Interview With A Trainer - Cody Johnson of Chapel Hill Training

by Bartley Creasman |

We're starting a series of interviews with some of our awesome fitness and health partners. They have been a great resource to us as we have developed our service. These professionals have dedicated themselves to improving the health of their clients, and with their expertise have some important insights that anyone can find useful.

First up is Cody Johnson of Chapel Hill Training. We've been working with this personal trainer gym since almost the beginning and have been fortunate enough to serve some of their clients.

80Fresh: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and why you became a personal trainer.

Cody Johnson: I have been a lifelong athlete. I played competive sports growing up (soccer, basketball, football, speed skating, baseball, wrestling, track, and a couple others) and then went on to play D1 Football at UNC. Fitness and health have always been a part of my life, so when I got to UNC I wanted my studies to reflect my passions as well as be applicable to my daily life. The Exercise and Sport Science degree at UNC was very appealing for these reasons, as well as because it's one of the top programs in the Nation. Additionally, I had a personal trainer during my senior year of high school who helped me immensely on my path to playing for UNC. Working out with him really piqued my interest in exercise science and was the other key factor behind looking into the EXSS department.


80F: Tell us about your gym, what kinds of workouts/themes you focus on... basically, what makes it worthwhile to hire a personal trainer

CJ: Chapel Hill Training is a private personal training studio located in Downtown Chapel Hill. We focus primarily on 1-on-1 training and some small group (~4-8 people) fitness classes. The biggest thing that separates our trainers from those at a typical box gym is that we all maintain very highly regarded certifications in personal training as well as hold degrees in Exercise Science. Our approach to training begins with a functional movement assessment, where we diagnose biomechanical imbalances and discuss with our clients the ways in which we will approach those issues while simultaneously prescribing an exercise program to assist in weight loss, strength gain, and many other fitness goals. We want our clients to not only reach their goals, but to surpass them in a way that helps them to feel better and to live better. I always tell my clients that I want them to feel better after their workout than they did before they arrived at the studio.


80F: What do you have to do to become a personal trainer?

CJ: First and foremost, you have to have a passion for helping others! Without that, you'll never be a successful trainer. After that, look into what certifications are out there to help you learn more about the body and exercise prescription. Two of the best certifications out there for basic personal training are NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) and ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine). While the study material is rigorous, those two courses will definitely prepare you to be a successful trainer.


80F: What's the most challenging part of your job?

CJ: The most challenging part of my job is trying to get people who absolutely despise working out, to enjoy their time exercising, and actually look forward to each training session -- it's very difficult! Ironically, it's actually one of the parts of my job that I love the most. I don't want anyone to hate being healthy, and if I can find a way around that, then it makes it that much easier for my clients to adhere to a program!


80F: What's the most rewarding part of your job?

CJ: The most rewarding part of my job is when clients tell me how much they've enjoyed training and that they feel so much better after going through a program. It's sweet sweet music to my ears, because it's the culmination of all the hard work that we've put in together to achieving fitness goals.


80F: In your experience, what are some common misconceptions about health/fitness?

CJ:The number one misconception by far is that lifting weights will make women bulky. This one is just simply not true, unless this individual is lifting heavy weights 4-5x/week for years and years on a specific program targeted towards maximal strength, power, and hypertrophy. Long story short, lifting will only increase your muscle tone and help shape your body - so pick up those weights!

Another one that I see fairly often is that "being sore is a good indicator of how intense a workout it." We actually answered this in video format earlier this year. The explanations is actually pretty long, so please go check out this video if you would like more information!


80F: As a personal trainer, how often do clients come to you for nutritional advice, and what are some of the most common problems/misconceptions regarding diet?

CJ: Diet and Nutrition are very big factors in making strides towards fitness and exercise goals, so whether clients bring it up or not, I will always try to provide suggestions and recommendations for my clients on how they can optimize their performance. One misconception out there, due to public perception in the past, was that Fat is bad for you. In actuality, fat is extremely important in the diet and the right kinds of fat (monunsaturated, polyunsaturated, omega-3, omega-6, etc) are very good for your cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and joint health. Additionally, many studies have shown that increasing healthy fat intake in exchange for carbohydrate intake (depending on exercise habits) leads to a reduction in weight and body fat percentage!


80F: What are some of the biggest obstacles towards your clients reaching their goals, and what do you do to overcome those?

CJ: The number one biggest obstacle is staying consistent with exercise. I can't workout for my clients, or can I be there to help motivate them to go workout when they aren't coming to see me, but frequency of exercise is one of the most important contributors to losing weight or gaining strength. An analogy I like to give is comparing exercise to a work week. How often do you spend working each week; ~40 hours? And how much work do you feel like you accomplish in that week? It never feels like enough, right? So think of exercise in that way. How many hours per week do you exercise? If it's only 1-2, how much do you feel will truly be accomplished and truly help you push towards your goal? To be clear, I'm not advocating for anyone to workout 40 hours a week, because that's WAY too much. What I am saying is that you can't fit an entire work week into 1-2 hours and get much done.


80F: Tell us what your ideal dinner is on a busy weekday

CJ: I'm a huge fan of baked Chicken breast, Mixed Vegetables, Couscous, and a half avocado. Typically, I'll prepare the chicken on a Sunday or Monday so my meal preparation time each night is only a few minutes!


80F: What are some of your hacks/advice for maintaining a healthy diet?

CJ: 1) Go to the store on a full stomach! It will help you say no to all the extra unhealthy food you don't need!

2) Find a healthy recipe or two on the weekend and then only buy the ingredients necessary to make those dishes throughout the week. It will force you to either eat that or go out to eat/ make another trip to the grocery store. If you're like me, then option number 1 is the best because you don't have to spend any more money!

3) Eat what makes you feel good! I'm a firm believer in staying in a good mood. If your diet is effecting your psychological state and you're just fed up with eating chicken and broccoli all day everyday, go eat a burger! Obviously keep the unhealthy items to a minimum, but if you're dreading your next meal, then you need to change your diet!


80F: What are some of your favorite cheat foods?

CJ: I'm not going to lie, my favorite cheat food is a Bacon Cheeseburger with egg, avocado, and ketchup with a side of fries from any of these restaurants - Town Hall burger, Buns, Al's Burger Shack. Cheat meal heaven!


80F: What has been the best advice given to you about fitness/health?

CJ: One of the driving pieces of advice behind my drive for fitness and health is actually a phrase my old strength coach, Coach Lou Herndandez, used to yell at us during our conditioning - "You gotta love this stuff*". He didn't actually say, "stuff", but you get the point! That phrase always ring in my mind because its true. It's impossible to adhere to a program or a lifestyle that you don’t actually love. With health and fitness, you have to find a way to love it or find a reason to love it, or else it will never work for you. Whether it's the tough workout you love or just the way exercise makes you look, you gotta love this s---!