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The Summer is upon us…are you beach bod ready? I’ll admit I love my french fries, but fast food triggers are everywhere this summer and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of unhealthy eating. What’s a girl to do? I’m a gym member, but sometimes I just don’t
wish to fight with the crowd to get my core/cardio workouts in. I had the opportunity to speak with Underground Trainers, a unique business offering its clients a new perspective on health and nutrition:

AK: So tell me about yourself, how did you get into the fitness training business?
Michele Santiago: I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and worked in fashion merchandising for a decade. In the beginning it was great, but the novelty wore off and I got so bored sitting behind a desk and looking at spreadsheets.
There was no creativity involved. I was having some problems in my personal life and began to battle depression. I started to work out. The more I worked on my outside, the better I felt on the inside. My self esteem was pretty much non existent for years, but as I began working out, I could see traces of the old, happier me shining through. Looking back, I can honestly say that fitness saved my life. I think Maryelizabeth’s story is similar in a lot of ways.

Maryelizabeth Carter: For two very different people, Michele and I definitely were going down the same path in life which led us to become personal trainers and best friends. I had worked in the music industry for over 22 years, and really achieved everything I wanted and more. I was a commercial disc jockey at my favorite alternative station, ran the radio department at some really cool labels with some of the biggest and most talented artists, was an international artists manager, toured the world numerous times, wrote for skateboard and music magazines, one day I woke up miserable. I was exhausted, depressed, and out of shape. I spent so many years on the go, and taking care of everyone else that I never stopped to just take care of me. So, I started moving and began to walk. I also took a little bit of each diet I had ever been on and started to eat cleaner and smarter. I joined a gym and actually used my membership. The weight started to come off. This was 6 years ago. I have lost 199 pounds so far. I kept
working in music and at the height of my career, I left. I went back to school for personal training and nutrition. That is where I met Michele.

Michele Santiago: Maryelizabeth came into class with her coffee one morning and said, “I have a great idea about our future and I need to talk to you about it during break.” So, I looked at her and cautiously said “okay” because this really could mean
anything with her. You have no idea what she is going to come up with.

Maryelizabeth Carter: Really? I have great ideas! Brilliant ideas. (sarcasm) Anyway, so I told Michele during our break that I wanted to start a personal training and nutritional counseling studio. I wanted her to be my business partner.

Michele Santiago: Without hesitation, I said yes. I knew it would be great, and I knew we would be the perfect team.

AK: What fascinated you about fitness training?
Michele Santiago: Before any client starts training with us, we give them a health and fitness assessment which allows us to learn of any injuries, potential health risks, and goals. The majority of our clientele is interested in weight loss. While I’m ecstatic to see them reach their goals, what fascinates me is the mental change I often see along side the physical. There often comes a point in my training where this raw, unfiltered person standing in front of me breaks down, and I see the real them. No longer hiding behind a facade, they openly express their challenges and fears. In the fitness industry, it’s often said that we are not only personal trainers but therapists– and while I understand, I am no therapist. I do, however, agree that part of my job is getting a
client to be honest with themselves, and assisting them with how best to deal with the challenges ahead.

Maryelizabeth Carter: I agree with Michele. There is something just wonderful and fascinating about my clients, or even watching Michele’s clients transform
from the person they were the first day they walked through our
door, to the person they become a few months later. There is definitely a bond between a trainer and client that is similar to that of a counselor and client. We are, by no means, psychologists or social workers– but we work with many strong people who are dealing with some heavy health issues, or have had health or behavioral issues. Diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, depression, autism, adaptive athletes, PTSD, etc. Whether that be physical or emotional, everyone has a story, and it is our
job to help them get their strength, health, and confidence back. They are doing the work, and we are making sure they are doing it correct and safe while we cheer them on the entire way. All clients that are going through some intense health issues are cleared by their doctor before seeing us. We do get a lot of clients that are coming from physical therapy whose insurance no longer will cover their PT. So, we will meet with or call their physical therapist, and go over what rehabilitation exercises they left off with to help them get to the next level. In short, what fascinates us about personal training is our clients and how they inspire us.

AK: Where do you usually go to train people? What services does Underground Training provide to its clientele?
Michele Santiago: We can train in our studio which is located in Rutherford, NJ, or we can train in your home or office. We do partner training as well.

Maryelizabeth Carter: Training can happen almost anywhere. If it is nice out, you will usually find us outside at the park or beach. We provide skype training for business clients that can’t step away for lunch or are on the road. Speaking of on the road, we have been asked to tour with musicians or train them while they are recording in the area. SO, we have trained in green rooms, studios, or hotel gyms. We do on set training for tv shows and movies as well. We even flew to Iceland once to train artists at a music festival! That was a lot of fun.

AK: Do you offer nutritional advice to your clients?
Michele Santiago: Yes. We both do nutritional counseling. Maryelizabeth gets very excited about this.

Maryelizabeth Carter: Oh my gosh. Yes! Michele loves weights. I love nutrition (we love both, but some things we love more than others). We do nutritional counseling and offer an array of options. I will even go food shopping with you if you want. We deal with all kinds of diet restrictions, and would be happy to go over vitamins and supplements with you.

Maryelizabeth Carter: Absolutely been focusing on suspension training. It uses body weight exercises to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability. I also never leave home without my resistance bands. They are light, compact, and provide external resistance that your muscles have to work against. I use them in every work out. So, combine Michele’s HIIT and Tabata with my suspension and resistance training. Guaranteed you are getting a full body workout wherever you are this summer.

AK: What are your future goals for Underground Training?

Maryelizabeth Carter: One of our goals was to go international, and that happened within 6 months of opening so we reeled it in a little. We are currently slowly expanding to California for a small group of clients in the Los Angeles and Orange County area. We will continue to focus on growing in New Jersey and New York City. Right now, we just want to continue to grow our client base and make sure that no one ever feels they don’t have someone to turn to because they are overweight, too skinny, insecure etc. about themselves. We have been there, and we are here for you. Sign up for personal training! You can contact us through
our website www.undergroundtrainers.com Check out our instagram www.instagram.com/theundergroundtrainers Let’s work together to achieve your goals. We know life is tough but so are you.

MN Magazine

MN Magazine

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