Rachel Tyra: Pregnancy-Induced Pain Leads to Thriving Personal Training Practice

Rachel began her fitness journey when she discovered her love of sports. She was active in multiple sports as a child, until repeated injuries sidelined her. After yet another debilitating injury and subsequent medical diagnosis in her 20s, she credits one particular doctor with, “saving her life.” Rachel was initially inspired to earn her personal trainer certification because she wanted to help others the way this doctor helped her: by employing simple yet vital corrective posture and exercise techniques. In addition to being a CPT, Rachel is studying to obtain her certifications in Nutrition, Behavior Change, Corrective Exercise, and Performance Enhancement.

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Guest Intro

Rachel, it’s always fun to welcome people of diverse backgrounds to our coaching community, and you’re certainly a renaissance woman.

As if you don’t have enough going on as a professional content creator and running a multi-generational Native American art store (Tucson Trading Post on Etsy), you recently stepped away from teaching elementary school to rekindle your love for personal training and are working on some additional NASM certifications including nutrition.

Oh, wait, and you’re the mother of 3 kids with a 13-year age gap!

We’re excited to learn more about your amazing time management skills and how it all inspires your personal training practice…

Now let’s get to the good stuff:

Q: Your oldest child is now 15 and your personal training journey really started with that experience. What was your fitness routine like before your first child? How did it change during your pregnancy?

Well, before I got pregnant I was just kind of doing exercises that I saw others do. I didn’t have any sort of plan, and I definitely did not train opposing muscle groups. While pregnant with my first, I was TIRED, and struggled to exercise. Then, I slipped a rib while on vacation in NYC - I was walking a ton, and my body was not conditioned for that! I pushed myself way more than I should have. 

Q: What was your outlook at that time? What concerned you?

I thought I was just struggling with a pregnancy-related issue (see Coach Tracy Mattox on recovering from pregnancy-related pelvic floor injuries as well).. I did get checked out to make sure I and the baby were okay, and nothing was wrong…except for my hypermobile joints! I thought I would spend my time on bed rest and pick up where I left off fitness-wise (which really wasn’t anything crazy) after my son was born. I knew I would be deconditioned, but my pain was so severe that I would nearly pass out if I was up too long. I was more concerned about meeting my baby.

Q: You mentioned that ultimately you got the right guidance and learned a lot from that experience. Who helped you and what did you learn?

After spending over a year searching for treatment that worked (everything from acupuncture to steroid injections), I found a treatment and a doctor (osteopath) that really took her time evaluating me. She was so caring, and was very, very good at her job. She treated me with an all-natural, non-steroidal set of injections over a series of months. 

But the main thing she taught me was that, while the treatment would help for up to a few years at a time, I needed to also start including certain exercises into my daily routine. I learned that I had a severe muscular imbalance, and that in order to truly heal, I needed to work on correcting that. It was not something that could be done in a few days or weeks. It would take months for me to start noticing the difference. I followed her advice and I am so grateful for her. 

As a trainer, I do not just recommend movement. You may just end up worse from where you started. Especially if you are someone who goes gung-ho at something even when you know you are in over your head (i.e. lifting too heavy). You know who you are! ;) Yes, move! But do it right. If you don’t know how, come find me.

Q: You cite that experience as the inspiration for your becoming a personal trainer. What were the first steps you took to get your practice going?

Well, I worked in an all-women’s gym and just soaked up the knowledge from the more experienced trainers. They were so gracious in showing me the ropes and giving me professional advice.

Q: How did you meet your first client?

My very first client I met while giving her a tour of the facility. I offered her a free introductory session, and she loved it! We clicked right away. 

Q: You mention how proud you are of your heritage, and you keep the tradition alive via your vintage Native American jewelry Etsy store. How does that cultural knowledge play into your coaching practice?

Since I was a child, I had the advantage of meeting people from all over the world, right in my own hometown, when they would come shop in one of the stores my family owned. I was able to witness various cultural and religious practices in action, in addition to learning more about my own mixed heritage, part of which originates from the Ute tribe. 

I’ve learned to be mindful of the various dietary and modesty or other religious clothing practices when it comes to helping clients plan out an online nutrition or exercise program. In the Native American jewelry business, one might be surprised to learn that many people from the Middle East are also involved in the trade. Over the years, my family has developed friendships with many of these families, and through this I’ve learned about various traditions which involve fasting. Believe it or not, it is possible to provide workout program management around these sacred practices!

Q: What about your abilities with creative writing…How do you use those in your personal training practice?

Well I am very excited to say that I am in the early stages of planning an e-book related to maintaining a fit lifestyle while dealing with a chronic pain condition. As my plans move further along, I’ll be able to slowly share more!

Q: What’s your process for onboarding a new client?

Aside from all of the typical fitness assessments and questionnaires one might complete when in the beginning stages of working with a trainer, I also ask pointed questions designed to get to the heart of what is driving that person. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and I of course don’t want to waste my time. Most importantly, I want to ensure that the vision they have in mind is realistic. Many times, trainer-client relationships will deteriorate simply due to them not communicating well enough to get on the same page from day 1.

Once we have established that we are on the same page, we work on setting SMART goals.

After all of this, I put together a custom package for the client. This may involve adding in nutrition coaching, daily check-ins (I like to schedule those based around each individual’s “trigger” time- a time of day where he or she may feel s/he needs the most support and encouragement), etc. Or, it may simply be a set number of sessions per week.

Q: You mention how important postural analysis was to your recovery and for many of your clients…Can you explain what it is and how it is performed?

Sure! A postural analysis is just one aspect of the complete corrective exercise assessment process. I usually start by obtaining an overview of one’s posture without movement, or a static postural assessment. This involves a client standing in a neutral posture while the trainer observes the five Kinetic Chain Checkpoints (foot/ankle, knee, lumbo-pelvic hip complex [commonly known as “the core”], shoulders/thoracic spine, and head/neck). This is then compared to what is considered “ideal” posture. This snapshot helps trainers determine which muscles may need strengthening, or stretching, in order to obtain muscular balance.

Q: Part of the remedy for posture issues is muscular balance. What is that? How does a client achieve it?

Yes! So, we all have an imbalance somewhere on our bodies. Perhaps someone was born with one leg slightly longer than another. This would not be considered an issue to be corrected. However, I’ll use the highly common issue of pulled-in shoulders and a rounded upper back (kyphosis) as one prime example of a postural issue that requires correction.

If you are young and not experiencing pain from it now, you will. Or you may be having pain from it, but it’s so much further down the kinetic chain that you may not attribute it to your upper back posture. In the case of kyphosis, the back needs to be strengthened and the chest needs more attention when it comes to stretching.

This is one of the most common postural issues today, thanks to our habit of working in front of computers for hours at a time. Mothers of young children also experience this, as they’re bending forward to lift their babies dozens of times a day. As my beloved Osteopath used to say- Everything we do is in the front. Most of us do not need to train our chest at all, or we train it too much. Back should be trained twice as much as the chest, and the chest should be stretched twice as much as the back.

Q: Perhaps not surprising given the wealth of knowledge you have about posture and its impact on health overall, you’ve worked with the elderly. What’s different about working with that population than your typical working-age adult?

Oftentimes, my elderly clients were seeing me to either maintain their ability to move independently, or to slow down the progression of a medical issue ranging from diabetes to troubles with balance. My working-age clients are often looking to increase their energy levels, avoid certain diseases, and feel more confident in their bodies. 

Q: For clients that might want to work with you for posture-based issues or to meet more general fitness goals, what should they expect when working with Coach Rachel?

I think you’ll find me to be a pretty optimistic and encouraging coach. I also like to maintain a healthy sense of humor in all things, and try not to take myself too seriously. 

Yes, I am knowledgeable. No, I will not come at you with tons of boring or confusing technical jargon just to prove how smart I am. Also, I don’t care if it’s your first time working out or you’ve been doing it since birth, there’s always something that you can improve upon. 

I don’t believe any of us should have the audacity to think that we know it all. 

Finally, I have an “all are welcome” mentality. 

When I was a gym manager, overseeing a fitness club that had over 1,000 check-ins a day on most days, every single one of my staff members knew that the most important thing to me was that they make every person who walked through that door feel welcome. Whether they were fitness competitors or were 100 lbs overweight, no one should feel so nervous or embarrassed to walk into a gym that they just don’t. 

So please know that if you are feeling embarrassed or ashamed in any way, I am not here to judge you on your current ability to do things. I’m here to push you and encourage you and help you channel your inner bada$$! While I will say that you shouldn’t feel ashamed about your weight, I know that those feelings are natural. Just don’t let it become so pronounced that it hinders your ability to make progress.

Q: What has you excited about being in the MevoLife community?

There are tons of things I love about being a part of MevoLife, but the most exciting aspect for me is the ability to combine two of the things I’m most passionate about: entrepreneurship and helping others through fitness. 

Q: For coaches that are just getting started on their fitness entrepreneurship journey, what tips can you share?

I highly encourage you to find your voice and your niche. Put yourself out there on social media, and don’t be afraid to switch things up with your brand when they don’t feel right. If you need to pivot your focus at any point, do it! Most importantly, make sure that you are passionate about the work you do and LET IT SHOW.

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