Interview with Sydney

We at Formative Fitness pride ourselves on being the “go to” trainers in Traverse City.  We’re known for our professionalism, in depth knowledge of a wide variety of training techniques, and for always paying close attention to proper technique and form – every client, every exercise, every session. In order to help our clients get to know us a little better, we decided to feature a different trainer each week in our blog and answer a series of questions about both our personal and professional lives.  We hope you enjoy this series!

Name: Sydney Stiles

Age: 43

Where are you from originally?

Valencia, CA

Do you have a college degree? If so, what is your degree in?

I have an AA in Social Science, and a BA in History

If you aren’t originally from Traverse City, why did you move here?

I fell in love with Michigan and Traverse City when I helped a friend move back to MI from CA.  I love the seasons here, the small-town feel, and slower pace of life (vs. Southern CA)

Tell us something interesting about you that most people don’t know.

I was an extra in the movie Clueless, and can be easily seen in several scenes.

What do you do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of time training my puppy (Jack) and taking him for hikes. I also write, kayak, cycle, snow shoe, cross country ski, and work on continuing education.

What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

Exploring new trails with Jack or working on training with him.

What is the most memorable trip you’ve taken and what made it so memorable?

Going to Hawaii with my grandparents to celebrate graduating from high school.  I loved getting to spend so much one on one time with my them.  The trip is especially memorable because my Grandpa died 1 month after returning to CA due to heart problems.  I will always treasure that special time with him.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I’d love to go to Norway.  I’m intrigued by the history and culture of the Norwegian people and would love to explore such a beautiful country and its many outdoor activities.

What are a few items on your personal bucket list?

Backpacking the Appalachian Trail, visit Norway, live in another country, learn to speak another language fluently, write a book.

Do you have any pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?

I have an Australian Shepard puppy called Jackson (Jack for short).

What is your favorite season, and why?

Definitely winter!  I love getting outside in the snow to snow shoe or cross-country ski!  Plus, the snow is just so beautiful, and peaceful.

Why did you become a trainer? Any specific “ah ha” moment that influenced your decision?

I decided to become a trainer after I discovered that exercise and eating whole foods significantly reduced my Fibromyalgia symptoms.  I wanted to help others reap the benefits of exercise and present it in an approachable, non-intimidating way.  I had a bad experience with a personal trainer, which almost made me give up hope that exercise could help me.  I wanted to become the trainer I needed back then, to be there for my clients when they are at their worst and on the brink of giving up, or when they need that encouragement to challenge themselves just a little more.

What fitness certifications do you have?

  • Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through ACE (American Council on Exercise)
  • ACE-certified Orthopedic Exercise Specialist
  • ACE-certified Youth Fitness Specialist
  • ACSM Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer
  • Certified Parkinson’s Cycling Instructor
  • Certified FMS Professional – Level 1
  • TRX and Rip Trainer Instructor – Gray level
  • Boot Camp instructor
  • Kickboxing instructor
  • Pre & Post Natal Exercise
  • Fitness & Menopause
  • Cardiovascular Training for Clients with Obesity
  • Strength Training for Clients with Obesity

How long have you been a certified personal trainer?

Nearly 8 years

What are a few items on your professional bucket list?

Become a TRX Master Trainer (black level), publish a book, instruct a continuing education course at a distinguished fitness conference, create a dog related product

How often do you attend/take continuing education courses or go to fitness conferences?

I am nearly always working on continuing education, I am currently working on ACE’s Weight Management Specialist certification.  I attend fitness conferences about once every year or two.

Why did you choose to pursue the continuing education courses that you’ve done?

TRX was the modality that helped me get back into exercise, which makes me very passionate about it and wanting to always know more.  Many of the other courses I’ve taken were a result of working with clients who were going through something (pregnancy, menopause, obesity) and I wanted more information about how to train them as safely and effectively as possible.  I have always loved working with children, which prompted me to get the specialty certification in youth fitness because training children is so different from training adults.  I worked as a personal trainer in an outpatient rehab clinic that specialized in neurological injuries…in order to ensure I was training these clients safely and effectively, I pursued the certified inclusive fitness trainer certification.

What type of training are you most interested in/best at instructing? (ie weight lifting, functional strength, HIIT, TRX, bodybuilding, etc.)

TRX and Rip Trainer are definitely my specialty.  With these two pieces of equipment, you can do limitless exercises from rehab type exercises to extremely challenging dynamic exercises. I also enjoy teaching kickboxing, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), and functional strength with body weight exercises.

Do you work with a diverse group of clients or specialize in a particular group?

My clients come from all different backgrounds and train with me in pursuit of many different goals.  Some want improved balance and functional strength, others want improved endurance, and others are focused on losing weight and/or improving their overall health.  I’ve also worked for over 3 years with clients who have a neurological injury, such as stroke, TBI, Parkinson’s, seizures, spinal cord injury, or MS.

What is your training philosophy?

I believe in meeting the client where they are and helping them reach their goals safely, focusing on proper movement patterns, doing exercises using their own body weight correctly prior to adding outside weight, and encouraging positive nutritional changes gradually so that these lifestyle changes will stick and be manageable.  I also focus on functional movement, helping clients gain the strength and endurance to participate in activities of daily living and recreational activities without fear of injury.

In your opinion, why is form so important when working with clients?

Form is everything when it comes to exercise. It allows the client to engage the correct muscles during an exercise, get the most out of each exercise (why do it if there’s no benefit, right?), learn to move without pain or fear of injury, and improve body awareness during exercise.

What makes you a great trainer?

As many of my clients have said, my “eagle eye attention to detail” during every exercise and the ability to modify any exercise to make it appropriate for whomever I’m working with.  I’ve also been told that I’m very approachable and knowledgeable.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll research it and get back to you.  I’m enthusiastic about helping my client’s reach their goals, and do whatever I can to help them (checking in texts, calls, or emails, exercise homework with explanations and pictures as needed, nutrition help or referrals, and holding my clients accountable).