Devoted DIAKADI client Val McMorrow knows the power of fitness training to change a life. When she began working with trainer Jon De La Torre nearly two years ago, she was facing some health concerns that many of us in corporate life run into at one time another - caused by overwork, too little sleep, and a high-stress reality that even sleeping all weekend couldn’t fix. Little did she know that her relationship with Jon would develop into an inspiring friendship, and with that - and a renewed love of sports and fitness from her past - would emerge a brand new career.

Now a personal trainer herself, Val has launched her own business, Be Active - Be Well. She also runs competitively and organizes a weekly running group; works with adolescent girls to help them find positive body image through exercise; and is committed to sharing with all her clients the fun, enthusiastic, and healthy approach to fitness that changed her own life. Read our interview below to learn more about Val’s inspiring story.VALbeforeafter

How long have you been working with Jon? In what ways has working with him at DIAKADI influenced your choice to become a trainer yourself?
I started working with Jon almost 2 years ago at the Bay Club in the Financial District. When I was younger, I was very active and practiced many sports including swimming, windsurfing, biking, Volleyball, but mostly competitive Tennis. In fact, my first job was teaching Tennis! When I started training with Jon, I had been sedentary for too many years and I was dealing with health issues. Although I had been very active in the past, the gym was foreign to me and intimidating. When you are carrying around an extra 40 pounds, the last place you want to be is in a gym with mirrors everywhere and perfectly fit trainers! Jon made it a friendly and fun place for me. He was very encouraging and supportive. Most of all, what really impressed me was his passion for his work and how much he cares about his clients. That is what influenced my decision to leave my corporate career behind and pursue personal training. I wanted to do something meaningful. I had gone through an amazing transformation physically and mentally, I owed it to Jon and I wanted to give back in some way, give others the opportunity to change their life, be healthier and happier. I talked to Jon about it and he said:"Val, you would make a great personal trainer!" At that point, I felt really strongly that it was the right path for me so, I quit my job and never looked back!
Do you have an area of specialty currently or that you wish to pursue in the future?
Working with teenagers is an area that I am really interested about. There is a real need out there to teach girls that skinny does not mean healthy and don't get me started on dieting... When you look at the menus offered in schools, even in very good private schools, making the right food choices is not an easy task. For girls especially, being active and playing sports does a lot to build self-esteem and learn skills that can be used in life in general. (See B2B picture, with my client Louisa, my daughter and my husband crossing the finish line).
B2B 2013
More specifically, Strength and Conditioning and I love introducing people to running. Also, Weight loss is an obvious choice for me. Although I believe that weight loss should not be a goal but rather an outcome of a training program. Women are wired to constantly look at the scale and measure their progress by how much weight they lost. It can be very discouraging. Focusing on discovering a new activity such as running is a much more enriching experience.
Do you have favorite music that you like to work out to?
Reggae is PERFECT running music! Otherwise, on my iPOD you'll find Rap, R&B, Hip Hop, Rock and French bands (I grew up in France) but you won't find any Country...
Do you have a favorite summer recipe or ingredient that you are eating right now?
The salad nicoise - Spinach or arugula salad, tuna, green beans, a sliced boiled egg, sliced tomatoe, homemade vinaigrette (Dijon mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar). I also started using avocado oil. It makes sauteed veggies really shiny and taste great!
Do you have any advice to share with people starting out in the fitness industry?
The industry is booming right now and will grow significantly within the next 5 years or so. It will bring good things and bad things. Be on the good side, think carefully about where you want to work and why.
1. Network, network, network. Talk to others in the industry, collaborate with other trainers, establish relationships with merchants and key business partners.
2. Figure out what your brand is as a trainer, why should clients train with you? Think about trainers or gym owners whom inspire you and learn from them.
3. Use technology to be more efficient and market yourself. Facebook is the best FREE marketing tool out there!
What about advice for people starting out on the road to improving their health by way of fitness?
Be committed, choose the right trainer and the right gym. You pay for what you get and when hiring a personal trainer, you are investing in yourself. Find someone you really like and most importantly in my opinion, find a trainer who cares about you and your goals. You'll need a lot of support and motivation outside of your sessions. You need someone who understands you, your lifestyle, what will motivate you and who will believe in you. Oh yeah, training should be FUN TOO! With the right trainer, you'll get so much more out of the experience and you'll surpass your goals.
What do you love about running? Do you have any races coming up?
When I run by myself, running is my "me time", time to think about my business, my life, my goals. What I love about running is the community. Runners are very welcoming, regardless of your level. Clients often get nervous about their first race and it is so nice to bring them into a great environment where effort is appreciated over results (see the pic from the Color Run). In running, you win every time you cross the finish line! Running is a physical and spiritual experience that you won't find in other sports. I also love seeing how far you can push yourself.
In terms of upcoming races, I have a Half Marathon and a Triathlon (Relay team, I am the swimmer) in July, the Spartan race in August with my husband, Warrior Dash and another marathon in the Fall. I am mostly excited about the San Jose Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon in October where 2 of my clients will run their first 13.1, I can't wait!
What form is your business taking? Are you working from home, at a facility, or doing a certain style of training like bootcamps?
Currently, I train my clients at public parks or at their home. Some of them really enjoy being outside since they sit in an office all day but when winter comes, I would love to have the option of training at a gym. I have never been a fan of group exercise or bootcamp, I prefer the one on one interaction; it's the client's "me time."
The name Valerie's PT business is Be Active - Be Well Check out her website at