By Jill Farr
Mandy Avery not only never imagined herself as a personal trainer, her first experience with one left much to be desired.
The mom of three wasn’t a great athlete as a kid, but found herself wanting to get in shape as a young adult, and engaged a personal trainer to help.
“He yelled at me,” Mandy recalls. “That probably gave me an aversion to the weight room, remembering him yelling at me, for being weak.”
Fast forward to the years of motherhood. Like many women, Mandy began thinking about her body and working out after going through the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth...and experiencing the changes that those experiences bring.
“Five years ago, I was pregnant with my youngest son,” Mandy explains. “We had adopted one, gotten pregnant...and then went through a very stressful time in our marriage. Shortly after I had my son, I was still in that zone and the only thing I could really think of to do at the time was put my kids in child care at the gym. For two hours of peace.
“I started there. I walked into the weight room not happy with where I was, not happy with where my body was. I just wanted something to give. I looked online for exercises and just did them in the gym. I asked questions, I made friends, and slowly but surely, I fell in love with fitness.”
Her efforts to be happier with where she and her body were led to some significant weight loss.
“At my heaviest I was 189,” Mandy says. “And I got down to 125. It was quite dramatic.”
As a fit woman now, and also a personal trainer, Mandy represents the opposite of her first personal trainer; her love of fitness is deep, and it’s an encouragement to find strength that she offers to her clients, not a reprimand for their weakness.
“It’s my passion,” Mandy says, of fitness. “I work as a trainer full time as well as working as an online trainer with Sisters In Shape, and the big thing is breaking through barriers with fitness as a tool. You can relate going through tough times to fitness. Pushing through physically translates to pushing through mentally.”
Mandy’s experiences of “pushing through” both jump started her fitness journey, and continue to fuel it.
“I went through a divorce in the last year,” She explains. “We tried to make the marriage work, but couldn’t. I don’t know where I’d be without fitness. I wouldn’t have a career, I wouldn’t have any confidence, I would be right where I was five years ago, but without a husband and support system.”
“If I hadn’t gone through the stage of rebuilding myself back then, I wouldn’t have this. There are so many women who go through life thinking, “I’m “just” a mom, I’m “just” a wife”...they label themselves as something to someone else. I feel like this is part of a process of going and learning--or re-learning--”Oh, I’m stronger than I ever thought I was, or stronger than someone has told me I am”. Whether it’s a husband, a bully from childhood...women hold onto negative things they’ve been told and I feel like my mission is about empowering women.”
Mandy’s observation about the effects of negative self talk and how it relates to her role as a coach are astute. In fact, at least one study has shown a correlation between positive self talk and enhanced physical performance. In addition to the psychological power of the stories we tell ourselves, in other words, Mandy may have an edge on other coaches by encouraging her clients to change more than just their bodies.
“I find myself correcting self talk a lot,” Mandy says. “I’ll hear a client say something like, “I failed”, and I feel that just reframing statements like those is a huge piece of gaining in the gym.”
Positivity and mindfulness reap benefits in many areas, and Mandy believes that using them as training tools builds gains across the board.
“There’s a saying,” Mandy explains. “You can’t have a positive life with a negative mind. It’s true. If you’re saying, “I’m screwing up” all the time, it impacts you. Teaching women to find positivity is huge. The stories change when you change the self talk. When you flip it from “I cheated, I ate pizza and other awful stuff” to, “I had a day off with my friends and it felt great” it’s put into perspective and a shift is made. From “I’m a failure” to “I have choices and I can still reach my goal.””
The best coaches are the ones who can offer an example of the success of the method they’re espousing, as well as a testimony of where they came from. Mandy has both.
“In my personal life, everything I teach my clients has come from personal experience, personal growth. The gym is a great place to shine a light on this. My undergrad training was in psychology, and I’ve used a lot of what I learned in that sphere in this career, and in everyday life. It’s not an isolated state--going to the gym can be so much more than just physically moving your body. Your soul, your mind...you’re ultimately trying to change the overall picture.”
Mandy’s use of the word “coach” to describe herself, rather than the term “personal trainer” isn’t an accident.
“You’re seeing a big movement now,” Mandy explains. “Where a lot of trainers use the word “coach” more. You are coaching people after all, not just training them in the gym. I work for a gym, and their trainers talk a lot about coaching vs. training. Coaching is more about encouraging people how to make good decisions, not just do this exercise this many times. Training is just “Here’s your workout, see you next week.” You don’t see true lifestyle changes with that. And not just for the clients...I want that relationship. I just had a client come in and tell me about a job she got--she told me that because it’s a victory, and I’m her coach. Not just a trainer.”
When asked what single piece of advice she would give women who are seeking a fitter life, Mandy offers the direction to make fitness a lifestyle.
“I would tell women to look at the big picture,” she says. “I had a lot of fitness inspirations that I followed for years. I told myself, “You’re never going to look like that. Look how strong and fit they are.” But I didn’t see the beginning of their journey. I didn’t see where they started. Setting small goals is the first step. I started working out simply because that was the only way I was going to get a break from three small kids. All I wanted initially was a couple of hours of peace, to myself. My life was falling apart. The goal was just “I don’t want to feel like crap.” That’s fine, but don’t compare yourself to someone else. Start where you are. Pay attention to the small goals you can attain, and go from there.”
“Take a baby step, conquer it, and go from there. We’re not climbing Mt. Everest in one day. Put one foot in front of the other.”
You can connect with Mandy on Instagram at @mandyavery