Training day

Michelle Brunelli

Photo By D. Brian Burghart

New Year’s Day has passed, and your New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit has already stalled. There are more diet plans, workout regimes and drive-killing messages than you can shake a breadstick at. What you need, bunky, is someone to help you set realistic goals, hold you accountable, advise you in nutrition and exercise. What you need is a personal trainer. Michelle Brunelli has filled that role since 1991 when she graduated from San Francisco State with a bachelor’s in health science. She might be able to help you. Call her for more information at 722-1286.

Do you have a lot of people who are trying to get into shape for a New Year’s resolution?

Yes, I do. I’m starting a bunch of new clients, and I’ve also got my existing clients who are renewing their commitments to living a healthier life.

Do they typically sign up with you for a certain amount of time? How does that work?

A lot of them join the gym or they’re already a member at the gym, and they want extra guidance. They want extra counseling on nutrition or they’re training for a certain event, so they hire me to help guide them, and we work two to three days a week individually. Or I’ll do groups of people, as well. I’ll do couples or friends. I meet with them two or three days a week, usually for an hour at a time, and I train them specifically on their specific goals, whether it’s weight loss or they’re training for a triathlon or what have you.

Do you only work out of Sports West?


How does pricing work?

I charge for an individual person, $45 an hour. If it’s two or more people, I charge $30 per person. Right now I’m running a special for the new year: Buy 10 sessions, get two free. That’s for new clients only.

I know you’re a personal trainer. Do you also factor in diet and that kind of stuff?

I do nutritional coaching. I’m not a nutritionist. What I do is I assess people’s diets, so they’ll keep a food log, they’ll keep track of what they’re eating. I work with them on how to make healthier choices, keeping track of their calories. If they have specific food allergies or problems, I refer them to the appropriate professionals for that—if they need more than I’m capable or licensed to do. We call it nutritional coaching.

Besides diet and exercise, what else do you factor in as a personal trainer?

It’s mostly lifestyle and behavioral changes. What I do is help my clients develop a mission statement to help them change the way they think about their life. I don’t want them to commit to a diet or an exercise plan; I want them to create their own philosophy in living, so that they can do this for the rest of their lives. It’s changing their mindset, if you will, so we’re not doing this again every three months or every six months. I want them to develop new, healthier ways to think about food and exercise in their lifestyle and to incorporate a balanced approach into their life now so they can carry through their entire life.

Are there programs that you lean toward?

I make recommendations, like I have some vegetarian clients, so I refer them to different books that can help them with vegetarian food plans and that sort of thing. It just depends on the goals of my clients, like some clients just want to lose weight. I can refer them to different types of food plans to follow a certain diet to help them get there. But I’m not backing anybody, I’m not like saying, “He’s the person” or “She’s the guru.” There’s not that much to it: It’s basically calories in versus calories out with specific lifestyle changes. Now when it comes to training for a marathon or an event, that’s a lot different, so I’ll pull up different people in that sport, and I’ll use them as a guide, and we’ll individualize for a client.

So if someone were working for a triathlon, you’d use an expert on triathlons, you’d lean that direction.

Right. And I’ve done triathlons. I’ve done marathons. I’ve done a ton of cycling myself, so I have my own personal experience. Then I take my clients, see what their goals are, and I just individualize it for their specific goals.

What are people’s big obstacles to success in New Year’s resolutions?

I think it’s because there is no follow through plan. They start out all gung-ho, but their reasons for doing it are too simple—”I want to lose weight,” or “I just want to feel better.” That’s where I come in to help them develop a mission statement, and we work on that so that when they know why they’re doing that and this is for them, their behavior can support their mission statement on an ongoing basis. So if their failure is ‘Oh, I ate a bag of cookies,’ they can look back and say, ‘Now why did I do that? Did that support my goal?’ It’s really a lot of behavioral coaching. It’s getting inside their heads and trying to understand why they think the way they do, looking at their previous behaviors and coming up with new behaviors to support their new philosophy in how they want to live their life.

Do you think New Year’s is a good time to start these types of resolutions, or is it just kind of a cliché that people fail in New Year’s resolutions because they don’t follow through.

It is the traditional time of year when people want to renew. They want to start the new year off right, to make healthier choices. It’s very, very common. I don’t see anything wrong with it; I just want them to follow through, to be consistent. It goes back to their thinking, getting inside their head, and helping them create why they’re doing this.