Shepherd Focuses on the Why
Any weekend warrior can tell you that fitness is as much about the mind as it is the body. That’s not lost on trainer Sarah Seabrook, who has built her business, Prodigy Fitness, by encouraging people of all sizes, shapes, and ages to get active.
As our area’s fitness doyenne, her own athletic accomplishments are impressive–a lifelong swimmer, a varsity high school athlete, and as an adult, a regular participant in “tough mudder” races. Prodigy clients will tell you that her inclusive approach to training, which capitalizes on her empathy and energy, is an even greater talent.
Heading into the New Year, Sarah maintains a positive attitude and was kind enough to share some time with us.
As a young person, what were some of the physical activities you enjoyed?
When I was young, I swam on a competitive swimming team and took riding lessons. In high school, I played varsity field hockey all four years.
What was a typical summer day like for a teenage Sarah?
I worked five or six mornings a week at Brian’s Waffle House in the beach town of Avalon, New Jersey.
I would go to work early in the morning and finish around noon. After work, my friends and I would walk down to the beach, where we would spend the rest of our day. I loved beach-living and miss it very much! In the evening, we would eat flounder that my dad caught fresh every day, complemented with the vegetables that my mother grew. I remember complaining to my parents that all we ate in the summer was fish and zucchini. I regret that complaint now! Luckily, my dad still fishes, and he freezer vacs his catch for me to load up on when I see them. I still enjoy my dad’s flounder once a week and I never have to pay for fish.
Can you remember a moment when fitness became an important part of your life?
I actually cannot remember a moment when being fit wasn’t important. My mother was a nurse and very health conscious. She stressed healthy eating and physical activity throughout my childhood and taught us that eating healthy foods and staying active would give us a better quality of life. I always loved being physically active and I remember cutting out exercise and workout clips from Shape magazine. I would organize them into an “exercise” binder and would put together little workouts that I would do in my basement. When I was in junior high, I’d ask for things like Denise Austin and Billy Blanks videos, workout equipment, and the Richard Simmons food mover for Christmas. As soon as I was old enough, I signed up for a membership at Muscle World, the local gym. I had a fitness orientation with a trainer to learn the equipment and I was hooked. I also loved to participate in step aerobics, which at the time was the only class available. For years, I was the youngest person in that class. I looked up to our blonde and fit aerobics instructor and wanted to be just like her one day.
Do you have a fitness specialty?
My specialty is athletic performance. All sports and movements are not the same, and I can help athletes improve their performance through exercise. That said, the majority of my training clients over the years have been either weight loss or continued rehabilitation post physical therapy. I’d say that in town I’m mostly known for helping people who have orthopedic considerations.
What are your qualifications?
My undergraduate and graduate degrees are both in athletic training. I am a National Athletic Trainers’ Association Board Certified Athletic Trainer and National Academy of Sports Medicine Performance Enhancement Specialist.
How do you assess new clients?
First, we have a consultation, during which I get to know the client. I ask them what their goals are, their injury and exercise history, what they enjoy doing for exercise, what they are looking for in a personal trainer, and why they are interested in personal training. Many times their “why” is different from their goals, which is important for me to know so that I can keep them motivated.
Once I learn that information, I am able to design the first two workouts. Those workouts will include specific movements for me to be able to determine any muscle imbalances, postural corrections if necessary, and base strength.
Please share some success stories.
One of the best things about my profession is that in the past ten years, I have shared so many victories with my clients. To be a part of helping improve a person’s health is absolutely amazing. I love watching someone’s confidence grow after losing weight, or hearing that a client had a great doctor’s visit and was able to come off of a prescription. It’s also incredible to witness people accomplish things that they never thought possible. Specifically, I can’t tell you how many people who have told me they’ve never been able to do a solid push up. When they start knocking out those push ups, we celebrate.
My favorite success story though is with my client, Susan. Susan came to me two years ago unable to walk without a cane. She had experienced several very serious injuries in the past few years and wanted to move better. I can honestly say that when she left my office after our consultation, I was nervous. It was a challenge, but we started twice weekly training sessions. Between Susan’s positive attitude and her determined work ethic, she was walking without a cane in about six months.
Do you create meal plans?
No. We offer nutrition coaching. Our approach here is to provide clients with the right knowledge and tools to be able to choose foods on their own to create a well-balanced and healthy diet. We feel that by doing this we are setting them up for long-term success.
How do you track fitness goals?
I have a planner where I list monthly and weekly goals and have space to design how to achieve them. I track all of my exercise so that I can appropriately progress my training program.
What’s your preferred style of motivation?
Being positive and reminding them of their “why.”
How has the pandemic affected your training and your business?
I consider training more important now than ever. The pandemic has been emotionally taxing on all of us, and keeping a structured exercise routine is so important to keep my body and mind fit. Business has certainly slowed down, but it has given us the space to focus on our members who are still here and keep them motivated and healthy.
You promote local races. What do you have in mind for 2021?
In the past I have organized the Chili Fest 5k. This year one of our members, Alyssa Huggins, organized the Diabetes Dash 5k. She did an amazing job and we are planning to combine forces to merge both races into one for next year.
What are some of the extreme events you’ve participated in and what inspired you to do them?
I have completed quite a few obstacle course races such as Tough Mudder and Mud on the Mountain. The weather and terrain will determine whether it’ll be easier or more difficult. The year I did Mud on the Mountain, it was cold and a rain/snow mix. This made the already very hilly terrain more muddy on top of the cold conditions. The last time I ran a Tough Mudder, the weather was so bad that we were literally the last group they let go before they cancelled the race. It wasn’t fun, but we did it! I was inspired to start doing these races as something to train for and accomplish. I like that in an obstacle course race, there are so many components to train for – strength, endurance, balance, and mobility.
What is your favorite distance or event to race?
On pavement, my favorite distance is a 5k. In the mud, I like 10-13 mile races.
Describe a typical training week.
Right now, I am training for a Spartan Beast (13 miles) and a Spartan Sprint (3 miles). I’m doing the Beast Saturday, June 5 and the Sprint Sunday, June 6 so I need to train hard. Two days out of the week I focus on total body strength using key lifts such as bench press, deadlifts, squats. This is to increase my strength, especially for push/pull movements. On two other days, I pull a workout from my bootcamp class book. In these workouts, I am focused on muscular endurance, power, and teaching my body how to recover in shorter rest times. One day a week I run a few miles to improve cardiovascular endurance, and I do yoga a few days a week to help improve my mobility, flexibility, and breathing.
Which races are at the top of your bucket list?
The Spartan races! My goal is to do a trifecta, which is all three levels of the race in one year. I’m signed up for two out of those three, so hopefully I can complete the Spartan Super in 2021 as well.
What are your hobbies other than fitness and training others?
I am a beginner flower gardener. I became interested in growing flowers a few years ago, and with the gym shut down for two months this spring, I had the time to really get into it. It was the first time I grew a lot of my flowers from seed, and I was able to experiment with starting them indoors as well. Back when concerts were a thing, I also loved to see my favorite musicians live.
When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?
A few days ago. I laugh all the time.
What is your favorite comfort food?
Any advice you’d give a younger Sarah?
Do not settle for anything that does not serve you. Always stay true to yourself.
How would someone contact you for training?
You can message me on the Prodigy Wellness Center facebook page, call 304-398-4937, or email email@example.com.