Leilani Heno’s X-Factor
When it comes to personal training, this gym owner offers something special.
Leilani Heno, owner of X-Trainers Personal Training, knows firsthand the struggle every overweight person faces. “I’ve gained and lost 100 pounds five times,” she says. Heno, who grew up in New Orleans, gained some insight into her weight fluctuations while earning her MBA at the University of New Orleans. She learned about the body’s metabolism in her first biology class, and she eventually decided to base her thesis around a program she designed to regulate metabolism. “I put three friends through the system,” Heno says. The weight melted off all three, and Heno herself lost 100 pounds. Soon after that, she accepted her first personal training client.
Twenty-five years later, Heno employs a staff of personal trainers and works with an on-call nutritionist at X-Trainers’ spacious gym. The business, located just off Bayou St. John, focuses on the “mind-body-spirit connection,” Heno says. “We work on mental and spiritual [elements].” This all-encompassing approach — unusual in a fitness industry that usually focuses only on the physical aspects of training — encourages X-Trainers’ clients to mentally commit to permanently maintaining their results. Additionally, the gym operates by appointment only. “We don’t take walk-ins,” Heno explains. “It’s one-on-one. We don’t take our attention away from our clients.”
On Staying Motivated: Heno loves outdoor sports; even when overweight, she would often organize outings with friends. “I would set up all these hiking trips with all my friends, and I was the last one up the hill,” she says. “I was determined that on one of those trips, I was going to be the first person up the route.” That memory, plus a touch of friendly competitive spirit, helps her stay focused on fitness these days. “That’s the reason I got started in the first place, and now I just think about that all the time,” Heno says. “Would I be in the top three that would make it up the hill?”
When she’s feeling unmotivated, Heno walks around the gym and asks her trainers what they’ve done that day. “Whoever did the most … I try to match that,” she says. “I’m not going to make you do something I won’t do. That part doesn’t feel competitive; it’s more of a respect thing.”
Her Fuel: “I do not like sweets,” Heno says. “Dessert, for me, would be mashed potatoes.” She also loves sushi, preferring to replace her rolls’ rice with soy paper. Because 80 percent of Heno’s thyroid was removed when she was overweight, she takes care to eat every three hours, which helps keep her metabolism steady and prevent weight fluctuations.
Client Success Story: One of Heno’s employees evacuated to Texas after Hurricane Katrina, and he ended up gaining over 100 pounds while out of town. When he wanted to return to work, Heno helped him train long-distance. “You’ve got to practice what you preach!” she says.
Wise Words: Heno knows that real change involves commitment, and has no trouble putting herself in the gym shoes of a new client. “I’d ask myself first: ‘Am I serious?’” she says. “‘Before I start this, do I see myself doing this in six months, or am I just trying something out?’ If you’re just trying something out to see if you like it, it’s not going to last past a month.” She also advises most new clients to start with just two days per week at the gym — working up to more intense, frequent sessions — and to prepare meals ahead of time to avoid eating less healthy foods.