Gerald “Chris” Christopher
Wayne Gym, 214 North Aberdeen Avenue, 2nd floor rear, Wayne; 267-688-7844
Why: With trainers, as with so much else, personality does matter. And Christopher has it; you actually want to hang out with him as he puts you through a series of endurance, plyometric and strength-training exercises.
Typical client: Hard-bodied Main Liners serious about fitness (in a three-times-a-week-at-6-a.m. way).
Our road test: Christopher knows just how much to push — beyond what you'd ever try on your own, but not so much that you get discouraged and defeatist. Leading you through drills that include bridges on a stability ball, a bench step with dumbbells, the sled push, and a push-up “climb” between two parallel steps, he mixes it up to give you the feel of an obstacle course — and take your mind off the pain ahead.
Rate: $85 per hour.
GO! Athletics, 63 West Lancaster Avenue, suite 4, Ardmore; 610-649-1609
Why: Grady — an elite runner who was also a sports physiologist at the Olympic Training Center in California — provides a holistic approach to health and fitness. She offers an on-staff nutritionist, massage therapy, and follow-up that includes a printout showing everything from your cardiovascular output to body composition.
Typical client: Her gym is new; previous clients tended toward serious runners who knew of Grady's work as the conditioning coach for the area's pro women's soccer team. (Grady has also been the secret weapon for two Main Line private schools' track teams.)
Our road test: Grady is more interested in your health and safety than in wowing you with how much she can exhaust you in an hour. Her individual workouts start out gently; emphasis is on teaching a few exercises that work your areas of greatest need.
Rate: Around $60 an hour.
Old City Ironworks, 141 North 3rd Street, 215-627-7002; East Falls Fitness, 3751 Ridge Avenue, 215-223-2311
Why: At 52, Bruce Willis look-alike Aaron is a fitness institution. He took over Old City Ironworks ages ago and still trains there some days, though he devotes most of his time now to his new 11,000-square-foot gym in East Falls. Known for his savage weight-lifting workouts as well as his kind, fatherly manner, he has fans who are loyal, if equally intense. Says one (by way of recommendation): “There have been times during the workout I had to act like I had to use the bathroom so I could throw up. Don't tell Howard!”
Typical client: Center City muscle-men, plus movers and shakers — lawyers, restaurateurs, businessmen — seeking the visual as much as the physiological benefits of body sculpting.
Our road test: It's not so much what you do — push-ups, explosive squat thrusts, lunges, leg lifts — but how Aaron makes you do it. That is, with lots of in-your-face but heartfelt encouragement.
Rate: In gyms, $50 an hour, or $30 a half-hour; in homes: $80 an hour.
Studio B, 209 Fairmount Avenue, 215-733-9053, and other locations
Why: A newcomer to the city, Smith left her high-powered job at Merrill Lynch in Jersey for the “liberation” of teaching fitness, yoga and Pilates. Her personal training incorporates some of each. It all comes back to the core and, as she says, “using your own body weight to get the most effective and safe workout.” There's some attention to breathing, but her workouts are more about obliques than oms.
Typical client: Fans from her yoga classes, though you don't need to be a pose-er to work out with her. Smith also regularly trains natural childbirth enthusiasts.
Our road test: The pace is rigorous, and she doesn't slow down much throughout the hour-plus all-mat workout. If you've taken a few Pilates classes and found “awareness and alignment” somewhat mystical goals, Smith is a pro at helping you isolate the muscles you need to be engaging.
Rate: $60 in gyms; $75 in studios; $90 in homes.
Main Line Athletic Club, 6 Cricket Avenue, Ardmore; 610-649-6112
Why: Cammarata's unique brand of circuit training — quick blasts of compound movements — delivers bang for your buck. The founder of the Platoon Fitness program (which he sold in 1999), Cammarata employs air balls, the treadmill, a rowing machine, weights, cables and bars for a total body workout that hits all major muscle groups and raises your heart rate quite nicely, too (understatement).
Typical client: Main Liners of every age and ability — including high-school athletes looking for an edge — join the personal-training gym to work out with Rene and his staff of six.
Our road test: Cammarata adjusts his workout to the appropriate skill level, but since we'd asked for a tough session, tough was what we got. After a fast treadmill “warm-up” came push-ups on the air ball, then a series of squats with weights, pikes and pull-ins with feet on a scooter, modified pull-ups on a bar … and suddenly, out of the blue, an overwhelming need to lie down on the floor.
Rate: $1,400 for 20 sessions.