Not everybody who wants to improve fitness and motion feels secure in a typical gym environment. There are others who aren’t quite sure how to reorient their routines after surgery or injuries.

Lisa Martin
Lisa Martin, owner of Salvere Health & Fitness in Kings Contrivance, emphasizes the personal aspect of personal training in a safe, positive environment. (Submitted photo)

Salvere Health & Fitness in Kings Contrivance has specialized in the personal aspect of personal training since 2008, and owner Lisa Martin’s experience as a trainer dates back to 1999.

“We take a different approach here, because a lot of people struggle with the same things,” Martin said. “I wanted a safe place where people who weren’t comfortable in a gym or with moving their bodies could learn and not be judged.”

Having played sports most of her life, Martin thought it might be fun to train athletes when she started her career, but soon realized she could make a wider impact with non-athletes.

“Both of my grandmothers developed breast cancer, and I watched what movement meant to them in various parts of their treatment and thought wow, [training] has such potential,” she said. “It was something I had taken for granted because I had moved my body without a problem for my whole life, but they couldn’t.”

Today, many of Salvere’s clients are women working through the aftereffects of treatment or surgery for breast cancer, but there are also plenty of male clients who want to improve or maintain their mobility or range of motion, or who are dealing with injury recovery.

Listening exercise

The old “No pain, no gain” mantra doesn’t work for Martin.

“My philosophy is just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should,” she said. “We help people prioritize what is the right movement for them. We can always back up and do preparation work to get there, but if something doesn’t feel right, we need to stop and investigate why it hurts.”

Clients are encouraged to provide feedback, she said.

Likewise, Martin and her three trainers also like to communicate with other professionals that their clients work with.

“We work with physical and occupational therapists, massage therapists, and even family doctors and psychologists,” she said. “There is a lot we can collaboratively do that helps us put the pieces together on the professional side to complement what each of us are doing.”

Martin also writes and curates a blog on Salvere’s website that addresses specific but common issues that her clients may be dealing with.

“Many of these blogs come out of conversations in the studio, especially with small groups,” she said. “Some of my clients think I’m writing the blogs specifically directed at them, but from my perspective, I know that if one person is wondering about something, so are other people.”

Customized approach

Martin envisioned Salvere as a multidimensional facility and used to employ therapists and dietitians, but prefers to concentrate on movement — not exercise — and refer clients to other specialists they may need.

Movement and exercise is frequently overlooked by the medical industry, particularly in terms of recovery, she said.

“Surgery is a cut and a scar that’s going to change your mobility and range of motion, so it’s a new possibility and maybe we don’t raise our arms all the way above our heads now,” Martin said. “It can apply to any type of surgery, whether it’s a lumpectomy, mastectomy, reconstruction, lymph node removal or lymphedema conditions. A lot of components come into it, like bone density, as well as considerations for medications and treatments afterwards.”

Training is specific to each person, and approached in a way that’s safe and empowering, she said.

“I’ve had patients in the throes of chemotherapy and all they could do was walk, so we walked together,” she said. “Our job is to figure out what you can do.”

Journey of understanding

Salvere’s clients range in age from 10 to 93, and each client is different.

She’s also one of the few local trainers who receives referrals from therapists for clients with anorexia and bulimia.

“I’ve spent time learning from people at the Johns Hopkins Eating Disorder Program because fitness is a pretty toxic place for people suffering from eating disorders,” Martin said. “Our industry does a lot of telling, but not a lot of listening, so our philosophy is to let clients be on the journey of understanding their body and be on the journey with them. They need to be in charge of it.”

Creating a safe environment for clients to feel comfortable and communicate with trainers goes a long way toward helping them make the improvement they want to see, she said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of women have been demoralized regarding their bodies since they were little and don’t feel comfortable in typical fitness settings,” Martin said. “I work hard with all the trainers to create that safe environment for them. If we can get someone to a point where they love and appreciate the abilities of their body, whatever they are, I consider that a victory.”