Whether your goal is to lose weight, run a marathon or just to look and feel better, a personal trainer can help you get there. These folks have a wealth of education and expertise and a genuine desire to see you succeed.
This year, we had over 1,000 entries to our Canada’s Top Fitness Trainer competition and lots of heartwarming success stories and achievements to read through. In the end though, 30 trainers rose to the top – 10 from British Columbia, 10 from Alberta and 10 from Eastern Canada.
These individuals had a lot of things in common. They are a compassionate, caring and non-judging group of people who really love working with clients toward optimal health.
All 30 of the winners Canada-wide are committed to health, fitness and nutrition. Some have also gone as far as getting nutrition certifications on top of their other credentials in order to better serve their clients.
Another thing we noticed about the trainers is their commitment to the community. They raise money for charity, offer free fitness classes in the community, volunteer with charitable organizations and mentor other trainers.
In order to reach the top 30 in our competition, each trainer was scored on a variety of criteria including formal education, certifications, years of experience, fitness philosophy and community service. A panel of fitness professionals plus the IMPACT team scored each trainer, without knowing their names or any identifying characteristics. The trainers with the highest number of points are the ones being profiled here. Congratulations to each of them for their outstanding contributions.
Rosalie Brown is passionate about health and wellness. She’s been a fitness trainer since 1986 and believes fitness is the fountain of youth. “I train my clients to become a younger stronger version of themselves,” says Brown.
“Movement makes life better! I love being an ambassador of health and wellness and helping people feel healthier and happier. I love solving ways to help people move better when they are faced with an injury or illness and learn to focus on what they can do over what they can’t do.”
Brown’s current passion is finding ways to slow down the aging process and discovering how much control we have over our health. She thrives on helping people discover that they can control the way they age.
“A word I love is ‘fungevity.’ It means the stronger and healthier you are the more you fun you can have!”
“A year ago I had a client convince one of her friends to come to one of my training sessions,” recalls Brown. “Her friend said she would try one workout only. She was depressed and on medications for depression, had high blood pressure, was 30 lbs overweight and had very poor posture. “That one workout convinced her to come back again. And, in six months she lost 34 lbs, got off her blood pressure meds and other medications. It’s been just over a year since she started her fitness journey says Brown and today she’s healthier, happier and stronger.
Doris Ward is a fitness professional, workshop facilitator, wellness educator and personal trainer. She coaches others by providing tools, resources and education to make choices to ultimately take steps to reach their goals and develop habits that lead to lifelong overall health.
“I became a trainer to help others feel their best through coaching, mindful movement and education,” says Ward. “I use my classes, workshops and sessions as a vehicle to guide others and share tools and resources to help them to develop healthy habits and realize their full potential. I help others become independent with their own fitness and wellness while supporting them and being their biggest cheerleader and also their teammate.”
“My fitness philosophy is – let health lead the way and know your strength is inside and out. Exercise your power of choice and your body in a way that feels best to you. Remember your best is always enough.”
My favourite success story is from a group training experience where I was able to send a message about the power of our words regarding our bodies. The impact of my message has had a lasting impact and a ripple effect that has proven that our words as fitness professionals have power and we need to be mindful of our captive audience and use that opportunity to further positively change the narrative moving forward.
Ward is a ‘go to’ resource in her community and says she really enjoys this role.
“I have led Learn 2 Run groups and running workshops as well as facilitated body image workshops for both adults and teens to improve self-esteem. I have been a keynote speaker for both the Fitness New Brunswick annual summit and the PEI Road Runners Club Annual General Meeting. As an animal lover and plant-based athlete, I pair my passion for fitness and helping animals by organizing and hosting fitness fundraisers for the PEI Humane Society.
In my hometown of Cornwall, I’ve consulted on their annual race event, advised on the images they use online to help promote more diversity and inclusion. I also teach yoga for chronic pain management and trauma-informed yoga classes applying my extensive training and years of personal training relationship skills.”
In 2018 Ward was named the Female PEI Road Runner of year for inspiring both runners and non-runners across PEI, helping them through mentorship and education. Also in 2018, she was the Fitness Professional of the Year in the Personal Training Specialist category with canfitpro. In July 2019, Ward was chosen as a Top 3 Finalist for Fitness Professional of the year, also with canfitpro. This award recognizes a practicing professional member who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, motivation, technical skills and ability to guide clients to achieve their goals.
Adam Lloyd uses his experience as a life-long athlete and entrepreneur to coach youth and elite athletes through sport and fitness – avoiding all the mistakes he made as a youth athlete. In addition, he coaches both entrepreneurs and business moguls how to optimize their health, body and mind so they can live a healthier, longer, more successful and fulfilling life – again avoiding the mistakes he’s made over the past 15 years.
“Although I was a talented youth athlete, I did everything wrong in terms of development,” says Lloyd. “My coaches were well intended and good people, but they just didn’t know what proper development should include (physically, mentally, and biochemically) and I believe it was these critical mistakes that caused my mind and body to fall apart.
I was told at age 18, I would have a life-long diagnosis of chronic pain due to multiple injuries suffered in the gym and playing sport. This was the moment it became my passion to learn everything I could to correct my own issues, and along that path realized in turn, I needed to use sport and fitness to teach everything I could to ensure this doesn’t happen to future athletes.”
Lloyd currently owns one of the top rated gyms and fitness facilities in Hamilton, Ontario – the ALP Training Institute, a community-based and high performance focused gym offering world class services to youth and elite athletes and the active adult population seeking a healthier lifestyle. His gym was recently named a Fast 40 Company for the second straight year as one of the 40 fastest growing companies in Hamilton. Since opening its doors in 2016, ALP Training Institute has won almost 40 total awards, including best new business, best fitness facility, and best sports development facility in Hamilton.
“I have a number of fitness mantra’s that I use in my personal training,” Lloyd says. These include:
The minimum dose required to deliver the optimal effect or outcome – the goal is to be both efficient and effective.
Movement mechanics matter more than muscle mass – a strong muscle that moves poorly will weaken the rest of the body.
The B+ strategy that is consistently done well, will ALWAYS outperform the A+ strategy that cannot be consistently done well (or done at all).
Remember the big picture view – fitness is FAR more than just the physical – you must be mindful of things like nutrition, self-talk, emotion, sleep/recovery and breathing.
“I can’t pinpoint a single success story but one thing that stands out the most – are the random private messages I receive upon waking up when clients have shared their comments with me. For me, this just might be one of the most gratifying and feel-good things about being a coach and trainer. Sure it’s nice to see clients losing weight and smiling, but I absolutely LOVE this. It’s also gratifying to see clients posting about their success on social media and showing pride in their accomplishment – I love that!
Andy Drakopoulos is an energetic self-starter who never settles for anything less than the best, challenging the status quo in everything he does. He is a banker by day and fitness studio owner and instructor by morning and night. Drakopoulos says fitness makes his heart sing and there’s nothing better than motivating people to stay active for a living.
“When I started working out I fell in love with it and it made me feel better than anything I’ve ever experienced – physically and mentally,” says Drakopoulos. “I realized the importance of staying active and wanted to instill that onto others in a way that made keeping fit challenging and fun. I felt the ‘fun’ is what would separate me from the rest and keep them coming back for more!”
“My philosophy is: it’s better to give than receive. Lead to inspire others not to be seen as a leader. It’s simple actually. Just be a good person and throw passion into everything you do or don’t bother doing it.”
Drakopoulos says success as a personal train is not about having someone come in and lose 100 pounds. It’s about converting attitudes from ‘I hate working out’ to ‘ok I will buy a 10 time pass’ to ‘Can I convert that 10-time pass to an unlimited cause I love this place!’ It’s about helping my members find their passion in fitness and keeping them motivated day after day … week after week … year after year.
“I have been supporting school fundraisers since the day we opened our doors. I have sponsored a soccer team in the East York Soccer Club and we recently hosted a fundraiser for a woman in the local community whose seven year old is battling cancer. Just before Christmas, I hosted another fundraiser for Liberty Village Cares to feed the homeless. Giving back is important and doesn’t cost me anything but time. Do good to feel good.”
Fitness Consultant, St. Catherines, ON
Sally MacDonell took a roundabout path to becoming a personal trainer. She worked as registered nurse for 25 years and started doing cardiac rehabilitation BP’s (blood pressure) for a friend. That led her to get involved in the programming for cardiac rehab. After retiring from nursing, she went on to became a personal trainer and a fitness trainer working in various gyms, teaching classes and doing private training. She also began working with older adults teaching specialized, modified functional movement.
“This requires going into people’s homes and retirement homes, offering practical mobility adaptations to enhance the lives of those with disabilities,” says MacDonell. “I love my work!”
MacDonell says she became a personal trainer to empower individuals to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life through physical fitness. She specializes in working with older adults, especially with modification requirements for clients who have had strokes, suffer from Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis or who have other mobility issues.
“I love working with people and watching the results as they get stronger, improve their posture, regain a quality of life that helps their independence, increases their self-confidence and makes them proud of who they are today. My fitness mantra is: Try me and I’ll find a way to make it work!”
“I think it works well with my older adults because I tell them stories relating to my own knee replacements, the work before and after the injuries and subsequent surgeries. I have had a hip replacement, six compression fractures in my lumbar spine and have had to learn mobility adaptations which I thank my pilates teaching for with respect to specific exercises and posture.”
“I enjoy being involved in my local community. I volunteer at the Special Olympics and at children’s camps. I do volunteer pole walking classes at retirement homes, do demo classes for new mothers and am happy to offer my services to people who need my help when they can’t afford it.”
“Loneliness is a big problem among seniors and I use humour to ease their stress and pair people up to work in partners and become friends. My clients are very happy to see me when I arrive in their facilities and we laugh a lot. I think I’m very lucky that God offered me this opportunity to be of use to others!”
Cassie Day is the founder of two wellness companies – All Day Fit and Fit Escapes. She says she is on a mission to educate and empower people to become the CEO of their own health.
“I value strength training, intuitive eating, community, a growth mindset, rest and recovery and inclusivity of all bodies. Strength training has changed my life. It healed me through the loss of my little brother and through my own self-hate journey. When you take ownership of your health EVERYTHING changes. I became a personal trainer because I wanted to show other humans what their bodies are capable of. The lessons you learn from strength training transfer to every area in your life. That philosophy fits nicely with Day’s fitness mantra: Build your strongest body inside the gym, so you can have your strongest life outside of it.”
“Our bodies are forever changing. My goal is to help humans with body image so they can feel more confident in their body at any size. My favourite successes are when clients realize their self-love and self-worth have absolutely nothing to do with their body shape or size. The real transformation is their mindset shift. They learn to have self-compassion and free themselves from shame and guilt around food and fitness.”
Day is a big supporter of local events and charities with All Day Fit.
In 2019, they raised $4,500 for Cystic Fibrosis, in July they participated in Plastic Free July, a global initiative to move away from using plastic products, and in September through a collaborative event ‘Hiit the Six for Cancer Research’, they raised approximately $10,000.
Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Coach, GoodLife Fitness, Ottawa, ON
Chris Fudge is a results-based personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach who believes that success leaves clues. With almost fifteen years in the industry he has won multiple awards for personal training including Goodlife Fitness Personal Trainer of the year nation-wide multiple times. Chris is an active member of the Canadian Powerlifting Union community as a national referee, meet director, coach and advent lifter.
Chris is the only level 7 personal trainer with Goodlife Fitness located in Ottawa and is a passionate educator of fitness teaching certification courses for DTS Fitness Education. He has also been involved with facilitating education for Goodlife Fitness.
“When I was 13 my dad got the family a gym membership,” says Fudge. “Monday to Friday I would go and workout with him but he took weekends off and I wasn’t allowed in the weight room without a parent. I told him I wanted to go and he told me to figure it out. I then spoke with the gym supervisors explaining my case and we came to an agreement: if I took a basic fitness theory and practical course I could go by myself. This course was for personal trainers. It ignited a drive in me for health and helping and that changed my life. I knew my calling and I wanted to pass that on!”
One of Fudge’s favourite success stories is about a man he refers to as ‘Angry Cat.’ This client had lived in pain for so long, he was angry all the time. Angry with his employees, friends, wife and kids.
“Through training and coaching we got him healthy, pain free and happy again. He told me it changed not only his life but his relationships with the people he loved the most. This made me realize the impact we can have as fitness professionals and how lucky I am to be able to share my teachings with clients and change not only their lives but also impact those around them.”
“I am proud to help create a culture of fitness and volunteerism combining powerlifting, fitness and community. I have recruited many volunteers for meets, blood donation clinics, and food drives and now it’s a normal thing for people to reach out to me and ask when and where they can help.”
One of Fudge’s favourite ways to give back to the local community is through an annual, month-long food drive he organizes for Goodlife for members and employees with weekly financial and bin goals.
“I also helped organize the Goodlife powerlifting competition annually, raising money for our Goodlife Kids Foundation. The foundation raises funds to support kids with special needs and foster supportive environments through physical activity and fitness.” says Fudge, “Ive been involved with CIBC run for the cure, Heart and Stroke, Toy mountain and one of my hero’s Terry Fox run as a supporter and participant including my family. I believe when it comes to volunteerism and charity work when you can….you should. I think this makes the world a better place and I hope it trickles down through my children.”
“I’m very lucky to be able to live and pass on my passion for health day to day. I couldn’t do it without the support of my two boys always keeping me young and my wife Maggie who is also a Personal Trainer and Educator.”
Greg Hetherington has been involved in athletics his whole life and his current position as a personal trainer is just another adventure on his quest to master fitness!
“Living a healthier life‚ or being harder to kill, as I see it, is my obsession,” says Hetherington with a grin. “All my life I’ve chased better health—finding more energy, pushing through limitations and building resilience to injury and disease. I’ve sought peak performance as a pro [football] athlete, I’ve mentored under some of Canada’s most-innovative personal trainers and I’ve been honing my own programs for a decade.”
Over the years, Hetherington says he’s seen thousands of smart, driven people start a journey of self-improvement at a gym. And although he’s been inspired by so many of them, he’s also seen too many give up on themselves.
“Reasons vary,” explains Hetherington. “It’s expensive, lonely, boring, or repetitive; there isn’t enough time in the day; the results just aren’t there.
Maybe. But the way I see it, we quit for two main reasons: we didn’t clearly define what success looks like to us, and we never made a plan to achieve it.
“And quitting (not to be confused with failing) is a dangerous habit. If we quit on our health, we tell ourselves, ‘we can’t have better.’ That thought is viral. As a personal trainer, I challenge that thought every day and help pave the way for people to find their better by removing excuses and obstacles and fostering a community where each member’s success is inevitable.”
Through Fuel Training, Hetherington has developed a number of community programs.
“One which stands out is our collaborative HIIT the 6ix. We team up with another local owner-operated fitness businesses in Toronto and recruit our community to participate in a massive HIIT style workout with over 250 people. In 4 years we’ve raised over $20,000 for various charities while inspiring the Toronto fitness community that collaboration over competition can help others in need.”
Known as positive life force, task master, and innovator, Brown loves sharing her 20-plus years of extensive knowledge and outside-the-box training methods with her clients. Drawing from her years as an elite cyclist and personal comeback stories from countless injuries, she inspires athletes and wellness clientele to be Reactivated!
“It is my mission to make a positive impact on people’s lives utilizing fitness and sports training,” says Brown. “I enjoy sharing the formula of purposeful training to achieve peak wellness or sports performance. I have a multi-sport background that includes elite bike racing along with a degree in physical education. I have certifications in coaching and training to fuel the passion.”
Brown says she became a personal trainer to provide the tools and inspiration to overcome barriers to wellness and fitness. Her program offers a unique functional assessment and movement screening that assesses strengths, weaknesses, posture, and the quality of movement, to provide customized fitness and sports training plans. She also offers coaching for cyclists from entry to elite level.
“My mantra is ‘To turn setback into comeback,’” says Brown, and one of my favourite success stories involves helping a friend, a former cycling athlete, regain their wellness after being hit by a car while cycling. This involved managing a significant brain injury, chronic pain and weight gain.
“I was able to greatly help with his brain injury issues, eliminate the use of pain medication and restore functionality of his shoulder and back. Over the course of our work together, he lost 80 lbs and was able to return to cycling. Eventually he will need a shoulder replacement, but we have been able to postpone that by five years so far. Joe now works for Reactivated as an ambassador and coach and is my greatest success story!”
Brown is an active community member, supporting and promoting local events related to cancer and palliative care services. In addition she offers a barrier-free day for kids to try mountain biking.
My purpose is to help those with an inner athlete fulfill their potential.
After graduating from the University of New Brunswick I did what most Kinesiology graduates do and became a Strength and Conditioning Specialist/ Personal Trainer.
After three years in a busy corporate gym, training a wide range of clientele, (from extreme weight loss to busy executives) I decided to pursue a passion I had always suppressed, a career working with athletes. I have been very fortunate to work with some of the top professional athletes from Olympians to NHL and NFL players.
“As I gained experience, I became extremely passionate about nutrition and noted that it is often the largest challenge for clients when trying to reach their full potential. After a serious back injury, that saw me sidelined from any physical activity, I saw first-hand how proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle can enhance recovery. So, I enrolled at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition and became a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R. H. N).
Tetrault is a co-host on the Championship Lifestyle Podcast which has increased her exposure to a larger community of individuals all committed to becoming champions of their lives.
“When I was a young athlete working out just meant running around a track and playing multiple sports,” Tetrault recalled smiling. “I remember athlete fitness testing my first year in university where we had to complete a pull-up from the bar and I just hung from the bar even though I had thought I was ‘strong.’ From that moment on I wanted to help others feel strong in all areas of their life.”
“My philosophy is centered around finding the right movement for my client’s bodies based on periodization and boosting recovery in between workouts. Choosing the right type of exercise for what clients are going through in their life and adjusting accordingly based on constant feedback.
It’s really hard to pick just one success story says Tetrault.
“Every single one of my clients puts in the work to get stronger in their sessions with me. Whether they are a professional athlete coming back from injury and gaining confidence to perform again or the working mom who was able to do her first pull-up. They are all successes.”
Congratulations To All Nominees
Alexandra Philps, Hanna Abergel, Sonya Arksey, Alison Beder Solway, Melissa Denny, Fenton Fong, Jessica Gerlock, Julie Green, Kyle Grondin, Paul Hynes, Cindy Johnson, Nancy Mendonca, Dan North, Simon Paige, Reena Parekh, Kaye Penaflor, Elissa Reilly Slater, Jennifer Rochon, Matthew Taub, Matt Zasidko
More 2020 Features:
- Canada’s Top Fitness Trainers – Alberta
- Canada’s Top Fitness Trainers – British Columbia
- Canada’s Top Fitness Trainers – Panel Judges