Certified Personal Trainer Q&A: Diane Shaughnessy

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine
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Each month, we’ll shine the spotlight on a different NASM Certified Personal Trainer who’s making a difference in their community.

For July, we found fireworks in Diane Shaughnessy’s story. She’s an NASM-CPT, FNS, WLS who started her incredible fitness career at 68 years of age.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM): Tell us a little about yourself.

Diane Shaughnessy (DS): I’ll turn 74 in July. I have two daughters and 4 grandchildren. My husband passed away 6 years ago.

I train part-time for two different enterprises. One has 3 studios, and the other just one. I have a set schedule with each one, and since I have flexibility, I can fill in when needed. My hours can vary from 8 to 30 hours a week.

Of course, I am also a grandmother and help my daughters when needed to assist in driving their children to activities, babysitting, or dog sitting.

NASM: What were you doing before being a trainer and what finally led to your decision to become a trainer?

DS: Prior to becoming a trainer, I was a market communications manager for a manufacturer of pressure measurement devices for the HVAC, pharmaceutical, health, and industrial industries.

My decision to become a trainer was based on working nearly 30 years in a high-stress environment and a desire to do something that was less stressful and that knew I would enjoy.

It was also based on my own experience of dealing with weight issues my whole life. Through the years I had gained and lost numerous amounts of weight. My first exposure to a gym and group exercise was through Gloria Stevens Figure Salon (lost 75 lbs.). This is when my desire to someday become a fitness instructor was born. My children were young at the time and financially I couldn’t afford to realize this dream.

In later years I worked full-time and was able to take advantage of earning my bachelor’s degree through my company. Again, bringing up a family, a full-time job and attending school at night left little time to exercise. Throughout the years, I would pick up running on and off and at times lose weight as well. Again, I could never consistently keep the weight off and my weight just exploded.

I lost 100 lbs. between 2001-2003 and used running as my only exercise. I kept the weight off for a few years, then gained back 70 lbs., which brought me to reassess how to manage my weight better. I joined a small group-training studio in 2010 that focused on resistance training, cardio, and nutrition. Not only did I lose the 70 lbs. I had gained back, but I lost another 20, bringing my total weight loss to 120 lbs.

All in all, it’s always a journey. My inspiration was to work with other women who have experienced the same struggle of holding down a full-time stressful job while bringing up a family, as well as older women who are also retired and wanted the benefit of a healthier lifestyle. My goal was to help them to achieve their personal goals, whether it’s weight loss, the need to get stronger, or improve their nutrition.

Diane finished 2nd in her age group, 70-74 years old, at the Hollis Fast 5K.

NASM: What led to your decision to get certified? And why did you get certified through NASM as opposed to one of our competitors?

DS: When I decided to retire, I spoke with my trainers regarding what was required to become a personal trainer. They suggested that I get certified. My Internet search led me to NPTI (National Personal Training Institute) located locally in Waltham, Mass. I called first and spoke with their office regarding their program and my concern that they may not accept me because of my age. My age was not a problem. They accepted me into their full-time day program, which would prepare me for NASM certification.

NASM: I think it’s fair to say that most people your age aren’t quite as active. Heck, most people in general aren’t as active as you. What’s your secret? And what are you putting in your cereal each morning that the rest of us aren’t?

DS: I knew that when I retired, I could not become a couch potato. I enjoy being physically active and I enjoy a challenge. I did my first mini-triathlon at the age of 70 as well as learned how to downhill ski the following winter. What I enjoy most are activities I can participate in with my grandchildren, and they keep me young.

I’m not always perfect in my eating habits but I do strive to eat healthy.

NASM: Have you encountered any ageism while working in the fitness industry?

DS: Very little. When I first started at NPTI one of the male students questioned the instructor if he thought a 68-year-old should become a personal trainer. Of course, the instructor answered that age was not an issue. At the end of our training, one of the young boys put his arm around me and said that he couldn’t believe how hard I worked and kept up with the class. I had to, because I didn’t want anyone to not want me on their team when we did group activities.

NASM: In addition to your NASM CPT, you also earned your NASM Weight Loss Specialization and NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialization. What drew you to these specializations? How do you think they helped you as a trainer?

DS: Most women I train want to lose weight and improve their nutrition as well as their family’s. So, these specializations helped me in coaching these women to a healthier lifestyle.

 I am currently working towards my Corrective Exercise Specialization!

NASM: Can you take us through your daily routine? What do you do to stay fit and healthy yourself?

DS: Eating healthy is number one. I also do the following:

• Strength train 3 days a week.

• Cardio 5 days a week: running or elliptical 3 days or more, depending if I have signed up for a race. 2 days spin classes.

• 1 day a week I take figure skating classes and practice at least one day. The goal here is to make the adult synchronization team. I don’t believe I will make the team, but I am enjoying the challenge and learning something new.

Recently my grandson wanted me to do indoor skydiving. Naturally I did it and it was fun.

Seasonal activities: In the winter I downhill ski. I’ve also learned how to play golf. I enjoy playing golf with my 12-year-old grandson.

NASM: Your story is going to be so inspiring to so many people out there. What other words of wisdom would you care to share?

DS: Balancing work and family are often a priority in our lives and we put our dreams aside. We look forward to the day when we can realize our dreams, which may be achieved when we are older as I have.  My journey may not be followed by everyone because it is different for all of us. But never let anyone say you’re too old. If there is something that you have always wanted to do, do it!

All of us at NASM wish Diane continued success with her amazing and inspiring fitness journey. Thanks for answering our questions, Diane!

If you're an NASM-CPT and have a story you'd like to share, please send an email to Meiti.Prang@nasm.org.

The Author

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Since 1987 the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has been the global leader in delivering evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations to health and fitness professionals. Our products and services are scientifically and clinically proven. They are revered and utilized by leading brands and programs around the world and have launched thousands of successful careers.


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