“Life is easier when you are fit” - Claudine

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1. Tell us more about yourself and your profession.

I was born and raised in Venezuela. My curiosity for sports started with Olympic athletes like American figure skater Dorothy Hamill, and 14-year-old gymnast Nadia Comaneci. These two girls became my role models who ignited my interest in sports. 

I would even study Dorothy Hamill’s movements on ice and try to replicate them on my roller skates. In 1982, when I was about 14 years old, Jane Fonda released her video tapes for people to exercise from home and this revolutionized the world of fitness, particularly for women. I fell in love with her routines, charisma & knowledge. 

Inspired by people like Jane Fonda and Body Builder Lucia Sanoma, I started weight training and group aerobics at the age of 16. I later graduated from college in Caracas with a teaching degree, (I’ve always loved teaching), and then I obtained a bachelors in Psychology from Florida International University (FIU) when I came to Miami 26 years ago. 

At that point I thoughtI wanted to continue my education and become a clinical psychologist, but I became pregnant with my first child and in a matter of 4 years I had 3 children. 

I have been involved in fitness for most of my life, and I will soon be turning 53, and have tried and keep experimenting with almost every fitness method and trend as a participant; however, it took me many years and various job positions unrelated to fitness to realize that in order to feel fulfilled, I needed fitness in my life every day in a more substantial way.

This “epiphany” occurred after I received my first Zumba certification in 2003 and I realized I could literally change lives and help others to feel happy and healthy through physical activity and group dance fitness classes. 

I then quit the job I had had for 8 years in the financial Industry, and I obtained my Group Fitness Certification, my Personal Training License and chose to specialize in Women’s Fitness and Mid-life Fitness. 

Throughout the years I have seen and tried a myriad of fitness methods and approaches to weight loss and fitness, (step, aerobics, rowing, skating, Taebo, running, bodybuilding, hiking, skiing, Zumba, CrossFit, Beachbody & Les Mills workout, Tracy Anderson Method, Instagram influencers, etc.) but I had not found a well-rounded and solid program that encompassed everything I was looking for.

For me, the ideal fitness program should address all fitness components (body composition, strength, endurance, cardiorespiratory fitness, agility, flexibility, balance, etc.) in a way that emphasizes and promotes prevention and correction, while also pushing clients to their highest potentials without the risk of injury. 

Most result-oriented programs focus on results, rather than paying attention to stability and mobility, and this does not create a solid foundation for injury prevention. This is why I created my own fitness program specifically designed for women over 40 to safely, yet intensely, address everything I believed was important, but could not find in any other group training setting or program.

I combine this program with my Zumba classes, simply because it is the most fun and most therapeutic way to get an intense and effective cardio workout.

2. What is your fitness mantra?

“Life is easier when you are fit” Life is much more fulfilling when you are healthy, strong, mobile, flexible, confident, agile, energetic, and in a healthy weight range. Activities are much more enjoyable when you have the energy to engage in them.

Whether you are playing sports,carrying bags from the grocery store, moving furniture, going up a flight of stairs, traveling, or playing with your children or grandchildren, you get much more out of life if you are feeling fit while you are engaging in your life activities. 

3. What are some major misconceptions about diets and exercises?

(i) That there is a magic solution to lose weight or to become fit. Behind every person who is in great physical condition is a healthy lifestyle. These people make their health a priority and act consistently to maintain it through exercise, nutrition, and other healthy habits. 

(ii) That lifting weights will make a woman bulky and masculine. This is not true at all. Women will not bulk up like men because they have different hormonal profiles. 

Women will get strong with strength training, and yes, women need to lift heavy weight and have intense workouts once their fitness level, form, and strength allows this. Lifting will help women burn calories long after the workout is over and will also help to boost their metabolism and bone density.

(iii)That you are too old or it is too late to start. There is no such thing as too old or too late. Everyone at any age can benefit and improve their life and health with physical activity and changes to their diets. I have clients who started training with me at 50 years old, and after a couple of years of consistency, you would have believed that these ladies were athletes their entire lives. 

(iv)That you have to starve or eliminate food groups from your diet to lose weight. Balanced diets are needed to fuel the body correctly, unless the person has a condition that requires a specific diet. All food groups are important since our bodies need various nutrients to function optimally.

Also, creating a nutrition plan that is reasonable and sustainable over time is key for long lasting success. Educating our clients is paramount in order for them to commit to their own health and fitness at a deeper level. 

I have implemented a 21-day challenge to educate and jump start my clients once they join my program. When they start seeing results, they don’t look back! 

4. How can one maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Focus on creating healthy habits. All people are defined by their habits, but you can always improve or change your habits. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, one must be habitually good, not occasionally perfect. Forget about perfection- if you try to be perfect, you might be occasionally, but never consistently, perfect.

If you focus on being good, you can be good 80% of the time and that is the type of consistency you need for a healthy lifestyle. Life needs to be enjoyed, and deprivation will make most person unhappy. Find physical activities that you enjoy doing and are willing to do several times a week. Find a workout buddy and surround/or yourself with people who have similar health goals.

Focus on long lasting results and envision yourself full of energy, active, happy and healthy 20 years down the road. Find reasons to begin immediately, not excuses to procrastinate. 

Learn a little bit about nutrition so you can use food to fuel and nourish your body. Start by avoiding sugary foods, saturated fats, processed foods, limiting alcohol intake, and staying well hydrated. 

Other habits that promote a healthy lifestyle include getting enough sleep and avoiding smoking. Of course, there are emotional components to a healthy lifestyle as well, like having meaningful relationships, managing stress, contributing within our community, and finding joy and fulfillment in our jobs.

It’s about balance and about being able to integrate healthy habits into our lives permanently and enjoyably.

5. How can one build a successful career in your field?

In order to be in this line of work, one must truly feel connected with the purpose of this profession and have a strong desire to help and educate clients. Trainers must always continue their education, learn about new trends, and stay updated with the latest research, as well as being open to change, being willing to evolve and able to adapt to new situations.

There are plenty of people who need our guidance, energy, encouragement, motivation and knowledge. We need to do our best to stay connected with them consistently, and with time we earn their trust. 

Once our clients experience the benefits and results of our fitness programs, we have happy clients and we will be referred to their friends, which is necessary to maintain a career in this industry. 

6. What is one piece of advice you would like to give someone who wishes to lose weight?

I would suggest that they focus on nutritious foods, not empty calories, practice portion control, and exercise regularly. Start with small changes, plan your meals ahead of time, stay consistent and be patient. This is exactly what I teach my new clients when they start with my program.

7. How do diets and exercise contribute to overall well-being and happiness? 

Once people experience the positive effects of healthy eating, such as higher energy levels, weight loss, and improved sleep and mood, they feel in control of their well-being, not only physically, but also mentally. Regarding exercise, it can have a profoundly positive impact on alleviating depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. 

It can also relieve stress, improve memory,help you sleep better, and boost your overall mood. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand, and assist not only with the physical changes in the body, but also with a person’s emotional health, all of which are key to one’s overall well-being and happiness.

Interviewed by - Swetha

Edited by - Vayun Sahni

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