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Fitness at trainer Rita Catolino's fingertips

Written by: Cary Castagna, QMI Agency
Jan. 4, 2013

Rita Catalino. (Photo courtesy of Paula Tizzard)


Canadian fitness guru Rita Catolino is currently training 25 clients — most of whom she has never met.

While many of them live in the U.S., several of her clients reside in far-flung places such as Australia, South America and South Africa. But thanks to technology and social media, the 33-year-old native of London, Ont., can stay virtually connected to her global stable of fitness-conscious proteges 24/7.

“Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email, Skype — unfortunately for my husband, that’s become my life,” laughs Catolino, who’s fluent in Spanish and Italian. “I’ve got a phone beside me, an iPad over here and a computer over there. It’s gone to the point now where I need an assistant because I’m letting so many e-mails (from prospective clients) slide through because I don’t have time.”

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Catolino sends clients meal plans and daily workouts with links to videos of the prescribed exercises. She also provides advice and motivation when needed and answers questions via phone, text message, Skype or whatever social media platform each client prefers. Every Sunday, Catolino’s clients send her photos of themselves — typically in swimsuits — so she can gauge their progress.

“More than anything, that just keeps them accountable,” notes the fitness cover model.

To further track her clients, Catolino has them fill out questionnaires asking about everything from their protein sources for the week to their energy levels and quality of sleep. Such is the reality of personal training/coaching in today’s technology-driven world. Catolino loves it because she’s able to give so much more attention to so many more people looking to change their lives.

The certified trainer with GoodLife Fitness realizes there’s a limit to how many clients she can help on a daily basis via one-on-one training at the gym.

But the possibilities are seemingly infinite in a digital universe.

“I want to affect people not in a way that’s like, ‘I’m going to kick your butt for an hour, make you sweat and see you later.’ I want them to think of me and their lifestyle every day,” she explains. “I care. I really do care.” And that personal touch, Catolino adds, is what you won’t get from a fitness app.

“An app is OK, but you’ll never get a personality, a friend or a relationship — having someone listen to you — from an app,” she says. “I’m part of these people’s lives.

“My biggest feature is not being an amazing trainer, it’s my charisma, my empathy. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to not want to look in the mirror and wear overalls every day.”

Catolino, who became a fitness devotee after giving birth to her daughter in 2007, started online training nearly two years ago. Valeria Nova, a Toronto-based makeup artist for Oxygen Magazine, tweeted that she was looking for a trainer. Catolino tweeted a reply saying that she would do it.

Since they didn’t live in the same city, the training was done by phone and through various online resources. Nova had good success with the arrangement and word soon spread about Catolino’s online coaching prowess.

More recently, Catolino trained Toronto-based fitness model and author Tosca Reno for a natural bodybuilding show in Kitchener, Ont., in mid-October. Reno won the bikini grand masters category and dedicated her victory to her late husband, fitness guru and publishing magnate Robert Kennedy. Catolino worked out with Reno in-person once a week for about four months. The rest of the time, the two corresponded largely through digital means.

“I know I was put on this earth to help people,” Catolino says.

Call her an online coach or long-distance personal trainer. But don’t call Catolino a “fitness geek.” “I was never into computers,” she says. “I wouldn’t say ‘geek.’ I’d say ‘technologically savvy.’ I just don’t like the word ‘geek.’ ”

 

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