At Health Web Magazine, our writers are some of the most fascinating people we know. We love chatting with them and getting to know the details of their exciting lives.
Today, we present an interview with Kathleen Trotter, who is a fitness trainer, nutritionist, author, life coach, and TV and media expert. Kathleen has been interested in exercise since the age of 16, and she works hard to impart a love of physical activity in her clients. She encourages others to challenge their assumptions about exercise and their bodies and do more to be active.
In our Q and A session today, we’ll find out some of the details of her busy life, her career goals and aspirations, her writing and other projects, and some of the ways she’s been adjusting to life and work during the pandemic. Kathleen will also share some tips about how to stay healthy and learn to enjoy exercise.
Q. Tell us about yourself, your work, and what made you become a personal trainer.
I did not grow up dreaming of becoming a trainer. For the first half of my life I hated my body. I hated being in my own skin. If I could have divorced myself from the body I would have. I always thought I would be a lawyer. (Remember the TV show “Street Legal”? I wanted to be Cynthia Dale’s character, so edgy and well dressed).
When I was about 16, my mom got me a membership to the YMCA and my entire life changed. Becoming active emboldened me, it helped me feel empowered and energized. When I started working as a trainer it was really just a way to make some extra money to help me through school. I thought I would do kinesiology in my undergrad and then go to law school. When I finished undergrad, I wasn’t ready to give up the “fitness life,” so I did a year of Pilates training, thinking, “Next year, law.” At the end of my year of Pilates training it hit me: “I like this world!” So, I decided to ditch law and do a master’s in exercise science. I realized I wanted to help others find that “grrrrr” feeling that comes with feeling strong and alive!
Q. Why did you choose this field as a career?
I am not sure I did choose it … it kind of chose me.
Since joining the YMCA at age 16 I have not really stopped learning and “leaning in” to fitness. I am a veracious learner. I have a master’s of science; I am a nutrition and life coach; and hold several certifications, including Level 3 CHEK practitioner, Pilates equipment specialist, fascial stretch therapist, GLAD practitioner, and ELDOA Level 2 instructor.
Q. Describe your experience as a personal trainer, nutritionist, life coach, fitness writer, TV and media fitness expert.
I love my job. I feel so grateful. I get to work with such amazing people every day! I have a studio in downtown Toronto. I work with everyone from athletes to people recovering from hip and knee replacements, to people living with Parkinson disease and multiple sclerosis. Currently, I see people over Zoom, which was a transition. I miss seeing people in person, but I love the convenience of Zoom and how it connects people. Some of my clients have relocated (to Nova Scotia, Chicago, Washington, etc.) and through Zoom I get to continue to work with them. Plus, families and friends can train together. For example, I have a client here in Toronto who “Zooms in” her mother and brother in Montreal. Very cool!
Five days per week I offer one-on-one training and the other two days per week I write, learn, and record podcasts and TV segments. During the pandemic my studio turned into a remote TV station, which has been fun. I also offer a five-week group online coaching program called Kick Your Ass with Compassion. In it, I teach participants the skills behind goal setting. I love the entire process—I get to work with a different group every five weeks, and people join from all over the world.
Q. How did you manage to not completely break down during this time of pandemic?
Consciously creating pockets of joy. I spend time hanging out with my “lobster,” James, (we have been together since high school—lobsters mate for life) and Olive, our corgi puppy. You can’t be in your own head with a puppy jumping all over you!
Breathing. Turning off the news—I curate my inputs. I actively work to control what I can control. I do all the things I know calm me: exercise, sleep, stay hydrated, listen to audio books, go to therapy. I listen to people I respect like Brené Brown—I love her podcast.
Writing. Writing helps me process and work through my inner crap.
Doing lots of “Cody rides.” I love my Peloton and there is nothing like a Cody ride to turn my frown upside down.
I constantly remind myself that I can only do my best, that I must have realistic expectations of myself. Every day is simply an opportunity to work on my self-compassion muscle.
Q. List a few productive things you did in quarantine.
I put together a COVID survival pack for my website. As I mentioned above, writing helps me process and keeps me emotionally level-headed. My hope was that writing the pack would help me and reading the pack would help my followers. If readers are still struggling to create COVID-19 habits that serve them, I suggest they visit my blog on creating habits by design vs default!
I attended a number of excellent Zoom courses. The best was probably the functional range conditioning (FRC) certification, although I also enjoyed the Animal Flow Level 1 certification.
Q. What change do you want to see in the health community?
I hate the “new you” idea. Health is too often sold on the premise that everyone needs to become an entirely “new” person. Yuck. Adopting a healthier lifestyle is not about becoming anyone else, it is about staying the awesome person that you are … just a version who is slightly more active!
Q. If you were asked to share a few health tips, what would they be?
Instead of trying to find the perfect diet, workout, and mindset program to follow, create something tailored to you.
You have to make and set your own priorities and boundaries. If you don’t, someone else will.
Certainty is the opposite of growth. Don’t let your love of being certain and right stop you from moving forward. If you want to grow you have to be curious. You grow by questioning your thoughts and assumptions. Take a pause and say, “Self, where has that thought process gotten you so far?” Stop sabotaging your own success by being married to how you always do things. Don’t eat vegetables? Become someone who does. Don’t strength train? Try it. You know where your edges are—of course you shouldn’t eat things you are allergic to or do something that will cause injury—but don’t let yourself off the hook just because you don’t love a particular food or because you don’t think you are someone who goes to the gym. Challenge your habits and beliefs. You can grow to love, or at least tolerate, movement, but not if you don’t try. Your taste buds can adapt over time; for example, you are probably currently at least mildly addicted to sugar and salt, but your taste buds will only adapt if you break the addiction.
Start. Just start. The journey of a thousand steps starts with a first step. The coin that makes you a millionaire only makes you a millionaire built on the backs of the other coins. Pick any sappy motivational platitude you want; they all mean the same thing—Start! Stop thinking and just do.
Work to understand yourself better. Consider interviewing yourself—learn who you are, who you have been, and who you want to be. Ask questions such as: How old am I? What are my genetics? What are my financial realities? What are my past injuries? How much time do I realistically have to commit to movement? What is my exercise personality? Do I need to work out at home or at a gym? Do I thrive on competition?
Q. Tell us about your books Finding Your Fit and Your Fittest Future Self.
My first book is Finding Your Fit. The book teaches people how to find the version of “fit” that works for them, to match their workout to their fitness personality. There is no “right” way to be active—what is “right” is what you will do consistently! Let go of the unrealistic goal of fitness or diet “perfection” and just do something. The good program that you do consistently is better than the perfect program you never do.
When it comes to health, the norm is making grand health “wishes” instead of embracing the fact that the only way to make those wishes come true is to harness the power of each moment. This moment is the only moment we have actual control over—to create a different, fitter version of ourselves, we have to act now. I think of each moment as a “Sliding Doors” moment—remember that Gwyneth Paltrow movie? In each moment, you have the option of moving toward or away from health.
Q. Share your experience working with Health Web Magazine
I always appreciate the opportunity to think and write about health. Spreading the “fitness fun” is absolutely part of my personal recipe for happiness!
Q. What’s next for you?
I am thinking of buying the new Peloton, which would make me really happy! Happy is good. I am also currently taking a course on the female pelvis and I am excited to take my FRC level 2 in October. But really, I am just counting down the days until Christmas. I love a good holiday!
Any concluding thoughts?
Don’t focus on the health mountain—it’s too overwhelming! Instead, decide on your first few steps. Embrace that when it comes to your health, working and learning is winning. The only failure is not trying. If you are working, you can always recalibrate and learn from your experience. If you fall, fall from action not inaction. The only true failure is not trying.
Embrace that no health plan ever goes as planned—no plan is ever executed perfectly. Deviations are an inherent part of life and thus you should have multiple backup plans. You will fall off your health horse; wobbles should be expected—we are all human. You will miss a few workouts or eat a few too many cookies. The trick is not to shame spiral when you do—don’t let two cookies turn into five cookies. Course-correct quickly; be flexible and have many contingency plans so you can figure out alternative healthy meals or workouts when plans change. Replace the unrealistic goal of “never falling” with “falling less often and less intensely—and getting back up faster and armed with new information.”
Most of all, be kind to yourself. This is a global pandemic. We have never navigated one of these before. Be kind. We are all doing the best we can. You cannot do better than your best. Some days your definition of success has to be not punching anyone and putting your pants on! Forward is forward. Breathe. Just keep going!