Tom Vachét, a Pro Results® trainer for LA Fitness in Florida, has lived a life that’s motion picture-worthy. Known as “The Muscle Whisperer”, Tom has worked with dozens of celebrities, top athletes and Olympians over the years, spanning sports such as MMA, NFL, NHL, MLB, to Tennis, Volleyball, Downhill Skiing and even Ballet. He’s even been credited with resurrecting an NBA star’s career. Tom’s notoriety quickly spread like wildfire as more and more people noticed the results that came from his training – but what makes Tom’s story even more remarkable is the life that led up to this
Born and raised in rural Southern Indiana, Tom wasn’t exactly the golden child for fitness. In fact, he describes himself as being the “chubby boy who loved to read and play violin” – when he wasn’t otherwise engaged in farm work. However, as time went by, Tom began developing a passion for sports. He was average in most, but excelled in a few: distance running, swimming, wrestling and boxing. He believes that his farm work experience is what helped keep him functionally fit.
At the time of Tom’s graduation from high school, the Vietnam War was raging. Undecided about his future, Tom enlisted in the United States Navy. At the end of his second tour of combat in Vietnam, Tom was injured and, following recuperation, left the Navy with a disability retirement. He was again at a crossroads in his life. He decided to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, and became a specialist in rehabilitation and medical case management.
Tom began work as a private health care consultant, and in time, he was recruited as the VP of Marketing and Sales for a company that manufactured wheelchairs in Southern California. As Tom led an unanticipated, but successful, turnaround for the company, his thirst for business knowledge led him back to school. He applied to, and completed, an intensive MBA program from Stanford University, and was immediately recruited by a prestigious accounting firm. His life transitioned to Washington, DC, as a marketing and sales consultant, specializing in the emerging, east coast, tech industry.
Soon enough, Tom describes that his life became a bit of a blur. He rapidly progressed through a succession of executive positions with several prestigious companies, each one coming with increasing responsibility. It was challenging and chaotic, but the thrill of it all kept Tom climbing to further and further heights. And suddenly – at what seemed to be the top of his career, Tom slipped. After being part of a prestigious merger team that created a well-known telecom company, he joined a startup as a partner. It was the singular opportunity he had worked for his entire career. Without warning, the tech market imploded; the bubble burst. Tom was 49-years-old, and he lost 600,000 shares of stock in a flash.
For the first time in his life, he had no plan.
He needed to regroup, but he didn’t know where to start. He eventually decided to focus on getting himself back to the physical condition he once was in, as he figured things out. He joined a gym, hired a trainer, and got to work. The trainer’s routine was to take Tom from machine to machine, changing the weight stack, “while drinking a coffee and lamenting about his love life.” It didn’t take long for Tom to think he could do a better job training. Then one day, on a whim, Tom spoke with a fitness manager expressing his interest in becoming a personal trainer, and an interview was arranged.
Tom showed up for his interview in a business suit and tie, toting a briefcase and laptop, and proceeded to share his portfolio. His interviewer cautioned Tom, warning him that he seemed overqualified for the position he was applying for, but Tom didn’t care. Satisfaction was now the main objective for his life, not the money. With some convincing, Tom was hired. With his experience in the military, as well as sales and marketing, Tom was a natural fit. After a year of outstanding work, Tom was promoted to Assistant General Manager of a fitness club in Manhattan Beach, California.
With the promotion, Tom wanted to ensure that his clients weren’t left behind. He negotiated a deal allowing him to continue training his clients in addition to his management responsibilities. His commitment to his clients was unmatched. Slowly, his reputation as a sought-after trainer for pro athletes and celebrities was being established. Later that summer, Tom met a well-known, veteran, NBA player whose career was in decline due to recurring injuries. Tom assisted him in identifying a biochemical dysfunction, and referred him to a trusted physical therapist. With their combined effort, the NBA athlete was restored back to his pre-injury state and went on to have the best season of his career. By the end of that summer, Tom became t he player’s full-time, exclusive strength and conditioning coach, and he went on to enjoy two additional, back-to-back successful seasons.+
Tom’s client list suddenly exploded.
He credits this to his unique approach to training. Having trained clients who are capable of training consecutive days, he would work with them three days per week and then allow them four days of rest. Tom shared that no client of his has ever lifted more than 45 lbs. when working with him. The intensity is high, sets are anywhere between 20-30 exercises, most using integrated movements, with active rest between sets. Tom shared that he always works towards a purpose, delivering programs based on proven principles of training from the floor up, achieving a foundation of biochemical wellness, while developing the core, for useful and practical functional strength and power.
Tom has noticed that using low weight performed in a high-volume, complex, high-intensity, often unstable environment, provided his clients an increase in strength and endurance. Tom preaches the importance of balance and stability in exercise and sport. Tom’s dedication and commitment to his LA Fitness clients, comes from a lifetime of constantly striving for the best, and working to bring out the best in those he trains. He loves his work, and is grateful that the whim he followed in 2009 provided him with a career that he never would have expected. It just goes to prove that some of the best adventures in life happen when you least expect them to.
An Interview with: Tom Vachet
Are you interested in Pro Results® personal training?* We asked Pro Results® personal trainer, Tom Vachet, to share some of his expert advice before getting started.
Q: What should clients know about personal training before beginning a program?
Tom Vachet: First, any successful training endeavor requires attention to three key areas: physical work, good nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle. As to the work piece, anyone considering undertaking a new fitness program should understand and consider that the knowledge and experience necessary to achieve success is not part of their own DNA. All of us have at some time in our lives needed to call the plumber, or the auto mechanic, or the doctor. So, when it comes to starting a new fitness program, hiring a trainer as your guide can be useful.
I suggest interviewing that person. You need to be certain their personality, demeanor, and conduct are a fit and provide a sense of safety and comfort. Experience in the field is obviously beneficial, though all of us start somewhere. Considering your goals, ask yourself whether the trainer’s education, experience, and interest fit your needs. Some trainers love body building, but dislike rehab. Others enjoy helping clients lose weight and don’t enjoy working with athletes. So, try to find a match based on your goals.
Do not underestimate the impact of nutrition as it relates to success in achieving your health and fitness goals. There are many resources available to help guide you. Avoid “diets,” which are generally short- term, and instead make changes in your eating habits you can sustain for a lifetime. And when you begin to experience that endorphin “high” many enjoy from working out, don’t become an addict. Appropriate rest between workouts is essential to optimizing results, and will prevent overwork and breakdowns of your body.
Q: Have you found that there is a way to help clients stay motivated when they’ve hit a fitness plateau?
TV: I try to communicate to my clients that fitness is for a lifetime. If you’ve neglected your health and fitness for many years, and if you are older, the changes come slowly. The body’s metabolism requires time to adjust. Be patient. Stay off the scale and pay attention to the fit of clothing. I am quick to point out things that are changing in my clients, like their incremental improvement in balance and stability, or their increased strength in exercises. Although these things will begin to emerge early in the program, substantial change will not come for six to eight weeks.
Specifically, regarding training plateaus, I found a solution many years ago. I don’t design client exercise programs that follow a pattern. Every single training session I deliver is completely unscripted, and I’m completely comfortable with the idea of training extemporaneously. I firmly believe there are big benefits. For the client, they never know what is coming. They are forced to stay engaged, and the challenge for them is high. For me, I have the freedom of following my intuition, creating as I go, and allowing my observations of training opportunities to dictate the direction of the session. On a scientific level, my style eliminates the neural adaptation common in fixed repeating exercise programs. There is no pattern to any day’s workout, or the sequence of workouts across time. For those skeptics of my approach, the results I’ve seen in my, now decades, body of work, leads me to believe it works.
Q: What advice would you give for those struggling to start/stick to a healthy lifestyle plan?
TV: Understand decades of neglect can’t be undone in a few weeks or months. So be committed for the long haul. It may take a few weeks, or few months of challenging work, to begin to see or feel the changes. In addition, understand frequency affects the rate of change. That does not necessarily mean five sessions with a trainer per week. But one or two, with you doing a reciprocal number, is an important thing. More than anything else, keep your eye on the prize. The benefit of your effort to reclaim your health will not just give you a sense of satisfaction, it will improve and elevate the quality of your life overall, allowing you to live free of the restrictions of poor health, and to enjoy freedom you never imagined possible.
“I met Tom summer of 2007 as I had just ruptured my Achilles playing professional volleyball in Italy. I was a member of the USA Olympic team since 2000 and was in full preparation mode for China. Tom saved my career. I was 32 yrs. old at that time, all the team coaches and players had told me that I was done playing. I worked with Tom for a full year. He is truly professional, attentive to details, disciplined, super talented, and guided me through each and every exercise.” “I was back in shape within 7 months, ready to play in Europe professionally, and back with the Olympic team. I continued to play for 7 more years, played in London Olympics in 2012, and had my best performance ever. Not only did we work out, Tom also guided me through the nutrition and mental toughness part of me. I was truly lucky to have met Tom and I would recommend his service to anyone, all over the world and anytime.”
Read Don’s Member Spotlight story here!Don Suxho
“Tom Vachet has refined the art and science of progressive, transformational personal training. While training with Tom weekly for over one year, he has changed my entire approach to fitness. We began by pushing through my perceived mental, and longstanding physical, limitations, then proceeded to build my stamina, balance, coordination and strength. I have transformed my diet and nutritional habits with his invaluable guidance. The results…increased lean body mass, lower body fat and slimmer waist. More importantly, Tom has renewed my functional strength, endurance and energy. If you would like to transform your training regimen and physique, connect with Tom.”Joe Scarano, MD
“I met Tom back in 2009 and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made to train with him. He was tough but the way he cares about what he is doing is obvious. You know he is just as passionate about achieving your goals as you are. Tom’s expertise, own personal experience, medical background and vast knowledge (of the body, nutrition, training) all play into how he approaches working with each person. And that is a key with him- each person… he truly focuses on you as the individual to strengthen & transform your body as a whole. His theory with me was “chaos” in that he wants to introduce different aspects of training each time we did a workout that all goes towards the same goal and to keep the body ready for anything. He pushed me to limits I didn’t even know I had mentally and physically but it was exactly what I needed. The years I trained with him, I was in the best shape of my life in regards to balance, strength, functionality, stamina, injury prevention and just overall health. It was an all-encompassing experience, every aspect of who I was as an athlete and healthy person was explored and worked on then transformed. I can’t say enough positive things about what he can bring, as a trainer and as a person, when working with him.”Paige Jensen
*Pro Results® personal training services are subject to an additional agreement and fee.
+Tom generally trains professional athletes outside of LA Fitness, but uses a similar approach for Pro Results® personal training clients.
This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.