Below is an interview with Jessie Houghton, one of Denali’s own personal trainers. Learn more about Jessie’s passion for fitness and nutrition on her website here.

Jessie3When did you decide you wanted to help others with their fitness goals?

I have always been active and I have a passion for fitness and nutrition. Between 2012-2014, I really transformed my own life and health when I became a vegetarian and started a workout regimen that changed my body. After that, I decided I wanted to become a personal trainer and group fitness instructor so I could help other people too. 

What are your tips to help people start working out again and keep their motivation going?

Start small and give yourself small achievable goals often.

A big push in the personal training industry right now is to “just get people moving!” Where can you add movement into your life? Can you jog in place every time you are on your cell phone? Can you park your car at the back of the parking lot and walk further to the store? At work can you go to the bathroom 4 floors up and take the stairs? Add movement in small ways all day, and then get yourself into a routine for working out more formally like in a gym setting.

Also, give yourself small achievable goals within your daily life and in your workout routine. People often have big goals – lose 100 lbs in one year, lose 10% bodyfat, etc. – but those goals take a lot of time and effort both with nutrition and movement. Working on a smaller scale with smaller goals that lead to the bigger goal will help motivate clients and give them that satisfaction when they achieve that small goal.

What are some of the key benefits of personal training?

As a group fitness instructor, my biggest frustration is that sometimes you can’t “get to everyone” – you can’t fix form for each individual, you can’t give them minute-to-minute cues for engaging the right muscles, and the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching Group X, but sometimes I want to say – “hey, come do personal training with me because I can really help you and make everything you do in the Group X classes better!”

In personal training you can get all these things. I love being able to really get my clients in excellent form so that we can work the right muscles and decrease compensation. You can get undivided attention for an hour, with a workout tailored to your needs and taking into consideration your injuries, exercise & health history, and everything in between.


What do you do when meeting with a new client to understand their level and what they need from a program?

I have created specific orientation forms to discuss their goals, health history, exercise history, interests in different types of exercises equipment, etc. Then, we do a “preview workout” – a little bit shorter than a regular session, but we get to try out different exercises, test for compensation. and figure out a workout regimen that would work best for them.

What’s your go-to pre-workout meal or snack? Any food groups or snacks you’d recommend for others?

I really believe that a pre-workout meals and snacks are largely dependent on the individual. I have seen people who have to eat at least 2 hours before a workout or else they will feel sick. While another person can eat 30 minutes before and not have a problem. Some people, myself included, can eat a banana (& natural peanut butter for me!) and that will carry me through an hour long workout. Other people need more sustenance.

No matter what, you definitely want to eat something that will carry you through the workout – and make it healthy! 

What’s your favorite workout lately?

Oh gosh! Well, I am a fitness junkie so that is hard to say. I’m loving circuit training with high intensity intervals sprinkled in. When I train circuits, everything is timed including breaks, so we keep the workout moving. The high intensity intervals help to increase heart rate and oxygen consumption between strength exercises that might allow for the HR to come down a bit.

Most recently, I attended a personal training conference and took a session on circuit training. One of the big takeaways was to end with a high intensity bout so that the HR & oxygen consumption goes up and forces the body to work harder to find homeostasis again after the workout. I’ve been incorporating that in my client’s workouts and I think it really finishes the workout on a high note!

What are a few reasons that someone should start investing in or updating their own fitness plan? 

Let’s think of it this way: if you invest in your fitness, you invest in your life. The better physical shape you can get in now, the better off you will be as you age. Balance training, weight training, cardio training – they will all benefit you in the long run. I believe an investment in yourself is the best kind.

Every food you buy, is like saying “I vote for this product” – do you vote for nutrient-lacking artery-clogging fast food? or do you vote for nutrient-dense disease-reversing whole foods?

I am a pescatarian (vegetarian but I occasionally eat fish) and I am in the best health of my life! I recently read a book called “How Not To Die” by Dr. Greger and it discusses the top 15 causes of death in the U.S. and how vegetables can reverse and prevent disease! So simple. I am extremely passionate about health because we have the power to help ourselves – we just need to know how. And look, right in front of us – vegetables can help reverse and prevent disease and illness. And guess what, movement can too. It is exciting and amazing to me!

Trainer Spotlight: Jessie Houghton
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