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15 Years

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I'm getting a little nostalgic. This is my 15th year of being a certified fitness trainer. I never imagined I would be in the fitness world this long. Training has moved from hobby and part-time job, to full-time passion. When I received my updated training card I couldn't help but reflect back on all the people and places that have influenced me and my training style.

I remember my first success story was in college. A guy from my dorm, Nick, wanted to lose 60 pounds. He had no idea where to start on the fitness end and he knew I went to the gym every day. I couldn't wait to give him a muscle-burning, heart-pounding and sweat-soaked workout.

Having been underweight for the first 20 years of my life, I had no idea how hard it was for someone overweight to workout. Watching him struggle with each exercise forced me to change things up. Instead of a blistering fast-weight workout, we slowed things down. I also swapped our post-workout jog for basketball, and Nick actually started to enjoy himself. As the weight gradually dropped off, he started going to the gym without me. I was a little sad, even though he paid me with compliments and free hugs. The good news was way before the year was over, he dropped the weight and kept it off for the next four years.

Another important lesson I learned from Nick was that calorie restriction works. I was walking into the cafeteria one time and saw Nick eating chicken fingers and fries. I was pissed. "How are you going to work your butt off in the gym and then eat that?" I asked.

He responded with numbers. "500 calories. I'm still well under my goal for the day."

Before cellphone apps, Nick tracked his calories, estimated how much he burned and it worked. Granted, eating fried chicken is not the best way to lose weight, but it illustrates you can still eat some crap as long as you burn more calories than you take in.

Although I had a few more clients before 2001, Fit with Krit officially started that year because the consulting company I was working for closed shop. Since my lucrative career as a consultant didn't pan out, I started working part time as a trainer at Bally's on Webster and Clybourn.

The gym manager at the time was a character primed for WrestleMania. Steve was about the size of a linebacker, and loved working out. I used to make these oatmeal and apple sauce cookies that my family refused to eat, so I brought them to the gym. Steve tried one and flashed his larger-than-life smile, then asked me to bring him one batch a week and handed me some cash. He loved them because they were high in protein, so I started baking, and my experimentation with cooking took off.

Bally's was packed, but most of the members were recent college grads with little disposable income for personal training sessions. I did pick up a few clients, however, including a couple I'm still friends with today.

I started training Melissa as she prepared for her wedding to Bob. At the time, Bob was more into working out then Melissa, so I started training him. Bob really pushed me to be creative -- he loved to play. If I could make something a game, he was way more into it. Soon I started training Bob's sister, Holly. At the time, kickboxing was all the rage, and Holly asked if we could try it. Suddenly I was wearing a chest guard and pads while Holly literally hit me so hard it gave me indigestion. I had to schedule her sessions before meals so I wouldn't burp up chicken for an hour.

This family also brought me my first assistant. Their sister, Christy, wanted to become a personal trainer, so she started shadowing me. After a few months she got certified and helped me lead bootcamps.

I was only at Bally's a few years before moving on to Hifi Fitness, but I had somehow outlasted all but one person who started before me.

Hifi Fitness was a great move for me; I could charge clients less money and still make more than I did at Bally's. Additionally, the owners of the gym were welcoming and open to my crazy equipment requests. I still remember when I brought in a 30-foot rope and one of the owners immediately fell in love: "Kritter, I'll buy this off you for the gym." I even have a few videos of clients using the ropes.

One of the stars of these videos was Rodney. I started training him about a decade ago, and his athleticism forced me to learn more about training athletes. Rodney was a college football player, but could've easily played baseball too. He's run marathons, climbed mountains and dealt with a handful of injuries. Although I'm probably too cautious for him at times, it's been fun coming up with programs that build power, endurance and balance. Out of all the programs we did, my favorite was an exercise for the back, legs and chest followed with an agility exercise, like whipping a medicine ball at me so hard I almost fell over.

Another benefit to Hifi was the vast array of amazing trainers. I was able to take courses on functional movement, improving shoulder and hip movement, and core stability. Between the classes and talking to other trainers, my philosophy adapted once again. I was now being more conscious of joint structure, gait patterns (how people walk), and building up the core.

My nights and weekends at Hifi started diminishing once my wife and I had Henry. I loved my gym family and my clients, but spending time away from Henry was hard. I felt bad missing almost a whole day of the weekend with my guy. And when my wife was pregnant with baby number two, I told my clients I wasn't sure if I could still come downtown. I couldn't make the sacrifice -- it was too hard to miss that much family time.

I now train people at my home and started to work with high school athletes. I'm excited to see how this phase of Fit with Krit develops and to watch my two sons play (safely) with all the equipment.

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