Fitness coach delivers life training with added bonus of health

Becky Campbell • Jan 21, 2018 at 5:06 PM

When fitness coach Shawn Dunn sits down with a potential client, he tries to get a feel for what the person is willing, and not willing, to do to improve their health.

And he isn’t like some personal trainers who might set up a workout plan, stick beside you for a few sessions and then set you loose on your own. He thinks of himself more as a personal coach, beside you every step of the way whether that be in the gym, at the grocery store or standing over the stove cooking.

“I take a really big interest in my clients,” Dunn said recently. “When I sit down with them I explain that it’s going to be a relationship. Because I have relationships with my clients, they get pulled into the family” of clients, he said. That’s his way of forming a support group for the people who seek out his help to improve their health and their lives.

“I show people how to empower themselves,” he said.

Dunn said he’s found that some people don’t want the type of service he offers because they’re not willing to form the bond he feels is necessary for them to be successful. When Dunn forms the requisite relationship with a client, he’s in it for the long haul.

“There’s a lot of things that comes with a relationship ... this is no different than any other relationship. Just because you’re exchanging funds doesn’t mean that once they leave the gym, that’s the end of your day with that person,” he said. Dunn works with his clients at iTrain Fitness, located on L.P. Auer Road in Johnson City.

Also part of that relationship for Dunn is that he listens to his clients, learns about their issues and then educates himself as best he can on whatever ails the person. How the body functions, even down to the cellular level, is how Dunn approaches the path he and the client develop.

One of his clients has struggled with cancer for a decade. The disease retreats, but has always come back. The medical treatments ravaged the woman’s body. When she met Dunn, it was like no other conversation she’d ever had with a fitness trainer, aka coach. Dunn threw himself into the biology of what the woman had been experiencing, and he understood much of what she had been through because he’d been through it himself.

Dunn, a Marine Corps veteran, is no stranger to ill health. He had Crohn’s disease as a younger man — yes, he ‘had’ Crohn’s. When it flared up, he’d go to the VA, Medical Center get admitted to the hospital, receive in-patient treatment and be sent on his way. But through him learning about how his own body functions, Dunn said he has eliminated Crohn’s from his body.

Dunn said he would never encourage anyone to stop any type of lifesaving medical treatment for a disease they have, but changing the things a person puts into their body changes how their body functions, he said.

Accountability is also a big part of Dunn’s approach. He’s accountable to his clients as much as they’re accountable to him.

“I have them send me all their food, I have them send me pictures. We talk about that ... they call me when they’re at the grocery store, they call me when they’re at restaurants. And it’s not because they can’t make these choices on their own. They’re proud. For the first time they’re doing something and their doing it consistently and they have a support system, even if it’s just me in the beginning.”

And the relationship Dunn has with his clients becomes a relationship among his clients.

“What they find is, because I have a relationship with all my people, they actually get pulled into a big family. So when they come in, it’s not ‘See ya later’ after their workout. It’s ‘Have you met so-and-so’ .... I make sure everyone touches hands at some point. That’s my way of forming a support group with them not even knowing it.”

As Dunn’s approach to training has changed, so has the client he’s drawn to. He no longer finds the challenge with someone just looking to lose a few pounds and tone their body. There’s an easy fix for those people — if you’re consistent with your nutrition for a little bit — he said.

“I get bored. I get stagnant in my career and I don’t grow. I’m addicted to growth. I have to grow some way whether it be mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and I can’t keep taking on clients for five or 10 pounds because guess what? That’s my talent. If I’m already saying losing five or 10 pounds isn’t hard, what is that saying about my talent?” he said.

Dunn doesn’t take this new approach lightly.

“It’s scary, because you have people that are coming to you with things that you’ve always said ... ‘No, that’s for the doctor.’  It’s not that one person’s right, it’s not that one person is wrong .... I like to be more of an accessory. I’m not the cure,” he said.

 “I’m training you for life. It just happens to come with health,” he said.