Hector Vargas has over 10 years of personal training experience.

  • Tanya

    Tanya BaskinUnknown, 40s

    Meet Tanya! Not only is she a personal training client, but she is also one of my boot-camp participants. When it comes to fitness, and many other things, Tanya is no joke. I never meddle in my client’s lives, when it comes to their careers. I figure that if they want me to know what they do for a living, at some point, they will tell me. Clients come to me to get fit, and ultimately to de-stress, so the last thing they need from me is questions about their work. I have known Tanya for over one year now. And to this, day I don’t know what she exactly does for a living, but I do know this: She is a successful, and busy professional.
    Despite her busy life, Tanya makes/finds time for her health and fitness. This I also know. She is so busy that instead of asking her to write a testimonial, I asked her if I could do a Q and A testimonial with her, after one of our training sessions. She obliged, and here it is.
    Oops, I almost forgot.Tanya is in her forties.
    The testimonial is in question and answer form.
    1. Why did you hire me as a trainer? “I met you last 4th of July, on our bike ride. Brian (a mutual friend) told me you were a trainer. You invited me to the boot-camps, and I was impressed. After a few boot-camp sessions, I realized how well structured and intense they were.”

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    Read Tanya's full story

    This is Tanya’s testimonial. The testimonial is in question and answer form.

    Why did you hire me as a trainer?
    “I met you last 4th of July, on our bike ride. Brian (a mutual friend) told me you were a trainer. You invited me to the boot-camps, and I was impressed. After a few boot-camp sessions, I realized how well structured and intense they were. I thought they had the right balance of cardio and strength training, so we started talking about the issues I was having with my hips. At that time, I had bursitis in both hips, really bad in the right hip, and sort of mild in the left hip. And I thought that you could be helpful in helping me overcome my hip issues.”
    Have you had personal trainers before?
    “Yes. Several.”
    How am I different than other personal trainers, if I am different?
    “You are different. I think your specialization, and individual attention that you get, that I get from you, and the way you approached my injuries, makes you different. I had already been sold on the boot-camps and overall benefits of participating, and the benefits I would get from you as a trainer. But what really stuck, and made me want to continue training with you, was the way you narrowed in, zoomed in, on the injury part, and really helped me overcome that. The research you did, the feedback you gave me, and trying different approaches until we found what was right for me, to help me deal with that injury, was great.”
    What benefits have you received from the boot-camps?
    “The boot-camps have been great. First of all, it has helped me get stronger. Period. My overall strength, upper body, lower body, has improved tremendously. The consistency of the boot-camps is probably most important, because, as you know, it is so hard to maintain a fitness regimen. Just knowing that if I don’t do anything else at all, during the week, I have my three boot-camps during the week that I could rely on, helps keep me stay focused and balanced. It has improved my cardio too. Once you got us (the group) to a place where our strength and cardio was up to par, we began focusing on improving cardio. That’s been helpful for me, in my running.”
    So, you’re a runner?
    “Yes.”
    And the bursitis was brought on by running?
    “Yes, but I also had muscular imbalances. My quads were stronger, and more developed than my hamstrings. And I had weak glutes and hip muscles. So when I was running, my body was not moving properly, muscularly, I was just running in one constant motion. Too much overuse. I did a lot of distance running, not a lot of sprints, if any, and no resistance training. So I was working the same muscles over and over. And that’s what led to the bursitis. So not only the running, but poor preparation and poor overall training, led me have the injuries I had.”
    How did the bursitis effect your ability to exercise, or run?
    “I could work-out, but I couldn’t run. It got so bad (the pain), that I went to the doctor. They sent me to physical therapy. I was doing hip (bursitis) rehab right before I met you, but I wasn’t making any progress. And then they told me that basically I can’t run. The doctor said I couldn’t run anymore, that it was too much distance, and that if I continued running I would have to get a cortisone shot. I was told to find something else to do. They said to go to rehab, get a little bit stronger, to stop the pain, and if the pain doesn’t stop, come back and get a cortisone shot. So basically, I was told to give running up. (Tanya is a type A personality. She’s not giving up running anytime soon. I can assure you of that). I thought there had to be a better solution. I did not want to give up running, but I probably would eventually have had to because the pain was that bad. I couldn’t sleep on my right side. The left side wasn’t that bad, but the right side was starting to hurt me while sitting and driving. So the pain was creeping out of the running, and into other daily activities.”
    When you started my boot-camps, were you in pain?
    “My hips were stiff, and the pain only kicked in after about 2 to 3 miles of running on my own. I thought your boot-camps would help me strengthen some of my weaknesses, so that eventually I could get back to running without pain.”
    How were your first leg workouts with me at the gym?
    “Well, my overall leg strength was just horrible (she laughed at that). Even though I run, I thought I was strong, but I just wasn’t. You had me do just basic squats, off a bench, with no weight. I couldn’t go all the way down (full range of motion) to sit on the bench, without flopping. That alone showed me that I had some huge weaknesses.”
    Were you sore after the first few sessions of weight training?
    “Absolutely. It was brutal. I was using muscles that were, obviously, dormant for a long time. The initial sessions we had were tough. They were hard. Not hard, like I was exhausted. I was just weak.”
    And now there’s a huge difference in your leg strength?
    “Huge difference. I can now do squats with weights, deadlifts, lunges, single leg exercises, bridges, kettle bell squats, and whatever else you have me do. I basically can do a bunch of exercises, with weights, that I couldn’t do before. Also, I have leg strength that is different than running (distance) strength. I had muscles developed for distance running, but I also had muscles that weren’t firing when I ran for distance. They were just coming along for the ride. Weight training has corrected many of those imbalances.”
    Has there been anything during the personal training sessions that has surprised you?
    “I think that you changing the exercises, or changing the routine, when I think I’ve gotten stronger, has been surprising. The fact that there’s always another level you can take an exercise to, has been a pleasant surprise. Every time I feel like I have mastered an exercise, you have something up your sleeve. I never thought the workouts could change as much as they do. I mean, I’m to the point now where I can do hill run workouts, outdoors, for part of the session, and then come in to the gym and do deadlifts and kettle bell squats. That’s a lot. But I look forward to it. ” (Her conditioning, ability, previous athletic experience, and positive physical response and attitude towards weight training, allows me and requires me to change things up for her. She is also someone who has been active her whole life, and ran track in college. She’s a bit advanced, so I really have to challenge her, without exhausting her. It’s a fine line.)"
    Can you talk about your core strength, and how it has improved?
    “Where I saw my core strength show itself was in my runs. At the end of my runs, when I get tired, I have a habit of hunching and losing form. But now I notice that I stay upright longer, because my core is stronger. And as a runner, keeping your form makes running more efficient. (What I have noticed about Tanya’s core is that when we first started training, her lower back would get tight fairly fast and easy, so much so that she would stretch her lower back between sets. But now that her lower abs and lower back are stronger, and work in tandem, she doesn’t stretch as often when we workout, if at all. Strong core, healthy back!!!)"
    Can you talk about our discovery, that for you, doing squats in flats (flat shoes) was much more efficient, and just better for you, than doing those exercises in running shoes?
    “Oh my God. It was the dang shoes! (she laughs) I was doing weighted back squats and you were having me go lower and lower, to activate more hip muscles, especially my hamstrings, but I was having trouble doing the exercise. I felt like I was leaning forward. You had me take off my running shoes, and do the squats in my socks, and I was able to execute the squat correctly. I must say, almost every time I come in to train with you, I learn something new. Even if it’s something small. And that day, it was the shoes! So now I do my weight lifting leg exercise in flats (athletic shoes with no heel lift, just flat across. For the record, I do squats and deadlifts wearing Vans or Converse, or even in plain socks. It just feels right)."
    And now the story goes loco. As a trainer, blogger, and a person who talks to people about fitness, daily, honesty is necessary. So here it goes. Tanya was doing great about 4 to 5 months into our training, and then WHAM!!, she hurt her hamstring during one of my boot-camp classes. It was a grade 2 tear. Ouch!!! How did this happen? I was having the women in my boot-camp do twenty-yard sprints, walk back to the starting point, and repeat the sprint. On this fateful morning, Tanya’s twenty-something year old daughter, Taylor, was also participating. And guess what they started doing? They got to racing each other. I saw it developing. Every sprint, they both ran faster and faster, pushing each other, and I had no idea they both could run as fast as they were. I should have stopped it, or had them tone it down by reducing their speed, but I thought “What the heck, let mother and daughter have some fun.” As they say, “my bad”, because on the last sprint, Tanya pulled up with a hurt hamstring, as her daughter pulled away to win the friendly mother daughter race. I knew immediately what had happened. The worst part for me was seeing Tanya get teary eyed. Tanya assured me that it wasn’t my fault right after her injury, and even when we talked about it during this interview. In her words: “Hector did not injure me, I injured myself. I think I got ahead of myself. I started with the boot-camps, and then I started training with Hector. The irony of this story is that I felt good at the time. I was completing my distance runs without pain. I was texting Hector after my runs about how good I was feeling and that the runs were getting longer. I was up to five and six miles with no pain! Hips felt good. So I just got ahead of myself. My legs weren’t ready to sprint, but I did not realize that until I tore my hamstring (I share the blame). I was out for six weeks, and then I went to physical therapy twice for the hamstring. And almost all of the exercises they were proposing were exercises I was already doing with Hector (yay!). So I took the sheet they gave me with all the prescribed exercises, left rehab, and brought it to Hector.” It was her decision to come to me instead of completing her hamstring rehab where she was supposed to. Her reasoning was that we were doing many of the exercises they were recommending (good reasoning, but still, I’m no rehab specialist). She handed me the rehab sheet, looked me square in the eyes and said, as only Tanya can “Here’s your next assignment.” I kept my cool, but thought “What you talkin about Willis!” My approach to her hamstring injury was to take it slow, and not eff it up. It felt like forever, but eventually, she was back to boot-camp activities, and back to personal training. And I’m very happy to say, she’s back to running. Thanks Tanya. And no more all-out sprints for you!
  • Rebecca

    Rebecca FloresDental Hygienist, 37

    "My name is Rebecca and I am a 37 year old mother of two, wife, and work as a registered dental hygienist. My life is busy to say the least. My days are filled with packing lunches, seeing patients, picking up kids from school, doing homework with them, making dinner, getting them to and from a practice/games, and then getting them & myself ready to do it all over again the next day. Don't even get me started about my weekends."

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    Rebecca

    Since high school I have had a gym membership, participating in aerobic classes & having trainers for some periods of time. I have gone through times when I have gotten serious about my exercising, but never committing on the diet part. I had the mentality that if I was working hard in the gym I could “reward” myself during the weekend. I was ok with this for quite sometime. However, 4 years ago something clicked. I don’t know if it was that I was approaching my mid-thirties or the fact that my youngest was 3, so I couldn't use the “I just had a baby” excuse anymore. Whatever it was, I was done, and was ready to make a change.
    First, I terminated my gym membership, which was obviously not working for me. Then I started working out at home with workout videos. I would wake up early before my family so I could have time to myself, without any interruptions, and without taking time from them or my other responsibilities. I realized that if I left working out for later in the day, it was less likely that it would get done. Why? Because life happens. Too tired from work, the kids would have a game or extra homework. Also, working out in the morning would help me make better food choices throughout the day. I was committed and did this for 3 years, and lost 15-20 pounds in the first year. I kept doing the exercise videos because my biggest fear was gaining the weight back, but I had not lost anything in the last 2 years. I was getting bored with working out to my videos, and was disappointed because I had not seen results within the last few years.
    I was presented with the opportunity to be part of a new workout group. It would be a group of about 10 ladies trained boot camp style and I thought this was the change I needed. You hear boot camp and you assume intense in your face instruction, but Hector is aware of and respectful of different fitness levels. He encourages you to do your best and push yourself without making you do anything you are not comfortable with. From my first class I was impressed with Hector’s level of professionalism, knowledge, & passion for what he does. That in turn made me feel more accountable to him as well as my class mates. That has been a positive aspect for me in working out with this group of ladies. The accountability factor of showing up and doing your best while youÅfre there. I have to admit, I don’t always want to get up to be at boot camp at 6am, am but I know that nine other ladies will be there who are just as busy and tired as I am. Besides, I know I will get emails or texts asking where I was. There is that accountability again.
    I have been part of Hector’s boot camp group for over a year and I have gained so much more than just losing more weight. Hector has helped me understand that it’s not just about exercise but most, and more importantly, food. I learned that working out during the week, and “treating” myself on the weekend because “I deserve it” was just throwing away my weekÅfs work, especially when my weekend started on Friday. I learned that eating 2 slices of pizza was like throwing away my 1 hour boot camp workout. When I thought about it in those terms, my thought process was more like “I got up way too early and worked out way too hard to shove this in my mouth.” That’s when I broke through my 2 year plateau. When I finally understood that it was a combination of exercise and food.
    Hector’s teaching style has been a big part of my success. You can have a great trainer but if they cannot make you understand the importance of fully committing to exercise and diet, than you will not be successful. His approach finally made it click for me. First of all he didn’t come in trying to radically change my way of eating. During our rest breaks he would present facts, how many calories in a pound of fat, how long you would have to work out to work off a slice of pizza, or how long you would have to walk to burn off a pound of fat. These facts would be in the back of mind when cooking, doing my grocery shopping, or eating out. He would challenge us with small things like this week try and drink only water. In a couple of weeks he would challenge us with cutting out liquid calories for the week or flour products for period of time. He was realistic, never tried to turn us into vegans or to completely eliminate any one food group from our diet for good. He encouraged us to make healthy eating choices and incorporate all food groups in moderation. An important concept I learned with him was earning my calories. If holidays are coming up or a special occasion where I want to treat myself than I have to put in more work prior in my workouts to earn those extra calories I will be consuming.
    During this past year I have seen myself get physically stronger. I am able to run longer distances and push through exercises that I found difficult in the past. I see muscles in my legs, shoulders and mid-section that I never had. This year I was able to buy a size 6 pair of jeans (at my biggest I was a size 12) and I have to admit it felt great! Hector says that with the loss of weight vanity increases. I would have to agree with that statement. The increase in physical strength and decrease in weight has made me realize that the excuses we make to not do what is needed to get healthy are just that, EXCUSES. With commitment and desire, to get healthy it is possible.

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    The Success of Wendi

    The greatest satisfaction for me, as a weight loss coach, is when I get a new client who follows my advice to a T, and makes no excuses. This type of client is rare, but when they do show up in my life, it makes my job very worthwhile. Let me tell you about Wendi.

    Wendi’s weight loss journey has two points of view, hers and mine. I will give you mine.

    When I first talked to Wendi about helping her lose weight and get stronger, she was coming off of back lower back surgery. I told her that as soon as her doctor gave her the green light to start exercising, she should call me so I could put her on a program. It was August 2012 and she contacted me March of 2013.

    Wendi was very smart in her approach to her weight loss. When she contacted me in March, she told me she had already changed her diet and was moving/exercising to lose weight, and it was working. On her own she had already lost 20 lbs! She wanted to continue her weight loss and also strengthen her core and the rest of her body. I made it clear during our consultation that it wouldn’t be easy, but that she could do it. She said she was all in.

    Our first session was introductory and very basic. I had her do some squats, overhead dumbbell presses, lat pulldowns, and taught her some abdominal and lower back strengthening exercises that she could do almost anywhere. At the start of our program, my biggest concern was the health of her lower back. Because we took it very slow at first, and I gave her a good core strengthening foundation, she never had problems with her lower back.

    When I saw her for her second training session, she told me she couldn’t believe how sore she was from her first session. She said that walking up and down the stairs was murder, and that even sitting on the toilet hurt, but she would see it through. And let me tell you, Wendi saw it through, all the way.

    From March to October Wendi lost 30 pounds with my training and guidance, and 20 pounds on her own before that, for a total of 50 pounds lost in 1 year! Congratulations Wendi, that is not easy. But it is not only weight loss, Wendi is very strong now and can do intense weight training sessions 3 times per week, and various types of abdominal exercises. She can even do light sprints up a 50 yard hill that is next to a gym where I do my personal training. The first time she did hill sprints, she couldn’t believe how sore she was, but within a 2 months, she was doing 8 to 10 hill sprints before our workouts in the gym!

    Wendi also does my walking groups on Saturday mornings. I host a free walking group every Saturday at a park near my home. Although I call it a walking group, it is more than that. We do walks, light sprints/jogs, and weight training and abs at the end of our sessions. She is very much an inspiration to others in the group who are trying to lose weight. Wendi is so motivated that on several occasions she has done my walking group, and then a boot-camp I host right after the walking group. Wow!

    Wendi is 50 years old, has a full time job, and uses neither as an excuse for why she can’t lose weight or workout. She follows my advice down to what I tell my friends and clients about going out and having adult drinks. “If you’re going to go out and drink, eat, and have a great time, make sure you pay for it. Get your ass up the next day, and workout. Walk, run, swim, bike, do something to burn off those liquid calories”. And on several occasions, during our training sessions, or walks, Wendi would tell my about what a great time she had the night before with friends or family. But she always worked out, regardless of what she did the night before, or how tired she was. Clients like Wendi make me smile. Thanks Wendi.

  • Wendie Barbee

    Wendie Barbee Technician, 51

    This is Wendi’s testimonial. She in one of my most successful clients.
    The testimonial is in question and answer form.
    1. Wendi, why did you decide to lose weight? “To begin a long story, I have attempted many times over the past seven years to lose weight only to achieve failure. However, last year following spinal fusion, I was sent to an independent medical examiner (IME) to certify the status of my recovery. This doc advised my employer that due to the fact that I was ‘obese and the extent of my surgery, I was 100% disabled’. This was my turning point. I did not like the label of being obese and 100% disabled.”

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    Read Wendie's full story

    This is Wendi’s testimonial. She in one of my most successful clients. The testimonial is in question and answer form.

    Wendi, why did you decide to lose weight?
    “To begin a long story, I have attempted many times over the past seven years to lose weight only to achieve failure. However, last year following spinal fusion, I was sent to an independent medical examiner (IME) to certify the status of my recovery. This doc advised my employer that due to the fact that I was ‘obese and the extent of my surgery, I was 100% disabled’. This was my turning point. I did not like the label of being obese and 100% disabled.”
    What is the heaviest you have ever been in your life?
    “The heaviest I have ever been in my life was 250 lbs, which is what I was roughly 2 years ago.”
    What was the biggest lifestyle change you made to help you lose weight?
    “My biggest lifestyle change is my dedication to exercising and along with my food intake adjustments.”
    What has been your most difficult change?
    “The toughest change for me has been cutting back on cheese, and chocolate dessert.”
    What has been your easiest change?
    “I don’t really know of an ‘easy’ change.”
    What has been Hector’s role (that would be me) and influence in your weight loss?
    “I have to say, without a doubt, if I had not started training with Hector, and continued, I would not have accomplished what I have in the past year. Hector is a supreme motivator and educator. When he is not available, I hear him encourage me to go workout and push myself, as he has shown me I can accomplish. Although I am doing this for myself, I feel I must continue so I don’t let Hector down.”
    What has Hector taught you that you feel has helped you in your weight loss?
    “Hector has taught me many things, from food/energy consumption, to proper exercise techniques. I guess the major thing he has taught me is how the body uses what foods we consume, either for energy or fat/energy storage.”
    Before you started training with Hector, what was your excuse for not exercising?
    “Not having the ‘spare’ time, I would say was my most prominent reason not to exercise. And now, I find myself putting other activities aside so I can work out!”
    How has your experience been with Hector as your weight-loss coach?
    “My experience with Hector has been a life improving, positive change in my eating, exercise, and overall self. He has helped me feel more self-confident, more motivated, and a generally more positive person!”
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    The Success of Wendi

    The greatest satisfaction for me, as a weight loss coach, is when I get a new client who follows my advice to a T, and makes no excuses. This type of client is rare, but when they do show up in my life, it makes my job very worthwhile. Let me tell you about Wendi.

    Wendi’s weight loss journey has two points of view, hers and mine. I will give you mine.

    When I first talked to Wendi about helping her lose weight and get stronger, she was coming off of back lower back surgery. I told her that as soon as her doctor gave her the green light to start exercising, she should call me so I could put her on a program. It was August 2012 and she contacted me March of 2013.

    Wendi was very smart in her approach to her weight loss. When she contacted me in March, she told me she had already changed her diet and was moving/exercising to lose weight, and it was working. On her own she had already lost 20 lbs! She wanted to continue her weight loss and also strengthen her core and the rest of her body. I made it clear during our consultation that it wouldn’t be easy, but that she could do it. She said she was all in.

    Our first session was introductory and very basic. I had her do some squats, overhead dumbbell presses, lat pulldowns, and taught her some abdominal and lower back strengthening exercises that she could do almost anywhere. At the start of our program, my biggest concern was the health of her lower back. Because we took it very slow at first, and I gave her a good core strengthening foundation, she never had problems with her lower back.

    When I saw her for her second training session, she told me she couldn’t believe how sore she was from her first session. She said that walking up and down the stairs was murder, and that even sitting on the toilet hurt, but she would see it through. And let me tell you, Wendi saw it through, all the way.

    From March to October Wendi lost 30 pounds with my training and guidance, and 20 pounds on her own before that, for a total of 50 pounds lost in 1 year! Congratulations Wendi, that is not easy. But it is not only weight loss, Wendi is very strong now and can do intense weight training sessions 3 times per week, and various types of abdominal exercises. She can even do light sprints up a 50 yard hill that is next to a gym where I do my personal training. The first time she did hill sprints, she couldn’t believe how sore she was, but within a 2 months, she was doing 8 to 10 hill sprints before our workouts in the gym!

    Wendi also does my walking groups on Saturday mornings. I host a free walking group every Saturday at a park near my home. Although I call it a walking group, it is more than that. We do walks, light sprints/jogs, and weight training and abs at the end of our sessions. She is very much an inspiration to others in the group who are trying to lose weight. Wendi is so motivated that on several occasions she has done my walking group, and then a boot-camp I host right after the walking group. Wow!

    Wendi is 50 years old, has a full time job, and uses neither as an excuse for why she can’t lose weight or workout. She follows my advice down to what I tell my friends and clients about going out and having adult drinks. “If you’re going to go out and drink, eat, and have a great time, make sure you pay for it. Get your ass up the next day, and workout. Walk, run, swim, bike, do something to burn off those liquid calories”. And on several occasions, during our training sessions, or walks, Wendi would tell my about what a great time she had the night before with friends or family. But she always worked out, regardless of what she did the night before, or how tired she was. Clients like Wendi make me smile. Thanks Wendi.

  • Rena Mohamed

    Rena Mohamed Psychologist, 44

    "I never thought much about my weight. I was an overweight kid, adolescent, and adult. That was just the way it was, and I thought I was OK with that. I began working with Hector in January 2006, with no real weight-loss goals. I thought it would be a way to try to be a little healthier.

    When I began Hector’s Boot Camp, I was very nervous. I had heard from others how tough it was. I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up, and I hadn’t run in years. What I hadn’t anticipated was the soreness that followed the first few Boot Camps and lasted for 2 to 3 days. Hector assured me that, if I stuck with it, it would get better.”

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    Renna Mohamed

    "I never thought much about my weight. I was an overweight kid, adolescent, and adult. That was just the way it was, and I thought I was OK with that.
    I began working with Hector in January 2006, with no real weight-loss goals.I thought it would be a way to try to be a little healthier.
    When I began Hector’s Boot Camp, I was very nervous. I had heard from others how tough it was. I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up, and I hadn’t run in years. What I hadn’t anticipated was the soreness that followed the first few Boot Camps and lasted for 2 to 3 days. Hector assured me that, if I stuck with it, it would get better.”
    Six months later there have been dramatic results. First and foremost, I have lost 32 pounds. I didn't think my weight mattered to me, but as my clothes got bigger and the weight came off, I became motivated to do even better. I also found that Hector was right about sticking with the Boot Camps. The running got easier, the soreness decreased, and I found new confidence in myself. I now know that I can do anything Hector throws at us. I have even found that, if I have to miss a Boot Camp for any reason, I am disappointed. Exercise is not the only life-style change I have made. I have implemented many of the nutrition strategies Hector shared with me. Six months ago I thought nothing about what I ate; fast food, sodas, chips, etc., were all part of my regular diet. Today, I have cut out most of those foods altogether. Water and diet soda have replaced regular soda. Yogurt and fruit have become my choice for breakfast, and salads are a regular part of my lunch menu. The biggest lesson I have learned is to make choices and to pay attention to what I put in my mouth. This allows me the freedom to eat some unhealthy food but to not go overboard. If I eat a not-so-great lunch, I can make up for it at dinner. At first this concept was hard for me. In the first several months I was very strict, all healthy all the time. What I found was that I couldn't maintain it. So, now the key for me is moderation. People often ask me about my weight loss and ask what kind of "diet" I am on and how much weight I want to lose. Because "diet" implies an end and I still have no weight-loss goal, I simply reply, "I have made new life-style choices, and I am seeing where it will take me."

  • Willa Mohamed

    Willa Mohamed Retired, 69

    "That I was not as mobile as most of my peers and depended on others for transportation were issues that were not on my priority list when I decided to exercise with a trainer. My primary concern was that I was getting weaker, and for a person who has suffered a stroke, that could be a problem. I needed an exercise program that would improve my muscle strength and increase my stamina, in order to offer myself a better quality of life. .

    Explaining my problem to my niece during a casual conversation, she suggested that I telephone Hector, her husband, AND a personal trainer. She assured me that he would help me improve my strength and probably work with me at home, solving the transportation issue. I phoned Hector the next day, and he agreed to train me at my home and use the exercise equipment that we both had on hand “

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    Read Willa's full story

    "That I was not as mobile as most of my peers and depended on others for transportation were issues that were not on my priority list when I decided to exercise with a trainer. My primary concern was that I was getting weaker, and for a person who has suffered a stroke, that could be a problem. I needed an exercise program that would improve my muscle strength and increase my stamina, in order to offer myself a better quality of life. Explaining my problem to my niece during a casual conversation, she suggested that I telephone Hector, her husband, AND a personal trainer. She assured me that he would help me improve my strength and probably work with me at home, solving the transportation issue. I phoned Hector the next day, and he agreed to train me at my home and use the exercise equipment that we both had on hand. On my first session, he conducted an initial assessment where he asked questions about my daily behaviors, listened to my answers, assessed my range of motion, and noted what I could and could not do. With the information he amassed, he developed an exercise program exclusively for me; that was innovative, unlimited, and targeted to improve my weakness.
    He taught, explained, watched, and critiqued every exercise. He was never critical, was always supportive, never rushed, never voiced expectations, and always ended each exercise session with a crisp "good job." At the end of four months of home exercise, Hector suggested I join a gym. My home gym was no longer effective! He explained that I needed different and more substantial equipment. He guaranteed my transportation to the neighborhood gym. I joined Fitness First the next week. According to Hector, there are three components that comprise total body fitness: nutrition, weight training exercises, and cardio exercises. One of my initial lesions was about nutrition. I was accustomed to eating handfuls of nuts, cleaning my dinner plate with slices of bread slathered with butter, and enjoying fatty and fried foods. My nutritional habits were not healthy and I gained a lot of weight. The weight gain played havoc with my health; my shoulders ached while hanging motionless at my sides, my knees resisted movement if they were inactive for any length of time, and the weight gain caused shortness of breath, reduced energy, and put me at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
    I had to admit to myself that I am lazy to prepare breakfast foods for myself or to stop what I'm doing to eat. Knowing this, I keep fruit, meal replacement bars, almonds, and peanut butter in my pantry and on my kitchen counter for an easy and nutritious meal. Now, lettuce, shredded cheese, turkey breast, cartons of egg whites, and tomatoes are readily available in my refrigerator to make a quick omelet or salad for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Yogurt and fruit are my favorite foods to eat in-between meals. Store bought packages of measured snacks that are limited to 100 calories; such as chips, crackers, cookies, nuts, snack bars, etc., also satisfy my hunger before the next main meal. Like many of my friends, I have a love/hate relationship with plain, bottled, or tap water. However, water flavored with fruit essence, a delicious vitamin powder, or diet vitamin drink, serves the purpose of six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Diet sodas and diet fruit drinks are alternatives that I use. It helps to read the labels on ALL drinks and food stuff; sugar has many different aliases.
    Hector suggested that I eat six small meals a day and, yes, it is a challenge to include these meals into my daily routine. But, I manage the mini meals because I know that small meals (a piece of fruit or a cup of yogurt) will prevent me from getting hungry and binge eating. Do I count calories? No, I watch what I eat and control my portions; I use a small plate, eyeball my portions, and enjoy my food. Ask Hector about Luna bars, and other snacks and meal replacements. As important as nutrition is to our health, exercise is its equal. Three days a week I train with Hector and three days a week I work out at home. Exercising at home is not easy. I seem to be able to conjure reasonable reasons why I should NOT exercise. However, I know that exercise helps me be pain free and allows me to live well. In the end, I don my tennis shoes, do my crunches, squats, and crank up the treadmill. I exercise diligently for 45-60 minutes. Walking on the treadmill, riding the stationary bicycle, and exercising my abdominals, quads, and stretching my calves usually completes my cardio workout.
    Under the auspices of Hector's watchful eyes when I exercise at the gym, I lift weights to strengthen muscles, improve my posture, and to increase the density of my bones. I use the triceps machine and have watched my arms slim and become stronger: I want definition in my arms, not mainly muscles, just the definition I see in my daughter's arms. Hector uses many of the fitness center machines to develop my endurance. As soon as I complete a repetition of one exercise, I immediately start another without a break or with a 15-second rest period. The armlifts over my head increase the blood flow, and the push and pull of both arms from front to back strengthen the back muscles necessary, as well, for good posture. Pulling the bar to my chin works those back muscles that most of us forget about. The leg press is torture, but my legs have slimmed down and the increased strength in both legs is noticeable when I walk. Several fitness machines that I use to strengthen my calves exhaust my muscles and cause them to tremor, which is natural. As the muscles get stronger, the tremors will stop. The leg press and calve machines are my least favorite. ALL of my exercises, including those completed at home, consist of at least 5 sets of 15 reps in each set, and there is no rest period scheduled between each exercise. There is a definite correlation between what and how much we eat, cardio exercises, and weight lifting exercises. I have lost 22 pounds and counting, reduced by dress size by 1 and a half sizes, and am excited to be working toward a goal that is attainable. I have more energy and feel great."

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    Read Hector's client assesment

    Most clients who I work with want to lose weight and get stronger, and often their inactivity and eating habits are to blame for their unsatisfactory state of health. But sometimes, I come across people who have been dealt a physical challenge by life, and that challenge has compromised their ability to move and exercise. That lack of movement can lead to weight gain and muscle loss. Willa Mohamed is one such client. Willa is also my good friend and a huge supporter of my blog. She even called me “Homie” one time in the comments section of my blog. I have been called “Homie” or “Homeboy” before, but never by a 69 year old woman. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

    Medically, I don’t know much about strokes. I will keep it simple and say that the stroke Willa had over 25 years ago changed her life forever. Out of respect for Willa, I will not share all the details of her stroke, but I know she has no problems sharing her story with anyone. What her stroke did to her physically is that it effected the right side of her body, reducing her coordination and strength on that side, and her balance throughout the rest of her body. These new physical limits for Willa caused her to be physically inactive, lose strength, and gain weight.

    For a physical therapist or a doctor specializing in stroke victims, a client like Willa is probably no big deal, and can be sent to physical therapy and even be given medications to help her physical challenges. But I am just a trainer who helps people lose weight and get stronger. So when Willa approached me about helping her lose weight and gain strength I thought “How am I going to handle this?” and more importantly “Could I?”

    Willa presented challenges that I had rarely dealt with as a trainer. She was in her sixties, had suffered a stroke years before I met her, was physically weak on just one side of her body, creating muscular imbalances, and her balance in the standing position was a challenge. She was also a bit over weight, but that challenge I was comfortable with. Willa does not know the following, but obviously will after she reads this. Willa, after we completed our initial consultation, I came home, read what I could about stroke victims and exercise, and prayed my ass off that things worked out. For those of you who don’t believe in prayer, no biggie. I am not here to convince anyone of the existence or nonexistence of any God or some other higher power, but I will tell you that faith is important. Not faith in the religious sense, but faith in something or someone. You have to believe. Many great achievements drive and arrive on the highway of faith and belief. Think of all the great things you have accomplished. Go ahead, think about it. At some point, you had to have had faith or a strong belief that you could accomplish that certain thing, right? I had faith that if I brought Willa along slow in our training, I wouldn’t physically hurt her. But more importantly, Willa had faith and trust in me and my methods, even if she was sore the next day. Our faith, belief, and trust in each other made training Willa easier. But I still prayed my ass off, especially when I would introduce her to new exercises or have her walk next to me at some local tennis courts to increase her balance and leg strength.

    Willa progressed quickly. I trained her at her home a few times with light weights, resistance bands, and her own body weight for squats, which at first were just done by her standing and sitting out of a chair. I was actually very impressed and a bit surprised at how fast she improved and gained strength, and I think she was too. One day when I was training her I said “Willa, I think you have outgrown your current exercises here at your home, and I think I should take you to the gym I work at to see what you can do.” Willa was all in.

    I don’t know if Willa knows the following. I told Willa I could take her to the gym I was working at on Sundays only because those were my days off, but I left some details out. True, Sundays were my days off, but I could only take Willa to the gym on Sundays because she did not have a membership there. I had to sneak her in. There were no managers or trainers at this gym on Sundays, and the receptionist and cleaning crew who were there on Sundays couldn’t care less who was there working out at the time. They probably thought working out on a Sunday was crazy. Besides, I felt I was doing a necessary good deed, so I snuck Willa into the gym. Yes Willa, you were a trespasser, breaking some kind of small law unknowingly, but still breaking the law in your sixties. Haha.

    The first time I snuck Willa into the gym, there was a challenge as soon as we walked in. There’s a lesson: When breaking the law, challenges will arise. I was like “Holy Shit!” in my mind, when I saw the challenge. No, it was not a manager or a power wielding receptionist telling me I couldn’t come in with Willa at my side. It was 2 flights of steps with about 20 steps to each flight. “What’s the big deal?” you may be asking. The big deal is this gym had no elevator. And although Willa and I could walk together, she needed to hang on to my arm for balance when we did walk, and up until that point, I had never taken Willa up or down a flight of steps. So I looked at Willa, she looked at me, we threw faith, prayer, and belief to the wind, and did what I learned to do in the Marines when doubt or uncertainty arose in the face of a new challenge. We, or at least I, said “Fuck it, let’s do it. What’s the worst that could happen”.

    Up the steps we went, and after a few sways in all directions, and Willa hanging on to my right arm for dear life, we made it. Willa was very happy to be in the gym. I remember she was so excited to try different machines. She did shoulder press, chest press, leg press, leg curls, leg extensions, bicep curls, triceps extensions, and any other machines I introduced her to. She did them all without a problem or complaint. She was sore as heck the next day though, but she did it, was happy, and excited that she could. That Sunday we both learned that Willa could exercise in a gym. And I learned that all buildings, with two floors or more, should have elevators.

    For the next few Sundays I continued to sneak her into that same gym. Then I found a gym close to her home that she could join. I was already a member there, so it worked out well. Besides, I couldn’t keep sneaking her into that other gym, I was bound to get caught. For the record Willa, I think we trespassed onto gym premises about four times. Good job.

    Long story short, Willa got strong, her balance increased, and she lost weight. Off the top of my head I am not sure how much weight she has lost total, but I think it is around 40 lbs. Over the years we have trained off and on for life reasons, but mostly on. As of today, October 17, 2013, Willa can do squats, a pushup variation, shoulder press, lateral raises, lat pulldowns, low rows, lower ab exercises, various stretches, balance exercises, squats and even deadlifts. The most impressive exercises she does now are squats and deadlifts. She can do both exercises mostly by herself. I am there just for balance, cueing, and support.

    Willa is an example of overcoming physical challenges to get fit, and making no excuses in the process. The gym I train at now, Full Circle Fitness, in Silver Spring, Maryland, has everything she needs to get and stay fit. But best part of the new gym is that there aren’t two flights of steps greeting us before we start our workouts. Maybe the two flights of steps we had to maneuver through in that first gym, before she even worked out, was life’s way of taking payment for sneaking in. Either way, Willa and I continue to train and get results.

    One last thing, whenever I have Willa try a new exercise that I think will benefit her, she first looks at me like I’m crazy, and then asks “Have you been reading your exercise books again?”. Actually Willa, because there aren’t many books out there that specifically address seniors who have had strokes and can do deadlifts and squats, most of the time, I’m just making exercises up. I think that’s called innovation on my part and faith on her part. Put it all together, and you get teamwork.

  • DJ

    DJ Student, 21

    "I wasn't sure that I wanted to see a personal trainer. I was self-conscious about my weight and I was pretty sure that I didn't want some overly fit person telling me to do this exercise and do that exercise. Not that I didn't need it, but I didn't really want it.

    Hector is very much in tune to how a body works, how muscles work and how exercise and diet can help a body become more sturdy. And by diet I mean he would talk about what foods are good, what foods are ok and what foods should be eaten rarely, if at all”

    Read Dj's full story Read Hector’s client assesment

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    Read Dj's full story

    "I wasn't sure that I wanted to see a personal trainer. I was self-conscious about my weight and I was pretty sure that I didn't want some overly fit person telling me to do this exercise and do that exercise. Not that I didn't need it, but I didn't really want it.
    Hector is very much in tune to how a body works, how muscles work and how exercise and diet can help a body become more sturdy. And by diet I mean he would talk about what foods are good, what foods are ok and what foods should be eaten rarely, if at all”

  • Yanira Del Sol

    Yanira Del Sol Grandmother, 45

    After joining the gym following doctor's advice, I enlisted the help of Hector to improve my overall health and fitness levels. I was so happy with how fast I saw results. Hector's program is easy to follow and he gives you all of the necessary information you need to reach your goals. I ended up reaching my goals and beyond and I am in the best shape of my life.

    Read Yanira's full story Read Hector’s client assesment

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    Yanira Del Sol

    After joining the gym following doctors advice, Yanira enlisted the help of VIA Wellness to improve her self esteem, confidence & energy, alongside her overall health and fitness levels. After joining the gym following doctors advice, Yanira enlisted the help of VIA Wellness to improve her self esteem, confidence & energy, alongside her overall health and fitness levels.

    After joining the gym following doctors advice, Yanira enlisted the help of VIA Wellness to improve her self esteem, confidence & energy, alongside her overall health and fitness levels. After joining the gym following doctors advice, Yanira enlisted the help of VIA Wellness to improve her self esteem, confidence & energy, alongside her overall health and fitness levels.

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