including injury recovery, specific sport strength, learning how to transfer their weight through ranges of motion and improving flexibility, balance and their daily functional movements. It is not all about how much weight someone can lift, push or press!
What does your weekly fitness routine look like?
My current fitness routine includes teaching a wide variety of fitness classes, taking Yoga, Spin and Tabata classes at the gym. In addition walks, hiking and recuperation days round out my week.
Have you experienced any injuries or physical challenges and how have you overcome them?
I’ve had many injuries including back surgery, a broken ankle, countless sprains, tears, a few marathons and raising a family have been just a few challenges of the challenges along the way. Having fitness in my lifestyle all these years has allowed me to continue to enjoy life without limitations—and only more fitness fun to look forward to in my future.
What are your goals when working with clients?
A goal for me working with my clients is to educate them and increase their confidence working fitness activities into their daily life whether it is in the gym, at home, outside, with kids or grandkids or on vacation! If your body is there, your workout is there—no excuses.