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Personal and Bloomsday trainer keeps individuals in shape

Michelle Lobdell coaches Richard Lauridsen through a workout on Tuesday at her studio in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Michelle Lobdell coaches Richard Lauridsen through a workout on Tuesday at her studio in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Some of life’s journeys require more preparation than others. If your destination is Bloomsday’s finish line on May 5, it’s time to start preparing.

Just slide into comfortable shoes and step out the door.

Of course, some of us need a nudge. That’s where Michelle Lobdell comes in. She leads free weekly Bloomsday training clinics sponsored by Providence Health Care and Group Health.

Each Saturday beginning this week, hundreds of runners and walkers will gather at 8:30 a.m. in the Spokane Falls Community College gymnasium to get advice from Lobdell and other fitness experts, then stretch and head outside for a go-at-your-own-pace training session. By the seventh week, participants will be ready to tackle Bloomsday’s 7.46-mile route. (Registration is available online at or at each clinic.)

During a recent interview, Lobdell discussed how she gravitated to fitness training, and offered tips for getting in shape.

S-R: Have you always been athletic?

L obdell: Yes. I was a tomboy. Later I played softball and soccer, and ran track. Now I run marathons, and last year in Calgary I completed my first half-Ironman (triathlon).

S-R: Did you consciously set out to become a personal trainer?

Lobdell: No, I was a stay-at-home mom. But I was always at the gym. One day it occurred to me this was silly – if I’m here all the time, I should get paid to do it. And my career grew from there. Classes at Eastern and the Falls (SFCC) helped me prepare for my American Council on Exercise certification. That eventually led to owning my own business, which I never would have imagined.

S-R: What was your first job?

Lobdell: I started out teaching group fitness at Eagles Ice-A-Rena in 1997. It was quite an experience. To get to class, you had to walk through a smoky bar and up little wooden steps. Pretty soon I was also working at the Spokane Club, as well as at the community college. I would teach a class at the college, zip to the Spokane Club, teach there, then rush back to the college. Teaching group fitness is really taxing, so I gradually switched to one-on-one.

S-R: How many employees do you have now?

Lobdell: I don’t have employees. Two people sublease use of the studio for classes and personal training.

S-R: How much do you charge?

Lobdell: Thirty dollars for a 30-minute personal session, or $40 an hour. Group sessions are $45 per month if you come twice a week, $25 for once a week.

S-R: What do you focus on?

Lobdell: Every person’s needs are different. I have one client who summited Everest, another who just had open-heart surgery, and kids who come from LC (Lewis and Clark High School) after school. I work with every age and fitness level.

S-R: Do insurance companies cover this?

Lobdell: It would be nice if they did, but they don’t.

S-R: What’s your fitness philosophy?

Lobdell: I want clients to be sore and stiff after a workout, but I also want them to have fun. The hardest part is showing up.

S-R: Is hiring a personal trainer a long-term commitment, or something you can do for a month and then train on your own?

Lobdell: I don’t want clients to feel they have to commit to me for the rest of their life. But most are here because they want to be, so they end up with me for a long time.

S-R: What’s their goal?

Lobdell: Most of my clients are women. They want to be toned, to be fit, and to look good in a swimsuit or a new dress.

S-R: Do some want to concentrate on their tummy or thighs?

Lobdeel: Absolutely. They want to spot reduce.

S-R: What do you tell them?

Lobdell: If I could help women spot reduce, everyone would be trying to get in here. Unfortunately I can’t. Usually the (spot weight) you want to lose is the last to go. That’s just the way our bodies work.

S-R: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than a third of Americans are obese. What’s the solution?

Lobdell: Quit eating! We need to focus not just on exercise, but also on diet and activity level. People spend too much time in front of the TV or on social media. Turn it off.

S-R: Besides knowing about fitness, what skills do personal trainers need?

Lobdell: Being a good listener is huge. And you have to have empathy for your client. But for me, the business part of it is the most difficult. I’m learning a lot, but staring into a computer is my least favorite part of running my own business.

S-R: What do you like most about your job?

Lobdell: Helping my clients reach their goals, and watching them become a big family where they hold each other accountable.

S-R: How has the industry evolved in recent years?

Lobdell: A lot more trainers are opening their own studios, creating intimate places for people to work out.

S-R: What’s the career outlook?

Lobdell: It’s a hard way to make a living, but I’m doing something I love. And more than anything, I’m setting a good example for my kids about how to live a healthy lifestyle.

S-R: How long have you led the Bloomsday training clinics?

Lobdell: More than 10 years. My primary role is to get up on stage, get everyone excited, go through a bunch of stretches with them, and then we go outside and do our mileage.

S-R: How many people show up?

Lobdell: We had more than 900 the first couple of weeks last year – everything from little guys trying to keep up with mommy and daddy to people in their 90s. We start the first week with one mile, and add another mile each week. Participation drops off after four or five weeks.

S-R: What questions do participants ask?

Lobdell: They want to know about shoes, stretching, injuries. They want to know what to eat before running a race.

S-R: What advice would you offer people training on their own?

Lobdell: Carry a cellphone. Know your route, and tell someone where you’re going. If you’re listening to music, keep one ear unplugged so you can hear what’s going on around you.

S-R: How about advice leading up to race day?

Lobdell: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate the day before, then get a good night’s sleep. And don’t wear new shoes on race day.

S-R: How about general advice for race day?

Lobdell: Start out slow. Don’t try to keep up with your neighbor. If you want to sprint, sprint. If you need to walk, then walk. But listen to your body.

S-R: What’s your fastest Bloomsday?

Lobdell: Is this going to be in print? I think my fastest was an hour and six. My goal is to break an hour one day, but I’m not getting any younger.

Spokane freelance writer Michael Guilfoil can be reached via email at

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