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Job Spotlight with Randy Lee, personal trainer and nutrition consultant at Snap Fitness in Columbus

There's an old saying: Do something that you love and you'll never work a day.

That might aptly describe Randy Lee's situation. The Columbus native for years worked with his father selling office furniture. But after deciding to part ways, there was a choice to be made.

"I needed to find something to do and I love to work out. I had been working out on a regular basis since I was a teenager," said Lee, who felt something centered around fitness and staying in shape would be a good move.

Thus, more than two years ago he studied online and took a comprehensive test to become certified as an American Muscle and Fitness Personal Trainer. A job at Gold's Gym -- now Max Fitness -- led to another position with Snap Fitness in the Whitesville Crossing shopping center.

It was slow going at first, but Lee, 35, steadily built his clientele, with it peaking at 17 people at one point. Today, he has 10 clients for his personal training expertise. But he also has plenty of extra duties -- primarily keeping things running smoothly as owner and manager of Snap Fitness at 1290 Double Churches Road. He bought the facility Nov. 1.

The Ledger-Enquirer talked with Lee recently about his job, why he enjoys it and how he keeps personal training customers on the straight and narrow path of accomplishing their goals. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What does a personal trainer do?

You're a psychiatrist, you're a motivator, you're coach, you're everything. The sessions last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, whatever it takes.

You're teaching proper form. You're teaching different exercises. You're continuously moving. If I'm standing there and I've got my stopwatch ready and say it's time to go, then it's time to go. There's no, 'Well, I'll just take a few more minutes' or whatever.

You've got to know how far to push and encourage people?

This is another one of my mottoes. If you come into the gym and hurt yourself, you're worse off than had you not come into the gym at all. That's why I'm very careful and very safe and preach safety, preach stretching before you exercise, preach cardio, proper form, that sort of thing.

There are more and more smaller gyms like yours opening in Columbus and Phenix City. Why is that?

It's a convenience thing. The majority of our members live within three or four miles of the gym, or work within three or four miles of the gym. It's just easy to come by, work out, go straight home and not get into a lot of traffic.

You're also a nutrition consultant, which seems to go hand in hand with your role as a personal trainer.

Absolutely. If you're wanting to get fit and in shape, your diet is half the battle. You have to eat right as well as exercise. This is what I tell people. You can go to the gym and do a thousand sit-ups, then leave and go get a triple Whopper from Burger King. And that gives you this nice set of abs under a layer of fat. That's the truth, eating clean and staying healthy has a lot to do with it.

And you tell people to lay off wasted calories such as alcohol?

I actually tell people to indulge every now and then. It's not a 24/7-365 thing. It's not: I have to eat right all the time, I can never do this or never do that. It's more of: I've done really well for three days. I think I'll have a couple of glasses of wine tonight. I've done really well for three days. I think I'll have a doughnut tonight. I think I'll have a piece of fried chicken and then I'll get back on track.

That's not always so easy to do?

Naturally, people get frustrated, they get disgusted and say, 'Man, this is tough. I can't keep this up. It's not worth it.' So I tell people every three or four days -- indulge. Give yourself a reward.

How else do you approach the nutritional aspect of staying fit?

In the very beginning we go over the nutrition part. I explain to them you need to be getting this much protein. You need to be eating this much as far as complex carbohydrates. You need to be eating this much fat, this kind of fat. Every so often during our training sessions, we'll take three or four minutes to the side and I'll ask: Hey, what did you eat for breakfast this morning? What did you eat for dinner last night? What are you planning on eating when you leave here? That sort of thing. I tell my clients to just be honest. I'm not here to scold you, I'm here to help you. Just be honest and we'll get through it together.

That goes for when clients are not in the gym, right?

I explain to my clients that this is what you need to be doing on the days that you're not with me. You need to be doing these exercises or you need to be walking on a treadmill. And I tell a lot of my clients that cortisol levels are huge when it comes to your body fat. We all know that stress causes body fat in the midsection. So I tell people to take a 10-minute stroll around the neighborhood and ease the stress levels. If it's too hot or too cold outside, come into the gym and put your favorite radio or television station on and walk for a little while.

The shorter days and approaching holidays have to be a nemesis for you?

The nemesis this time of the year is that nobody wants to go to the gym. Starting in January you have your new year's resolution and it gets crazy. People say, 'We have a beach trip coming up in March or April. I want to get pool ready.'

But starting about July and definitely in August, the training part starts to die out. People say, 'Well, the holidays are coming. It's starting to get cold again. I'm ready to eat. I'm not worried about it. I'm going to be wearing heavy clothes anyway. Nobody's going to see me.'

What types of people use your services?

I have trained (people) from 23 to 70 (years of age). I've trained anywhere from 100 pounds to 300 pounds. I've trained males and females. Everybody has a goal, what they want to do. Maybe I'm already in shape, but I want to get in better shape. Maybe I'm 300 pounds and I need to lose 100 pounds before I have a heart attack. I've had a little bit of everybody.

What's the biggest mistake most people make with exercise?

I think the biggest mistake is not doing their preliminary exercise. The first thing I tell people when they walk into the gym is to get on the treadmill for five minutes. It's like taffy.

If you put a piece of taffy in the freezer or the refrigerator, and you pull it out and stretch it, it's either going to break or it's not going anywhere. But if you take it out of the refrigerator and put it in room temperature, it warms up. It becomes more elastic.

Your muscles are the same way. Once you stretch out good, we can start our exercise. I see a lot of people walk through the front door and start working out. The younger generation can get away with that more so than when we start to get a little older.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The thing I enjoy the most are the results, helping people, changing people. If I'm going to do something for a living and get paid for it, at least I can stand there in front of you and see that it is helping you. You're more energetic, you're in better shape, you're happier.