San Jose Personal Trainer, Andrea Donnelly, Shares Her Fitness Journey


We're opening up CHI Featured Guests to a wider variety of members in our community. We've had many musicians and artists throughout the year so I am excited to introduce to you, Andrea Donnelly, personal trainer at Pazitive Transformation in San Jose! We chat outside in her newly remodeled personal training area. I've been able to get to know her during our training sessions and hear her stories about her own fitness journey and her new personal training business. Andrea is a certified personal trainer and recently opened her new personal training services, Pazitive Transformation. She shares her own personal weight loss story as well as advice on how to get started on your own health and fitness journey.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Hey Andrea! Thanks for being one of our featured guests at CHI. Tell us about your background. What do you do?

Andrea Donnelly: I began working as a registered nurse about 5 years ago.  I decided to become a nurse after I completed 2 years of volunteer service in Peace Corps in Ukraine.  Ukraine was a very difficult 2 years for me as I poured my heart and soul into my project and saw minimal results.  After my experience in Ukraine I had to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my career.  Working in the nonprofit world was no longer as appealing, but I still wanted a job where I could help people and see results.  I had a series of long discussions with my dad, and he talked me into becoming a nurse.  I am so glad he did, I love my job as a nurse, but I only work 3 days a week.  This has given me the opportunity to pursue my passion in fitness and nutrition working as a coach and personal trainer.

The Coffeehouse Invite: How did you decide you wanted to become a personal trainer?

Andrea Donnelly: I had an amazing trainer in high school.  I played 3-seasons of school sports (volleyball, basketball and soccer) in addition to playing ice hockey, so when the training came cheap with my gym membership, I thought, “why not?’  He was amazing!  I remember that he made me puke on several occasions, he pushed me to my absolute limits and saw my potential.  This was the kind of training I was responsive to, the kind of trainer who pushes until there is nothing left to push.  He moved away and I attempted to find another trainer, but didn’t have any luck.  

In college I gained the freshman 15 (plus an additional 15 for good measure) and no longer looked like the athlete that I knew I was.  I went in search of a trainer to help me, and I had many trainers who were absolutely terrible.  They asked me to jump on the treadmill to warm up for 10 minutes, then we would slowly go around the weight room, and I watched them stare at their watch, completely disinterested in what we were doing.  They  never pushed me, never saw my potential or took my history into account.  They treated me like a fat girl who had never seen the inside of a gym, who didn’t care enough to take care of herself.  This happened with trainers and in group classes.  It was so disheartening, I decided to stop using a trainer and go for it on my own.  

I started eating better and working out, my body shed a lot of extra weight and I felt like an entirely new person.  This experience made me want to help people transform the way that I had.  I am comfortable in the gym, and I can talk to people in a way that motivates them.  I had always wanted to be a trainer, but never had the courage.  Once I decided that I wasn’t going to stand in my own way I decided to follow my dream of being a trainer and coach and I started my own business.

The Coffeehouse Invite: You've mentioned your own struggle with weight. Can you tell us what motivated you to start your fitness journey?

Andrea Donnelly: My struggle with weight feels as if it has been a lifelong struggle.  I grew up feeling fat, my first memory of feeling this way was when I was 8 years old!  When I look back at photos of myself, I have no idea why I felt that way.  I was at a healthy weight until college when I gained over 20 lbs and then I struggled with gaining and losing the same 10 lbs over and over again.  I was always physically fit, I played sports, I hiked, I hit the gym.  Activity was never my problem, food was my problem.  I thought the same way that many people do, if I exercise I will get thin!  This is just not true.  They say that you can’t outrun a bad diet, and I couldn’t agree more.  A slice of pizza from costco has more calories than most people could hope to burn in over 2 hours of exercise.  Despite this most people put the onus of weight loss on exercise.  Weight loss is 80-90% diet.  Once I accepted this and accepted the fact that I can’t eat the same way other people can, I lost the weight.  I always had the desire to lose weight, but I never had the proper tools.  I can help provide people with the specific tools they need to face their weight loss journey in their own way.

The Coffeehouse Invite: What kind of services will you provide at Pazitive Transformation?

Andrea Donnelly: My main service is a 12-week coaching program to help people start their weight loss transformation.  It includes personal training and the therapeutic aspects that help people confront their own barriers to weight loss.  This program can help someone on a timeline, such as a bride-to-be, or for anyone who is ready to take weight loss seriously.  It isn’t an easy or pleasant process, but once you have your moment of clarity you find this inner motivation that keeps you going during difficult times.  The coaching component includes nutrition education and habits to assist with your own personal goals.

I also provide distance coaching, personal training at my home or yours, and group TRX classes.  If someone is very new to healthy eating, or doesn’t know where to start, I am also available to help with meal preparation and grocery shopping.

The Coffeehouse Invite: What makes your personal training business, Pazitive Transformation, stand out?

Andrea Donnelly: I am not a “bro” type of trainer.  I am a well-educated healthcare professional who has vast experience talking with people and helping people see their situation in a new light.  I have had my own struggle with weight, things haven’t come easy for me.  I know where people are coming from, I will meet you where you’re at.  I will expect great things from you, but won't push you past your limit.  I will accommodate your needs and take your experience and history into account.  I know that transformation is difficult and requires change from you and your environment.  I will motivate you to accomplish your goals. Let’s do this!

8 Reasons to Workout with Pazitive Transformation

The Coffeehouse Invite: I've seen the new training space you've created for your work outs. It looks great!! Tell us about it and what equipment we can expect your clients to use?

Andrea Donnelly: I have a large weight setup at my home.  I have a squat rack, bench, kettlebells, weights, barbell, medicine balls, battle rope, TRX and more.  I will teach you how to use any equipment you don’t know how to use.  I will make sure that you use proper form and that you get the most from your workout.  I focus on functional training, working multiple body parts at once to help you live the most fulfilling life outside of the gym.

If you prefer to workout in the privacy of your home I will come to you with portable equipment, or we can use your own bodyweight.  I know that heading to the gym isn’t for everyone, I can teach you to use your personal surroundings as your own personal workout space.

The Coffeehouse Invite: What are 3 tips you would give someone would like to start their own health and fitness habits?

Andrea Donnelly:

1. You aren’t perfect, nobody is.  Don’t be so hard on yourself when you slip up.  It is infinitely better to mess up and get back on track than to let your slip up be an excuse to totally fall off the wagon.  When you slip up and forgive yourself you will be more likely to succeed and you will strengthen your self esteem.

2. Focus on food and make changes where you are able.  If your goal is to lose weight, cut the portions that you eat now.  If you have 4 slices of pizza for dinner, shoot to have 2 or 3 and add a salad.  Move on a spectrum to make better choices than what you have been making.  Be realistic and don’t be overly restrictive.

3. Move your body every day by doing activities that you enjoy.  If you hate running, don’t run!  Just because do-and-so from the office lost weight running doesn’t mean it will work for you.  Doing activities you dislike is a surefire way to ensure future failure and dissatisfaction.

The Coffeehouse Invite: Any advice you would give to others wanting to start their own business?

Andrea Donnelly: It isn’t easy!  Be prepared to deal with a lot of legal and government documents you never knew existed before.  You have to be responsible and keep track of deadlines and fees.  Starting your own business is expensive, but it is totally worth it.  Stick with it and you will enjoy the satisfaction of creating something that is uniquely yours.

The Coffeehouse Invite: At CHI we encourage others to reach out and find people to collaborate with. Are you looking for anyone to work with? If so let, our CHI community know.

Andrea Donnelly: I am a new business owner and am always looking for people to come by, workout with me, and give me feedback. If anyone has marketing experience or experience getting clients I would appreciate any advice. First session and consultation is always free, so you have nothing to lose!