The Trainer Who Understands You

Personal trainer James Conley builds every program from scratch to meet the needs of clients.

If one-on-one work aligns best with your personality and fitness goals, then James Conley is your ideal partner. James — whose studio is located at 4826 Camp Bowie Boulevard — gives clients the benefits of extensive experience, along with an inspirational approach that can help anyone stay on track through the New Year.

For James, fitness is not about looks or a single-minded focus. It’s a holistic practice that emphasizes the body’s particular needs. To learn more about fitness and the benefits of a personal trainer, this month will mark the beginning of a series of interviews with Mr. Conley.

Tell me about yourself and how you got into the fitness business.

Conley: I was the typical athlete, I guess. I’ve been in the business for 20 years or so, and went to Tarleton State, where I played football and ran track. I worked at a fitness center in Fort Worth, a couple of gyms, and decided to open my own place. As I got older, I decided to place more of an emphasis on helping people get fit. I was diagnosed with hypertension at an early age, and this has forced me to watch my diet and stay physically fit. The love of this has gotten me to where I am today.

What sets your fitness program apart from those of other personal trainers? What kind of atmosphere do you promote in your gym?

Conley: We only do one-on-one, personal training. It’s a small environment, so people get a lot of attention. I also dedicate a lot of my time to research, which I apply to my clients.

I try to get people to focus on their longterm health. Everything depends on the age of the person. With older people, we tend to direct their attention to health issues and long-term goals. Basically, why should a person work out? It’s all about quality of life and being able to function in society. We’re all athletes, though we all don’t play sports. Life, for the most part, is built around functionality. You want to be as strong as you possibly can and have cardiovascular conditioning, because the heart is the most important muscle. You want to be able to hike, to walk, and to function in life; it’s not always about high level activities.

For a new client, how would you go about designing a program?

Conley: When they first come in, I do an evaluation and put them through a series of tests. I help them determine their current fitness level and look at what they’re eating. As part of the evaluation, I ask them questions, and perform a series of simple tests to give me a pretty good idea of a person’s current fitness level.

All workouts are based on the individual. If a person is sports-specific, we’ll have different workouts. Some people come in and need to lose weight, so I’ll steer them towards cardiovascular. Some people come in and are not very strong, so I’ll go more for strength training. If people come in and are in good shape and pretty strong, we’ll do something that covers it all, a maintenance program. I start almost everyone at ground zero, then advance based on how their body responds.

What sorts of workout errors or bad practices do you see people engaging in?

Conley: First and foremost, doing too much too soon. Just remember that it’s not a destination, it’s a journey. Lots of people get overexcited and overzealous initially. Another big one is only working out the vanity muscles, which creates imbalance that is detrimental to the joints. Every muscle has an opposite and equal group. For people who only want to work certain muscles, like pecs or biceps for guys, or women who only want to do legs, it creates a muscle imbalance that jeopardizes the body. On the other side of the spectrum, some people simply don’t do enough.

What type of fitness goals do you feel particularly suited to encouraging? 

Conley: Fitness is a lifestyle. It’s a journey, not a destination. My goal for each one of my clients is to just be in better shape than they were yesterday. There’s no comparison between clients, and we just try to get each individual person to be the best that they can be. Truly, what you do to your body from the age of 30 will either help or haunt you for the rest of your life.