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Star Trainers’ Star Students


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Kristin Brinkman, 35, weighed more than 300 pounds when she showed up to take her first bootcamp class in 2010. Today, 160 pounds lighter, she teaches it.

“As a single mom who works full-time, Kristin is proof that with hard work and a genuine desire for change, you can overcome any excuse, any setback, and any fear,” says her trainer, Darby Brender, owner of Fusion Fitness in Overland Park, KS. “Despite so many obstacles that could have been conjured into excuses to give up, she achieved and even surpassed the goals she originally set”—including completing her first triathlon earlier this year!

RELATED: How to Lose More Than 100 Pounds

Pounding Out Fear

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Twenty-eight-year-old Angela Mayhew is proof that stepping out of your comfort zone has the potential to change your life. After moving across the street from a Crunch in West Hollywood, CA, Mayhew tackled her lifelong fear of the gym, exercise, and group classes by sneaking in the back row of a Pound class. Now, one year later and 40 pounds lighter, she never skips a class and is a regular in the front row.

“Seeing her own her awesomeness and abandon her fear of being judged is what makes us so proud of her,” says Pound co-founders Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom. Mayhew now helps others go to the head of the class as part of the “Pound Posse,” a group of dedicated students focused on encouraging each other to achieve their fitness goals. 

Self-Confident and Self-Employed

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One year ago, Alexandra Shipper (pictured on left above with her trainer) was uninspired by her job working under a fashion designer and looking for a change. But the idea of leaving a secure gig in the current economy was daunting. Change would have to start elsewhere—namely, SoulCycle. Pushing through each class helped her lose 50 pounds and, more importantly, gain the confidence and mental toughness she was looking for. Today at 25, she’s in the best physical shape of her life, and she recently found the courage to quit her job and start working for herself.

“I have never seen Alex in a class where she gives anything less than 100 percent,” says Emily Turner, her instructor at SoulCycle in New York City. “Her positivity on and off the bike is inspiring not only to me but to the riders who have the privilege of sitting around her. She’s taking on her goals and has an unstoppable energy around her that’s infectious.” Both women finished the Boulder Half Ironman in June, with Shipper citing Turner as her inspiration to register and finish the race. 

Running with Heart

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Born with a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Lauren Bouffard (pictured on left above with her trainer) risked sudden death if she elevated her heart rate too high. The 31-year-old stayed in shape with yoga and strength training, but walking up steep hills was a challenge and running a mile was completely out of the question—until last year when she underwent surgery to receive a new heart.

Post-recovery, she set out to test its abilities, starting with indoor cycling, tennis, and barre classes, but running still proved difficult, so she built up her fitness level at SoulCycle. “The class is so much fun and so distracting that I didn’t focus on my heart racing, which gives me a lot of confidence. Each class is a mini-milestone for me,” she says. 

So was the completion of her first 5K (four months post-surgery), a 10K a year later, and a 35-mile bike race with one of her doctors. “A star student is someone who takes nothing for granted, puts fear aside, and makes the most of every opportunity to better herself. That describes Lauren perfectly,” says Julie Dermer, one of her SoulCycle instructors in New York. 

Diabetes Can't Stop Her

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When Deb Person, 57, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 8, she was excused from gym class instead of encouraged to participate. Twenty years later, doctors changed their tune, and Person began her fitness journey. Soon working out two hours per week turned into walking, cardio, and strength classes all seven days of the week, and now she no longer needs insulin injections to regulate her blood sugar.

Whatever complications diabetes presents her, Person is right back in the gym as soon as the doctors give the okay. “We all benefit from her example,” says her trainer, Kathy Glabicky of Kathy G’s Tread Tabata, in Marblehead, MA. “You never know what life may throw at you, so you better be on your game and stay healthy and fit. It can only help you when you really need it.”

Treadmill to Triathlon

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Two years ago, Denise Adams, 50, could barely walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes. By steadily adding time, she was soon able to maintain a light jog before moving on to interval training, sprints, and tempo runs. Today Adams is an avid runner—she promised herself she would run one race per month this year; by August, she’d already crossed 11 finish lines—and she’s 80 pounds lighter. Next on her list: a triathlon in 2015.

“Denise continues to inspire, motivate, and impress me daily,” says her trainer, Rochelle Moncourtois of Westlake Fitness Connection in Westlake Village, CA. At the gym, her fellow group fitness classmates all notice one thing: her high energy. Adams never misses a class, gives up, or complains, says Moncourtois. “She inspires all these women around her without even knowing it.”

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No Excuses, Baby

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Thirty-year-old Andrea Chan’s growing baby bump might have been a built-in excuse to skip the gym. Instead, it was her motivation to keep going. After discovering she was pregnant with her first child, Chan went straight to her trainer, Mike. Z Robinson, owner of MZR Fitness in San Luis Obispo, CA, to make a plan. “We discussed that in order for her to be the best mom, the best wife, and the best person that she can be, she has to take care of herself first. She was determined not to fall behind in her fitness,” says Robinson. 

He modified Chan’s exercises to be safe during pregnancy, and she continued working out until just more than a week before she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy—after a mere 45 minutes of pushing. Her doctors chalk up the smooth labor in part to her strength and fitness level. How’s that for workout motivation?

“Age Is Just a Number”

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Lydia Lowry was a dancer in her teens and twenties, but as the years crept by, the workouts she chose grew less inspiring. Feeling limited by her age, she lost a good measure of both physical and mental strength. Then she discovered Dancers Shape, an Austin, TX, fitness studio focused on building power and grace through a blend of barre, Pilates, and yoga. After two and a half years of taking four to five classes a week, Lowry has dropped from a size 8 to a size 4—and is more flexible than she was as a teenage dancer.

In a blog post for the studio, Lowry, 54, wrote, “This past year has taught me so much about myself and my body, and the limitations I had put on myself in the past. We should not define ourselves by the limits of age—that is just a number!” Her attitude is even rubbing off on other new clients, says Jennifer McCamish, owner of Dancers Shape. “Lydia intuitively senses their uncertainty and nervousness, and strikes up a friendly conversation, sharing her first-time experience and encouraging them with her own story of self-improvement.” 

Never Say No

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It’s a story fit for a teen makeover flick: Shortly after starting high school, Brittany Pearson made the decision to clean up her diet and get fit. She joined an indoor cycling studio, and 40 pounds later, she was voted team captain of the Westlake High School cheer squad. But it was hardly just her new look that won her the spot: With her newfound energy and strength, Pearson, 18, went on to lead the team to win the Universal Cheerleading Association Super Varsity Division 1 National Championship in both 2013 and 2014.

While her fitness accomplishments are impressive, it’s her positive attitude that inspires trainer, Troy Szymanski, of Cyc Fitness in Austin, TX. “Sometimes the hardest part is saying yes to change. When you have a friend like Brittany, it’s much easier to get over that mental hill and say yes for yourself, because she’ll be right beside you saying yes too.” Pearson leads by example, Szymanski adds, always pushing through each song on the bike with confidence, ready to complete the next challenge and motivate those around her.

Photo: David Neuse