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For the Win: Personal Trainer of the Year Brandi Binkley

Locals teach us something about winning—and what we might be capable of accomplishing if we just get moving!

Written By:  Nashville Lifestyles

Photographers:  Shannon Fontaine

Brandi Binkley — “I’m the country’s Personal Trainer of the Year.”

The National Strength and Conditioning Association named Cheatham County native Brandi Binkley its 2015 Personal Trainer of the Year. She’s the owner and head exercise physiologist at Berry Hill’s Physiofit gym. The award is the product of a 13-year career spent measuring winning by the number of lives she’s changed.

"You have to start small, even if all you have is a couch and the ability to stand up and sit down ten times. Start with what you have, because what you have is plenty. "

I had just made it into the Navy’s rescue swimmer program [as one of the first handful of women ever to qualify for the program] when I tore my ACL in one of their obstacle courses. It was devastating to me, because being a rescue swimmer was why I joined the Navy. I wanted to serve my country in a big way. Depression set in pretty quickly, and I starting eating my sorrows away. Unfortunately, sorrows aren’t calorie-free.

After I left the program, I was at a computer all day. This was not the life I had imagined for myself—wasting away staring at a screen. One day I woke up and finally, truly looked at myself and the condition my body was in, and it made me sad. So I decided I would change it.

I didn’t know much about nutrition at the time other than I couldn’t eat Snickers and drink Cherry Pepsi anymore. I lived in the barracks at the time, so my food choices were limited, but I just made the best ones I could. I ended up losing 40 pounds. My unit’s master chief and maintenance officer were going, “Hey, Binkley, you’ve got a handle on this. Why don’t you help us with unit physical training?”

As soon as I started to get involved with training others, I fell in love with helping people. It just made my heart sing. I got out of the military three and a half years later and went back to school, changed my major from education to exercise physiology, and have never looked back. And I still love helping people. It’s something that’s always been with me. I grew up as a “free lunch” kid. My mother was a single mom, working three jobs, always way too proud to take assistance from anybody. But I’ll always remember the way she would help somebody if they needed something.

People come into my gym with all different kinds of misconceptions about personal training and trainers, and I got to the point where I wanted to change the way people think about our profession. I think that desire for change, that we can reshape what we know as “training,” is what led to my winning the NSCA Trainer of the Year award.

>>> Read all five extraordinary "For The Win"  stories in the January 2016 issue!

There’s so much more to this job than getting somebody leaner and stronger. What we do is help them believe in themselves again. We help marriages. We build healthy people. Well-programmed exercise allows people to see inside themselves—to those internal places we rarely go to because they’re terrifying. I have a client who came in one morning and said, “I want you to be really hard on me today.” For the last six years, she has been too fragile to say something like that—too much life had happened to her. But seeing her transform to what she is today? That’s what makes this job worthwhile.

The best strength coaches in the world come from the NSCA. I just never thought my name would be on one of their trophies for doing what I love. If the business went away and I was training people in my garage for the rest of my life, I would be a happy woman.

People forget that health and wellness isn’t about trying to kill yourself. It’s about trying to live longer and trying to be just 1 percent better than yesterday—that’s our mantra around here. You have to start small, even if all you have is a couch and the ability to stand up and sit down ten times. Start with what you have, because what you have is plenty. And if you just keep taking steps, even if they’re small ones, eventually you’ll get to the place you want to be.

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