There seems to be no shortage of options for the Pittsburgher looking to get in shape. Whether through yoga, running, rowing or aerobics, Pittsburgh is full of companies and brands eager to assist in the tapping of your inner motivation.
But if these services and activities are the tools, the individuals behind them are the engine.
In our latest Who’s Next class, we have 17 such individuals, everyone from trainers and motivators to innovators in Pittsburgh’s fitness scene.
Many have changed lives and cultivated loyal followings. All have the ability to push people beyond what they ever thought possible.
You can meet them (and us) at a happy hour event in their honor on Wednesday, Jan. 31. Tickets can be purchased here. All are welcome, and all can feel the burn.
Join us as we recognize stellar under-40 individuals pushing Pittsburgh to be a healthier, happier and fitter place. Your ticket includes appetizers, beer, wine and spirits, as well as your chance to meet The Incline's Who's Next: Fitness class, presented by S&T Bank.
Wilson-McGinley, Inc. and Market St. Grocery are providing beer and wine, and you’ll enjoy Highmark Stadium food, as well as samplings from Threadbare Cider and Mead, Liberty Pole Spirits, and Blume Honey Water.
Please consider bringing something to help a neighbor in need stay warm this winter — anything from a scarf or gloves to a gently used jacket or blanket. Donations will go to PNC YMCA.
Where: Highmark Stadium Home of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 510 W Station Square Dr. (Station Square)
When: January 31, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
How much: $20 for public | Free for Who's Next: Fitness honorees
What’s the “snatch and clean and jerk”? Tom Duer will tell you. He’ll also show you. As founder of the Pittsburgh Fitness Project and PFP Barbell, Duer has worked with people who want to learn and master the technique and its notoriously difficult movements. Duer started personal training in 2009 and coaching Olympic-style weightlifting in 2015. “There are a ton of ways to get you as in shape and healthy as you want to be,” Duer says. “It is my mission to help find one that will work for you, but also that you will stick with, and hopefully have a good time in the process.” A graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania, he lives in O'Hara Township.
A former Cincinnati Bengals fullback, Christopher Edmonds wanted to provide a way for families to work out and be healthy without breaking the bank, so he created ATU or Athletic Trauma Unit, which describes itself as a Pittsburgh community of over 800 people who are dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle through exercise and nutrition. It is a growing movement that now includes the ATU Food Truck, which helps provide healthy meal options. “Chris started the non-profit organization called Athletic Trauma Unit. He and his trainers provide free family fitness for people of all ages. They also have been invited to elementary schools, after school programs and after school sports to start training the kids at a young age to try to counteract the issue of childhood obesity which could then lead to juvenile diabetes and hypertension,” one of Edmonds’ nominators wrote. “He has become a household name in Pittsburgh because of the wonderful things that he is doing all for free.” He lives in Wilkins Township. (Editor’s note: Edmonds was 39 at the time of his nomination.)
The change in Rosie Fisher’s life can be traced back to one decision — her hiring of a personal trainer in 2010. “A portion of my life was spent concerned with what others thought about my outward appearance and struggled to find happiness,” she says. “[The trainer] taught me what it was like to feel good in my own skin, to appreciate, and acknowledge my own self-worth.” Fisher is now paying it forward. After reaching her goal weight, Fisher got certified as a personal trainer. She now works as general manager and head fitness and nutrition coach at Panthro Fitness in the Strip District. “Rosie is the most passionate and caring trainer I've ever worked with (and I've worked with a lot). Her energy is contagious; her passion is felt by EVERY client; she is committed to helping you no matter what your fitness goals are,” one of her nominators said. Fisher lives on the North Side.
If there’s a fitness jack of all trades, Laura Fonzi might be it. She’s taught aerobics, yoga, pilates, spin, boxing and more, and recently opened a spin and yoga studio called Local Motion Fitness in Homestead. “I've been teaching fitness as a group exercise instructor, personal trainer and health coach since 2002 and have never lost my fire for helping people transform their lives,” Fonzi said. At Local Motion, she infuses a packed class schedule with social events like healthy brunches, nutrition excursions to Aldi and ’80s themed dance parties, cultivating a loyal following of eager participants in the process. She also teaches a course at the University of Pittsburgh as a faculty member in the Department of Health and Physical Activity. Fonzi is a graduate of Pitt, where she obtained her master's in exercise physiology. She lives in Munhall with her four children, husband and their rescue dog.
While a student at Penn State, Jennifer Grieb was looking for an activity to keep her busy. She found rowing and calls it the “best decision I have ever made.” It continues to be. Grieb now serves as executive director of Three Rivers Rowing Association, a non-profit rowing and paddling club. In that team, she has grown the club to nearly 600 full-time members from 68 ZIP codes across Western Pa. and West Virginia. “The organization and the sport have become my family,” Grieb told The Incline, “and I have met like-minded people that enjoy the outdoors and are taking advantage of all that Pittsburgh's rivers have to offer.” A Penn State graduate, Grieb lives in West View.
Michael Johnston moved from Atlanta to Pittsburgh to build Lift Link Fitness. He sought to change the way members experience their gym and has, according to his followers. “I founded Lift Link with the aim of making the fitness club a more interactive space, designed to increase retention for gyms and improve health outcomes for their members,” Johnston told The Incline. In tackling retention rates and other obstacles to getting in shape, Johnston and Lift Link have brought health-tracking and data-driven outcomes to the gym, helping people achieve healthier lifestyles in the process. “As an engineer, I bring a methodical problem-solving approach to every aspect of my business, whether that’s building a team, acquiring customers, developing product or implementing a go to market strategy.” An alumnus of Georgia Institute of Technology, he lives in Shadyside.
Landen Jones is new to Pittsburgh, having moved here less than a year ago. But he’s already impacting the city’s fitness scene, training men and women at Silverio Hoffman in Squirrel Hill and helping people “change their lives through intensive nutrition coaching.” “I have helped hundreds of people from Broadway Superstars to Wall Street executives to new moms to regular people just trying to get in shape live their best lives,” Jones says. His devotees describe Jones as dynamic, organized and multi-talented. He’s also multifaceted, with a focus not only on working out, but also on what his clients are taking in. Jones supplements his focus on physicality with writing on nutrition. He plans to launch his own Precision Nutrition Coaching in Pittsburgh this year. Jones previously won NYC Next Magazine’s “Hottest Gay Trainer” in 2013. “Pittsburgh NEEDS Landen,” one of his Who’s Next nominators said. “Fitness is about to get real in the ‘Burgh.” A graduate of Colorado Mesa University, Jones lives on the North Side.
“Early morning running buddies” who became dear friends and then weightlifters together, Emily Kelch and Jenny James have created a path together. As founders of SoulStrength Sisters, they style themselves as “no shame, body-after-baby advocates for each other,” encouraging women to weight lift and find their inner strength, while also “combining the beauty of being a woman, mother and Christian in a celebration of our strength and beauty.” “We are wives and mothers first (with eight babies between us!), but between phonics lessons and diaper changes, dinner prep and mountains of laundry, you can find us talking 100 miles per hour about our passions of holiness and truth, weightlifting and community,” the duo says. Emily and Jenny want mothers like them to know you don’t have to sacrifice yourself in the process of raising someone else. “We have a heart for cultivating community, educating women on proper deadlift form, and redefining strength — a fortitude that goes deeper than muscles and tendons and bones, that cuts to our very feminine soul.” Both James and Kelch live in Sewickley.
Fitness is as much about getting in shape and feeling good as it is about community and mindfulness. As founder of The Journal Deck and the Self Care Collective, Alyssa Kuzins knows this as well as anyone. Through the Teachable platform, Kuzins works with women around the world to create sustainable, self-care lifestyles to live their best life and is the sole creator of holistic content ranging from yoga classes, meditations, visualizations, journal prompts, worksheets, coaching calls and more. She also hosts the Self Care Spotlight Podcast. This incorporation of technology into her practice is one of many examples of tech’s growing influence on the industry. “Alyssa has taken a traditional yoga class format and turned it into a time for group coaching, women's empowerment and self-expressive freedom,” her nominator said. “Physically, she challenges my practice and teaches me new way of feeling postures, but emotionally her work has gone much deeper. She builds community, which Pittsburgh-yogis value deeply.” A Pitt graduate, Kuzins lives on the South Side.
As the owner/manager of one of Pittsburgh’s standout cycling studios, Alison Mears is no stranger to the grind. “She works so hard to motivate her fellow instructors, to push her clients and to create a community that is beyond sweat,” one of her Who’s Next nominators said. “She has created a space that is supportive and fun and people genuinely love to be in. She has inspired the middle schoolers and high schoolers she coaches to people twice her age to be better and be stronger and to live passionately.” An Emory University alumna, Mears lives in Shadyside.
Sara Middleton has always been an athlete. She recently leveraged her passion for sports and the outdoors, and a B.S. in exercise physiology, into a flourishing fitness practice in Pittsburgh. Middleton developed and serves as fitness director with Ascend Pittsburgh, where she puts her motto of “discovering more” into practice. “Be more fit. Lift more weight. Do more activities with your family and friends,” she says. “The process of fitness and the discovery of ‘more’ can propel an individual to be successful in and out of the gym.” Middleton is also working to create a queer-friendly fitness space in Pittsburgh. According to one of her nominators: “As a queer woman, Sara knows the importance of finding a place where you can be yourself, especially while exercising, which often makes folks feel vulnerable and exposed. Sara also knows that queer communities face higher rates of health disparities than their cisgender/heterosexual counterparts. With all of this in mind, Sara hopes to use her knowledge of the queer community in Pittsburgh and her expertise in health and wellness to create a place where folks can gain confidence and improve their mental and physical wellbeing.” A graduate of West Virginia University, Middleton lives on the North Side.
Jordan Rose is in demand. As master instructor and manager at Elevate: Fusion Fitness in Lawrenceville, he’s developed a loyal following. In fact, he received dozens of nominations for this Who’s Next: Fitness class. Most of those cited his work ethic and commitment. Many also cited his positivity, crediting Rose with patenting a fitness and coaching approach that melds body, mind and soul. “His classes are motivating, spiritual, and empowering,” one nominator said. “Completing one of his classes gives me the feeling of one that can ‘take on the world!’” A Bluefield College alumnus, Rose lives in Point Breeze.
Amanda Rubio co-founded and is the sole owner of MoWa Yoga, a pop-up yoga community whose primary event is Practice on the Pods, pop-up yoga classes every Wednesday in the summer since 2014 on the overlook pods on Mount Washington. Rubio's teaching style is vinyasa yoga, with an emphasis on strength-building, breath cultivation, and mindfulness meditation. In addition to teaching for MoWa Yoga, she teaches at One Point One Yoga in Garfield. She has also taught at several other Pittsburgh-based yoga studios. Rubio’s also a licensed attorney and works as a client representative for legal workflow and technology solutions in litigation with Thomson Reuters, servicing large and medium law firms in Pittsburgh and West Virginia. She graduated from Pitt Law in 2006 and University of Notre Dame in 2003 and resides in Brookline with her partner, Andy Russell, and their cat, Martie McFly.
In his role with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, Jason Stowell spends his time working with guests with special needs. One of those guests even won an honorary ESPY for his dedication to swimming — a passion Stowell helped to foster and grow. Stowell also helped found The Great Puzzle Pursuit, which began in Pittsburgh and now spans over 75 cities. The game is designed to have all of the clue locations within walking distance of each other so that participants can walk from location to location — having fun and getting a workout all at the same time. “In his positions with the JCC, Jason has dedicated his efforts to ensure the best possible experience for all of the members and guests,” his nominator said. “He works tirelessly to ensure the best possible programming, activities, and facilities are in place to help people work out and get healthy in a safe and friendly environment.” A Pitt graduate, he lives in Baldwin-Whitehall. (Editor’s note: Stowell was 39 at the time of his nomination.)
Nicole Trombley’s mission is simple: Educate and inspire individuals to make positive lifestyle changes associated with the five pillars of health and wellness. She’s taken this approach not just with individuals but entire corporations. Her work with corporate wellness programs, cancer patients at the Hillman Cancer Center and personal clients across Pittsburgh all shares a common axis: Activity level, good nutrition, stress management, mindfulness and support system. She’s built a business on those principles, called Pillar Wellness, through which she advocates for a holistic approach to health and wellness and authors a newsletter on the subject.
Marci Wiggins is quick to tell you that she’s an average woman, one who’s “addicted to results.” As owner and operator of the Tight-N-Tone Fitness Studio in New Kensington, she gets others addicted as well. Wiggins opened Tight-N-Tone fitness in 2016. After leaving her job at a law firm, Wiggins decided to use her passion for fitness to help others reach their health goals. Her studio has rebuilt clients and contributed to the ongoing rebuilding of New Kensington. “Marci wanted to be part of, and indeed a leader at the forefront of, the community's efforts to restore business and economic vitality,” her nominator said. “Her passion for individual fitness and community growth is evident in everything she does.” Wiggins also lives in New Kensington.