I am so excited and grateful to be celebrating a special anniversary with my business partner, Dega Schembri. 2013 marks 20 years for our gym, City Fitness, and 30 years for Fit Physique, Inc., our parent company. Little did I know that when I showed up at 1500 Mass. Ave., Washington, DC, with only my O’Neil surf bag to my name to audition to teach classes for Dega that this was one of those life-changing moments.
As a child my father moved every six months. My grandfather, Otis worked on a road crew, known for his excellent eye for leveling. He paved many of the roads through the High Sierra in California, Nevada and the deserts of Arizona. Because of this, my father was committed to raising his children in one place. He said it was difficult on him to move every 3-6 months as a child because he never had a chance to bond to a place, make lasting friendships or participate in sports. My father went into the Air Force and when he got out in 1964 he was stationed in Clovis, New Mexico, where I was born. He moved our family to Round Valley, near Bishop California and got a job working for Union Carbide, a tungsten mine or as some called it “The Mine In The Sky.”
He kept his word, raising his three daughters at the base of the 13, 470’ Mt. Tom, on the Eastern Side of the Sierra, in a small mining village called Rovana. This was in company housing provided by Union Carbide. Here we had the freedom to run wild. We never meet a fence we would not cross or a yard we would not play in. At the heart of this small, isolated, rural community was the gym. It was here the fathers played on the company basketball team as the kids ran around playing hide and seek under the bleachers. Some of my earliest memories are of my handsome, six foot three father who was strong and lean looking like Elvis as he shot hoops, trained with old leather medicine balls and shadow boxed with old leather boxing mitts. Our TV reception was poor so many nights were spent watching old black and white film of Causuis Clay and George Forman fights when we were not planet and star gazing.
As I grew, the gym and the baseball field became the place to explore my own athletic abilities. We considered ourselves “tomboys” and played every sport the boys did; baseball, football, basketball, volleyball, track and field & skiing on Mammoth Mountain. When we were not playing sports we rode horses, swam in the creeks, climbed the mountains and chased the coyotes and mule deer through the sagebrush. At 11 years old, I became a cheerleader and my love of dance and movement began.
As a teen, growing up in one of the most isolated communities, I had a dream to travel the world. Inspired by my love of Jane Fonda and Jazzercise I announced at my high school graduation that I wanted to be a Diet and Fitness Consultant for the Rich and Famous. This got quite the laugh, as this was unheard of in my small town and not a career path in 1981.
My professional fitness path started out at The Total Workout 1983 in North County San Diego. It was here I was introduced to the person who was instrumental in getting me a job at the exclusive spa Cal A Viewhere I trained such celebrities as Gary Busey, Stockard Channing, Leslie Ann Warren – my childhood Cinderella – and fitness star Kathy Smith. Meeting the rich and famous at this job opened doors to working as a trainer on the east coast at the Norwich Inn and Spa which lead to me to the opportunity to audition and become the trainer for the Sports Illustrated Super Shape Up Video Series with Cheryl Tiegs, Elle McPherson and Rachel Hunter.
Riding the wave of the release of this popular video set, and being a bit of a gypsy for a few years, I moved to DC. Soon, I found myself pregnant, a single mom to be, and I realized in order to make it work I needed to settle down. Having done what I said I wanted to do traveling to some amazing places in the world and training the rich and famous I was ready to see a long held vision of my own fitness business come to a reality. My son was born in 1992 at Georgetown Hospital, and like my father before me, I wanted to raise him in a close-knit community.