Shape Up at Home

Join the growing number of Dallas women who get fit with an at-home personal trainer.

Trainer Todd Blackard works out with client Tetia Stroud.
photography by Vanessa Gavalya

When Dallas resident Lisa Andersson works out, her 3-year-old daughter and dog are playing nearby. It might seem like madness to some, but to Andersson, who would otherwise have to find a babysitter, then trek though traffic to get to a gym, it’s just the opposite. It’s convenient.

“I work and have a child, so it was a huge time saver,” says Andersson, who hired an in-home personal trainer when she wanted to lift weights to help gear up for her first marathon.

Like Andersson, Dallas women are turning to in-home trainers more now than ever before. “We are seeing a change in mindset,” says Robert Korngiebel, CEO and founder of Lady Trainers To Go, an all-female system of trainers. “Women are the first ones to accept that they don’t need to go to a gym to get a complete workout. It’s the perfect option for people who realize that exercise is important but don’t want to go to the gym. I mean, let’s face it: you might be 50 and menopausal, and you don’t want to be around cute girls in tights.”

That’s the prevailing mindset, and many trainers agree that insecurities are causing Dallas women to rethink where they work out. “Some women have gotten to a point where they just don’t feel comfortable going to the gym,” says Sherry Simmons, service manager and trainer at Lady Trainers To Go. Her clients—working mothers, stay-at-home-moms, and retired women—range in age from 30 to 60. “It is just intimidating, particularly if they’re not a size 4 but are trying to get there.”

Others just don’t want to join a gym filled with young professionals. “People our age don’t really like to go to 24-Hour Fitness,” says Sally Roberts, a 59-year-old retired Dallas resident and model who, along with her husband Tony, works with trainer Todd Blackard three days each week. “It’s kind of a meat market and serves another segment of the community.”

In-home personal training also provides much-needed accountability. It’s not as easy to cancel an appointment as it is to skip the gym. “I know it’s the only way that works for us,” Roberts says. “If we didn’t know that he was going to be there, we would always find some excuse not to do it.”

Andersson, who trained with Simmons, felt the same. “I needed someone to come to my house,” she says. “I was guaranteed twice a week to do strength training because [she] showed up at my door.”

But how do you train in confined spaces such as the middle of your kitchen, living room, or den? “We don’t need much space at all,” Simmons says. “We use what’s available. If they have a nice, long hall, we do some walking. If not, we do some stationary lunges.” Often coffee tables or dining room chairs get moved out of the way, and heavy furniture is something stable to hold onto.

Simmons incorporates yoga for flexibility, Pilates, and, for cardio, activities such as squats, curls, work with rubber chords and bands, jumping jacks, and walking. That’s all scheduled between exercises with fitness balls, chords, and “anything that you can possibly think of,” Korngiebel says. “Each exercise ends up being a total workout.”

Blackard, a 20-year Dallas body sculptor and personal trainer, has to get creative to make sessions as entertaining and results-oriented as possible. He brings in free weights, bands, balls, tubes, steps, and a small bench, among other pieces of equipment.

“If they don’t have anything, it’s okay,” Blackard says. “I’ll bring everything. Sometimes I’d love to have pressing machines, but that’s what’s going to challenge me to come up with something.” When the weather cooperates, he and his clients head outside, where backyards and front steps come in handy, especially for leg work such as lunges.

While gym-only trainers say there are disadvantages to exercising at home—mainly space restraints and equipment limitations—Korngiebel says their personalized workouts can actually be more efficient. “It is more of a functional way of approaching exercise, moving the body in the way it naturally moves,” he says. “You don’t need heavy weights in the gym; you need things like rubber for resistance. It’s actually better for you because the weight goes on gently. As the women get stronger, the weights get heavier. It’s an overall toning and trimming, weight-loss kind of work out.”

Blackard keeps his clients in shape by doing a series of constant movements, such as presses, push-ups, dumbbell curls, and squats. “I love changing things up,” he says. “It keeps the muscles guessing.”

His clients have seen results.  “I’ve got biceps now,” says Sally Roberts. “Tony has really bulked up. Todd always changes it up. He’s always prepared, has different routines and things to do. I say, ‘Do you just stay awake at night dreaming up ways to torture us?’”

Andersson, who recently completed the White Rock Lake Marathon, says training with Simmons caused a “a huge change” in her strength and appearance. “My arms were too skinny, so I toned them up to be more defined, and they look nicer,” she says. She also believes it helped her increase her running pace, kept her injury-free, and ultimately helped her complete her race. “There’s nothing out there that prepares you for the last six miles,” she says. “So I think it was the strength training that got me through it physically and mentally.”

Skeptics are also quick to point out the cost difference between hiring a personal trainer—which starts at $75 for an hour-long session with Blackard, who recommends at least two sessions a week—and paying for a fitness center membership. But for Roberts, it’s well worth it. “For us, it doesn’t really matter if it’s more or less, because if you don’t go [to the gym], it’s not a good investment,” she says. On the flip side, if it’s one-on-one attention you require, in-home training can be more affordable. To work out with a trainer at a gym, you often have to pay training fees on top of your membership.

Andersson learned so much from her training sessions that she says, in the end, “the price didn’t matter.” Plus, her husband now wants a trainer. “It sets a good example. It makes your whole family want to be more healthy.”

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