• TrainerTalkBannerTrainer Talk | Cassandra HealyCassandra Healy, NSCA-CPT
    Cassandra Healy (“Cass”) is a National Strength and Conditioning Association – Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) at Plymouth Fitness in Plymouth, Massachusetts. She specializes in one-on-one personal training for those looking to lose fat, gain lean muscle, and improve their day-to-day function. Her true passion is teaching the value of strength training for fitness and physique goals.

    1. Describe a typical day in your life…
    Monday through Friday, the early mornings are all about getting my 8-year-old twins up and ready for school. I love that my job as a personal trainer allows me the flexibility to do that. As long as you are willing to be somewhat flexible with your clients, you can be a successful trainer and an attentive mom. That’s really important to me. After that, it’s off to train.

    I have trained privately in homes and small studios but now my primary training center is Plymouth Fitness in Plymouth, MA where I train clients five days a week. I work with clients one-on-one in the mornings and early afternoons and then spend time later in the day creating programs for my clients, as well as answering emails and doing my best to provide motivation for them throughout the week. Much of this might be centered on reminding them to eat healthy, and stressing the importance of supporting their goals of fat loss outside the gym, as well as through their workouts. Obviously, staying within your scope of practice as a trainer is important, but I find that not enough trainers talk about the role of nutrition in fat loss or muscle gain. I find that daily motivational emails go a long way toward keeping my clients interested in training, and letting them know that I am personally invested in their success.

    And, of course, three times a week, I make room for my own workouts. I feel a personal responsibility to be a role model for my clients. My workouts generally consist of full-body strength training with large, compound movements (squats, deadlifts, chest presses, push-ups, rows, etc.), and some kind of metabolic conditioning at the end. With limited time, I find this helps me reach my goals the best, as long as my nutrition is intact.

    I am also consistently reading and educating myself on what’s new or interesting in the fitness industry, as well as reading and learning more about the fundamentals, which in my opinion, more people need to pay attention to. I love to read about different training philosophies, though, and I have always felt that any trainer who feels they “know it all,” usually does not. You must always be learning, always be willing to explore other methods or at least, test them out. Then you can accept or reject those methods based on your own experience and your experience with your clients. Plus, guaranteed, your clients will surely be asking you about any new, “best” way to train or the latest and greatest diet to hit the market. To be a respected trainer, you need to at least be somewhat educated on these trends and be able to explain why they may, or more often may not, have credibility. Most of my clients know that I am all about getting the basics down first, and not overcomplicating the road to fitness.

    At nighttime, after homework with the kids and dinner with my family, it’s all about winding down, and that includes slowing down my mind, as it tends to run on high speed all the time. I am definitely a “Type A” personality and I have found meditation to help when my mind will not stop racing.

    2. Can you identify a key turning point in your life/career that put you on your current path?
    Well, I have always been involved in fitness to some degree. I got certified as a personal trainer through AFAA over 20 years ago, when there were only a few certifications to choose from. My passion for my own training never waned and I made sure to always be training clients and keeping my skills fresh while working in sales in the medical field. But several years ago, I thought, “there is really nothing else that I am as passionate about, career-wise, as fitness” so I made the decision to pursue full-time what I was meant to do. Thankfully, I also have a supportive husband who was willing to encourage me to take that leap. Truthfully, I’ve never looked back.

    3. Do you have any mentors?
    There are so many people in this industry I respect, too many to name, but I generally find myself following the people that have stood the test of time (not an easy feat in this industry). When I first became interested in strength training 20 years ago, Tom Venuto was someone I really respected and followed. I have always appreciated his honest approach in an industry fraught with “get fit quick” schemes. As a natural bodybuilder of over 20 years, he has really set the bar for what getting and staying fit takes. No quick fixes, just honest, hard (but doable) work.

    As for nutrition, which is probably the most confusing part of the fitness journey for many clients, I have tons of respect for Alan Aragon. His honest and direct approach to nutrition, no matter what the goal, is refreshing and he has the ability to cut through the hype like no one else I know. Plus, he’s just a really cool guy.

    4. Why did you choose the NSCA when selecting your certification?
    Again, when I was certified over 20 years ago, there was not much to choose from. When I was looking to raise the bar and continue my education by attaining a more current certification that was in line with my training philosophy, I realized there were a lot of choices out there. Too many. It really was overwhelming, so I reached out to Alan Aragon, someone I really respected, and when he threw out the NSCA as being top of the line, I looked into it. After visiting the website and talking to a few more people, there really was no other choice for me. It was easy after that.

    5. Describe your area of expertise.
    I don’t like to compartmentalize myself too much but I think every trainer tends to attract a certain type of client, based on their own experience. For me, most of my clients are 30 and older, looking to lean out, maybe gain some muscle, or even get in the “best shape of their life,” for the first time in their life. Body recomposition is something I talk a lot about, because I think too many people talk about “losing weight” without really understanding how adding muscle to your body can change how you look and feel. My passion for strength training, I have been told, is contagious. That is the best compliment I can receive. Teaching clients of all ages how to squat, deadlift, row—exercises they thought they would never be doing—is a real rush for them, and me. I love feeling strong and fit, and I want my clients to have that same feeling.

    6. What advice do you have for up and coming trainers who are interested in developing their career in the fitness industry?
    Well, first of all, if you are going to get certified, go through the NSCA. Seriously, it is well respected by many in the industry, and it really sets you apart from those certifications that can be gained online over a long weekend. The NSCA is truly dedicated to raising the bar for education in personal training. Second, find a niche or a part of fitness that you can really get excited about and learn everything you can about it. Finally, always be learning, and always be ready to pick the brains of those in the industry who have been doing this longer than you. They are some of your best resources—those who have traveled the path before you. And more often than not, the best ones are willing to help, teach, and mentor.

    7. If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
    Well, this is as true about fitness as it is about everything else in life—don’t take it all so seriously. Boy, I am still wrestling with that one. And maybe, more than that, don’t be such a perfectionist. That is a challenge for me. There is a lot to be said for taking action, even when you don’t feel totally ready. Being a perfectionist can often mean you don’t take action unless things can work out 100% right. Well, in life, things are usually not 100% right. I see that a lot in training and nutrition. People are looking for that perfect, “magical” meal plan or the training program that’s a real game changer, and they’re ignoring the fundamentals. If they just tried eating healthier and started strength training, focusing on the basics, that alone could transform their physique.

    8. Tell us about yourself – what catches your interest, what do you do for fun?
    I love reading and doing all kinds of research online about anything and everything that interests me. You might say I have a slight “Google addiction.” I enjoy socializing and going out for great dinners with friends and of course, spending time with my family. I have a great husband and two awesome kids, and being with them reminds me every day how much I have to be grateful for.

    Having a great strength training session, even after having done this for over 20 years, still puts me in the greatest mood. I am always looking to improve, get stronger, and feel better in the gym.

    And I think self-improvement goes way beyond just fitness—your mind and spirit are also a big part of your health. I really enjoy reading about and practicing mindful awareness and meditation, which is at the heart of the Buddhist philosophy. I have even started teaching my kids a little bit about this, in the hopes that they will be able to use it when life throws them challenges. I wish I had stumbled upon it when I was a kid.