Interview: Keri Heickert, Tribe Training and Wellness [Tips + Healthy Habits]
Trying to complete any task when you feel unprepared or ill-informed is never a good feeling. Attempting to start your own fitness business without the proper knowledge, education, predecessors, or guidance is an unenviable position, bound to bring about lots of stress and failure along the way.
Today, we’re talking to Keri Heickert who serves her client through education, informed research, and the implementation of best practices according to their needs. She prides herself in building intimate relationships with her clients in order to best serve them and produce results. Read about how she uses her education and regular communication with her clients to maintain a successful fitness practice.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Keri Heickert, Owner of Tribe Training and Wellness
Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo with exercise.com and we are continuing our series of interviews with fitness experts. And today we are delighted to have Keri Heickert, who is an athletic trainer and also the owner of Tribe Training and Wellness out of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania.
Thank you for joining us today, Keri.
Keri Heickert: Thanks for having me.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, well let’s jump right into it and get a little bit about your background. What first sparked your interest in health and fitness?
Keri Heickert: So, I’ve been asked that question before and when I really look back at it, it has to be back when my mom used to drag me to the gym as a child, in childcare. And she told me that I used to never want to stay in the childcare place and I always wanted to get out to the field or get out to the gym and do stuff. So that’s when I think I probably first developed a passion for it.
But it wasn’t until I was an athlete and looking to get better and consulting for myself, looking at ways to improve as an athlete, that I really started to look at health and wellness and food and nutrition and training and how it was a vital component. So it was kind of through my own experience, early exposure, and then ultimately going to school for it. So somewhere along the lines of those.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, your husband is also a strength coach as well, so he’s in the fitness space. So sort of a family business kind of a thing, even though you have separate businesses.
But how do you guys help one another and how helpful is it to have a spouse that also is in the fitness space?
Keri Heickert: Well, it’s super helpful. We try and keep our business talk to at work and that’s what makes it a nice working relationship. So I did meet him at school. He was an athletic trainer also. And then as we kind of went on, we got married and he had opportunities arise.
He was like, “I want my own space, I want my own gym. I want to be able to help people in a way that’s functional and that they can get better as a personal training client or as an athlete.” So he does the strength and conditioning end. I do the nutrition end. It’s not as many referrals as you think, because sometimes you don’t need nutrition help.
And sometimes I don’t have to refer people for training. So we have a very good working relationship and he has two partners also who, if they need to recommend someone for nutrition, they will. So it’s a very good, cohesive relationship.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. Now, what’s the difference, in your opinion, on “going on a diet” and then also “active nutrition”?
Keri Heickert: So I think diet if we’re talking about caloric restriction—I mean, it’s a quick way to lose weight. That’s how people lose weight and get cut for shows and things. But it’s not a lifestyle. So when you’re doing active nutrition, I would say that’s more of you’re checking in with a nutrition coach or you have some awareness of the food that you’re putting into your mouth.
Everything should have a purpose if you’re consuming food. If you think of food as fuel. So from that perspective, everything you put into your body does something else besides satisfy your taste buds and make your belly full.
So that’s what I think “active nutrition” is versus “going on a diet” is just cutting calories. And science is just cut calories or do more work. There has to be an energy imbalance for you to lose weight. And I think one’s definitely more passive than the other.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, that’s awesome. So it’s the more proactive and—
Keri Heickert: You have to do some work and that’s—
Schimri Yoyo: It’s purposeful. That’s a great answer. Now what kind of education or knowledge base do you need to be an effective nutrition coach?
Keri Heickert: So I can only speak from personal experience. I have not consulted with someone in my field as a client before. I always just searched and researched. So I think being an athletic trainer, having a bachelor’s degree in science, having some exposure to nutrition, being an athlete myself knowing like, “Oh I’m hungry. You know, maybe I should eat more.”
Having a—it was an undiagnosed eating disorder, now that I look back, because I didn’t seek medical care—It was a period where I was just really sad for some high school reasons and I just didn’t eat. And I didn’t know anything about eating disorders.
But what I did know was that when I became happy again and got healthy, people were the first to let me know that I looked bigger or I gained some weight. So at that point, I kind of thought about food in a different way and it kind of led me to this path of like, “Okay, well food controls this, activity controls this.”
Schimri Yoyo: That makes sense. Now, what are some of your favorite foods?
Keri Heickert: I sign my emails, “Peace, love, and pizza.” I love s’mores. I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and I just love jelly. I love broccoli, I love cauliflower. But those are the foods that I love. And I try and incorporate them in my diet every day because I follow a macro-based approach.
But I follow an energy-demands system, you know? I do things that allow me to eat these foods and the more I do, essentially, the more variability and the more variety I can incorporate.
Schimri Yoyo: That makes sense. So yeah, I was with you with all of that until you said cauliflower. That’s my kryptonite.
Keri Heickert: I like it! I love it! I do. But you have to do your due diligence with the micronutrients.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, we can agree to disagree on cauliflower, but other than that, we’re still good. We’re still friends.
Keri Heickert: Okay, good.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, can you give a brief summary of the work that you do with sendingloveandhope.com?
Keri Heickert: So Sending Love and Hope is a nonprofit that I developed probably five years ago that helped me through a traumatic time in which I decided to help others. I have the two girls, they’re twins. They’re going to be seven in about a month. They were born prematurely at 28 weeks. I was put on bed rest at week 20 and I was in the hospital from actually October 7th to November 7th on bedrest.
And during that time, people sent me things and I loved it and it made me feel good. And then when the girls were born, they were in the NICU. People kept sending me stuff, just random people. And I got this one little tiny piece of clothing. Like, you know, the babies were two-and-a-half pounds and 14 inches long and it was this piece of clothing that actually fit them. And I was like, “Oh my God, they’re like actually babies.”
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So that girl, I will always thank her and we do talk often, who sent me that. So I decided that I wanted to help other people, but it came indirectly because other people would reach out and say, “Hey, Keri, you’ve experienced this. How can I help my friend?”
And I said, “Just give me your address, I’ll send something.” So then it turned into, “Well other people will help me do this.” And then that’s when I decided the nonprofit. It’s very inactive right now due to other obligations. But it’s something that I have a passion for and I hope someday when I have more time to dedicate to it, I could turn it into something big.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, it seems like you’re dedicated and motivated by empowering others, whether it’s through your nonprofit or through your direct profession of personal training or strength/athletic training and nutrition coaching.
Keri Heickert: Thank you. Yes, thank you. I hope that I help and empower others. And it’s, too, it just education. You don’t know you don’t know. But, if you have the exposure to it, it could be life-changing.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. And so when you’re not training or coaching or saving the world, what else do you do for fun?
Keri Heickert: It’s going to sound silly, but I work out. That is my fun. I am a very kinesthetic learner, mover. I know how to get my brain to calm down and it takes movement. So I do enjoy working out. I do enjoy hanging out with my family. When we all have downtime, we play lots of games.
I work very hard for 10 months and then I do take the summers off because I work at a school and I have the ability to have my business wherever I go. So I do like to go camping. We make s’mores every night. Just being out in nature. A typical kinesthesia person.
[Editor’s note: Check out the video below from Khan Academy explaining the difference between kinesthesia and proprioception.]
Schimri Yoyo: No, that’s great. You work hard and you get to play hard so you get to enjoy the fruits of that labor. So that’s good.
Keri Heickert: Yes.
Schimri Yoyo: Now what one word would best describe your approach to your nutrition training and fitness?
Keri Heickert: Education. Literally. So, I have my Master’s in Education and my Doctorate in Education. And I teach at three universities right now. And I teach classes in exercise science and athletic training and healthcare pre-professionals.
So I think everything that I do is through education because I said, “I’m not telling—Keri is not telling you this. Someone else has done a study and it’s research- and evidence-based and I will help you see the facts and give you the best possible options to make a decision. And then I will help you implement it because it is individual and personalized.” So education first and then customized or individualized would be the second.
Schimri Yoyo: Nice. And how prevalent are body image issues with the clients that you serve and how do you address them?
Keri Heickert: So I have no psychology background and if I could say that was a weakness of mine, that is it. But I can’t really do anything about that. So in my opinion, what I’ve seen that there are a lot. They’re very prevalent and it’s very prevalent in men and females. And they’re not as easy and cut-and-dry as body dysmorphia or reverse body dysmorphia.
And as much as it’s psychologically related, it’s feeling, it’s emotional, also. So I would say it’s very prevalent and I do have a list of colleagues that I work with and I refer to, which is hard because if people come to me they want to lose weight, normally, or look a little bit better. The last thing they want to hear is, “Go talk to someone.”
But I educate them about and kind of expose indirectly. Let them bring awareness to it first, so then we can get somewhere. So the wellness wheel. There are different avenues of wellness and people want to lose weight and they think, “Oh, I’ll feel better about the way I look.” But sometimes it’s the reverse and I do let them know that it’s a process and sometimes I’m not one that can help them.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s great advice. How do you promote healthy weight loss with your clients and how do you help them not lose too much weight too fast?
Keri Heickert: I am a fan of food and it is fuel. So we take a hard look at their actual activity and what’s needed from them to survive and to do X, Y, and Z. So if someone wakes up, goes to the office and they sit nine-to-five and they come home and they have 3,500 steps logged, they’re going to need a lot less calories. So some clients eat low, 1300. But that’s what their body demands.
So for healthy weight loss, it’s really finding that caloric deficit that gives you the ability to eat for your fuel demands, feel satisfied, because not having satiety leads to overeating. And an excess of calories is weight gain. So you have to find that deficit. And sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. If you work out, sometimes it’s harder because you have different intensities and different calorie rates of loss.
So it’s really about finding that deficit and understanding it’s more than just 21 days. It’s more than 30 days. It’s an ongoing sliding scale that you’re going to have holidays. You’re going to experience debts. You’re going to experience a time where everything is great and [a time where] everything is not great and you still want to lose weight at the end of the day.
So it’s really working with someone to find that caloric deficit, but finding out what sustainability and the maintainability of those calories every day is.
Schimri Yoyo: And what are some common traits or shared values that you’ve observed from your clients who have had the most success under your training?
Keri Heickert: Wow, that’s a great question. I love analysis. So I’d like to say that everyone who’s successful is a professional in the corporate world. But I have some stay-at-home moms that are really successful. They have their own little corporation they’re managing.
But I think there’s the sheer will. I can’t make you want to do this anymore. Believe it or not, I’m your coach, I’ll support you, but I’m not going to drag it out.
So you have to have some sort of internal will or some internal motivation, whether it’d be very small. Because the biggest internal motivation, you’re doing it yourself. You just have to have some sort of will. Perseverance, because it’s not always perfect. It’s being able to go with the ebbs and the flows and be able to change. So you want to be adaptable.
So perseverance, adaptability, and they’re really good at communicating. Some of my favorite clients are the ones that articulate everything. And I say everything because that means they’re listening. So they want to know about a lot and they have lots of questions and maybe they don’t understand or our points don’t even align.
But if they didn’t tell me that, “Hey, I don’t understand what’s going on. Why is my weight up?” Because no one complains when their weight’s going down. But sometimes people just don’t tell me that their weight’s going up until it’s too late. If they miss phone calls—so communication is also huge. And then so communication, perseverance, adaptability.
Schimri Yoyo: Those are all good traits. Like you said, that communication, I think, is vital in so many different aspects of our lives or in any successful relationship because we don’t know what we don’t know, right?
Keri Heickert: Right.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, I want to thank you, Keri, for your time and a few more questions, because I want to be respectful of your time.
Keri Heickert: Yeah. Not a problem.
Service That is Client-Centered and Customized
Schimri Yoyo: Just let me give you an opportunity just to brag about yourself and what you do a little bit. What sets Tribe Training and Wellness apart from other health and fitness programs?
Keri Heickert: I think it’s that I set myself apart from other fitness programs because I actually care. Not that no one [else cares], but I show you that I care. I take an integral part and an integral step into your life. We almost become instant best friends. We have conversations and it’s not just me going off of a checklist.
I build relationships, I think. I build relationships with my clients. I’ve gone to numerous parties because I’m now friends with clients. It’s a fine line between friends and clients, but I need to know what your daily workings are in order to give you the most and best, accurate advice. If I’m telling you, “Wake up, cook breakfast, get the kids out the door and sit down for lunch” and you’re like, “Ah, no. I don’t have time to do anything.” It’s not going to work.
So, I really take a detailed approach of understanding the client and I expect perseverance, communication, and things from my clients. I offer the same things because if I’m not consistent and I don’t call you every week or I don’t respond to your emails, you’re not going to get the results. So I think it’s the personal touch. But also, I don’t ever settle for the status quo. Everything is an equation, right? It’s either going one way or another.
So, if something isn’t working, it’s not that it’s not right, but maybe we don’t have the right tool for the goal, or there’s a variable we haven’t considered. So even though I say food and movement, it’s also, “How are you sleeping or your stress?” What your activity is, the rate of perceived exertion. I have so many variables that I look at that’s a little bit different than everyone else.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, that’s good. You seem to immerse yourself into the lives of your clients in order to create an intimate approach as far as your training.
Keri Heickert: Yeah. Yeah.
Schimri Yoyo: When you were first starting out in your own business, how did you decide what services you would offer and at what price point you would offer them?
Keri Heickert: Oh my gosh, I still don’t know. Because, again, it’s not cookie-cutter. So it’s very custom. So I started out just doing private nutrition, working with one person, just doing macros, and, “Here are some sample meals of what X amount of calories looks like.” And then they were like, “Okay, I need more meals.” I’m like, “You have to do this yourself.”
So then I thought, “Well, I need to teach people how to do this themselves.” So I developed a Macro Bootcamp, where it’s a four-week curriculum that I teach people. Layer in the information so they can essentially find their macros, assess their activity, do it with diet analysis and know-how to hit their macros with balanced meals.
I forget what the question initially was.
Schimri Yoyo: You pretty much answered it.
Keri Heickert: Okay.
Schimri Yoyo: I just wanted to know how you decided which services to provide and what prices you would charge for them?
[Editor’s note: Refer to the video below to see what things you should consider when setting price points for your goods and services.]
Keri Heickert: Constantly evolving, too. My prices initially were so low that I’ve had people—and I did a value assessment, clearly. I asked, “If I charged X amount of money, would you pay more? “At the first Macro Bootcamp, which was 2017, they were like, “Good value and I would pay a little bit more.”
Fast forward two years, the price is increased, the value is better, there’s PowerPoints. It’s not just in-person, it’s virtual. I have clients all over the world. And it gets the message across and they have the same results. So that’s a service that is developing. The foundation is there, but the videos are improving. And then I do private nutrition for those who don’t want to learn from a computer. And I go through it with them.
And then outside of that, it’s training programs, development. And again, it’s a customized approach. I see what the client has. If they have 10 minutes, great. Here’s what you can do in 10 minutes if you do it every day. If someone has an hour and a half, three days a week, perfect. Here’s your program.
So it’s very custom. If you have an ab wheel, a stability ball and a mat, we could get the job done as effectively as possible. But if you have a full gym set up, then we have a lot more variety and it eliminates the excuse, I feel, a little bit better or a little more easily because if you don’t have this stuff, it’s like, “Oh I can’t work out.” So you tell me what you have and I’ll make it. And the same thing goes for food.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, that makes sense. Seems like you’re very on-brand with that as far as being adaptable for your clients. So now, how, if at all, do you use social media or technology to promote your services?
Keri Heickert: That’s, I think, the only way that I promote because I don’t have any other advertisements. I do the best that I can and grab the—I see and I follow health professionals and I see things that grab my attention or I see points highlighted in a [certain] way. And again, I share a lot of people’s information because, again, I’m not saying any of this. Research is pointing towards this.
I do show my experiments with my clients and whatnot, but it’s based on someone else’s methods. So I try and be catchy. I try and be as realistic as possible because I don’t work out 18 hours a day. I work out four days a week for 40 minutes. So, I try and show the realness of what it takes to get the transformation change made, through social media, you know, Facebook, Instagram. And that’s really about it.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. And now finally, Keri, thank you again for your time and for sharing your knowledge base with us.
What resources would you recommend to our audience, whether books, magazines, podcasts? And again, it doesn’t have to be fitness- or nutrition-related, but anything that you think would be valuable to our audience that you’ve benefited from as well?
Keri Heickert: Oh my gosh. Okay. Well, so I have like two meditation apps—I don’t sit there and “Ohm.”—I calm my mind. And if mantras are something that we could either laugh about—but I do listen to things because I have goals and it helps with some positive motivation because sometimes no one’s praising you in the real world. You have to hear it from someone else. So The Meditation Podcast.
There’s also a podcast called—it’s a little on the edgy side—but Joe Rogan’s podcast has a lot of professionals on there. You may not want to believe what he says, but he has a lot of professionals and scholars on there that can give you information to a whole lot of subjects that if you have further inquiry, you know how to get to. I listen to some comedy podcasts because it can’t always be learning and education.
TED Talks Daily. They’re short little ones. I drive a lot, so I listen to the TED Radio Hour. A little more information. But as I get older I’m like, I love education. I’ve been in school forever. I’m teaching now. The more you learn, the easier life could be if you can implement it. So if you’re learning, it’s great. But how are you implementing it? So a little bit of those podcasts can go a long way.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, that’s good advice: Get informed and then work a way out to implement it. So that’s a good note to leave on.
Thank you again, Keri, for your time and just all the great information that you provided for us and we look forward to hearing more from you down the road.
And you know, since we’re local here in PA, maybe you and I will have to get together and grab a bite to eat. Just no cauliflower.
Keri Heickert: Perfect! Perfect! Thank you so much.
Schimri Yoyo: Not a problem. Have a good one. Thank you.
Keri Heickert: Thank you.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.