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The Fitness Remedy

Serious ailments often get people serious about exercise. Five found success after they turned to skilled personal trainers to guide--and goad--them to better health.

January 07, 2002|MARNELL JAMESON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For some, disgust is the motivator--a naked look in the mirror, a glance at the scale, a pair of pants they can no longer snap. Others watch preventable diseases undermine the lives of friends and relatives. And a few start something--a job, a life chapter, a year--and decide to make the changes more widespread.

But whatever impetus drives the unfit to confront their unhealthy ways, one thing is certain. When the student is ready, the teacher will come.

Harvey Lauer, president of American Sports Data in Hartsdale, N.Y., estimates that there are 88,000 personal fitness trainers in the United States. Most of them, he says, are concentrated on the coasts.

The Los Angeles area has more than its share. "Southern California probably ranks among the top regions of the country in terms of the sheer number of fitness trainers available," says Pat Ryan, spokeswoman for IDEA Health and Fitness Assn. in San Diego. IDEA, a national fitness organization, counts 8,000 personal trainers among its members. One out of eight is in Southern California.

Although there will always be celebrity trainers helping beautiful people become more beautiful, most trainers help people who, because of their health problems, need to exercise and eat better.

These include people with heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression and social isolation--mental and physical troubles that are often the bedfellows of an unfit lifestyle.

Trainers, say those who have used them, provide more than a role model and instruction in fitness-related matters.

They hold clients accountable, track progress, coach their charges through those dreaded but inevitable plateaus and, if all goes well, turn a client's too-often-fleeting motivation into permanent change.

When the timing and the trainer-client combination click, as happened in the five success stories that follow, great changes can happen. And just as not one of these converts believes he or she could have succeeded without the trainer, the trainers credit their clients, who had the will, persistence and desire. They know that for people to achieve long-term weight loss and make regular exercise a way of life, the change has to happen inside first.

*

* Gaines Newborn, above, wanted to break out of his physical and social isolation.

* Chris Wrenn, top photo, needed to lose weight and control his diabetes.

* Inger Jessen, whose life was saved by a heart transplant, set her sights on the Transplant Olympics.

* Marvin and Nina Vida were determined not to lose their mobility as they aged.

* Carrie Angelakis didn't want to be the overweight, depressed woman in the mirror.

All had a fitness goal--and all needed help getting there. Here's how they did it.

Their stories, Pages 5 and 6

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