Growing up in Wisconsin, I probably should have become a fitness trainer. Then again, I probably should have become fit.
Being a trainer is one quick route to reality TV. Here's a story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Reality TV has special needs these
It needs cooks and designers and anyone
with a tattoo. And it especially needs fitness trainers.
Those trainers tend to live in
California, which is roughly the fitness capital of the world. “Here,
it's much more a part of your life,” said Jennifer Cohen of CW's
“Shedding For the Wedding.”
Still, many grew up in smaller and
chillier places. Jackie Warner (of Bravo's “Work-Out” and
“Thintervention”) is from Fairborn, Ohio, near Dayton. PJ Stahl
(just added to Style's “Ruby”) is from Mount Pleasant, Mich.;
it's “a small town where people are so genuine,” he said.
And Cohen is from even further north.
She's from the Canadian city of Winnipeg, where “everyone knows you
have to plug in your car (into a heater) at night.”
These are places where it's always
tempting to stay home. “You have to make a concerted effort” to
get exercise, Cohen said.
And many people do make that effort.
Cohen was a dancer, Warner was a soccer goalie, Stahl conducted a
personal revolt for gender equality: “When I was 5 or 6, my little
sister was going to gymnastics,” he said. “I thought, 'If she
gets to jump on a trampoline, so should I.'”
Later, that suited him perfectly.
Smaller (5-foot-6, 130 pounds) than most teens, he lacked confidence.
“I was kind of dorky,” he said. “I was a little scrawny; I
wouldn't say I was popular by any means.”
But he was a state champion at the
floor vault and parallel bars, developing a gymnast's strength. When
Michigan State University dropped its gymnastics team, he became a
diver – “I wasn't on a diving board until I was 19” – and did
Soon, each moved to California. “I've
always had big dreams,” Warner said.
She went from fashion school to a
cell-phone business to being a Hollywood agent and then trainer.
Cohen went to college in Manitoba and Toronto, then started her own
business, No Gym Required.
That name makes sense, she said.
“People will always find an excuse to not work out …. They're too
busy, they can't get to the gym.” When no gym is required, they run
out of excuses.
She's been on “Today” and other
shows and now is one of the two “Shedding” trainers. The show
started with nine overweight couples and will give the winners a
“When you're under wedding stress and
you pile on the weight-loss sress, it becomes very difficult,”
Cohen said. “You have to rely on your partner, because it's based
on combined weight loss.”
Stahl, by comparison, has one focal
point on TV: Ruby Gettinger, 5-foot-9, had already trimmed from 716
points to about 350. When she decided to spend time in Los Angeles,
her trainers (in Chattanooga, Tenn.) pointed her toward Stahl, who
does training sessions in homes and in gym space he rents.
He liked her instantly, he said. “She
is just such a sweetheart; I couldn't believe how genuine she is.”
Trainers aren't always liked, of
course; they can be harsh. “I don't sugarcoat it,” Cohen said.
Still, she said, there are benefits.
“When you exercise, it releases endorphins that make you feel
These pre-wedding work-outs are
particularly good, Cohen said. “It unites the couple. Instead of
watching TV and eating bon-bons, they're doing something together.”
– “Shedding For the Wedding,” 9
p.m., Wednesdays, CW. On the March 30 episode, four couples remain;
the winning couple will be named April 13
– “Ruby,” 8 p.m. Sundays, Style
network, rerunning often; PJ Stahl started on the March 27 show
– Jennifer Cohen (“Shedding”) and
Jackie Warner have fitness books; Warner also has videos
– Web: jennifercohen.com,