I work with them every day; so I know how awesome Precision Nutrition’s coaches really are.
Today you get to meet one of them, Toni Bauer. This way you can find out too.
I’m on the phone to learn more about Toni Bauer. But the first ten minutes of our conversation are all about me, not her.
I’ve just gone back to Crossfit after a six-week absence, and Toni wants to know how I’m doing.
“Did they scale the workout for you? Did they check in with you?”
The concern in her voice is evident. A friend of hers was recently reinjured in a fitness class, and she winces at the idea that I might undergo a similar experience.
When she hears about my instructor’s thoughtful and personalized approach, her relief is obvious.
“Good, good, I’m so glad,” she says. “Some coaches…they’re really just pushing their own agenda. Or they’re not really looking at the individual. As long as he’s paying attention to your needs – that’s the main thing.”
And that’s Toni. Caring, committed – and the consummate professional.
The subject turns to “gym dating”.
That intriguing but often exhausting process of checking out new gyms to learn whether their hours, equipment, and instructional approaches will help us meet our personal goals.
“I hate it,” Toni says. “Sometimes I crave a new challenge, but at the same time…”
“You can waste so much energy just investigating,” I interrupt.
“That’s it,” she agrees. “Juggling schedules to get there. The traffic. Trying out the classes.”
“Of course, I don’t really need to deal with that any more,” she says. “I figured out a solution.”
My ears prick up. “Oh?”
She hesitates for half a beat.
“Yeah,” she says. Another pause.
She laughs, a bit sheepishly, then blurts it out.
“We turned our master bedroom into a gym.”
“We built a gym in the bedroom.”
“I know, I know,” she adds. “It sounds a little crazy. But our house is pretty small, and there was literally nowhere else.”
So, having just completed a major renovation of the kitchen and other parts of the house, Toni and her husband started work again, painting, putting up shelving, and reorganizing.
These days, the two of them sleep in what used to be the guestroom, and a squat rack occupies the space where their dresser used to stand.
“I guess it would be pretty drastic for some people,” she admits. “But it works for us.”
And when you stop to think about it, this renovation makes perfect sense. It’s an ideal expression of Toni’s values. After all, fitness and health are at the core of who she is; why shouldn’t she devote some real estate to that?
Fitness professional might not sound like a logical career choice for someone with an international business degree.
But fitness has always been Toni’s passion, and working in the field was always a dream.
So, after the birth of her two children, building her own personal training business was a natural step. Due to her exceptional service – and word-of-mouth from satisfied clients – her company, Elev8 Health and Fitness, became profitable within its very first year of operation – an almost unprecedented feat in this highly competitive field.
Things were great – on the surface. There was just one little problem. A series of moves over the years had left Toni increasingly depleted and brittle. So, when another move forced her to relocate from Texas to Illinois, she cracked.
This time, she would not only be dealing with the usual hassles of moving – getting the kids resettled, making new friends, and all the rest. But she was also giving up her dream home and her thriving business. She’d invested everything she had. And now it was all gone… including her professional identity.
That was the final straw.
Exhausted, grieving, emotionally distant from her family and herself, and at loose ends, Toni did what so many of us do: She ate. As the pounds crept up, she felt more and more ashamed. How could she, a professional trainer, allow this to happen to her?
Fortunately, as a fitness enthusiast dedicated to continual self-education, she already knew about Precision Nutrition. She was humble enough to recognize that she could use some coaching herself.
So she signed up for PN Coaching. Over the course of an amazing year, she renovated her latest house. Rediscovered her determination and drive. And at the end of the program, she walked away with the grand prize, and a whole new sense of hope for her future.
Sometimes we look at winners and imagine that they’ve always had it easy. But in Toni’s case, that assumption would be wrong.
At the age of four-and-a-half, she lost her mother to suicide. The sudden death of a parent is an enormous blow for any child. But to make matters worse, after Toni’s mother died, the courts separated her from her two older sisters. As a result, she lost all her closest female relatives – in one fell swoop.
Toni’s dad remarried when she was six, but she and her stepmother were never close. So her childhood was haunted by loss, and for many years she lacked an important female role model.
The result was predictable. For years, she searched for the mothering she’d missed. In encounter after encounter, she’d try to get a small portion of the unconditional love and care that on some subliminal level she knew she needed. And time after time, she faced disappointment.
But even the worst experiences can help us grow – if we let them. And one positive outcome of her painful history is Toni’s knack for viewing women’s relationships almost objectively.
“I didn’t have what other people had, so I was always observing,” she says. “It made me more aware of the ways women can struggle with each other and themselves. It taught me to listen, without getting overly caught up in other people’s emotions.”
That’s a skill she has put to good use in her coaching, where often, a dispassionate eye and a listening ear are precisely what clients need most.
In addition to teaching her objectivity, Toni’s early experience also showed her the importance of mentors. Growing up, she was lucky enough to find some, and while their interests varied, all shared an ability to push themselves and to follow their own dreams. Together, they gave her hope that she could shape her life around her ruling passions.
Still, as wonderful as her mentors were, they couldn’t give her a mother’s unconditional love. And the process of recognizing that, accepting it, and moving on, was a lengthy and often difficult one.
“Of course, now I understand that I’m not the only person who’s missed out on that kind of love,” she says. “I also understand that it has to come from myself. Self-care. Self-love. Before PN Coaching I didn’t really ‘get’ that.”
PN Coaching gave Toni a much-needed space to focus on self-care.
“The program itself was all about me,” she says. “That time to focus on my own needs was precious and necessary.”
The program gave her the foundation she needed to move forward. After it ended, she turned her focus to supercharging her already considerable coaching skills, completing her Precision Nutrition Certification. And as a mentor, her emphasis returned to helping others.
“I jumped in with both feet,” she says, the enthusiasm in her voice unmistakable. “It’s such a privilege to go through the program from the other side as a mentor and coach, lending my experience to others. I just love the learning!”
She also loves putting her learning into action, both with individual clients and with larger groups. At the PN gatherings in Fort Collins and Chicago she was a hugely popular speaker with the current Lean Eaters in the audience, who were hungry to learn her secrets for getting to the winner’s circle.
But Toni would say that participation itself makes you a winner.
Her talks at the gatherings focused on the themes of permission and trust – two biggies that can stump even the most determined clients, and that are equally important for everyone, no matter what phase of the journey they might be on.
“You have to trust the coaches,” she told a group of eager listeners in Fort Collins. “You have to let yourself trust that they know what they are doing. Over time, you’ll learn to trust yourself.”
You also have to give others permission to help you, she adds. And for many women, conditioned as we are to put other people’s needs ahead of our own, that’s a particularly tough lesson to absorb.
“Let others help you become awesome,” Toni urges. “You can’t do this on your own.”
That’s where awesome coaching comes in. And Toni makes a superb coach, because in addition to all her training and experience, she has literally been where her clients are – overweight – not to mention, confused, ashamed, and depressed about her situation.
Having battled emotional eating herself, she knows that sometimes food is a lot more than just fuel. Sometimes food is distraction. Sometimes it’s comfort. Sometimes it substitutes for love.
Whatever it represents, Toni knows how important it is to get to the root of our disordered eating patterns in order to change them.
“Every client is unique. Each has her own hurdles.” Toni says. “I’m good at walking beside people, helping them move along the path.”
Toni is proud to say she’s a client for life.
“I learn something new from the lessons every time I go through them,” she says.
One of her favourite takeaways from the program is the question: What are you going to do in the next three minutes to move you toward your goal?
“Some days this means just adding an extra cup of spinach to my meal to make sure that I am getting in an extra serving of veggies. And some-days it just means getting down for 20 quick push-ups.”
“I use this in other areas of my life now too. It helps me break up the house cleaning instead of putting it off. I do what I can in the next three minutes before deciding what to do next.”
Because there’s always housecleaning. No matter what.
“Even on the day when Krista Schaus delivered my prize, I was doing laundry and helping with the homework,” she laughs.
In fact, if there’s one thing she wants her clients to understand, it’s that PN coaches really do lead normal lives.
“We’re wives, mothers, partners, sisters, friends, daughters, volunteers.”
And that means they cook meals, juggle schedules, do the shopping, get stuck in traffic, make the phone calls, balance the budget, tally the lists, vacuum the floors, wash the dishes – all while attempting to maintain their own health and fitness.
Just like their clients.
“I know what it’s like to try to juggle home life with work and workouts,” Toni says. “And I know what the everyday stuff is all about.”
Her voice is warm, filled with empathy and understanding born of long experience.
“I’m just like my clients. The only difference is that I’m a few steps ahead.”
A few steps ahead – lighting the path. That’s Toni Bauer