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Fit city: Team training

Pam LeBlanc, Fit City

Staff Writer
Austin 360

If the thought of transforming yourself from a sofa-surfing slouch into a Twinkie-spurning exercise junkie turns your quadriceps to jelly, consider this: You don't have to go it alone.

A fitness trainer can help you set goals, motivate you, prevent injury and monitor your progress. But how do you find a good one?

You can start at your gym, if you belong to one. Or get a reference from a friend or physician. You can also check the responses on a July 21 Fit City blog post that asked Central Texans why they love their trainers. Here's a sampling.

pleblanc@statesman.com; 445-399

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Trainer Stephanie Flores, 31, of J. Nettles Fitness and client Erin Griffin, 27, public relations account director

Working together: Almost three years.

What Griffin says about Flores: "Stephanie helped me regain my confidence and competitive edge, which I had lost after gaining weight once I joined the workforce. Challenging me with every workout, keeping my motivation level high and creating a workout program that was the right one for my needs are among key reasons why I value Stephanie as my trainer. Almost 90 pounds lighter, having completed three half-marathons and being able to play competitive soccer again, I attribute my improved health and rediscovered spirit to my experience with Stephanie."

Training: Certified by American Council on Exercise, National Academy of Sports Medicine and National Council on Strength & Fitness.

Favorite exercises: Pull-ups, push-ups and squats. "I like them because they can be done with modifications for every person on every level. If I had to choose one it would be the pull-up, because it requires so much strength."

Specialization: Competition physique training, which is similar to bodybuilding but emphasizes feminine symmetry, proportion and poise.

Best advice: "Trust your trainer and the program they've designed for you."

How she helped Griffin lose weight: "I geared things toward sports training. She played soccer in college, so I played off her inner athlete. We worked on nutrition, and I gave her cardio and weight homework assignments on days she wasn't seeing me."

Nutrition tip: "Pick and choose your battles when it comes to eating. Just because you want something sweet doesn't mean go for the peanut butter cheesecake. At a Mexican food restaurant, get a napkin, put a handful of chips on it and push the basket away."

Trainer Liana Mauro, 28, of Mauro Pilates and client Joe Stephens, 28, attorney and triathlete

Working together: One year

What Stephens says about Mauro: "With Liana's guidance and personalized programs, I qualified for the Boston Marathon (with a 3:03 here in the Austin Marathon) and for the 70.3 World Championships at Ironman 70.3 Texas. She tailors all her workouts to me. I have stayed 100 percent injury free and my all-around performance has skyrocketed. And she keeps things fun — you should just try one of her paddle Pilates classes."

Endurance athletes pride themselves on their toughness. "So when you walk into a Pilates studio, especially as a male, you think anything is going to be easy," Stephens says. "With Liana, the exact reverse is true. Sometimes I'm more comfortable on a 100-mile bike ride than during a workout in the studio with her."

Training: Certified by Stott Pilates in mat work, reformer, stability chair, arc barrel, spine corrector, ladder barrel and Cadillac.

Specialization: Pilates for athletes (specifically triathletes), paddle Pilates, Pilates for kids, barre, injury prevention/rehabilitation and weight loss/toning.

Favorite exercise: Side bends on the reformer. "It works on a lot of things at once, spinal mobility and it's a good core strengthening exercise."

Best advice: "Listen to your body."

Philosophy on pushing clients: "I was taught by so many traditional trainers to push through pain, which ultimately led to injury. If you're working with a trainer, make sure they have adequate education about anatomy and movement and that they encourage you to be intuitive with your body. There is a fine line between a good burn and compromising your body — it really is possible to work hard, have results and be pain free."

Trainer Mallory Rodgers, 27, and client Nanette Labastida, 43, Realtor

Working together: Three years, on and off

What Labastida says about Rodgers: "I love my trainer so much, on the days I am to meet her at whatever unearthly early time, I wake up excited to go. I recently started back up with her after going through breast cancer last year, so it felt like I was starting from ground zero. She's patient, motivating, understanding of my new limitations, sweet and fun to hang with. She shares her life stories with me and knows all of mine. She kicks my booty, but I always leave feeling so fulfilled, happy and sore."

Training: Certified by the American College of Sports Medicine; bachelor's degree in kinesiology from the University of Texas.

Specialization: Clients starting or maintaining a fitness program. Rodgers runs small boot camps and running groups, focusing on cardio and muscular endurance for intensity, weight loss and heart-rate training.

Best advice: "Figure out what you like to do for activity and do it! Figure out what motivates you, and use it! Whether it's a personal trainer, P90X, Crossfit, Zumba, kickboxing, water skiing, basketball or whatever, if it gets you moving, it helps on your fitness journey."

Favorite exercise: Squat thrust, also known as the burpee. "It is a multimuscle exercise that raises the heart rate, challenges the core, works strength in both the upper body and lower body, and in general is just more challenging. You can spice it up with lots of extra movements."

Why she enjoys working as a trainer: "I just love my clients. I absolutely invest every bit of energy I have. I'm active with them, in touch with their goals and what they want and very in tune with their needs physically and emotionally."

Advice for choosing a trainer: "The chemistry between you and your trainer should be spot on. Clients have to share their deepest insecurities with their trainer. No. 2 is lifestyle. You don't want a trainer that doesn't exhibit or exude qualities you want."

Trainer Kai Duran, 42, of KaiFit, and client Jonathan Saad, 30, who works in commercial real-estate management

Working together: 17 years

What Saad says about Duran: "When I first met Kai, I was nonathletic, uncoordinated and couldn't make the cut for any of my school's sport teams. Kai was determined to make me an athlete, and by the following year I was accepted to the basketball, track and football teams. I am now 30 years old and still improving; I might even be in the best shape of my life. Kai gives all his heart and energy to his clients, he will help you make your goals and he will not stop until you reach them ... When you train with Kai, he becomes more than just your trainer; he becomes a part of your family."

Training: Certified by American Council on Exercise.

Specialization: Strength training for all ages.

Favorite exercise: "The exercise that is most challenging for an individual."

Best advice: "Stay active. The worst thing you can do is not move if you're injured or not feeling well. And listen to your body. If something is impossible for you or hurting you, don't do it."

The first step with new clients: "I ask what their goals are, then find out about their background, what their fitness routine has been and what their time considerations are. I always try to start everyone with a food blog so I can get a real idea of what they're eating. I evaluate how well they are able to move, their flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness."

Philosophy: "I work in partnership with (a client) to provide the best service that's right for them. Sometimes that means saying, ‘Hey, I'm not right for you,' or ‘You need to do more yoga or Pilates or walk more.' I recognize that I am not for everyone."

Nutrition tip: "My tagline is ‘If you can't pick it or kill it, don't eat much of it.' Read and understand your food labels."