Our monthly spotlight on the women carving out their own spaces on the Rock, and how they did it.

As the sun starts burning brighter and stronger, the first beach days approach, and the braver start dipping their toes in the quarri shores, many of us will begin thinking about that summer “vodi” we were meant to have by now.

Lorraine Van Kleef

Not if you’re Lorraine Van Kleef though, or any of her clients for that matter. The personal trainer has built a brand around fitness and training becoming a lifestyle change and choice, not a temporary, quick fix for the beach months that roll around for four months of the year.

And she should know, as her own fitness journey has been over thirty years in the making. The entrepreneur’s interest in her field began when she couldn’t find anyone to answer her health and fitness questions – so she answered them herself, becoming a fully qualified PT, nutrition advisor and feeding her own insatiable hunger for knowledge about the way our bodies work.

After 15 years of working in finance her past time morphed into what is now a full-time career. With a team of three trainers, a studio and gym space, and innovative online correspondence with her clientele, Van Kleef has established LVK Personal Training as the go-to fitness brand in an arguably congested Gibraltarian field.

We caught up with her to see what maintaining a fit and thriving business is really like.

I chose this career because…

It’s funny because nothing really triggered it off, it’s been a part of what I’ve been involved in since I was young. It all started with a passion to know more – what happens to your body when you hit thirty, forty, forty-five, there was nobody at the time around to give me those answers. With this hunger to learn more, I just naturally moved into the field, becoming more knowledgeable and getting to the point of being a professional.

It was really for myself, I never used it as an idea to set up a business – that always seemed like a pie in the sky. I had a full time job in finance, I was happy, had a good position and enjoyed my job. But it evolved over time, slowly, over years I worked full-time and had personal training on the side.

I did this for about five years, and I think what actually flipped the coin in the end was the fact that I realised that I could make a difference with people, that I saw other trainers coming up around me and I realised I felt I could do just as good as them, or a better job because the passion was in me. So by the time I left my full-time job and I already had a client base and I opened up the first studio coming up to four years ago.

A typical day looks like…

There isn’t a typical day as such but they’re often very early starts – I’m usually up about 5:30am or quarter to six if I’ve got my early client at seven or eight in the morning. Usually we have one-to-one clients or two-to-one clients back to back, on the hour, and then along the day we have semi-private, group training programme called Tribe.

I try and allow myself one or two breaks in the day when my days are long, because I need to just refresh and reset myself and try to squeeze in a work out in between sessions – usually my workouts are the ones that struggle the most! My day at the gym usually ends quite late, at half past seven or quarter to eight in the evening.

I get home, get dinner ready, and after that is when I sit down to do my admin. So my day continues at least for another four hours, five hours, once I sit down at home.

My career defining moment was…

There are many of these. One of the first highlights has to be leaving the security of full-time employment and opening my first practice – going solo after years of balancing both full time job and PT as a side business.

The best part of my job is…

Knowing that I change people’s lives for the better. We’re talking about the quality of their lives, from people not being able to move, getting up in the mornings with back pain, and crying every day because they’re in so much pain to all of a sudden being pain free – something which many of us take for granted. When you hear that and you know that client came to you from day one, that is quite a moment.

I’ve had ladies who have required surgery for certain conditions and with training they have avoided that. That is such a relief. This is the beauty of what I do; every day is exciting to find out what positive impact can I have on somebody’s life

The worst part of my job is…

Finding balance, with family, with life, with yourself – otherwise you burn out.

I’m not proud to say that my evenings are quite long in terms of work, as it’s never ending when it’s your own business. Though I quite enjoy admin – it probably comes from my background working in finance, having to be organised and having processes and procedures for things – I think perhaps not having time to myself is a challenge. I work a total of probably nine hours over the weekend. There’s always so much to do; programme design, nutrition plans for clients, giving feedback outside of training hours, questions and messages from clients, emails, phone calls. Then of course research, on-going training and learning, like the ad hoc attending of seminars and courses in the UK, which I attend quite regularly.

So there isn’t any “you” time anymore. It’s always business time. I think it’s something which in the early years it’s difficult to get a balance, but the longer you have a business running, the better it gets.

If I could be anything else, I would be…

I had the opportunity to change my career and I did so – I’m doing what I love already and wouldn’t change that for anything.

Outside of work I’m still very active. Whenever I can I like to squeeze in skiing around Sierra Nevada, or travel away – but there must be a gym wherever I am! I also like to read things about nutrition and mind-set, about training and different cultures, which inspire me. So my career is a big part of my lifestyle.

The advice I’d give to anyone wanting to go into this business…

Is always lead by example. You have to prepare your meals, you have to eat healthy, you have to do what you’re preaching – it’s not only running your business. It’s also showing clients that if you are working, if you have a family, if you’re a mum of three, or you have your own responsibilities you can still apply these changes into your life. It’s been my lifestyle for 35 years.

Try to instil education in your clients. When you start a lot of people are like, it’s such a big change, I have to go to the gym so many times a week, I have to spend so many hours doing it, I have to eat diet food, and it just becomes such a hill before they even start climbing it. What we tell our clients when they come on board is that we’ll just tackle one thing at a time – if you’re changing everything at once, you’re going to fail, we’ve seen that, it’s been proven. So it’s guiding them to make small changes to succeed and adapt.

I had a conversation with a client last week and she said I don’t know if I should eat this or eat that, I don’t know if I should eat before or after, and rightly so, because it’s very confusing for the lay man, it’s confusing for the professionals sometimes! There’s so much conflicting information on social media, which people take at first hand and makes everybody panic. It’s a minefield; a lot of people who are not qualified are giving their own opinions about diet and stuff like that. We’re here to get rid of those myths and doubts.