In Step With Carina LaBonte

By Helena Touhey

The personal trainer talks finding a healthy work-life-motherhood balance

You might have seen Carina LaBonte out on a run with her boyfriend — with their young daughter, contentedly snuggled into a stroller — as the family trained for a half marathon, which they ran together in March.

Or you might have seen her at Fitness 500, where she works as a personal trainer, guiding people of all ages through cardio and strength-building routines, or at Wave Cycle, where she is a longtime spin instructor known for her particularly good playlists.

It’s possible you’ve even heard her voice on the “Trainer Talk” podcast she recently launched with another fitness coach, Erynn Field, where the two chat about physical and mental health.

All these endeavors reflect LaBonte’s enthusiasm for accessible and sustainable health and fitness, as well as an evolution of her own approach to living a balanced lifestyle and finding meaningful work, especially as a young mother.

Carina LaBonte at Fitness 500. | Photos by Kristen Lepore

A lifelong athlete

As a youth, LaBonte was always playing sports. “Gym was my favorite class in middle school,” she says.

Her sophomore year of high school she had her first CrossFit class, which quickly became a favorite, especially for keeping in shape for lacrosse, which she played in winter and spring.

“I liked that I was able to be in control of the effort and the outcome,” she says of CrossFit training. “I couldn’t rationalize it at that age but looking back… it was therapeutic.”

In college, she continued to play lacrosse — but started to feel a bit stifled by the team training element. “It was too much structure and I wanted to experiment,” she says. At the time she was also studying exercise science, but soon realized she didn’t enjoy the classes.

So, she quit lacrosse and switched to psychology and started doing her own workouts in the gym during her sophomore year.

At the time, though, she mostly “wanted my body to look different — I didn’t know about the other benefits,” of working out, she says. She was in an unhealthy romantic relationship and was happy to receive praise about her changing appearance.

Looking back, she realizes that she also had a bad relationship with food at the time and was training constantly to the point of having no social life, and that her workout routine had also become toxic.

Her romantic relationship soon ended, and she started bartending, which allowed for more socialization and the chance to save some money.

Creating a life and career

LaBonte graduated from college during the spring of 2020 after completing her last semester virtually. “When Covid came around, there was no work I could do,” she recalls. But she soon came to the realization that “I’m really good at working out,” followed by the idea to turn her love for creating workouts into a job.

That summer, she started sharing fitness guides and meal prep plans on Instagram, and she also led virtual workouts for $10 a session, which she did through the fall. Around the same time, she moved into an apartment in Newport and took a waitressing job at Giusto.

“Every door, when you close it, something else opens up for you,” she says.

In 2021, after a short-lived stint in car sales, she took a job at Anytime Fitness in Middletown, where she worked at the front desk and helped new clients find a fitness program. It was during this time that she realized she could “use fitness to therapeutically help people.”

When LaBonte left that job, she felt confident enough to start her own business — and had developed relationships with clients who said they would follow her. “They felt like I had impacted them, and they wanted to stay with me,” she says.

So, she invested in her own equipment and would “go from spot to spot, client to client,” hosting workouts in homes and at parks. She did this for a year, from summer 2021 to summer 2022 — and came to think of herself as an endurance coach.

“While I do cater to the client, I am passionate about endurance,” she says, which includes body endurance and muscular endurance. “I love to watch people go from the bottom and work themselves up over time…. This encourages you to stay consistent and push yourself to unimaginable extremes.”

Carina LaBonte with her daughter, Mia.


In May of 2022, LaBonte found out she was pregnant, and in January of 2023, she gave birth to her daughter, Mia.

Becoming a mother required her to again make a shift, and during her pregnancy she took up home office work while continuing to teach spin, which she did until she was 30 weeks pregnant. Four weeks after giving birth, she again tried to work from home for a few weeks — but found herself restless.

“I need to listen to where I’m being pulled,” LaBonte said, which meant back to the realm of wellness. When she was six weeks post-partum, she called Fitness 500, which had recently opened in Newport’s Bellevue Shopping Plaza.

“Give me a week, and I can bring in 5-10 clients,” she recalls telling people at the gym. They offered her a job and, as promised, she brought in clients, a mix of people she had previously trained or knew from spin class. That was last March, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“I’m taking all of the experiences as an employee everywhere else in my life and running my own business, and putting it in to one,” she says. She works for Fitness 500 and represents the gym, while also creating her own workouts and prospecting her own clients.

When new clients come to the gym, she gives them a tour and they chat briefly. “I want to know where they are at, mentally, physically,” she says. Training sessions are usually 30-60 minutes a few times a week, and they are crafted for individuals or a group of up to three people.

“I encourage group [sessions] because you can learn from each other,” she says.

Some of the workout groups have people in their 30s and 80s training together, which LaBonte sees as a bonus because those people are interacting with and motivating one another.

“I’m seeing those relationships build,” she says.

Balancing work and life

LaBonte says she is reaching a point where she can “be a mom, have a social life, work, and make good money.” She has developed a schedule where she works Tuesday through Fridays and sticks to her routine during those days. Mondays are for scheduling, appointments and household tasks; and the weekends are to enjoy.

“When I go home, I’m able to be a mom there,” she says. “I never feel guilty when I’m at the gym; I never feel guilty when I’m a mom.”

A professional goal is to help new moms transition back into fitness routines and find a balance post-partum. “There are so many components with balancing, and I feel like I have that under control,” LaBonte says.

“What I always encourage is to take a step back [and] do what feels good that day,” she says of living a healthy lifestyle. “It’s okay to go for a walk some days and that’s your health and fitness.”

“I always say: don’t go backwards,” she adds, “start from the bottom and build up.”

For her, this has included developing a more positive relationship with eating and working out that is not connected to her appearance. “Motherhood has helped with my body dysmorphia more than anything else,” LaBonte says, noting that caring for and birthing a child is no small feat.

“I’m now training for a half-marathon with my boyfriend and my baby,” she says, “and, so far, I’ve not once thought about fat loss or losing weight — [training] has strictly been about spending time with family and accomplishing this goal.”

A key lesson from her own health and fitness evolution: “If you are starting your journey, don’t do it because of how you look,” she says. “Find value in other things and implement these goals in a healthy way.”

And remind yourself: “I’m a valuable person — I don’t have to look a certain way.”