Personal trainer taught mom first

Katie Iverson didn’t grow up in an active household, now her life is dedicated educating others on health


KEISHA BROKAW | The Daily Evergreen

Student personal trainer Katie Iverson demonstrates proper form while leading a full-body workout Tuesday in the Chinook Student Center.

LATISHA JENSEN, Evergreen life editor

Kathy Iverson’s pain was excruciating and almost constant. She was overweight, she got around with a walker and her doctor just gave her medication. She had lost hope of ever living a comfortable, enjoyable life.

With her two types of arthritis, diabetes and spinal stenosis, she was told exercise wasn’t an option.

Her daughter, Katie Iverson, a junior at WSU majoring in kinesiology, couldn’t let her mom continue life this way. Before she became a personal trainer for the Student Recreation Center in August, Katie studied how she could improve her mom’s health.

Katie knew she could assist her mom beyond the limited options her doctor provided. She combined her passions for sports science and helping others, spending hours researching, trying to learn the best way to help.

“It almost feels like being a detective to have to really think,” Katie said. “I like that challenge of having to work around injuries.”

While Katie took a semester off and stayed at home with her mom, Kathy decreased the amount of medication she had to take, Katie said. She also switched to a more supportive doctor, one who encouraged her to move and eat better.

This summer, Kathy was able to participate in activities she hasn’t been able to in years, such as hiking, mowing the lawn and working out on her own. She has lost about 105 pounds since beginning the journey, she said.

“[Katie] put that fire in me and never gave up on me,” Kathy said. “She has a gentle way of motivating and inspiring people. She gave me my smile back. Her own struggle made her appreciate.”

Katie began her transition to a healthy lifestyle alone. Her strong interest in the topics kept her driven, even though her friends and family didn’t share her passion.

Throughout high school, she said, she was fascinated by the workouts put together in magazines and wanted to understand how they were made.

“I didn’t know what personal trainers were and how these people got into that,” Katie said.

She came to WSU to study mechanical engineering. She never heard about kinesiology as a major until attending the university. Her small school didn’t expose her to the wide range of available careers, Katie said.

“I was overweight for a lot of my childhood,” Katie said. “I wanted to look smaller. I didn’t associate size with health.”


KIERA CLUBB | The Daily Evergreen
Junior kinesiology major Katie Iverson discusses the obstacles she overcame throughout high school and college to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

She unknowingly started following a crash diet right before going into high school and lost about 100 pounds in three months. She began to feel better with her weight loss, until she joined soccer in high school.

Practices were two hours a day, they played two games a week and her energy was low.

Her doctor’s jaw dropped when she discovered Katie’s average daily intake of 1,000 calories, paired with her extremely high activity level. Then she decided to look at food content rather than calories.

“I don’t want to just look better by whatever society’s standards are,” Katie said. “I want to feel better. I was really trying to change my mindset.”

Katie said she doesn’t believe diets should be temporary and unenjoyable. The main processed foods she eats are peanut butter and bread. Other than that, she sticks to a holistic diet with primarily fruits and vegetables and then meat or seafood about once per day, she said.

She found out in her adulthood that she is lactose intolerant, so she avoids those foods as well.

When she attended community college, she still didn’t know how to work out on her own, so just before attending WSU, she planned on taking her health to the next level. She said it isn’t work to her because she is doing what she loves.

“I’m very passionate about teaching people all the different ways exercise helps you,” Katie said.

She spent hours studying the science behind movement, personal training and the psychology behind what it takes to truly motivate individuals, she said.

Instead of taking the classes to become certified, she studied personal training books and taught herself, she said.

Matthew Atwell, fitness services and education coordinator, supervises Katie and has worked with her since she started as a weight room attendant her second semester at WSU.

“Katie has a super strong work ethic,” Atwell said. “She’s been very professional.”

She taught him how to kick box, and made it enjoyable for him, even though that is not an activity he would choose himself.

“If you give her a task, she will make sure it’s completed well and on time,” Atwell said. “She puts a lot of thought into things, even if it’s a simple workout.”

Katie most enjoys working with special populations, like children, the elderly or those with an injury or condition.

She said she enjoys helping people who don’t think they’re healthy enough to go to the gym. She also wants to become a physical therapist for more hands-on work with clients.

“To be a really successful trainer, there’s so much you have to learn,” Katie said, “Kinesiology has changed how I look at the world.”