Fitness First builds genuine and purposeful relationships with people of all ages, gender and abilities, from the competitive athlete to the casual exerciser. We also work with patients on pre- and post-operative strengthening and rehabilitation. Below are the diverse and personal experiences of Fitness First clients.
Adam Chandler, 51, raised his three children in Waconia, has worked for the same company in Eden Prairie for decades and in 2015 went into what he calls a “mid-life pity party.” When he consulted a therapist he received a prescription he did not expect.
“I was told one of the best things I could do for myself would be to make strength training appointments at Fitness First. I was surprised, but willing to try it. I contacted Fitness First in December 2015 to make an appointment with founder Steve Ritz for a consultation and purchased a package of 20 strength training appointments. Initially the strength training appointments were very challenging and I was sore afterwards.Halfway through my package I began experiencing major life changes. I am not referring to losing weight or changes in clothes size, although, I have experienced both. I am currently on the last hole of my second belt and will soon have to buy a third new belt. I also frequently climb stairs at work which would cause me to feel dizzy and out of breath at the top. Currently, I can chug up with no problem. I also experienced something more which is not measured physically. It is called happiness. I contacted Fitness First to improve my strength and get healthy, but I have accomplished so much more. I begin and end my work week with a Fitness First strength training appointment. Most Monday mornings when I get to work I cross paths with a person I do not call a friend. Typically this encounter has caused me to grit my teeth with a great deal of stress. I actually would anticipate feeling unhappy on Monday mornings. As I began to experience the benefits of strength training at Fitness First, I realized I would arrive at work happy and stay happy. I nod, say “good morning” and happily begin my day. There are no arguments or frustrations and I have a joyful feeling all week. Physical improvements are easier to measure, but the happiness quotient is much harder to deduce. However, I certainly value the positive feeling from strength training at Fitness First over taking an antidepressant any day!”
Carrie Champeau, 57 and married for 35 years, was dealing with muscle loss as well as osteoporosis related issues. After reading the Fitness Diary articles in Southwest Business, Carrie decided to contact Fitness First in February 2013 to get professional assistance with her physical issues.
“I have a family history of osteoporosis which prompted me to take action in maintaining my own health. My desire was to strength train at Fitness First to add muscle, reduce body fat and improve bone density. I also was concerned that if I attempted to workout on my own, I would perform activities incorrectly and increase my risk of injury. I have been strength training at Fitness First consistently twice a week for six months with very effective results. Being a mother of four, including a 24 year old recently married son, provided additional motivation to improve my fitness. My desire was to reduce body fat prior to his wedding. Two of my children have a genetic condition called Cohen’s Syndrome requiring me to provide care. The result of providing care makes my schedule very full. The efficient and effective strength training approach used at Fitness First works very well for me. The flexible schedule options in addition to the convenient location of the Excelsior office to my home are very valuable. The instructors at Fitness First are fabulous! They are friendly, professional and provide a strong level of accountability. The appointment only process at Fitness First encourages me to workout consistently leading to consistent results. I feel I have developed the discipline to get effective results. I also would never be able to safely use the sophisticated strength equipment Fitness First has without the supervision of the knowledgeable instructors. Fitness First has had a very positive impact on me physically and mentally.”
Mary Ellen Russell
“I was very concerned when I began I would experience extreme pain and discomfort because I would be involving seldomly used muscles. I have been very pleased there has not been the trouble I anticipated. The appointments have been more tolerable than I imagined. I do experience effects from the appointments but never pain. I enjoy working with Tony very much because it is comfortable and he tolerates my ‘old lady card’. I continually remind him he is working with an old lady which causes him to laugh. It is very productive and enjoyable working with Tony. I highly recommend it for anyone especially women over 55. The fact that everything at Fitness First is appointment only and very supervised is very valuable. It is very comforting knowing everything is performed correctly and safely.
“I was obese for more than half my life and lost 130lbs around 2004. I was double the size I am now, which put stress on my body including issues with diabetes and high blood pressure. I have been able to continue managing my weight and feel better as a result of my strength training at Fitness First. I have a food plan and restructured my lifestyle as well. Fitness First does not use a one size fits all cookie cutter approach. They truly customize the plan to me and my goals. I am very happy with Fitness First and can not imagine my lifestyle without them.”
“Being a finance officer in the banking industry, I spend the majority of my work hours at my desk, limiting my physical movement during the day,” Christian said. “I found I was often short of breath performing everyday activities and I started to experience pain in my lower back and knees. My uncle strength trains at Fitness First, and through my work in downtown Chaska I became acquainted with Steve (founder of Fitness First). So, September 2011 I started strength training at Fitness First twice a week, and have had very positive results. My primary goal was to improve my health – especially the strength in my back and legs. In just six months of strength training, I experience less back and knee pain, have more energy and feel more confident about my appearance prompting friends and family to comment on my improved physique. My management of work stress and nightly sleep has drastically improved. Overall, I feel great. The benefits of my strength training appointments have spilled over to every aspect of my life including my golf game. I am able to hit the ball further and have much more endurance while playing. Recently, I shot my lowest round– 67 (5 under) since college at Deacon’s Lodge in Brainerd, MN. Strength training at Fitness First has been a wonderful experience for me. The staff is very knowledgeable, professional and personable. I have primarily worked with Fitness Specialist Nick McCoy and feel he shows a genuine interest in helping me achieve my fitness goals. When it comes to golf, you can always get better! I am working on improving my game and plan to compete and win more tournaments. I am confident that the combination of practice and continuing to strength train at Fitness First will provide me the best opportunity to accomplish this!”
Gayle DeHaan, 49 of Excelsior, is an enthusiastic, former skeptic.
“I always read Southwest Business when it comes to my house each month,” Gayle said, “and I specifically enjoy reading the Fitness First Fitness Diaries. Last fall I read a story about a woman who had back problems and overcame them by training at Fitness First and it really peaked my interest. I have suffered from back spasms and have even had back surgery, and was always looking for relief. The article made me interested in finding out more about Fitness First, but I wasn’t willing to drive to Chaska. Then, when I read that a second studio had opened in Excelsior I decided the time was right.”
Gayle had always done some form of exercise, but she had never found her routines to be very effective. “I was a dedicated aerobic exerciser, but I really didn’t know much about how to strength train on my own,” said Gayle. “In the beginning I went to Fitness First to find a way to strengthen my back and prevent further problems. I am getting older and I have been listening to the advice that strength training becomes even more important as you age. However, what I found was my own personal fountain of youth! I have not lost any weight, but my body composition has changed so that I look 10-15 years younger. My husband keeps commenting on how great I look! Even that annoying arm jiggle is gone.”
Through committing to training at Fitness First, Gayle has even changed her fitness routine at home. “I used to workout aerobically at least 5 times a week,” Gayle said. “I felt guilty if I missed a day, like I wasn’t doing enough. Now, I have two intense strength training appointments at Fitness First twice a week and train aerobically once a week at home. I am seeing much better results with a fraction of the time spent. I feel so much better about myself. I don’t have that nagging guilt that I am not exercising enough or not doing it properly. With the personal attention from the staff at Fitness First and the protocols that they use to bring you to muscle failure, I know I am getting a fantastic workout.”
Gayle understands that money is tight right now for many people. “Training at Fitness First is something that we have to incorporate into our budget, but I would give up a whole lot of other things before I would quit training,” Gayle said. “I have seen so many improvements in my body and mental attitude. Even my posture has improved. Before training at Fitness First I had many mornings when I felt aches and pains until I really started moving. Now I just bound out of bed! Plus, I have much more energy throughout the day and even into the evening. I am totally hooked!”
Chris Nelson, 44, is an Investment Consultant at the Chaska Klein Bank which is closely located to Fitness First. Chris and Fitness First founder Steve Ritz have developed a friendship as a result of the proximity of their offices.
“July 5th, 2013 I suffered a very severe injury to my left hamstring tendons while waterskiing,” Chris said. “I also was experiencing extreme loss of leg strength which prompted me to contact Steve to evaluate my situation and formulate an exercise prescription avoiding the need for surgery. After meeting with Steve and two orthopedic surgeons, Steve formulated an injury rehabilitation and restrengthening prescription which we implemented immediately. My decision to rehabilitate and restrengthen at Fitness First as opposed to surgery was definitely the correct choice. I have experienced a natural healing process and my strength has increased significantly. I anticipate I will have to be cautious while waterskiing but I can ride a bike, run, strength train, golf and participate in other outdoor activities such as bow hunting. I had an elk hunting trip in the mountains of Colorado scheduled for September 2013, two months after my injury. Physical preparation for the trip was very challenging. However, with the professional assistance from the team of experts at Fitness First my trip was attainable as well as very enjoyable. My hunting buddy provided a tribute to my rehabilitation by saying ‘He would hate to see me working the mountains with two good hamstrings!’ I also was interested in playing racquetball at the same level as before my injury. I played in March 2014, eight months after my injury. I was very pleased how I performed and surprised my opponent with my level of play after such a severe injury with a defeat. I am physically functioning at a high level allowing me to pursue hobbies in addition to house projects. My entire body feels good including my shoulders and neck which I injured while playing college football. I like the way I feel and look as a result of strength training at Fitness First. The results have been amazing! The only regret I have is not using the Fitness First approach to strength training before and during my college football days. When my wife Maren saw what the strength training at Fitness First did for me she decided to strength train with them as well. We are both very busy and being parents of two daughters, the flexible scheduling with efficient appointment only training works very well. The approach at Fitness First is a long term lifestyle decision providing safe, efficient, and highly effective results. I have a great feeling of well being from my strength training appointments at Fitness First.”
“My dad’s passing was a wakeup call for me to work on reducing body fat and improving my health. I want to continue to improve so I can enjoy my 3 year old grandson, continue working and experience the many blessings I have in life. I realized weighing 280 pounds, I had to take action and the workouts would be very challenging. A diary published in the Southwest Business really caught my attention and prompted me to contact Fitness First. I discovered the appointment only strength training at Fitness First was an efficient method to bring my muscles to momentary failure beyond what I would accomplish on my own. This is my favorite aspect about Fitness First but it is also the hardest. I know if I were to workout alone, I would never get to that point. This point of failure is where you get the most bang for your buck in the least amount of time. Even though Fitness First is more expensive than other fitness options I have researched and tried, I have found the Fitness First approach to be very effective and worth every penny. The staff is professional, highly educated and very motivating which has helped me attain success. It has been a very rewarding experience. After the completion of a Fitness First strength training appointment, my muscles typically require 48-72 hours to recover and repair. During this process my metabolism is elevated and this is the time when I will develop muscle and burn fat. It is easier said than done, but has definitely been worth the effort. I am fortunate that I have no health issues and want to keep it that way. I am losing body fat, my knees feel better and my Sunday walks at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum with my wife are much easier. I have been very pleased with Fitness First and plan to continue strength training for a very long time.”
Tracey Mankowski, as many people are today, is concerned about good health, good eating habits and making time for exercise. However, Tracey, a 38 year-old sales executive, goes a step further to priortize her health and fitness. Tracey’s passion and interest in mountain and rock climbing led her to begin training at Fitness First.
“To be a good mountain climber, to challenge one’s body and get the most out of it and not feel any pain the next day, you have to be in great shape. Training at Fitness First over the past 4 and a half years has made me not only a better Mountain and Rock Climber but has put me into the best shape of my life.”
Another aspect of Tracey’s life that Fitness First helped facilitate is parenthood. “When I was pregnant I experienced pre-term labor and was put on bed rest for 3 months prior to delivery. I was confined to one position all day with no movement and was instructed by my doctors not to even lift my head until three weeks before my due date. I believe the training I had done prior to my pregnancy not only aided in an easy 5 hour labor and delivery but also helped me maintain my muscle strength, agility and even energy after the delivery. I was able to resume training seven weeks after I gave birth and I experienced no blood clots or high blood pressure during the entire period.”
Tracey went on to mention the many things she love’s about Fitness First. “The staff is great and they develop and implement a program specifically for you. The private appointment only facility means you never have to wait and the one-on-one attention can not be beat. Fitness First puts you in control gives you a challenge without harming your body. The workouts are not about burning calories through cardio workouts, but by building muscle to enhance your metabolic rate. I am a firm believer just doing cardio is not enough.”
It may have been Tracey’s quest for improvement in climbing that brought her to Fitness First, but she says that it is what she has accomplished at Fitness First that has kept her there. “I climb better and am able to tackle new challenges in all my sports. If I had to pick between cardio and workouts at Fitness First, without a doubt, I would choose Fitness First!”