The Question: WhyFly?

The answer: Yes, please, as more users sign up with this start-up that provides ‘gluten-free internet’

Do a Google search for “WhyFly” and the first things that pop up are testimonials from pilots about the joys of flying an airplane. After that come websites that give you tips on the sport of fly fishing (it’s all in the wrist). Finally, you find it—WhyFly, the start-up internet service provider that’s located in the small city of Wilmington and is ready to take on the big boys of cyberspace.

WhyFly’s approach has been simple and, so far, profitable: They offer more for less and they do it with a neighborhood vibe that has convinced many residents and businesses to sign up with them instead of internet giants like Comcast and Verizon.

WhyFly is the brainchild of Mike Palita and Mark Thompson. Palita is from Oxford, Pa., and worked for Capital One Bank as director of data center technology before leaving to start WhyFly, and Thompson is from Newark and left his founding post with Media Analytics, located in West Chester, Pa., to join Palita in the new venture.

The real motivation for WhyFly came when Thompson moved to Wilmington in 2016 and was dismayed at the state of internet connections in the city. He and Palita decided to start their own company and eventually set up shop in the Nemours Building, where they also won over their first significant customer—The Mill, another young start-up company that rents co-worker office space to various clients, including WhyFly. The Mill has about 200 clients and one of the first was WhyFly, which also wired The Mill and all its resident businesses for the internet.

“With the current providers out there, they [The Mill] were getting some pretty high rates and they still weren’t getting enough band-width to support the needs that they had,” says Nick Sabean, director of marketing for WhyFly. “The internet is basically a commodity at this point—people need this service, they need to connect to the internet. So, they gave us a shot.”

Robert Herrera, who owns and operates The Mill, found kindred spirits in the WhyFly gang, which is one of the reasons he gave them that shot. But Herrera admits he was initially skeptical when he gave the newly-hatched company the critical job of supplying internet service to his offices.

“It was definitely a big risk at first,” Herrera says. “Now it seems like it was a long time ago, when you see how well they’re doing. They really had a vision—to supply superior internet service at reasonable prices—and they made it happen with hard work and determination. They’re the perfect poster child for what The Mill is all about and they’re a great addition to the City of Wilmington.”

WhyFly can offer better rates because it’s focused on the internet and not on television and all the hassles and expenses that come with cable. And with more and more people—especially younger people—cutting the cord to their cable services, WhyFly has found its market. They like to call it “gluten-free internet” because of its simplified format.

“We launched the residential production in June,” Sabean says, “and were able to deliver service that has no contracts, costs $55 a month and is able to give you anywhere from 75 to 120 megabits [per second] of upload and download speed, and low latency [the amount of time between a given command and its response], which is actually the biggest issue about connectivity.”

Another big selling point for WhyFly is the fact that it’s local—if you call for technical service, that call is answered by somebody a couple of blocks away instead of a couple of continents away. Even in today’s high-tech world, that local touch is appreciated by WhyFly’s customers. That includes Loretta Walsh, a long-time member of Wilmington’s City Council. She switched to WhyFly and was so pleased with her choice that she even placed a rave review on the company’s Facebook page.

“After an hour-and-a-half on hold and being transferred repeatedly to agents with my past provider, I called WhyFly Wilmington,” Walsh says. “Kevin [Kriss, vice-president of operations] answered my call and within three hours two installers were at my home. These gentlemen were smart, courteous and had my new Wi-Fi system set up in less than two hours. I now have high-speed, no-hassle service from a local start-up in Wilmington.”

Sabean says WhyFly already has more than 2,000 businesses and residences wired up and that number is growing every month as word of mouth spreads and one local business after another hops on board. In fact, Sabean says that WhyFly offers an incentive for that word of mouth: They will give a month of free internet to anybody who refers them to another customer. One customer already has 18 months of free service coming his way.

A small business that recently switched to WhyFly is Lou’s Pawn Shop on North Market Street. They negotiated with Verizon and Comcast and weren’t happy with what they heard, so when WhyFly came calling they decided to give the new, upstart company a try.

“Suddenly, these guys were on the scene with a great offer and we couldn’t be happier,” says Matt (who didn’t want his last name used), the manager of Lou’s Pawn Shop. “We’ve had no problems at all with them. They’re always checking with us to see how the service is and you don’t get that kind of individual attention from the big companies. They’ve delivered everything they promised and more and we’re very happy with the service they’ve provided.”

WhyFly has grown so much, so quickly, that it’s moving most of its operations to a new headquarters on 6th Street between Orange and Shipley. Sabean says that should give the company more sidewalk visibility and strengthen its reputation as a friendly neighbor that you can count on.

WhyFly also has plans to expand to Newark and Rehoboth Beach and after that, the company will investigate moving into Pennsylvania and beyond, although they always want to keep that small-town feeling to their operation.

After that, well, who knows?

“In five to 10 years I see them hitting a lot of mid-size cities that have a similar demographic to Wilmington, and being as successful there as they are here,” Herrera says. “And the beautiful thing about it is that Wilmington will always be their hub.”

A Victory for Diversity

A Padua education helped Lisa Blunt Rochester become the first woman and the first African-American to represent Delaware in Congress

Last year, when Lisa Blunt Rochester was campaigning to become Delaware’s only member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a constant theme of her crusade was that she had never run for office before, although she had spent years working behind the political scenes. That fact is even the first sentence of her LinkedIn biography: “I’ve never run for office before…”

It wasn’t until recently that Blunt Rochester realized she had erred in claiming this was the first time her fate was decided by voters. She actually ran for office twice in the past—at Padua Academy. And, just as in her bid for the House seat, she was victorious.

In January, Blunt Rochester was sworn in as the first woman and the first African-American to serve in Congress from the First State. That’s a dynamic one-two diversity achievement that she really started training for more than three decades ago at the all-girls Catholic school in Wilmington.

She laughed during a recent interview when she recalled her time at Padua and suddenly remembered her first forays into politics—running for student council during her freshman and senior years, and winning both times.

“That school and those teachers had a great impact on me,” she says. “That was a very important time in my life.”

But she readily admits that 14-year-old Lisa Blunt wasn’t looking forward to entering the Broom Street school.

“I didn’t choose Padua—my parents chose Padua,” she says. “The thought of going to an all-girls school, I don’t think I knew what to expect. But I think that allowed me to be in an environment where I could just truly focus on developing me, the woman I am today.”

In fact, Blunt Rochester says that even today, when she faces tough decisions in Congress, she frequently recalls the Padua motto: Suaviter Sed Fortiter, Latin for “Softly But Strongly.”

An Iconic Father

“It’s an important concept, to realize that you don’t have to have a hammer to get things done and to be strong,” she says. “That’s just one of the basic, foundational things that I got from being in that school.”

Her father, Ted Blunt, is an iconic figure in Delaware politics. He served for more than 30 years with various school districts, then became a member of Wilmington’s City Council for 16 years before rising to Council president for eight years. This gave him a myriad of experiences and personal interactions, and that’s what he and his wife, Alice, wanted for their three daughters, starting with Lisa. (Their other daughters, Thea and Marla, graduated from Brandywine High).

“That’s the price you pay when you’re a child—parents make the decision,” Ted Blunt says with a laugh. “She was our first-born and we wanted her to have an experience around other girls, and not just be around the same kids in your neighborhood. So we decided on Padua for her to get that experience with other youngsters of different backgrounds, whether they be white, black or brown.”

The decision proved to be a wise one. Ted Blunt got what he wanted for his daughter—life lessons as well as academic lessons. Lisa’s time at Padua developed her outlook on life and helped the girl become a woman and eventually a Congresswoman.

When she entered Padua, the school’s total enrollment was only about four percent black, and she was the only African-American in the class of 1980.

“That’s also one of the things that has shaped me,” she says. “It’s the ability to travel in diverse circles, but also to be strong in those times when you might feel challenged or feel as if you were the only one.
“So a lot of things influenced me from that school. And I got a great education.”

Lifelong Friends

There’s something else Blunt Rochester got from Padua, something she still treasures.

“Lifelong friends,” she says. “To have that kind of longevity with people also taught me the value of friendship and the value of loyalty and being there and having somebody’s back. That was really important.”

Karen Jablonski Black was a member of Padua’s Class of 1980, and she remembers Lisa Blunt as a bright, vivacious girl who was judged by her character and not by the color of her skin.

“We had a real sisterhood and Lisa was a big part of that,” says Jablonski Black. “Even then she had a great way of connecting with people. You know how it is in high school, where everybody has their cliques and they sit at different tables and that sort of thing. Well, Lisa was one of those people who was friends with everybody, and it didn’t matter what their color was or their nationality or whether they were smart or popular.”

Blunt Rochester greets crowd watching the International Women's Day Press Conference on March 8 in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Blunt Rochester)
Blunt Rochester greets crowd watching the International Women’s Day Press Conference on March 8 in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Blunt Rochester)

“That’s why we’re not surprised that she’s in politics now and doing so well,” Jablonski Black adds. “Lisa was always the type of person you could approach and she was always friendly and outgoing. And nothing has changed—she’s still that sweet person everyone wants to be friends with.”

Blunt Rochester keeps in touch with her Padua classmates, and a little over a year ago they got together to celebrate their 35th reunion. Blunt Rochester has lived in the Middle East, China and Paris, and she shared some of her new adventures with her old friends at the reunion.

“We just picked up like we were in school together just yesterday,” says Dee Jacono Kelleher, another class of ’80 alumna. “Lisa certainly hasn’t changed. She still has a smile on her face all the time and the person we saw [at the reunion] was the same person we saw back in high school—very pleasant and very motivated.

“And she was a leader even back then, even though she was a quiet kind of leader. People just gravitated to her and responded to her, and I think that’s the same reason why she’s been so successful in politics. She just knows how to connect to people on their level, no matter what it is.”

But it wasn’t merely her experience at Padua that motivated Blunt Rochester to enter public service. It was in her blood.

In Her DNA

“I wasn’t just the daughter or someone who was in public service, but a granddaughter, too, because my grandparents were involved in their communities,” she says. “It’s sort of who we are. Some of it was by their examples, but you also feel like it’s in your DNA.”

There are hardships that go with being a public servant, as Blunt Rochester knows better than most. Those include time away from the family and the expense of campaigning, the factors Ted Blunt cited when he withdrew from the race for lieutenant governor in 2008. (Winning that election would have made him the first African-American to win a state-wide office in Delaware.)

All of that was in the back of Blunt Rochester’s mind when she first considered running for Congress. She had been a behind-the-scenes politician for years, starting as an intern for then-governor Tom Carper. Her impressive resume included serving in the cabinets of two Delaware governors as secretary of labor, deputy secretary of health and social services, and state personnel director.

Slowly, steadily, she paid her dues and moved up the ranks in the Democratic Party, which has controlled Delaware politics for years. So, when John Carney decided not to run for re-election to the House so he could run for governor, Blunt Rochester was the Democrat’s overwhelming choice to succeed him.

But this would be the first time she would expose herself to the slings and arrows of a political campaign—not counting Padua, of course.

Blunt Rochester and Vice President Biden greet supporters at her swearing-in reception. (Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Blunt Rochester)
Blunt Rochester and Vice President Biden greet supporters at her swearing-in reception. (Photo courtesy of Office of Rep. Blunt Rochester)

“There’s another side I saw with my father, and that was challenging,” she says. “When you put yourself on the line like that, sometimes there were criticisms, and as a child you care about your parents. It makes you think, ‘Do I want to do that myself?’”

Blunt Rochester weighed the pros and cons and decided the rewards were worth the risks, even if her father still had some trepidation.

“When it was time to decide to run, I remember going to Dad and telling him that I was considering doing this,” she says. “On one hand, he was like, ‘You can do anything and I’m proud of you.’ And on the other hand, I saw the concern that I used to have for him.”

But once the decision was made, Ted Blunt jumped aboard and was a stabilizing force throughout the primary and general election. That shoulder to lean on was especially important to the candidate because she had lost her husband, Charles Rochester, in 2014. He succumbed to blood clots after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

Of her father, Blunt Rochester says, “He was a great influence on the campaign trail, just being there and going to events with me. It was great to have my dad there saying, ‘You can do it!’”

Ted Blunt says he doesn’t try to control what his daughter thinks or does, but he also knows the profound impact he’s had on Lisa’s life and how much respect she holds for him and his opinions.

“I told her that in politics there are two things that happen—you either vote yes or you vote no,” Blunt says. “Then you’re going to have people that like your vote and some people who are not going to like your vote. But if you did the right thing, then your vote will stand. And I just told her to do the right thing.”

“What you hope for is that your child has learned from your experience and your mistakes and you’re always there to give them additional advice,” Blunt adds. “But you’re not there to push your opinion on them.”

The new Congresswoman has been busy since the day she was sworn in. She’s already been appointed to the House Committee on Agriculture. When that posting was announced, she cited her commitment to Delaware agriculture in general and the poultry industry in particular. Blunt Rochester made education one of her legislative priorities, and she has been appointed to the House Committee on Education.

That’s especially fitting in light of her father’s long history of working with Delaware school districts.
So, Blunt Rochester is already making her presence felt in Congress, just as she did when she was part of Padua’s student council. Jacono Kelleher, her former classmate, looks at Blunt Rochester’s ascent to the national stage, then looks at her own daughter, now a student at Padua, and says that even though there is a big age gap, the message her old classmate delivers resonates with teen-age girls.

“We’re all very proud of Lisa and what she’s accomplished and what she stands for,” Jacono Kelleher said. “She’s going to do a great job representing Delaware because you know that she will always follow her conscience and do the right thing. More than anything, it gives me hope for the future to know that my daughter has a role model like her to look up to.”

A Taste of Honey

Two new establishments are bringing an Old World beverage—mead—to today’s market

“I rose up in the morning and I felt a dire need
To dream away the dreary day
And drink a cup of mead.
Ignoring the sting of honey bees
I drank and drank some more.
Awoke the very next day and
My [expletive] head was sore.”

— 12th century English drinking song

Yes, they used expletives in the 12th century, and probably a lot of them after a long night drinking mead, the exquisite and potent honey wine that is making a comeback in the 21st century.

Throughout history, people have found a way to turn just about anything into a cocktail, including grain, grape, potato, rice and even something sweet like molasses or honey. And mead, made from honey, is one of the oldest recorded alcoholic beverages, dating back to 7000 BC in Northern China and 2000 BC in Europe.

To most people, the word “mead” conjures images of fur-clad Vikings sitting around a fire while they throw down the sweet drink from cups made of ox horn, or England in the Middle Ages, with bawdy inns and Robin Hood and his merry men draining pewter mugs of the stuff as they sing “I rose up in the morning…” and plotting against the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Like most great discoveries, mead probably was created by accident; some fermenting agent got into some honey, time passed and—voila!—it was cocktail hour. But because honey was hard to acquire (those darn bees), the drink, although still made and enjoyed, was soon passed in popularity by beverages that were made from fruits and grains and other non-stinging sources.

But now, two establishments in Delaware are trying to bring the ancient concoction to modern drinkers.
“It’s one of the oldest and most popular alcoholic beverages on earth, but not many people have ever tried it and a lot of people have never even heard of it. We hope to change that,” says Terri Sorantino, who, along with partner Dr. Jeffrey Cheskin, has opened Liquid Alchemy Beverages on Brookside Avenue in Elsmere.

Sorantino and Cheskin discovered mead by accident. Four years ago, the couple was on vacation in Maine and stopped at a café that served mead, which neither had ever tasted. Intrigued, they sampled some and immediately fell in love with it. And on the long drive back to their home in Old New Castle, they decided to bring mead to Delaware, and maybe make a little money, too. Even though they both have thriving careers—Cheskin is a chiropractor and Sorantino is a nutrition counselor—they wanted to invest in a food or beverage business where they could be creative and be their own bosses, but they knew the craft beer market was flooded. So, their trip to Maine proved to be serendipitous.

Dr. Jeffrey Cheskin and Terri Sorantino of Liquid Alchemy Beverages fell in love with mead the first time they tasted it. (Photo by Jim Coarse)
Dr. Jeffrey Cheskin and Terri Sorantino of Liquid Alchemy Beverages fell in love with mead the first time they tasted it. (Photo by Jim Coarse)

Growing Up with Mead

“You’re always looking for something new and different, something that sets you apart from everybody else,” says Sorantino. “As soon as we tried mead, we knew that we had found what we were looking for.”
Whereas Sorantino and Cheskin were amateurs who stumbled onto mead and its possibilities, Jon Talkington is a brewing professional who grew up with it—even as a kid he used to home-distill mead in his kitchen, as well as beer and wine.

“I’ve been making mead for over 20 years,” Talkington says. “Both of my grandfathers made different kinds of stuff over the years and I just picked up on it. They both lived on farms and made apple jack and cider and brewing has just been a part of my life ever since I can remember.”

That early exposure to the benefits of fermentation led Talkington, a native of Ohio, to become a brewer at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, the undefeated and undisputed king of local craft breweries.

Talkington has worked at Dogfish Head for the last 12 years and he’s also a professional wine maker, so it was a relatively easy and natural move for him to make mead. And, like Sorantino and Cheskin, he saw that there was a market niche he could fill with the ancient drink.

Talkington has teamed with business partner Robert Walker Jr., who has worked at Dogfish Head for the last six years and currently has the title of Inventory Fulfillment Specialist. In the next month or two they will open Brimming Horn Meadery in Milton, with Talkington as the beverage specialist and Walker as the business specialist.

As the name indicates, they will emphasize mead’s Viking tradition in their marketing and décor at Brimming Horn. That’s why their meads are called things like Freya’s Kiss, Bjornbar and Viking Berry, as well as one with the gotta-try-it name of Goat’s Blood (made from grapes and cherries).

“I first learned about mead like a lot of other people did, from reading history books and mythology,” Talkington says. “Mead is mentioned in Beowulf, so you know it’s been popular for a long time when it becomes part of a mythology like that. And that mythology is a big part of mead’s appeal today. At the same time, we’re not just marketing this as some kind of trip back through history. It’s also like a sweet wine, and there are enough different kinds to appeal to all kinds of tastes.”


Sorantino-Cheskin and Talkington-Walker have something in common when it comes to making different kinds of mead —both teams get most of their inspiration not from the brewery, but the kitchen.

“I love to cook and Jeff loves to experiment and that combination is a key,” Sorantino says. “We also get a lot of our inspiration from cooking shows on The Food Network. We’ll see somebody do something with a recipe, with different fruits and spices and flavors—like when we saw someone making a popsicle out of blackberries and lime—and then we’re like, ‘Hmmm…I wonder if that would work with mead.’ And then we’ll experiment and make a small batch. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, but some of our best meads have come from that approach.”

Says Talkington: “I’ve always cooked and I’ve always enjoyed trying different recipes and making my own recipes, and that’s a big part of my approach to making mead—don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s one of the real pleasures of doing this, when you can come up with a recipe of your own that really works. It’s a very creative process that just also happens to taste great.”

Variety is a key to making not only good mead, but also marketable mead. Basic mead is made from just fermented honey, but despite what one might think, it’s not thick and syrupy. Regular mead—at Liquid Alchemy Beverages it’s called “Sweet-Nothing” —definitely has sweetness about it, but there’s no mistaking the alcoholic bite. And that’s just one of many varieties available, and most batches of mead are some combination of fruits and spices and grains and, of course, honey.

“It’s like wine,” Cheskin said. “Some people like red and some like white. Some like a dry wine and some like a fruity wine and some like a spicy wine. It’s the same thing with mead. The key is to find out what works and what doesn’t and that’s all part of the process and part of the fun of doing this. It’s a great feeling when you have an idea and it ends up tasting delicious.”

Both Liquid Alchemy and Brimming Horn use local fruits as much as possible, but they also go exotic at times, which is why one of Liquid Alchemy’s meads will contain cinnamon from Sri Lanka and blackberries from Hockessin.

“You want the best of both worlds, so to speak,” Talkington says. “You want the freshness of local produce and you want to support local businesses. That’s very important because we want to be part of the community. But we also want to bring other worlds to Delaware. If you do it right, it makes for a great combination.”

Getting the Word Out

For Sorantino and Cheskin, one of their biggest challenges is to get people to sample their wares at their renovated warehouse. Their meadery is in the middle of a street lined with industrial garages and warehouses, and even though they completely redid their place and it has a warm, cozy feel to it, the location isn’t ideal for starting a new business. To compensate, they’ve gotten involved with local food fairs and festivals and other events where they’ve been able to introduce mead to a different and mostly younger crowd.

“That’s the most important thing of all—getting the word out,” Sorantino says. “Every time we go to some festival or event we get more and more fans of mead. People are intrigued by the idea and they love the taste and they love the idea that it’s different. And then they want to know where they can get it.”

“There’s a reason this drink has been around for centuries,” she adds. “And that, of course, is part of the allure of mead—its history and place in literature, that feeling of connecting with the Old World. What we’ve tried to do is bring the past into the present, and we’re having a lot of fun while doing it.”

For more information, including hours or operation and different varieties of mead, log onto and

Guides on the Path to Physical Fitness

Personal trainers deliver results (not miracles), but it takes commitment from both parties

Some of their clients are workout warriors and some are couch potatoes. Some want to bulk up or stretch out and some just want to lose a few pounds so those new pants fit in time for the class reunion. Some know what to expect from the process and some are clueless. And some are willing to put in the work while others expect miracles, and they expect them now.

“All sorts of people come through that door, but all of them have at least one thing in common—they’re looking for help,” says Scott McCarthy, a personal trainer at Balance Fitness on Fourth Street in Wilmington.

That’s where he and other personal trainers come in. According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, there were 279,100 personal trainers in the United States in 2015, a number that’s expected to increase to 338,000 by 2018 because of population growth and the increasing interest in health and fitness. In Delaware in 2015, there were 1,060 personal trainers and fitness instructors, all of them willing and able to help turn soft tissue into firm muscle—assuming their clients are willing to pay the price.

“Training and working out are two different things,” McCarthy says. “We’re not just out there counting reps for people. We’re like guides who help them find their way to personal fitness. Some people already know their way and don’t need a guide, but there are lots of people who need somebody to help and encourage them. And that’s our job—helping people who need help.”

Of course, there are some misconceptions about personal trainers. For one thing, they don’t tape ankles and cut up orange slices at halftime—those are athletic trainers. And not all their clients end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his greased-up, body-building prime.

A personal trainer at the YMCA coaches a client on the treadmill. (Photo courtesy of the YMCA)
A personal trainer at the YMCA coaches a client on the treadmill. (Photo courtesy of the YMCA)

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years and I’ve seen and heard it all,” says Nic DeCaire, who runs Fusion Fitness Center on Main Street in Newark. “A lot of people think we just sit around all day in sweat pants and watch you lift weights or run laps. They don’t realize that we offer a complete regimen for physical and mental well-being and that we’re with them every step of the way. It’s a commitment on both ends, from the trainer and the client.”

One thing all trainers emphasize is that a training regimen is a marathon, not a sprint. Not all clients grasp that basic concept and that’s why it’s one of the first messages a personal trainer delivers —expect results, but not miracles.

“If the commitment from the client isn’t there then there isn’t much we can do to help them,” says Charlotte Maher, a personal trainer at Fit Studio on Rockland Road in Wilmington. “But those cases are pretty rare, because most people we deal with are here for a reason. They want to lose weight or tone up and it’s probably something that’s been in their minds for a while. So, when they finally take the step to hire a personal trainer. they’re serious about it. And we make sure they understand that it takes a commitment and a lot of work to reach their goals, but it’s worth it.”

Those goals vary from person to person, and personal trainers must be willing and able to customize their regimen according to those goals. Most fitness centers deal with clients on a one-on-one basis and in group settings, but no matter the regimen or the setting, it all starts with talk, not action.

“The first step when they walk through the door is a consultation, where we discuss their goals and learn about their medical and fitness history,” says Matt DiStefano of Core Ten Fitness on Orange Street in Wilmington. “A lot of people haven’t been part of a fitness program for a long time and they need to ease into things, and sometimes we have to convince them of that. They want immediate results and it just doesn’t work that way. For those people, patience is a big key, because this is not like ordering something at a restaurant.”

That’s why it’s helpful if prospective clients know what they’re looking for from a personal trainer. If they don’t know for sure, then the trainer must lead them in the right direction. And it doesn’t matter if the client is male or female; the regimen is basically the same, depending on why they hired a personal trainer in the first place, although Maher has noticed that men tend to focus more on their upper bodies.

Clients and members work out at Core 10. (Photo by Jim Coarse)
Clients and members work out at Core 10.
(Photo by Jim Coarse)

“This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of business,” Maher says. “That’s the reason the first thing we do is sit down and talk to them and find out what their goals are. If they have really big goals, then we have to put a time slot to that—it’s not something you can accomplish in six weeks or by just coming to the gym once a week.

“That’s why it’s so important that our clients are honest with us about their medical and workout history, and also the goals they have going forward. We have to decide whether those goals are realistic ones, and if they’re not, we make sure they realize that without discouraging them. Sometimes it can be a real reality check for them. And sometimes they can be stubborn about it, but the majority of our clients understand that we’re professionals who know what we’re doing and they trust us.”

Once those goals are identified, the training process can begin, and all personal trainers agree that it’s important to start slowly and build the training regimen from there. That means basic stretching and cardio-vascular exercises to begin with, then more extensive weight and conditioning training after that. But it always depends on the conditioning and health of the clients when they begin the program.

“We’re really about general well-being, and everybody has different goals and needs,” says Mark Myers, who oversees the personal training program at the Central YMCA in Wilmington. “And one thing we all emphasize is the need for balance. If you want to build up your biceps, that means building up your triceps as well. You never focus solely on one muscle group or one activity. Even if your main goal is to bulk up and add muscle, we also emphasize flexibility, which helps you avoid injuries. It’s really a total package and sometimes people have to be convinced about that because they’re focused on one particular thing.”

You Are What You Eat

Diet is a big part of a fitness program and that’s something trainers constantly preach to their clients, even the ones whose primary goal isn’t to lose weight. Trainers stress the old you-are-what-eat philosophy as part of a balanced approach to fitness.

“We’re not nutritionists and we don’t pretend to be experts in that area,” Maher says. “But we do refer clients to a dietician if they have a serious weight problem that can’t be fixed just by working out. We’ll set up a consultation with [the dietician] and that will become part of the overall fitness program, especially if losing weight is one of their main goals.”

But, DiStefano says, that doesn’t mean his clients can’t have a slice of pizza or a couple of cold beers on occasion.

“It’s like anything in life—moderation is the key,” he says. “If you work hard and eat right five days a week you can enjoy yourself on the weekend and that’s something I tell my people all the time. You don’t want to deprive yourself of the little pleasures of life just because you’re in a training program. It’s all about that balance.”

There is one group of clients who come to personal trainers with specific goals in mind—competitive athletes who are looking for an edge, including teen-agers who hope to excel in their sports enough to earn a roster spot and maybe even a college scholarship.

“It’s different than it was when I was growing up and we played all the sports, depending on the season,” says Stephen LeViere of LeViere’s Fitness, which operates the training program at Kirkwood Fitness on Naamans Road. “Most kids nowadays really specialize in a specific sport and that’s their only focus. If you’re a baseball player or basketball player, that’s what you do, all year round. It’s either your [high school] season or you’re playing in an AAU tournament or getting ready to play in an AAU tournament.

So, their training is geared toward something very specific, something that will give them an advantage and make them better than the guy next to them. If they don’t, they know they might not get that scholarship or even make the team.

“For example, I get a lot of football players in my May program before training camp opens in August, so they can be in better shape than anybody else in camp and they can stand out right away, instead of having to play themselves into shape or, worse, having to battle injuries.”

LeViere says he sits down with these eager athletes and determines exactly what he or she is hoping to achieve, just like he does with all his clients. Of course, the kind of sport, the position they play, and the size of the athletes help determine that, as does their present health and conditioning.

Weight training is an essential part of most fitness regimens. (Photo by Jim Coarse)
Weight training is an essential part of most fitness regimens. (Photo by Jim Coarse)

Gauging the Body’s Response

“But no matter who it is or what sport it is, you have to start with the foundation, and that is how well they can handle the stress and rigors of the game they play,” LeViere says. “You can’t play and you certainly can’t dominate if you’re injured. So, we start with simple presses and compound movements and simple squats with not much weight. And we don’t do jumping or running until we see how their body responds.

“Once we determine that, then we can start ramping up and focusing on the specific muscles they need for their sport, whether it’s speed or agility or strength or power.”

Another challenge for personal trainers is convincing clients to stay with their training regimen after they reach their goals. Many clients get what they want (the pants fit!) and then slip back into the unhealthy lifestyles that made them seek out a personal trainer in the first place.
“It happens frequently and you hate to see that,” DeCaire says. “But most of our clients stick with it because they feel so good about themselves because they’re physically and mentally fit, maybe for the first time in 20 years. That doesn’t mean they have to stay at the same level or maintain the same training schedule. If you’re training to run a marathon you can scale back some after you run your race. But most of them love their new selves and they want to keep those endorphins coming and they make this a life-time commitment.”

“That’s what makes this job so rewarding, when you see that total transformation in a person,” he adds. “When they start their training program they usually do it because they’re not happy with themselves, they’re not happy with the way they look or the way they feel. We help them regain the self-esteem they’ve lost and it’s a great feeling to know that you helped somebody turn their life around in a positive and healthy way.”