So Much More Than Working Out


Judy Tobin is an amazingly strong woman who has gone through so much but has recently grown and flourished into a motivated and inspiring individual.

I met Judy in January of 2019 when she came into GoodLife Fitness in St Catharines looking for a gym to join. Judy was paired with me to do a personal training starter package as a way of showing her what the gym was about, how to work out, and making a plan for her fitness journey. Little did I know what a journey this would turn out to be.

When we began talking about goals and aspirations, Judy had a hard time articulating what she was looking for and an even harder time talking about the mental and emotional side of working out. I always like to get background information about people when I begin to work with them, and so I began to ask her about her past and workout experience and so on. Her answers seemed half-hearted, as if she was holding things back.

Then I asked a question that people ask others so often it has become insignificant: “How are you doing?” Judy gave me the textbook response to this question that is far too common in our society, “I’m good.” As she replied, her words said one thing but her eyes said something different, and this is where it becomes important to actually listen to people and not just accept their words. I could tell that she wasn’t actually “good” so I asked her outright, “How are you really doing?” Hesitantly, she offered that she was formerly a palliative care nurse in Mississauga who had gone through a “little bit” of burn out and had recently moved to Niagara for a change in scenery. After talking about it for a few minutes, I felt that Judy was not telling me everything about why she ended up burning out and what she thought she needed to do to return to good health. This was not because she didn’t want to share this information with me, it was because she didn’t fully understand it herself. This is where her transformation really began.

Personally, when I am having trouble understanding something or seeing the big picture, I like to write or draw things out so that i can see everything clearly, like a roadmap to my mind.

I recommended to Judy to start writing things down, either as a journal, a book, whatever format would help her to see the big picture. My recommendation was to write a book. There are so many nurses and health care professionals that have gone through similar issues as Judy had, and her experience and perspective may be able to help other professionals like her. With that framework in mind, I told her that regardless if she were to publish the book or keep it for herself, I thought it would be the start of understanding what had really happened and how she could change her life to become the incredibly happy person I now know her to be.

The first session that we had together after she had started writing there was an immense shift in Judy. I had never seen her this excited, motivated and light-hearted. It was incredible. One of the things that she mentioned, though, was that she was having trouble figuring out where to go and what to do next with her life now that she was starting to understand her past. After asking her if we could talk about her lifestyle currently, we sat down and figured out a few things that would be areas of improvement. Little by little we would work to implement small changes that would end up leading to a world of difference.

The first thing that came after the writing was her need for routine. Judy had completely uprooted her life and moved to Niagara from Mississauga looking to get away from everything. This is a very uncomfortable place to be. Since she was able to talk to me, we were able to figure out that this would be the first area to improve because she felt that she had no routine and this was so foreign and counter-productive to her getting better. We sat down after a training session and went over the importance of routine, and from there we figured out a morning routine that she could do every day. After a week of her morning routine, Judy was doing more before noon than she had been doing all day for the past couple of months. This meant more time for her to do what she wanted to do and to make other improvements to her life.

In any process of change, there has to be a starting point in which success in the transformation process can be built off of. A routine is something – especially in the morning – that so many people would be able to benefit from and is a great starting point for someone trying to create change in their life. The idea of a routine is to do a predetermined list of things that will make the process of doing them habitual and eventually second nature. By doing this in the morning, a person starts their day off accomplishing something and setting the tone for the day.

As an example of a morning routine, the one I initially made for Judy was:

  • Wake up at 8am
  • Let Bianca out
  • Start the fireplace
  • Morning gratitude log (3 things I am thankful for, 1 thing I did well yesterday, 1-3 things that I will accomplish today)
  • Meditate: stretch, mindfulness practice, breathing, guided imagery, etc.
  • Plan your to-do list for the day (BE SPECIFIC)
  • Go for a walk down the lane
  • Bring in firewood for the rest of the day
  • Eat breakfast
  • Personal care
  • Begin your day

This is just an example of a simple morning routine that can be implemented to help structure someone’s day. Routines are also allowed to change as the demands of life change or the person finds something that works better or them.

Judy’s has probably changed two or three times in the last 6 months based on her life and what she found helpful. By keeping the discipline to perform your morning routine every day, you can carry that discipline forward throughout the day to help improve work productivity, make sure you get to the gym, or to make sure that you stick with your diet and lifestyle changes. Many people see the discipline of having a morning routine to be too structured and limiting on lifestyle, when in reality it is quite the opposite; by getting all of the small but important things out of the way first thing in the morning, you now have the freedom to do whatever you want to do and be as productive as you can be, rather than fumbling through the day and misusing your important time.

This freedom of time allows you to be the person that you want to be and to be able to tell your life’s story. Now as a personal trainer, one of the biggest factors in helping clients get the results they want is to ensure that they are consistent with their workouts. Getting to the gym or being involved in pĥysical activity should be worked into your daily routine in some way to ensure that your body stays healthy. When our bodies are healthy, our mind tends to be healthier as well because the mind and body are two parts that make up the whole of who we are. If one is off, the other tends to suffer as well.

On and on the improvements and life changes have happened with Judy. She has now become the person she used to be again, and it was all because she was able to open up and truly talk about what was going on. There are people in your life who do truly care about you and would be more than happy to help if they only knew that it was needed. Once you can accept that it is okay to not always be okay and that people are here to help, start to tell your story. Getting your story out will not only help you understand it and improve it if needed, but it can also help others who may be going through the same thing.


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