Jenna Wolfe

Jenna Wolfe: When personal training doubles as therapy

Dec. 18, 2011 at 12:58 PM ET

Courtesy of Jenna Wolfe /
On top of her gig as a TODAY anchor and reporter, Jenna Wolfe is also a personal trainer -- not to mention, a regular TODAY Health blogger!

A few years ago, my friend and I were at the gym when she asked me if I'd help get her ready for her wedding, which was six weeks away. After giving her the "I'm sorry, what did you say?!" look, I smiled and listened on. She wanted to lose some weight, tone her arms and just lean up a little. And she wanted to do it with someone she trusted and felt comfortable around. Turns out, that was me.

But could I just apply the same workout approach for her that I'd used on myself? I quickly realized that wouldn't work. Our weight loss and toning goals may have been the same, but our bodies, minds, muscles and approaches were totally different. 

So we sat down and talked. I asked her about her recent success rate at the gym, what she enjoyed, what she didn't, what she wanted to look and feel like for her wedding and how much time and effort she was willing to put in. But what I was really doing was getting her excited for the six-week journey and ensuring her faith in me. Long story short, when the wedding day rolled around, she looked and felt great  But more importantly, it set her on a course of strength training for years to come. 

That's when the training bug set in for me. I loved that relationship. I wanted to do it again.

Seven years later, I'm now training 10 clients: Different ages, different genders, different bodies, different goals, different approaches. The one common theme throughout is that there is no common theme throughout. The same way that therapy is catered to the individual, personal training is as well. 

I subscribe to a rather simple approach: If I can't connect with you, this won't work. This is not just a physical adventure; it's mental as well. Most of my clients are not prepared for the mental aspect of training, but they quickly realize how important it is when fatigue sets in and they need the extra motivation to keep going.

Before each client's first session with me, we sit down and map out goals – and "I want to lose 10 pounds" isn't enough. Tell me why you want to lose the weight, tell me what you've tried in the past, what's worked, what hasn't, what scares you about the gym and what fires you up. I want to know who you are now so I can help you become who you want to be.Training your body is the easy part; training your heart and soul is the challenge. Once I know you, I can then build a personal workout just for you. 

And it's only natural that when you work out with someone, and you get down in the trenches and share sweat, you ultimately bond -- and sometimes, you inadvertently take on the role of therapist. I've helped my clients go through divorces, deal with newborns, breakups, hookups, fights, slights, bad days at work, bad days at home, New Year's resolutions, Thanksgiving overeating, occasional undereating and even a few bouts of PMS. 

The only thing we all own outright is our bodies. Do right by it and it'll do right by you.  Think of this as an adventure, not a quick weekend getaway. While it's not always pretty, in the end, there's nothing more fulfilling. 

Readers, have you ever developed a close relationship with a personal trainer? Tell us about it -- we may use our favorite responses in an upcoming TODAY Health post!

Jenna Wolfe isn't just a TODAY anchor -- she's also a personal trainer and fitness fanatic.