Question: You’ve been a trainer for a long time. People get motivated and work out, but then they may lose interest and quit. In your experience and observation, what is it that keeps people exercising on a regular basis, indefinitely? What is the root motivation?


Answer: In one word, Community! It has been my experience that when you build a network or community of like minded people they form a bond. Those people keep each other motivated and enthusiastic about showing up for their workouts together. I am a Personal Trainer which, in most cases, personal trainers provide one on one training but, because of what I have learned over the years, the great majority of my trainings are group oriented. We work very hard but we also have fun doing it because everyone is in it together. These clients are not only accountable to me but to their peers. I provide workouts that are challenging but every level of fitness can still participate. We can make modifications for every exercise when needed. We work on stability, mobility, strength, endurance, speed, agility, flexibility, and balance. Every day the workouts are different so boredom and plateaus do not set in. We get results…another big reason that they stay motivated!

Since you’re human as well (we assume), you must also have training highs and lows. When you hit a low, what motivates you personally to keep going, to work harder, to get back to the place you were before?


My biggest motivation is to set the best example as a coach. I work hard to make sure all of my clients, as well as my family and friends, know that I am in this process of healthy living right along with them. I expect the same and more from myself as I do from them. I acknowledge the days, that we all have, that may be more difficult than others to keep on moving, to keep making good choices with what goes in our mouths. Personally, I always try to have some kind of carrot dangling out in front of me to go after…a running race, a mud adventure, a big hike. This way I don’t have an excuse to put off my training.

Is the concept of a “Boot Camp” to in some respects shock someone out of their normal thinking and habits and to realize there is an alternative way of living?

 Many people are intimidated by the words “Boot Camp”. This way of exercise is so much more than just what these words tend to mean. In the fitness industry we use it to let people know it is going to be a hard workout. It is hard but it is done in a kind, safe, fun way. I make sure anyone can participate and get something great out of it. All in all it is a circuit training workout using weights, body weight, fitness toys, etc with various timing methods to produce that “out of your comfort zone” feeling and get results!

Message board created by Lawrence Phillips
Message board created by Lawrence Phillips

In your experience, which goals that people set for themselves work the best in the long term?

This is the golden question because healthy living is as much about psychology as it is about the physical activity and eating. First of all, the goal has to motivate you and be important to you. You have to be doing it for yourself and you have to be committed. I always ask my clients to set themselves up for success as best they can. They have to take on the “I must do this, I can do this” attitude. They must have accountability and engage others in their goal so they are more apt to stick with it because others are now counting on them too. Of course, as a trainer, we learn the SMART goal setting…Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound. I follow this practice with my clients and I also ask them to keep a journal, at least in the beginning until things become a habit.

What advice do you give people when they want to give up?


One of my favorite quotes is from Tom Hanks…It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. It’s the hard that makes it great!” and from Winston Churchhill…Never, never, never give up.”   I have clients that need that extra push and I even need this sometimes so I have them choose a weekly mantra and post it everywhere that their day takes them…car, bathroom mirror, desk, refrigerator, etc etc. It really does help.

What are the most common false beliefs that people have that prevent them from exercising?


 I could spend the whole interview on this question! The biggest and the worst…I DON’T HAVE TIME!Everyone has time. Most of us are awake for 16 hours a day. Even 20-30 min of exercise a day is great for most and that is less than 3% of the day! It has to be an appointment to yourself at least 5-6 days a week. There are so many resources available to suit any interest level and skill level to make this happen. “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live and you only get one!” Another one I get often is, “I need to get in shape before I can join a gym or do a class”. My response is if you come to class you WILL get in shape!!!

You’re TRX certified. Do you think this has a place in most runners’ weekly repertoire? I heard Paul Berg is doing this.


TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise and Yes, I believe that it can certainly enhance a runner’s performance. TRX training requires you to engage your core with every exercise so you get a total-body workout. It leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform so many great exercises. I incorporate it in to many of my weekly group and personal training sessions and Nan Hall owns a TRX studio on Mendocino Ave. That is where I sent Paul Berg and he has had fantastic results. I highly recommend it as well as many other great cross training activities to help runner’s improve their abilities.

Which running race stands out in your mind as being the most memorable and why?

I actually have two that are equal for different reasons. The Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco was a favorite because the course is awesome winding through the city and what girl doesn’t love a blue Tiffany Jewelry Box handed to her at the finish line by a handsome fireman in a tuxedo!!! Talk about motivated to finish.

Oct15ShelliMain03The 2008 Boston Marathon was also so memorable. About 23 Empire Runner’s did various marathons in hopes of qualifying for Boston that year. We all gathered together as a group and rented a big home and spent most of a week exploring Boston. The Marathon was the highlight and it was so awesome to share this and feel supported by our great group. I had one of my best times in a marathon that day and decided that is where I would retire from that distance…went out with a BANG!

I saw on your Facebook page you had some photos of a mud run you participated in – did you quite literally swallow some mud? Would you recommend these events for runners?

I LOVE to do Mud Runs!!! Mud runs are actually my favorite events to do these days. I have one coming up in Granite Bay on Nov 1st called the Merrell Down and Dirty 10k. I love them because it engages my skills as a pretty decent runner as well as all of my strength, speed, and agility in doing the various obstacles. I am also pretty fearless and that helps. I don’t mind being uncomfortable which is required in these fun and very muddy events.


Do I swallow mud…I try not too but it can happen. John Staroba gave me the best advice when I set out to do my very first event. He said “wear swim goggles around your neck and right before you get to each mud pit put them on”. “It will give you a huge advantage over the others that get mud in their eyes”. He was so right!!!    I was also a contestant, a few years ago, on the TV show called Wipeout. I made it to the second round of competition. And YES, I got WIPED out! We had a party at Legends Golf Course the night it aired and many Empire Runner friends came to watch. Doc (Alec Isabeau) was in attendance so he could see why he had to put Humpty Dumpty (ME) back together again. His mouth was wide open in disbelief most of the evening. It wasn’t the smartest thing I have done in my life but I will never forget it.

Previously you were a volunteer coach and race director for Girls on the Run Sonoma County for four years. What insights did you gain during those four years?


Working with all these young girls was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. To know the impact you can have, early on in their lives, planting that seed of healthy living both mentally and physically with them is beyond fantastic! Teaching them so many wonderful, valuable lessons and opening up communication on subjects that aren’t normally touched on in a school setting or even sometimes in the family environment, such a wonderful thing to be part of. The bonus was being able to share my love and passion for running to these young girls. Several discovered that running was actually its own sport and they came to love it. They went on to run with Santa Rosa Express and now for their high schools. The ones who didn’t necessarily embrace the love of running still made so many friends that they might not otherwise have hung out with at school, they learned the discipline of working toward a goal, in this case, a 5k and all the joy that comes when you work hard for something and achieve it. Girls on the Run is also fantastic because over and over I would see the whole family embrace the idea and many would run right along with their daughter.

When Girls on the Run decided to start hosting their own 5k events, I knew I was the person for the job. My love of running in races and all the details that go in to making a race a pleasant, fun experience along with my passion for the organization of Girls on the Run was a perfect fit. Many of our Empire Runners club members volunteered their time on many different levels as well as donated financially to the event. I couldn’t have done it without them!

Do fire fighters feel that their physical training is essential prior to a major fire like the Valley Fire?

I don’t work directly with firefighters but my father was 37 years Cal Fire, my brother is Santa Rosa City Fire and my son-in-law is Cal Fire. That is how my fitness business name… Fitness On Fire NorCal came to be and why red is, by far, my favorite color. Red is a power color and it all works together and I really resonate with it!


I do have several fire fighters as clients. Yes, they do take their training very serious. Their jobs require so much out of them, including disrupted sleep on a daily basis. I probably should keep my answers at that so I don’t step in to territory that isn’t my expertise. Both my brother and son-in-law, and one of my long term clients have worked very hard on all of the horrendous fires we have had this season. I am so grateful to them for all that they do.

What does your training and diet look like?

Last year I did an experiment with myself that really paid off…After talking to some of our professional triathlete friends, and picking their brains about nutrition, I decided to try a mostly plant based diet. I removed dairy and gluten all together to help with my stomach issues and inflammation issues. Val Sell was also a very big help with advice, recipes, etc The story is long but I will make it short in that I lost about 10 lbs, I felt fantastic, and I set big PR’s in all most every single event that I participated in.


On the physical side of things, I cut my running down to 2-3 days max a week. I kept my long run at a 10 mile base and the other days I did tempo, speed and or hills. My focus was more on building my strength with TRX, plyometrics, weight and body weight training, anaerobic training and agility. I took 1 full day off per week from exercise. I increased my sleep to 9 hours per night. I was injury free for over a year even though I pushed myself to new limits.

Unfortunately, I made one mistake this year and I wore the wrong shoes to a speed workout and it resulted in plantar fasciitis….but…I will be back with a vengeance!

Where can people contact you?

I have my own personal training business called Fitness On Fire NorCal. My website is   I am also a trainer at Team LP Fitness Playground on Farmer’s Lane. I LOVE what I do!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s