Health & Fitness

By Michelyn Camen

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I work out at least four days a week. I lift weights, practice yoga and endure hours of cardio. I don’t eat foods that taste especially yummy. Yet, after ten years of consistent exercise, my waistline is increasing and zippers aren’t closing. Fit but not fab, what am I doing wrong?

In a city where there are thousands of personal trainers, how do you know if you are choosing an expert and not an out of work model with a certification? I have hired personal trainers in the past, but never saw significant results. I made costly mistakes, since most of the time I based my choices on how the trainer looked, or lowest price per session.

This time I did my homework. I researched dozens of N.Y.C. trainers, then met and sweated with three who knew their stuff.


Clay Spa: Melissa DeLancy

At the 20,000 square foot Clay Spa, the old slogan “No Pain, No Gain”, has been replaced by “Worship your body, nourish your soul.”

Arriving at Clay, I thought I had mistakenly walked into the W Hotel. Not your typical dark and dank gym. Membership has it rewards: complimentary overnight laundry service, a café/restaurant, and concierge desk are just a few of the amazing amenities. The luxurious day spa is as important to the Clay concept as the action packed classes (including Yoga, Spin, and Pilates) and the state of the art gym.

So when can I move in? With so many sybaritic distractions, would I focus on my work out?

I met with Melissa DeLancy. Petite and slender, Melissa doesn’t look like the stereotypical “buff and tough” personal trainer. Today, Melissa has earned an impressive array of accreditations, including certification by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

First, Melissa conducted an extensive family and personal health evaluation. “I always perform assessments from the minute I begin working with someone. It’s important to know as much about a client’s health history early on as they will share with you.” she said. We headed towards the elliptic machine for a warm up. The remaining 50 minutes passed quickly; Melissa guided me through a series of compound muscle group exercises emphasizing strength, flexibility and endurance. The military style pushups with alternating side planks were especially challenging.

“The first session is pure evaluation; I assess the client’s level of fitness and their expectations,” she says. “Once I get to know my client, I tailor their workout to their goals, whether it’s losing weight for a college reunion or improving their golf game- always trying to manage expectations.” Melissa gives her clients homework to do: mine was to add 60 minutes of cardio at a lower intensity every week.

Post workout, I was tempted to try Clay’s hydrating renewal facial, but walked the 25 blocks back to my office instead.

25 West 14th Street, New York City

Membership fee is $ 2,500 a year; includes five complimentary one hour personal training sessions or spa treatments. Additional hourly sessions are priced between $95 and $125.


Dellbach Studio: Inga Dell

Inga Dell, co-founder of Dellbach Studio, believes personal trainers should be trainers, and not salespeople with quotas. That’s why after ten years as a head trainer for well-known national gyms, she opened Dellbach Studio in 2002, where clients are not required to make any financial commitments.

Dellbach focuses only on one-on-one training. Running the marathon? Improving your tennis game? Trying to squeeze an effective workout into your hectic day? According to Inga, “Most Dellbach clients are professional women and men over 30. The reason they choose to train here instead of a typical gym is because of the personalized atmosphere, designed to meet athletic/ fitness goals more easily than in a typical gym setting.” Inga employs full and part time trainers (Try “Mistress” Mary Fugle, for killer Pilates). Dellbach Studio offers clients monthly nutrition and fitness counseling.

After reviewing my diet and fitness history; Inga quickly identified that I was stuck in a diet and exercise rut. Since Inga’s accreditations include a BS in both Nutrition and Physical Education, she advised me to lower my calorie intake on non training days, eat more fruit and vegetables and adopt interval training techniques – varying cardio intensity and equipment.

Our session was 45 minutes. Inga’s experience proves that most clients lose focus and intensity if the session lasts any longer. My workout began with a few minutes jumping rope, followed by a total body workout combining at least two muscle groups simultaneously (i.e. squats with back rows). “I implement lots of different techniques according to fitness levels.” Inga declared. Inga incorporated exercise bands, machines, dumbbells, fitness balls and body weight exercises like pushups and lunges. Our workout was challenging, but not uncomfortable, something I felt I could maintain on my own.

Afterwards, I stopped at the grocer and picked up fresh vegetables for lunch.

DKD Training Studio
145 W 28 St., Suite 802
New York, NY 10001
(212) 967-7383

By appointment only: 45 minute sessions priced from $100-$150


Greg Theodore, Personal Trainer

I was told about Greg Theodore by an acquaintance who swore that after firing six personal trainers in three years, she finally found “the one”. Since I had last seen her only two months ago, she definitely looked toned and terrific. “Sign me up”, I said.

Greg Theodore is an independent trainer with 15 years of experience and a BS in Physical Therapy. Greg is a former Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. I had some reservations (remember the movie Private Benjamin?), but contacted Greg for a consultation/training session. Greg travels to his clients’ gyms or homes (he can train you in the tiniest New York studio). I could work out based on MY schedule, taking advantage of my condo’s well equipped gym.

We discussed my fitness and injury history. I let him know I worked out for years with personal trainers, including a former Mr. Olympia runner-up. He was not impressed.

During our consultation, Greg appeared soft-spoken and unassuming…how tough could he be? Ha! I spent one hour enduring the most challenging work out I have ever experienced, a non stop, high rep, lower body workout combining plyometrics, boxing and jump rope drills that pushed my cardio threshold sky high. “I can’t do THAT! Why can’t I take a break NOW?” I whined.

Welcome to Camp Greg… heart pumping cardio combined with high repetition boot camp exercises (i.e., squat thrusts with pushups and dumbbell presses …as one continuous exercise). I made excuses why I couldn’t, wouldn’t, do certain exercises. I complained I was going to pass out. “You’re fine. If you want results train your mind as well as your body”, he said.

According to Greg, many people give up before even starting. They believe ‘I can only do ten reps’ or ‘pushups are too hard’. Negativity, poor breathing techniques, and bad form prevent them from reaching their potential. He helps break down these mental barriers by encouraging, teaching and motivating.

I was gasping for breath after 20 minutes. After all these years, I never learned how to breathe correctly, so Greg’s reminders were constant and incessant. Finally, I “breathed” through a seemingly endless series of butt burning exercises. I collapsed on the mat as we stretched for the remainder of the session, proud I had made it through the hour.

Greg’s clients never get too comfortable and are constantly challenged. They gain the confidence to move past their “perceived” limitations. He focuses on your workout as if he was doing it himself. “When I train a client, she/he is my universe for that hour. I am with them 100% during every rep; the client is my priority, not my next appointment”, he explained. Could I keep up this high intensity without him? Greg teaches a baseline training program clients can do on their own. He advocates physical activities outside the gym- biking, yoga, tennis, and walking.

The tough marine has a big heart. After every session, he contacts each client by email or by phone, offering encouragement. Greg emails weekly e-tips on health, fitness and nutrition to all his clients- the beginners, the elite athletes, and physically challenged multiple sclerosis patients.

In real life, as in the movie, Private Benjamin perseveres…

To contact Greg Theodore, email him at or call him at 917.375.6074.
Greg’s fee varies depending on your location. Prices for a one hour session range from $90-$125. By appointment only

Originally published November 2006
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