What does it take to be a Personal Trainer and how does one measure their success? London based PT, fitness competitor and model, Evelina Krapane, discusses her life and work.
I met Eva for a coffee in the bustling café of one of the gyms she works in, when she had an hour or so to spare between clients. Arriving early, I was guided through various corridors and stairways to a mirrored fitness studio, where Eva was coaching a client on how to pose correctly for fitness modelling, who was preparing for the Pure Elite competition. Petite and powerful Eva directed her subject in her honey-like Latvian accent, first demonstrating how to hold the pose, then recording a video of the various positions, so they can watch it back later to review what she’s doing right and wrong. Eva explained that recording an exercise or pose on a client’s mobile phone is perfect for them to be able to practice when she isn’t there. Sometimes there can be a lot of information to absorb in a short space of time, so she always looks to use technology to make things better for her clients.
When her client left, I stepped out of the shadows and the two of us retreated to the café to talk about her life as a Personal Trainer.
Eva grew up surrounded by sport and outdoor activities, her father was a member of the Latvian rowing team which were European champions and her mother taught pistol shooting: “Being active was a huge part of my childhood, we regularly went on camping holidays in the mountains and did a lot of cross-country skiing. At school I played volleyball as well as doing ballet, gymnastics and swimming several times a week.” Despite her intrinsic love for sport, becoming a Personal Trainer wasn’t Eva’s first career path: “I did numerous jobs whilst studying, before qualifying as an interior designer—a job which I did for six months. During this time keeping fit was my main hobby, I went to the gym regularly and took a keen interest in nutrition, then one day I figured that my real passion is for fitness, so why not make a career out of doing what I really love? I signed up for a ten-month intensive course, qualified and set out to find myself some clients. I worked freelance at first, before numerous roles as the resident Personal Trainer at London gyms, and then went freelance again.”
Eva has a passionate belief about what it takes to be a Personal Trainer: “The most important part of my job is to make people happy. I like to make fitness something fun for people to do rather than being just sweat and tears; that way they see it as something to look forward to, not as a chore. If somebody is enjoying themselves, they are more likely to achieve their goals because they have a positive outlook. Everybody is different, and even if two people had the same ambition, they would set about achieving it in their own individual ways. Whenever I start working with a new client, I test them to assess their fitness. This usually involves some gentle exercises, stretching and questions about their lifestyle. I will then set out a plan for them which will involve a physical fitness program, as well as advice on how to change their diet to achieve their goals. Exercise and nutrition cannot be separated—they must be combined and complement each other. You will achieve very little by exercising more but continuing with a bad diet.”
Eva sipped her cappuccino and said goodbye to her posing client, who passed our table on her way out, then tells me about another client who wouldn’t combine the two: “This guy wanted a six-pack, he was happy to do all the right training, but he wouldn’t change his diet. So, in the end he was a lot stronger—but had very little visible change to his stomach. If he would have eaten the right foods in combination with the physical work he was doing, he would have had a brilliant six-pack.”
Eva’s level of motivation is virtually off the scale, she works six days a week, every week—and it’s not uncommon for her to be at the gym from 08:00 until 19:00: “Unlike many Personal Trainers, I’m not an early riser. Because I like to work quite late, it’s unnatural for me to get up before 07:00; and one of the main reasons why I’m able to work at the intensity that I do is because I allow my body to rest and recover. During the week I will typically take between four and seven clients a day. I no longer take clients on a weekend and use the time to rest and recover—usually chilling out with some friends and going to church. Depending which training cycle I’m in, I might come in to the gym and work out.”
“Working in an affluent area of London, a lot of my clients are housewives or women who work flexible hours and have time on their hands during the day. Although I have taken male clients in the past and still do currently, I am keen to move my focus to working exclusively with women. As much as we fight for equality, women are fundamentally different to men with different physiques which need to be worked in different ways to men’s bodies to achieve the results we crave. I think that as a Personal Trainer, you can work with both sexes if your client’s expectations are quite basic; but when somebody becomes really serious about getting the most out of their body, they need specialist coaching. For example, if one of the guys I work with started to take bodybuilding really seriously and wanted to gain strength, I wouldn’t physically be able to help him because I cannot spot a 100kg chest press. But, with a female client, I’m confident that I would be able to help her achieve whichever goals she pursued.”
The desire to constantly challenge herself and push her own limits is one factor which has helped Eva to maintain the maximum level of interest in what she does: “Having been a Personal Trainer for over ten years, I enjoy it the same now, if not more, than when I first started. I’m always looking for new areas of health and fitness to learn and fresh challenges to subject myself to. I spent three years learning Pilates, and how to teach it. Although I prefer more high intensity workouts right now—it’s a valuable skill to have for later in life and I never know when the opportunity will come for me to call upon what I learnt. I’ve been reading quite a lot recently about Crossfit and Calisthenics, which both interest me a lot; I’m going to learn both of these, so I can add them to my coaching repertoire. Whenever I decide to learn new things, I always book myself on proper, accredited courses because it is important for me to know that the information I’m learning is correct and accepted within our industry. I do research some things online but am careful to verify the authenticity and reliability of the source, there’s a lot of information on the internet which is simply wrong.”
Six years ago, Eva started competing in bodybuilding/fitness modelling competitions, and did quite well, winning the Miami Pro world championships and the WBFF European championships in the category of bikini fitness for ladies over the age of 35: “Competing was another route I took to challenge myself and set new goals. I’m delighted to have been so successful with very little experience competing at that level. The next challenge for me is UKBFF UK National Championships in March, where I will again compete in bikini fitness category.”
“The process of preparing my body for competition is a lengthy one—assuming I have a good level of fitness, it will take me around 16 weeks to be in a position where I’m ready to take to the stage. One of the most important elements of prep is a very strict diet plan, during which I reduce carbohydrate consumption to help me lose body fat. I will do weight training five times a week, with a further two sessions dedicated to cardio. At the peak of my preparation I will probably train twice a day—but I’m always mindful to take one or two rest days each week so my body can recover. Even though I am a Personal Trainer myself, whenever I’m preparing for competition I always employ another trainer to devise my program and oversee my progress, they can be much more objective and give me some hard truths which I wouldn’t tell myself.”
“In the final seven days before the competition I start to dehydrate myself—giving my physique more definition. This isn’t as dangerous or strange as you might think and actually involves overconsuming water. I will typically drink eight litres of water a day—because my body sees so much water coming in, it quickly drains it off before it can enter my system, hence having the effect of dehydration. This is how athletes achieve the look where you can see all their muscles and veins.”
Eva is making great use of her experience competing in fitness competitions, offering posing classes to her clients at the gym who are also entering competitions: “Despite what people may think, there’s much more to it than having a fit body, you need to know how to pose and position your body to achieve the maximum impact and win over the judges.”
Eva smiles: “As you can see, competition requires a big commitment and takes a lot out of your body. For this reason, I normally compete only once or twice a year—I need to allow my body to recover during the off months, as well as letting my hair down and eating cake every now and again!”
One recurring subject throughout our conversation is the psychological impact of regular exercise and the importance of a positive mental attitude: “Sometimes people exercise because they think they should, not because they want to. By putting a lot of emphasis on giving my clients energy and making fitness fun I am increasing their chances of sticking with it and achieving their goals. A lot of people work out by themselves, or for themselves when they first start. This is okay for the few people who have a very strong mentality, but the majority of us are a little weaker than that. This is why I always recommend to people who are serious about achieving their goals that they enter something. You don’t necessarily have to parade round on a stage like I do, but maybe enter a race or join a team. That way you will be sharing your experience with other people and be more likely to succeed. If you run for fun, you will only do it when you have time or are in the mood—but if you’re training for a half marathon you’ve entered, you will run in bad weather, when you’re tired or hungry and be less likely to listen to your own excuses. As a Personal Trainer, I do everything I can to give my clients the energy and positivity to be successful. I often work out alongside them to help them through the tough bits and show them that we are in it together.”
For anyone with the aspiration of becoming a Personal Trainer, Eva has a very definite opinion of what it takes: “To be a Personal Trainer obviously you need to have a strong interest in sports and fitness, but by far the most important attribute is to really enjoy working with people and be passionate about making them happy. If I have seven clients in a day, my goal is to make all seven of them happy—if they become fitter, stronger, thinner or sexier as well, then that’s a bonus. But, I don’t think you can help people fulfil their ambitions without first making them happier. If you only want to make money or get free access to a gym, but don’t care about people, you won’t make a very good Personal Trainer. Providing you have the right outlook and passion for fitness, you can start training.”
“Once you’ve qualified and start working with clients, that’s when you really begin to learn your craft. Every time I work with a new client I learn something, whether it’s how to strengthen a part of the body to prevent a particular injury, or how to achieve a new fitness goal—I can safely say I’ve learnt something new from every client I’ve coached.”
Anybody considering becoming a Personal Trainer will surely want to be a successful one. I asked Eva the challenging question of how she measures success: “This is always difficult to answer because it’s rarely dependant on only one thing. When I’m competing, if I win my category, that’s a success, if I come second or third, that’s quite successful; but lower than that I might regard as failure. However, if I’ve created the physique I was aiming for, with well-defined muscles and really low body fat—how could I see that as a failure? As a Personal Trainer I can only measure my success through that of my clients. I am looking to see a happy client who is making progress. Even if they fail to achieve their original ambitions because they don’t have the time or motivation to do the scheduled workouts or aren’t strong enough to stick to the right diet; they will still get stronger and fitter, which makes everyone happy. If on the first day my client can manage only five press-ups, then three months later he can do thirty, that’s success.”
Considering her career so far, the only regret Eva has is that she didn’t take the leap and become a Personal Trainer sooner: “If I look at my life now and compare it to before I was doing fitness full-time, I am so much happier and more motivated now. In the future I will continue to challenge myself, learning new fitness disciplines and continuing to raise the level of competition for every successful event I compete in—perhaps one day I will be in America, with Arnold Swarzenegger.” Eva smiles. “Outside of work I am very interested in art and design, one of my projects for the future is to design bikinis for women over thirty. Our bodies have changed from when we were in our twenties, but we still want to be confident and sexy on the beach.”
Eva was a refreshing character to talk to, she wears her energy for everyone to see and it’s impossible not to feel empowered by it. She is a professional woman who has immersed herself in the world of health and fitness and couldn’t be happier. It’s little wonder Eva is as successful as she is.
If you’ve enjoyed my conversation with Eva, why not take a look at my interview with Amsterdam based gym owner and Personal Trainer Markus Torenstra?