I’m Norelis, membership coordinator and certified personal trainer at HNH Fitness, a medically based wellness facility in Oradell, NJ. I have a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and about 18 years ago, I worked in case management in The Bronx and Brooklyn, New York City, working primarily with underserved communities.
I’ve since moved into the fitness-sphere, where I’ve been for about eight years professionally, but my love for fitness began about two years earlier when I decided to join a local gym as a means to incorporate a little ‘me-time.’ My children were 4, 5, and 8 then, and as a stay-at-home mom, that ‘me-time’ was certainly limited, but I was determined to make it work. And I did. Five days a week, I made it to the gym at 4:45 a.m. And within a few months, I had managed to shape my lanky body thanks to YouTube videos, people-watching both trainers and patrons on the gym floor, and reading fitness and nutrition blogs.
About a year and a half after signing up, family members, friends, and female strangers at the gym began to ask me for workout ‘advice,’ some even asking if I would train them. And after a substantial amount of requests, I decided to get certified through NASM. I thought- if I was going to help anyone, I wanted to provide legitimate information.
The day my certification came in the mail, I took it a step further and applied to a few local gyms. I was immediately hired at a women’s-only boutique gym, where I remained for two years. My clientele ranged from ages 17 to 91. Some of my ladies’ primary goal was to look good in a bikini; others joined as a means to support their health following a medical diagnosis; and a few of my clients were just looking for a break in their daily routine. Little did I realize that this variety of clients and programming would eventually become the basis of my work.
As much as I enjoyed the physical aspects of training these women, I found I was particularly tuned in to the ‘emotional’ response movement provided. While the individual goals often varied, for the most part many of my clients ‘felt better’ emotionally after their sessions. Moreover, for the ones who signed on for more than a few months, the effects were even greater- moods improved, long-term goals were established, and unproductive habits were broken- Something that resonated with my own story.
When I joined the gym for the first time about three years earlier, working out wasn’t just about vanity, but rather a therapeutic tool helping me navigate daily stresses, and exercising was something that eventually seeped into my daily habits- how I slept; what I consumed; how I arranged my daily tasks; and ultimately how I felt overall. As a trainer, years later, I noticed it was as effective for the majority of my clients.
And so, it was in that space of mind and body connection that I found my footing when training clients, specifically women. A holistic approach to personal training became my guiding principle. Recognizing that before we got to the HOW’s, and the end point of any exercise program, we had to acknowledge WHY we were looking for change, and from there begin to build both a client/ trainer rapport, and an intentional workout program. This approach continues to be my foundation both when training clients, and as I work to develop wide-scope programming.
In 2021, I became PCES Certified- a Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, and have since created a Postpartum Recovery Program. However, I am not limiting myself to work with only postpartum women, but also with women living with core-related issues, a vastly neglected subject area.
After having three abdominal surgeries myself (including a C-section), and through my work and conversations with clients, I realized that there has been a gap between abdominal procedures and returning to ‘normal activities’. I recall receiving little information about how and when I could return to exercise, and I found I received minimal support from providers following my procedures- a common sentiment among many of my own clients. Interestingly enough, studies indicate that women often feel unprepared for the postpartum period- both mentally and physically, highlighting that the directives for the recovery process are both vague and underdeveloped.
But this is where my work comes in. For the last few years, I have sought to reveal WHY core recovery is important; WHY new moms need to restore their core strength; WHY any woman needs to strengthen her core after abdominal surgery. And the answer is simply because life goes on. As most of us know, regardless of the circumstance, women usually resume their daily routines immediately- from picking up babies, tending to home chores, supporting others, and getting back to work. So often rushing to help others and our communities, that we don’t give ourselves permission to rest. Our bodies, therefore, don’t get to recover properly, often leading to residual pains, burnout, and long-term stress.
And that’s why I created the Postpartum Recovery program, looking to bridge this particular gap in women’s health that has been found to affect our overall well-being. In seeking to find solutions to the WHY, I have asked myself- how can I help women complete their daily activities safely and effectively? How can I teach them to strengthen their cores, essentially their foundation, to take on new lifestyle challenges? How can I offer guidance to help them stay strong throughout the various stages of their life? In essence, how can I best serve MY community?
My own personal experiences and my work with clients have solidified my passion for women’s wellness, and I’m constantly seeking ways to provide solutions and support to our women. And, I feel my work is just starting.