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STYLE: STYLEMAKER : Building Bodies

March 07, 1993|LESA SAWAHATA

Want to see my favorite muscle?" asks Nanci Kendall. She rolls up her sleeve and, pointing to a firm wedge in her forearm, announces, "The brachialis!"

This woman knows her muscles. Fortysomething Kendall has been weight training since her early 30s, when she was a personal assistant and workout partner to Lisa Lyon, the legendary women's bodybuilder and Robert Mapplethorpe muse. She began competing and placing in bodybuilding exhibitions in the mid-'80s. And for more than a decade now, Kendall has trained a private clientele at Gold's Gym in Venice, a mecca for hard-core bodybuilders.

Her clients have included Bob Dylan, Lyn (Mrs. Norman) Lear, architect Elyse Grinstein, celebrity acupuncturist Mark Holmes, "Cotton Club" attorney Richard Hirsch, restaurateurs Rebecca and Bruce Marder and artist Judy Stabile. People who sign up with her go through three or four hourlong weight-training sessions a week, plus at least 30 minutes of aerobics a day. (Fees are $35 to $50 an hour.)

As a trainer, Kendall is part Mother Teresa, part Marquis de Sade. "You ate chips ?" she'll wail, shaming a client into a detailed confession of prandial transgressions. Then she'll order the chastened trainee to spend an extra 15 minutes on the treadmill. For the truly overweight, Kendall may recommend Nutritionalysis, a customized, computerized diet in which weight and body fat are closely monitored. She believes a body can be reshaped in three to 12 months, depending on the client's "diligence and commitment."

Kendall's hard-driving zeal is matched by an equal amount of compassion stemming from her own childhood experiences. A dyslexic who thought of herself as a "slow learner," she also suffered from meningitis and, as a teen-ager, woke up paralyzed after an operation and dropped from 105 to 65 pounds before recovering.

Today, she trains four or five clients each day, then finds time for her own workout--weight training, stretching, jazz and hip-hop classes and peddling a stationary bike. And her own diet is a nearly fat-free affair: fish, whole grains, salads dressed without oil, a weekly glass of white wine. "Occasionally-- very occasionally--I'll splurge," she says, admitting to a cookie or Godiva dark chocolate once in a while.

Is her dedication worth it? "Absolutely," she says, flexing biceps that an 18-year-old would die for. She flashes a smile. "I'm a slave to the iron," she says. "I'll be doing this when I'm 80!"

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