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Making Lasting Connections

Since I joined CBI in January 2009, I’ve managed to make a connection with nearly everyone I’ve ever interviewed or worked with. Thus far, the people I’ve met in the health and fitness industry has been so helpful, kind, and knowledgeable, and their unforgettable stories and triumphs have made a lasting impression on me. In fact, some of the associations I’ve made were fortuitous in that they led me to other interesting people and things that are relevant to my work and writing interests. Kind of like a “Six Degrees of Mia Coen.”

Take, for example, Kristina Ripatti, a keynote speaker at IHRSA 2010. She was also featured in our CBI Interview in the March issue. Patricia Glynn, our associate editor, interviewed her and it was my job to hunt down the best photos to illustrate the piece. Patricia put me in touch with Kaye Kittrell, a photographer who has worked with Kristina. What a surprise it was to be communicating with not only a talented photographer, but a philanthropist who shared with me one of her photojournalism projects, called Transforming Lives.

Kaye’s project was a compilation of photos and stories about people with spinal cord injuries and other disabling conditions. Though each individual had their own story, they all had something—or, I should say, someone—in common: their trainer, Taylor Isaacs.

Taylor is remarkable in the sense that his fitness philosophy is all-inclusive, extending to every human being. To him, exercise is a means of preventing injury, illness, and disease, as well as a performance enhancement—as he puts it, “two horns on the same goat.” This philosophy can be applied to spinal cord injury (SCI) patients and people with other disabilities, people who lead sedentary lifestyles, the obese, even healthy people…the list goes on and on. According to Taylor, fitness can mean the difference between degeneration and regeneration—for both the mind and body—and this is something he incorporates into his life and teachings every day.

In fact, Taylor is far more than a personal trainer. He’s a man who helps transform people’s lives, who has lots of experience as a clinical instructor, clinical exercise physiologist, and nutritional counselor, and is a speaker on the topic of health and wellness promotion. In 1999, he was awarded Met-Rx’s World’s Best Trainer for his work with quadriplegic Jesse Billauer, a top-ranked surfer who eventually returned to surfing. In 2000, he was given the same award for his work with Aaron Baker, a professional Moto-Cross racer who beat his one-in-a-million chance of regaining the ability to walk. In 2002, he was named IDEA Trainer of the Year, and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) named him Clinical Exercise Specialist of the Year.

When it came to winning awards for his work with clients with disabilities, Taylor said, “It was more than about transforming bodies—it was about people. It was about transforming attitudes and lives. My mission was to infuse Aaron and Jesse with power and strength. Immediately after being named the MET-Rx World’s Best Trainer in 2000, Aaron turned to me and said, ‘I am a champion, not someone who just wears the uniform of a champion. I can’t wait to get back to our training sessions. I am intent on making unimpeded progress.’ I remember these words as a major defining moment. At that moment, my mission was clear-cut: I would work single-mindedly, unconditionally for results.”

If you were at the 29th Annual IHRSA Convention and Trade Show, you would’ve seen exactly the results he talks about: Kristina Ripatti, a long-time client, glowed as she gave the feature presentation in front of the IHRSA community. Troy, Mike, and Tiffane, clients and friends of Taylor’s, boasted sleek physiques as they tested the NuStep Total Body Recumbent Stepper along with a variety of equipment on the trade show floor. If you went to the Kristina Ripatti VIP event, you would’ve seen Taylor himself!

I will happily be working with Taylor on future CBI projects on the topics of inclusive fitness, post-rehabilitation exercise, and personal training. Stay tuned for more!

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