We are kicking off our spotlight series with Huyen Nguyen, a certified personal trainer and holistic health coach passionate about empowering individuals to reach their fitness, nutrition, and wellness goals both in and outside of the gym. Check out our convo with Huyen below about her professional and health goals, training philosophy, and why black health matters to her!
What brought you to the career you’re in now?
When I was younger I always wanted to be a doctor (so I could buy a house for my mom while helping people), and then a teacher (because I love kids), and I feel like working as a trainer has helped me combine both.
It started when I befriended Malcolm Jones, Emory University’s first student personal trainer. As a pre-med student, he understood exercise down to the complex chemistry and biology of the body and that really made me see fitness in a different light.
I was also at a strange point in my life where a lot of the people closest to me were getting severely sick, and eventually even my mom had a massive stroke. None of the illnesses were a result of lifestyle choices or anything - which reminded me that you really can’t take your health for granted. With the all the things that we don’t have control over, I wanted to help empower people to do what they could to maximize their health.
I dived into getting my first certifications to train on campus, and then pursuing the “Gold Standard” Certified Strength and Conditioning specialist title to really make sure that I understood the science of my trade well enough to serve my clients. Having personal relationships with my clients and seeing how our short time with each other positively impacted their lives outside of the gym made me really fall in love with it.
What are your future goals for your career?
Long-term I am definitely staying in the health and wellness field. I want to continue training and teaching classes in some capacity, but I also want to promote the integration of more preventative and holistic practices into healthcare system. I think people are too quick to prescribe pills when someone is sick, especially from lifestyle related conditions, and not enough emphasis on teaching people how to exercise and eat in such a way that makes them better! So I want to continue having a personal relationship with clients, but also contribute to larger changes in the health system.
What are some of your health goals?
I’m trying to focus more on my mobility and recovery habits. With teaching High Intensity Classes on top of my own workouts, I borderline have exercise dependence and that’s not okay physically or mentally. So it’s really as simple as letting my body properly recover so that I can really get the most out of my workouts without hurting myself or overtraining.
I also fell off the wagon with my mental wellness practices. I was meditating every morning and night but then I started getting ready to move across the country and yea…. It felt really good to start and end each day with a clear, calm mind though! So I want to get back to it!
What is your personal training philosophy?
My personal training philosophy is that health is holistic. The benefits you gain from training sessions should transcend into life outside the gym. Enabling you to feel and live better overall. Meanwhile consistent bad habits will hinder progress. My clients who think about their health in more than one dimension- with a deeper purpose than looking better, are the ones who thrive the most.
My coaching style is dependent on my client. With each one, I start by getting to know their exercise and health history. In addition to their physical background, I ask them what coaching styles they respond best to, and their personal likes and dislikes. Some people need tough love, and others need a much more nourishing tone. In any case, I treat each person as a unique individual, and no training session looks exactly the same for any two people.
I am also really big on support. All of my clients have my cellphone number. Some clients even text pics of their food to me! I try to build a very non-judgemental, comfortable rapport with the people I work with.
Something else that is key to my personal training philosophy is emphasizing a slow progression for my clients in terms of their personal progress with workouts and nutrition. For example, if a client drinks 2 cokes a day, I won’t force them to cut that out cold turkey. Instead, I will slowly wean them off by having 1 coke a day or 1 coke every other day.
And lastly, why does black health matter to you?
It goes without saying that Black people have more than enough to deal with in their everyday lives. From personal responsibilities, to micro and macro aggressions, hearing about a tragedy or ridiculousness on the news, being worried about their own and their families futures- the list really goes on. But then you look at how the black community can still flourish and support each other. We're able to do that, and do it well when at the most fundamental level- we are in good health.
It’s like trying to pour water for someone when your glass is empty. All the incredible achievements and movements that come from black minds and bodies shouldn’t have to come with the deterioration or neglect of black mental and physical health. And it’s sad that that’s the case sometimes. That’s why it’s so important that platforms like this inform people on how to care for themselves and just remind people that black health matters.
If you want to keep up with Huyen or sign up for her group training, personal training, or holistic health coaching programs, check out her website at sayhuyen.com and follow her on Instagram @sayhuyen. You can reach out to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.