What It’s Really Like to Be an Award-Winning Personal Trainer

In our 9–5 series, we ask our favourite boss babes what a day in the office entails. This week, Lyzabeth Lopez—an award-winning personal trainer, holistic nutritionist and founder of the women-only fitness franchise Hourglass Workout—gives us a glimpse into her daily grind and talks about why it's so important to train for your specific body type

Hourglass Workout, Lyzabeth Lopez, personal trainer

Lyzabeth Lopez is the founder of the women-only fitness franchise Hourglass Workout (Photo: Courtesy of Lyzabeth Lopez)

Education: Graduated from the fitness lifestyle and management program at George Brown College, did a recreation and leisure services diploma at Centennial College Diploma and completed numerous fitness and training certifications; registered as a holistic nutritionist with the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition

Length of time at current gig: Opened Hourglass Workout in 2008

When did you first get into personal fitness?
I’d always been very active as a kid, but I didn’t always know the right way to approach fitness. I was involved in gymnastics until I was 12, when a freak injury sidelined me (my elbow bent all the way around backwards during a whip back, which is like a back handspring with no hands). I stopped exercising when I was recovering and because of my family’s natural body type, I gained weight pretty fast. Kids at school began to make fun of me, so I decided to do something about it. I started working out at the YMCA and one of the trainers there offered to train me and a bunch of the other guys who also hung out at the gym. We learned all about form and bodybuilding-style workouts, and I loved it, but because I was lifting with a bunch of guys, I was lifting really heavy and started developing some serious muscle. I didn’t understand the process of “bulking” so I didn’t know why my legs were getting really big. I just thought that working out would make you skinny, and when that didn’t happen, I developed an eating disorder. It wasn’t until my early 20s, when I started researching holistic nutrition and fitness that I was able to overcome my eating disorder and learn to embrace, and better sculpt, my body—and help others do the same. 

Researching holistic nutrition and fitness went beyond understanding your own body. Why did you decide to take what you’ve learned and build your own fitness franchise?
I always knew that I wanted to be in fitness as a career. I competed as a pro fitness model and trained women at the same time—and I loved it. Back then, there were a lot of trainers out there who were just giving girls steroids or fat burners and making them eat chicken and asparagus all day, which is ridiculous because those are just personal training shortcuts that can’t be maintained. Down the road, many of those women became unhealthy and messed up their metabolisms. I didn’t want to see that happening anymore and decided to do something about it. A lot of my passion for training is making sure other women don’t go through things I’ve gone through or experience things that I’ve seen in the industry. 

How is Hourglass Workout different than other fitness programs?
No two people start with the same body, and they shouldn’t be trained the same. Through training all fitness models, and through trial and error, I can now literally look at any girl and know exactly what is going to work for them. So even though Hourglass Workout is not personal training per se, because we’re in a class format, every person is doing a workout that is specific to their body type. For instance, if we’re all doing heavy-weighted squats, I separate the women into groups. In the “muscle group,” which are my skinnier girls who have trouble putting on weight, we stick to heavier weights and less reps; while girls in the “classic group” might do jump squats with no weights. In the end, they all achieve the same result. That specific and tailored training for each girl is what makes us different. 

Hourglass Workout, Lyzabeth Lopez, personal trainer

Lyzabeth helps steady one of her clients in a headstand (Photo: Courtesy of Lyzabeth Lopez)

What is a typical workday like for you?
It’s never the same. I’ll be vlogging, Snapchatting, doing photos for social media, filming content for YouTube, writing or researching for production or doing styling for a shoot. We might shoot 10 workouts in a day for Instagram or an online training program, so I could be putting those together. I also spend about two hours a day just replying to people on social media, on YouTube and on my online training videos. Some days might be full of meetings from around 11 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. On teaching days, though, I’ll get up at 4 a.m. and finish everything around 9 p.m.—and even then, I’ll usually go back to the computer and work on whatever project we’re working on later into the night. I can’t say any day is like the other day, but each day is probably about a 12-hour work day.

Social media seems to be a huge part of the fitness industry now—you have 2 million followers on Instagram—how big of a role does technology play in your job?
It’s definitely growing. I started out doing these mini workouts on Instagram which got me going on social. I do find that people are relying a lot more on apps, like the Nike training app, versus workout videos. Even in classes, a lot of people are starting to do things like use a heart-rate monitor, so there’s also technology being brought into that structure too.

Are there any drawbacks to Instagram’s #fitspo trend?
A lot of women on Instagram are not personal trainers, they’re just young fit girls with good bodies showing exercises, but that doesn’t mean they have any schooling. So that can cause problems. It is difficult for users to know where to turn to because a user is generally, at this point, going to go for someone that looks great without knowing if they have a certified background in fitness.

As a professional, when you’re teaching or working with a client one-on-one, how would you describe your training style?
I basically kill them with a smile. I will never yell or call them out in a way that will make them not feel good about themselves. My style is to make each person feel very encouraged but at the same time, not let them get away with anything. So if they’re lifting 15 lbs and I know they can be lifting 30 lbs, I will smile and take the 15 lbs and put the 30 lbs in their hands and say, “and continue.” It’s about keeping it friendly, but also about getting the same results without resorting to yelling.

Hourglass Workout, Lyzabeth Lopez, personal trainer

Laughing is part of a good core workout, too! Lyzabeth, seen here, positively motivates two women to hold a strong plank position during an Hourglass Workout class (Photo: Courtesy of Lyzabeth Lopez)

Have you encountered any challenges as a women in the fitness industry?
In fitness modelling, yes. You’re definitely not taken as seriously until you prove yourself. I don’t know if it’s so much the case now, but when I started out it was very male dominated and women weren’t considered credible. Now there’s a ton of women doing it. There’s always going to be people out there who are going to try and discredit you, male or female, but at least for myself now, it’s fine, because I’ve proven myself and shown I can help others get results.

Female athletes like Serena Williams have spoken out about being described as “too muscly and too masculine”­­—what do you say to women who shy away from weightlifting for those reasons?
When I was younger, I was the only woman in the weight room because no girl wanted to lift weights back then. Now, I think, mostly because of Instagram and all these models who are lifting weights, it’s not as much of a concern—at least, I haven’t heard women worrying about that or talking about it in at least a year, and I get new girls every month into my classes. At the same time, in our classes, as the girls get stronger and their form gets better, I get them lifting up to 300 lbs, and for that, some of the girls, can make them feel a bit wary. But because we do everything in a shaping mode, if they’re lifting something bigger, it’s to make a part of their body bigger that we want bigger to emphasize that sexy, womanly, hourglass physique.

Hourglass Workout, Lyzabeth Lopez, personal trainer

(Photo: Courtesy of Lyzabeth Lopez)

Best part of your day?

Worst part of your day?
Deadlines that I know I’m not going to meet.

What kind of attributes does someone need to work in this industry?
I’m more of a gym owner now, but for someone who wants to be a personal trainer, you really need to enjoy working with people. If you don’t want to go above and beyond—and I don’t want to sound harsh, but—I don’t think you should do it. When I trained girls, if they wanted to stay behind and talk to me for an hour, I would stay. Now, even if I teach a class, I don’t leave until everyone feel like their questions have been answered. You need to be really present, and that takes a lot of hours—often beyond what you’re being paid for, and to succeed in this industry you’ve got to be OK with that. It has to be something where you’re innately there to help someone, whether it’s within the span of time that the client has paid for or not. 

A lot of us have made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape this year. What is your advice to help us stay on track?
Making it a habit is really important. When exercise is a part of your day and scheduled in like a meeting, then you know that you’re going to go and do it. As long as you’ve been doing it for at least two weeks, then it will start to become a habit, and you’ll wake up and know it’s time to go work out. Even if you’re not feeling it, things like laying out your workout clothing ahead of time or having some kind of goal, like a photoshoot or a big event, helps. Even for myself, I find mini goals help keep me from missing a workout or having more than one cookie in a day.

Hourglass Workout, Lyzabeth Lopez, personal trainer

(Photo: Courtesy of Lyzabeth Lopez)

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