Meet a Health Hero: Chris Marino

Read more about Marino's Body Shop's Chris Marino, a semi-finalist in our 2012 Health Hero Challenge!

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Name: Chris Marino

Occupation: Owner and personal trainer, Marino’s Body Shop

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?

I suppose I’m somewhat lucky in that I’ve always found exercise and training to be enjoyable. I’ve also appreciated the benefits I’ve experienced from my fitness activities with regard to increased energy, focus and physical appearance. As I’ve gotten older, and now have two young children, I believe it’s important to be a positive example for them and to instill good habits so that they may also come to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. As a career fitness professional, it helps to be ale to provide my clients with someone to emulate, to help them visualize what is possible. However, after more than 15 years as a personal trainer, I find myself being inspired as much by my clients’ achievements as I may inspire them to change. After watching someone who has spent so much of their life doubting themselves conquer a 50-pound weight loss or run their first 5K, it’s hard not to be motivated to remain healthy.

Describe a health- or fitness-related turning point in your life.

Shortly after turning 30, I found myself getting bored of the traditional gym routine. I was a “gym rat” for over 15 years. I had to redirect my interests in order to sustain my motivation to be fit. Consequently, I turned to running. I felt that running offered me the opportunity to explore my surroundings and to escape the four walls of the weight room. Unfortunately, I suffered virtually every injury commonly experienced by runners during the first six months. It threatened to derail me for good after a number of doctors told me to stop running. Instead of folding and going back to my roots, I decided to find a way to overcome my limitations and conquer these obstacles so that I could continue to pursue my newfound hobby. Running eventually led to my current passions for triathlon and trail running. I’m currently preparing for my third Half Ironman and am planning to run my first marathon in Philadelphia this November. Ultimately, my transition to endurance athletics has reignited my passion for a healthy lifestyle. It has proven to be a significant confidence-builder for me as I’ve overcome and learned to manage various injuries and exercise-induced asthma, which limited me as a child. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that my accomplishments have inspired many of my clients, friends and family to take on similar challenges.

What “policy” would you institute to make Philadelphia a healthier city?

We need more “community champions” for healthy lifestyles to inspire local communities to be active and make healthier food choices. Having organized support from government leaders and local businesses could go a long way towards encouraging self-responsibility. Let’s face it: Government policies that restrict restaurants from using salt or putting a tax on sugary beverages might actually be effective at cutting medical costs in certain areas, but it’s too unpopular with the public. We need something that people view as positive. The only policy I see working is one that helps create a web where people help and inspire their family, friends and community, ultimately encouraging them to pay it forward (just like the movie). Unfortunately, people will not do this naturally, but they will do it with organization and encouragement. That is a priority for my business as I feel that we’re in a unique position to make a difference not only in our clients but also our community. We’ve organized weekend activities such as trail runs and encouraged our clients to bring their friends and family. We’ve also had a number of clients take on roles with the Girls on the Run program in our community, which organizes training programs to help young girls run their first 5K. A policy that encourages “leading by example” and “paying it forward” is the only solution to our lack of physical activity in this country.

What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?

I’ve found that having diversity in my training plan and goals to strive for have been essential to my ongoing motivation for fitness. Triathlon offers me the opportunity of variety in training with the challenge of competition and measurable objectives. I enjoy the balance of running, biking, swimming and weight training. Not only are all four essential to the sport, the flexibility helps me both overcome and manage my attention-deficit disorder, while preserving my joints to that I can continue to enjoy the sport for years to come.

What is your No. 1 piece of health-related advice or encouragement?

I believe that physical activity is the catalyst for all things healthy. When you start to become more active and make exercise a part of your life, it’s much easier to integrate other positive lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking or making better food choices. In order to successfully integrate exercise I would encourage everyone to try a variety of activities until they find something that is enjoyable and convenient. There are so many activities that can facilitate improvements in strength, endurance and flexibility that the most important factor is not what you do, but simply that you’re doing something with consistency. If it turns out that the activity selected also provides the opportunity for socialization and goal setting, you’ll find success and be greatly enhanced.