Client Case Study – Couples Training Love Story

I have several couples who train with me – some together, some separately. Training together works well if both partners have similar goals, schedules, and learning styles. Also, if they don’t mind allowing me to focus more on one partner during the session; say if one partner is injured, working on something specific, or has questions about how best to approach an exercise and needs a little more time and attention from me.

I have also had many clients who have recommended me to a spouse (or friend or coworker) for awhile. “You really should go see Anne, she can help you with your shoulder pain, back pain, weight loss, meal planning, stress reduction…” I love it when the friend or family member does finally come in to see me and they say “Wow, I should have done this years ago!”

Here’s an awesome love story for you about one of my couples. Nancy has been my client for ten years. She has taken Pilates classes; done private training and massage; organized family Pilates classes with her adult daughters and their friends; traveled with me to Hawaii for one of our group vacations; and she even invited me to her daughter’s destination wedding to offer massage and yoga classes to the wedding party. She truly is a gem and I have appreciated getting to know her.

Over the years, I’ve visited with her husband James at different family events. Right now he is unable to train with me due to his travel schedule, but the two of them have been talking about exercises that could help reduce his inflammation and pain. He has specific limitations that preclude traditional strength training, specifically hand issues that do not allow him to grip weights. He also sees the value in adding strength work to his already active lifestyle. In other words, he is ready, motivated, and willing, but not sure where to start. When Nancy came in for her movement + massage session last month, she challenged me to come up with a short strength session that I could show her so that she could teach him. It had specific requirements: exercises that didn’t require traditional strength equipment, no weight bearing on his hands, and it needed to be fun so he would want to continue to do the work.

Looking at her current program (exercises she was already familiar with), I thought about which ones would be suitable for him, what we could add to round out his program (core, back, legs and upper body), and I talked to her about her motivational language to make this fun for him. For example, he is a gear head, so when cueing Flight, a back extension exercise, she could ask him to imagine a hood ornament.

mermaid hood ornament

After he completed his workout, I suggested she reward him (steak dinner, foot massage, etc.). We kept it to ten exercises, and I included in the list a few that she and I had done together so she would be familiar with them, thus comfortable teaching the moves to him.

This is a perfect example of how couples can work together to be positive influences on each other. Without nagging or haranguing (and using gentle positive reinforcement), Nancy can provide her husband with simple solutions to help him relieve his pain and stiffness, thus improving his quality of life.

After checking in with Nancy this week she has this good news to report:

James is doing his exercises with purpose and enthusiasm.  They’ve become part of his plan to “get healthy” along with some dietary changes and more cardio.

Who do you know who could benefit from a movement makeover? Can you send your special person my way? Call (503) 705-4762 or email me ( and I will be in touch with your person to set up a complimentary consultation. To receive the latest news in the land of Fluid (healthy recipes, The Monthly Five, workshops, and other events) please subscribe to my monthly newsletter over here on the right ->


Anne McCranie is a Portland (Sellwood), Oregon based Personal Trainer and Licensed Massage Therapist. She works with her clients one on one and in small groups using a combination of movement + massage to relieve pain, build strength, and reduce stress. 

Do guys need to do "core strengthening" exercises?

According to this Wall Street Journal article, by Kevin Helliker yes they do.  Core strength is the new buzzword in exercise circles.  Everyone from elite athletes to weekend warriors are finding their inner strength (pun intended).

To quote Helliker:

After years of conquering the treadmill and bench press, I am now striking poses and performing movements that I had always considered “girly,” and the difficulty of it is humbling.

While he doesn’t specifically use the word Pilates, the three exercises illustrated in the article, glute bridge, pillar bridge and plank, look very similar to Pilates moves I do with my clients.

According to the author: “After three months of two core-training sessions a week, my body-fat percentage is down five points. My cruising speed on the treadmill has risen a full mile per hour, even though my weekly mileage plummeted to make time for the core exercises.”

Want to improve your running time?  Try adding some core strengthening exercises to your program.

Here are three simple and effective core strengtheners.  Shoot for one minute of each of these:

Plank hold:  Make a straight line from your shoulder to your knee.  Pull your belly button in and relax your neck.

Crunches: Rest your hands behind your head and slowly curl head and shoulders off the ground.  This is about half as much effort as a traditional sit up.  Think of flattening your abdominals and breathing.

Pilates Bridge:  Press into your heels to lift your hips towards the ceiling without gripping with your glutes.  Imagine your spine getting longer and your neck relaxing.

Try these moves two to three times a week for the next month and see if you notice a difference in your strength workouts.