For 40 years, his mantra has been, 'No Payne, no gain.'
For his hundreds of clients, who have collectively dropped hundreds of pounds, that holds true, too. Because without the personal training guidance of Valentine Payne, they may not have achieved their gains.
It's those accomplishments Payne is more proud of, despite winning every bodybuilding competition that he has competed in since moving into the masters 40+ category.
Payne, 61, looks like he could step onto a competition stage at a moment's notice. He's been named best poser in competitions and is a natural showman. He is engaging and energetic, eager to share his positive energy and focus with everyone working with him.
"Training has helped me with my stress over the years and I've been through some depression myself, but once I started working out and eating clean, it went away and I didn't need any medication," Payne said.
"I'm happy 90 per cent of the time because of how I'm feeling inside and outside."
After getting his start as a personal trainer at the now defunct European Health Spa, he's worked out of the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre for the past couple of years.
Valentine followed his childhood sweetheart, Barbara, to Canada in 1976. They've been married more than 30 years, but have known each other for 50 years as they grew up in same village in Barbados and went to school together. They have one child, Dwayne, and five grandchildren.
While he and Barbara plan to return to Barbados and to the side of his 92-year-old mom, Payne has one more goal to reach.
He wants to change the lives of a few more people -- those who need help the most. He wants to find at least 25 people with serious obesity and health issues and train them for free -- providing counselling, exercise programs and meal plans.
"I'm going to volunteer my time to help them lose the weight and I'm not asking for any money," said Payne, who already trains some clients for no charge because they can't afford it. "I just want to give something back. Canada has been very good to me. I want to give back before I leave this country to go back home in two or three years. To see the progress and their transformation, it's what I live for. That's important to me, more than the money."
His program goes beyond weight loss, it's part of a lifelong journey in healthy living. Changing people's eating habits is the biggest challenge.
"When they lose all the weight, I've seen for 35 years the joy and the feelings people have. My goal is not just to help them lose the weight, but to help them keep it off for the rest of their lives. That's the hard part," Payne said. "If I can keep them on track for a year, I can get them hooked into the new lifestyle."
That's what brought Aline Sawchyn, a 56-year mother of three and educational assistant, to begin training with Payne. She wasn't spending any time on her own health and decided to take control of her future. The 5-foot-7 Sawchyn has been training with Payne for two years and has maintained her goal weight of 125 pounds by "eating clean," a key component of his program. She said she "puts in a lot of work" in weight training, running and yoga.
"He said, 'I know exactly what you need' and in eight weeks I'd lost 22 pounds and 20 inches. You see how dedicated he is in his own workouts and it's really inspiring," said Sawchyn, who often makes two suppers -- one for herself and another for her husband of 24 years, Don, and their sons Jeremy, 22, Nicholas, 20, and Tyler, 17.
"I wanted to get muscle but be very lean. It's not hard to keep if off. Eating clean is so easy. It's eating some fibre, eat your chicken, eat your salad, fruits, vegetables but portioned. He gives us a list of stuff we can stay on and it's just a lifestyle now."
Training with Payne has brought joy and energy to Christin Boschmann, 30. It has changed her life and her physique -- she lost 57 pounds in 4 1/2 months on his program. That loss placed her second in Payne's recent eight-week mini-weight loss challenge.
She had ignored warnings from doctors since her teens about possible blood pressure issues or high cholesterol, but the scale got her attention. She started training with Payne when her weight passed the 250-pound mark.
"I've been going down quite significantly, I've made definite improvements," said Boschmann, a support worker with Lifeworks, which provides assistance for those with intellectual challenges.
She's training with Payne three to five times per week and has altered her diet by cutting out bread and pasta to help reduce carbohydrates. She weighs in once per week.
The five-foot-eight Boschmann said she hopes to reach a goal weight of 150 to 180 pounds by the end of this year.
"I'm 'eating clean' which means not a lot of processed foods, which I didn't really do a lot of anyway. My issue was always portion control and those heavy, complex carbs," she said.
"What's really good about Valentine and his program is that he makes recommendations about diet but his focus is you should do what works for you. He says 'If you can't stick to some of it, we'll make up for it with the exercise.' He's always so fun to talk to, really positive and enthusiastic. I don't think I could have done it without his brand of encouragement."
She's had to get some new clothes to accommodate her smaller frame.
"I was elated about that but also a little annoyed. Running for the bus and my pants falling down was a bit of a shock," she said, laughing. "But it's been very good for my energy level and self-esteem. I haven't felt like this since I was a kid."