Shaping Up with the Bay Club's JoNell Vachet

Getting Fit after 40

Warm and energetic with bright blue eyes and a strong, fit body, Thousand Oaks Bay Club personal trainer JoNell Vachet has been up for nearly four hours and trained six clients by 8:30 a.m.

A skilled personal trainer with 30 years of experience as a licensed physical therapist, JoNell has a deep understanding of the human body and works with clients of all fitness levels—including beginners and those with physical challenges as well as the most conditioned athletes. Certified in CrossFit and trained in Olympic weightlifting, JoNell possesses a broad range of knowledge to empower her clients to succeed. One gentleman training with JoNell recently lost 100 pounds and has changed his lifestyle to maintain his healthy weight and fitness level. And women from the “Just Drop It” weight loss/personal training group JoNell co-leads with Donna Connor are seeing results just several weeks in!

Setting Up for Success

Working with a personal trainer may seem intimidating or unnecessary at first. JoNell urges you to keep an open mind.

“What you may have learned about exercise years ago may not be considered correct now. I don’t teach sit-ups like I used to. There are new ways to work your core that are better for your back and better in general for functional activity,” she explains. Even a few sessions with a trainer can prevent injuries, especially for beginners. “A trainer can show you the proper way to start,” she says.

Working with Women

Her clients include men, athletes and teens, but at 52, JoNell has an affinity for working with women ages 40-60. She understands the unique needs of a woman’s middle-aged body and how to construct programs to ensure success and avoid injury.

“One thing most women over 40 do not realize is just how much they need to lift weights. Once you are past 30-35 years old, you start to lose muscle mass every single year. It starts out at 1-3% and then increases to 5%—and then it gets even higher as you grow older. It really escalates after age 60,” she warns. Bone loss is another problem, and she works with many osteopenic clients who have lower bone density. “They need to work with weights and do weight-bearing activities,” she says.

It’s no secret that women tend to carry more weight in their midsection as they age, often due to hormonal changes. “I frequently suggest women have their hormone levels checked with their medical doctors to address imbalances,” she says. JoNell also tests body composition—muscle mass, body fat, water and bone—using a device to measure each and suggests a target percentage. The focus is on building muscle mass.

“Five pounds of fat is larger than five pounds of muscle. When a woman builds muscle, she naturally gets more lean and more definition becomes apparent, even if the number on the scale doesn’t change,” she explains. Muscle burns more calories than fat, thus building muscle mass stokes the metabolism and makes weight loss easier to achieve.

JoNell makes it clear that mobility matters too. “You should be able to squat to the floor and keep your heels on the ground,” she says. Another mobility marker is the ability to get up and down from the floor easily. She has observed that if women aren’t exercising regularly as they grow older, they can lose that ability.

“I see two different groups of women, ladies in their 50s that look 35 and women in their 50s that look 65. The main difference is exercise and diet,” she says.

Commitment Means Payoff

It generally takes beginners at least four to six weeks to “ramp up” a fitness program and during that time, it can be tough, JoNell explains. Clients who show up even when they are tired and sore usually find relief after a simple 10-15 minute stretching session. The great news is that their sustained commitment pays off.

“My clients have more energy. They are brighter and live with more vitality. The increase in physical activity boosts the body’s manufacturing of ‘feel good’ endorphins and lifts their mood. And they have more energy for their work, kids, grandkids and spouses,” she says.

That’s a pretty good payoff, if you ask me!

To learn more about the Bay Club of Thousand Oaks or to arrange a personal training session with JoNell, go to or call 805.778.0888.