Laura Hughes is the successful owner of #Strong, a private fitness studio in New Braunfels, Texas. After struggling with her own weight and fitness, Laura relied on the guidance and mentorship of several dedicated trainers, including a coach that got her into powerlifting.
After several years of great experiences in the gym, and a new-found passion for training and lifting, Laura got certified through the ISSA to become a trainer herself, to motivate and guide others as her mentors had done for her. We sat down with Laura to find out how she got where she is today and what she loves about the ISSA.
Why did you become a certified personal fitness trainer and how has fitness impacted your life and career choices?
I believe that the better I become the more I have to offer the world. I like the phrase “be the change you wish to see.” I wanted to change lives—like mine had been changed by fitness and by a certified personal trainer—make an impact, and make the world a better place. I wanted others to learn the things that I had learned.
There are several reasons why I became a personal fitness trainer. But, the original thought to pursue a personal training certification was simply to conquer a fear and to help others with this as well. We all know fear can be a huge motivator, and the way I deal with fear is through education.
By learning all that I can about a subject or a fear of mine I solve that problem and “conquer” that fear. Being overweight and out of shape in the past and struggling through dieting and weight loss is something I didn’t want to have to go through again. My biggest fear was regressing and waking up right where I started my fitness journey.
I had an extraordinary personal trainer that helped me through my weight loss plateaus and the ups and downs associated with fitness and chasing goals. She was an amazing role model and a source of constant support for me throughout my journey. So, of course, I wanted to emulate her because I knew how much of a positive impact she had had on me and my life and I wanted to be able to do the same.
I was on a completely different path in life up until this. I graduated with an MBA and had big dreams of pursuing a career in international business, following in my dad’s footsteps. But, here I am five years after my first fitness certification, owning and running a private, personal training studio, #strong.
Why did you choose the ISSA?
I chose ISSA because of the case studies that helped with program design and because the course authors had actually come from the trenches. The authors and advisors with ISSA are some of the most prestigious and respected names in the industry.
There is good, evidence-based practical information to support the theories based on years of scientific research and the hundreds of professional publications and college textbooks that they have authored to show for it. The name warrants respect in the industry and the ISSA has a very well-known and outstanding reputation.
What or who motivated you to get where you are today, and how do you motivate others?
I have always been intrinsically self-motivated. I’m obsessive and intense by nature and extremely focused and goal driven. But, I can’t deny the influential mentors and coaches I have had to guide and support me along my journey nor the family and friends that have shown their unrelenting support to me and my goals.
I think I motivate others by teaching and pushing them to be strong. I help others push past their fears and eliminate roadblocks that have kept them from reaching their goals. People come to me completely hopeless and discouraged and I offer them hope, simply because I have personally been through it myself.
I believe in them all the way through the process—from start to finish—and sometimes that is all it takes: someone else to believe in you when you can’t believe in yourself. I provide them with a plan to follow, knowledge, the tools to use this knowledge to transform their mindset and their lives and most importantly the support as they form new habits and create a new life.
What advice would you give to someone to encourage them to become an ISSA certified fitness trainer?
ISSA is the world leader in fitness education; that’s all you really need to know if you are serious about becoming the best certified fitness trainer. The basis for that comes from having a solid education behind you. And that is what ISSA can provide you along with the support that you need before, after and during your certification.
And another bonus of ISSA is the vast reach of their professional network. ISSA has over 30 years of experience training trainers, and they have a presence in 91 countries around the world. I have other certifications outside of ISSA and the ISSA is the ONLY one that has alumni with legitimate networking and professional opportunities and the ONLY one where I personally know the staff.
How do you plan to use your ISSA certification?
I opened my first private, personal training studio called #strong in May of this year. Now, I am currently working on my Master Trainer certification with ISSA because I know that by expanding my knowledge base I will be able to offer more to my clientele and add value to my existing business.
I would also like to continue my education, so that I can always be evolving and progressing as a trainer, as an entrepreneur, and as a human being. I would love to use my Master Trainer Certification with ISSA to pursue professional writing opportunities in order to expand my reach and educate more people.
My Personal Fitness Journey
My fitness journey began on January 1st, 2010, with a simple New Year’s resolution: I vowed to myself that this would be the last year that I put “lose weight and get in shape” on my list of resolutions. I originally set out to lose twenty pounds, but during my weight loss journey I fell back in love with fitness and the way it made me feel.
2012 - Becoming a Trainer
In 2012 I decided that I wanted to become a certified personal trainer in hopes of improving and changing the lives of others just like my first personal trainer did for me. I worked at a local gym, American Fitness, and this is where I met my original powerlifting coach and mentor, Gary Pendergrass.
Gary showed me how empowering strength training, bodybuilding, and powerlifting could be. He did more than just teach me how to lift; he also taught me that if I set my mind to something, I can achieve it. Through this experience, I developed a love for the sport of powerlifting. The techniques and the knowledge that I learned while working with Gary serve as the foundation for my personal training programs.
2016 - Coping with the Loss of a Mentor
I unexpectedly lost my powerlifting coach in 2014. I was not only heartbroken, I was lost. Gary was not just a coach; he was so much more than that. He had taught me everything I knew about strength training, powerlifting, and bodybuilding.
Two years after his death, I decided that I was finally ready to find myself a new coach and mentor. This was challenging, and I found myself constantly comparing each coach and their methods to Gary, but I knew if I took my time I would find the perfect coach for me.
After months of searching, I decided to reach out to Josh Bryant with Jailhouse Strong. Josh’s training methods, knowledge, and beliefs are very similar to Gary’s. Josh filled the void that was left in my life after Gary’s death, and he has constantly pushed me to be the best athlete and trainer that I can be.
2017 - Competition and a New Business
After reaching the majority of my goals with Josh Bryant and having a solid training program in place, I knew I was ready to pursue my dream of being a bikini competitor. I needed to take my physique to the next level and, in order to be competitive, I would need to lean out.
I knew the next step to reaching this goal would be honing in on my nutrition. After seeing many posts on social media about several different types of meal plans and diets, I connected with Mikey Weiss—a natural physique competitor and bodybuilder, professional athlete, and coach. Through his guidance and the use of flexible dieting, I was finally able to lose stubborn body fat and reveal the muscles I had built over the years.
Now that I had my personal goals back on track, I was ready to finally pursue some of my professional career goals. The timing felt right to chase the dream of being a small business owner and to have my own private, personal training studio, #strong. I finally have a place of my own that provides a safe and limitless environment to help others reach their health and fitness goals. After working many long hours, #strong opened its doors for business in May 2017.