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Personal trainers emphasize whole-body fitness


Millions of Americans, adults and children alike, suffer from obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments brought on by unhealthful lifestyles, leading many to latch on to fad diets and pills that claim to boost metabolism and melt away fat.

To combat that tendency, fitness professionals continue to preach the importance of nutrition and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, and caution against seeking quick fixes to lose weight. Personal trainers in Greater Des Moines and across the country focus not only on that traditional approach to healthful living, but also the private, one-on-one approach that eliminates the intimidation factor of a crowded gym.

“It’s not a hot thing,” said personal trainer Steve Reese. “It’s a necessity for many people. With obesity in our society and diseases, it’s become much more of a need than a thing for wealthy people.”

Reese opened Iowa’s first Fitness Together franchise four weeks ago in Clive. He and his staff work one-on-one with clients, on an appointment-only basis, in private exercise suites. They tailor the workouts to meet each client’s fitness goals, whether it is a 15-year-old who is training for the upcoming basketball season, or a 60-year-old woman who wants to prevent osteoporosis.

“They’re here to get one-on-one personal attention, where there’s no waiting for equipment, no distractions, where all the focus is on them,” Reese said.

Because of his background in sports medicine and athletic training and the nature of the Fitness Together program, Reese puts a heavy emphasis on injury assessment and modifying exercises and workouts based on goals, tests and assessments.

Fitness Together clients typically do two sessions per week with a trainer, though they are welcome to come to the studio on other days to spend time on the cardiovascular equipment. But how long they continue with the program is depends entirely upon their needs and goals.

“Some people want to do this ongoing because they need people to guide them,” Reese said. “Some people just want to come in and learn more about what they can do to improve their quality of life.

“If they make an appointment, then it’s part of their schedule, part of their routine. They know when it is and they plan for it, and they’ve got accountability on our behalf.”

Jessica Pennings, owner of Next Step Fitness, works with clients to reach their personal goals, but also focuses on self-motivation, encouraging clients to work toward exercising and practicing healthy nutrition on their own.

At 24, she does personal training for clients at Metro Health and Fitness in Ankeny and does fitness programs at Des Moines Area Community College’s Ankeny campus. Pennings, who earned a degree in exercise and sport science from Iowa State University, also works with clients through in-home training, stressing the same privacy and workout efficiency benefits that have become a focus at Fitness Together.

“I’m more one to workout in a club because I need to go somewhere,” she said. “But a lot of people prefer to work out in their home, and that was my main mission with this, to show people that they can have a great work out in their home with the right equipment and the right instruction.”

Pennings has worked with a few clients for more than two years, though she trains most for close to a year. Some work with her on “accountability” and pay her for occasional training sessions, usually once or twice a month, so she can keep them on track with their goals and monitor their weight and body-fat percentage.

In addition to her in-home training sessions and fitness classes at Metro Health and Fitness and DMACC, Pennings conducts health and wellness seminars, which emphasize the importance of caring for the whole body.

“So many people come to you and they just want the exercise program and they just want to be shown the exercises to do,” she said. “They don’t realize that nutrition is 80 percent of that and you have to have the right amount of cardio and weight training.”

Pennings, who hopes to add in-office training programs in the future, has made her Web site an integral part of her business, and has even developed an online training program, which allows clients to log on to her Web site and access their workouts, enter their nutrition information, receive fitness advice and make appointments.

“It’s a way to give more to my clients without personally being there with them,” she said.

Her schedule is still full. Some days she starts with a fitness class at 6:30 a.m., trains with clients from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then gets ready for a 6:30 p.m. class.

“That’s the busiest I let my day get,” Pennings said. “I try to remain flexible, but still at the same time set boundaries because otherwise people take advantage of you and your time. I would not be in this position if I did not set those boundaries. I wouldn’t love what I did.”

Tim Ives, owner of The Body Project, believes it’s hard to be successful in personal training without working around clients’ schedules. His day starts early, sometimes around 5:30 a.m., and picks up at 4 p.m. as people get off work. His daytime hours are spent e-mailing clients and making telephone calls.

Ives, who ran track and cross country in high school and college, started his personal training business two years ago out of New Image Family Fitness in Des Moines, where he was able to build up his client base. He now operates The Body Project full time out of his home, where he works one-on-one with clients in a private setting.

“I found that many of my clients don’t like the overcrowded gym atmosphere,” he said.

Thanks to his background in track, he has been able to establish a niche by professionally coaching runners at all levels, training many for marathons and other events, occasionally in a group setting. But the majority of his clients are middle-aged women who have set weight-loss goals. With all his clients, he, like Pennings, emphasizes the importance of training the whole body, through exercise and nutrition.

“Diet is just as important as exercise,” he said. “Americans aren’t getting thinner, only fatter, and feel like they want to maximize their time and don’t necessarily achieve their goals on their own.”

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