St. John personal trainer shapes clients, her love of helping people

Sharon Branson-Smith has worked her way from body building to shaping others' fitness.

Sharon Bransen-Smith of St. John is a big advocate of staying active. As a personal trainer, she has worked with clients of all ages and is passionate about helping individuals stay fit and maintain a good quality of life as they age.

She decided to become a personal trainer in her 40s after she got involved in body building.

In the early 1990s she was a member at a Quads Gym in Calumet City, which was frequented by body builders and power lifters. “I was pretty much going to a health club and doing some random machines and I didn’t really know what I was doing,” she said. “One day, I thought ‘I’m going to go to a hard core gym' and ended up at Quads Gym.”

The members were friendly and took time to teach her how to train for a body building competition. “Everyone there competed, and I thought I would try it just to see if I could do it,” she said. She noticed a change right away and was hooked.

She participated in her first competition just before her 40th birthday, and she competed again the following year. “I just wanted to see if I could stick it out,” she said.

Though she got out of body building, she remained interested in fitness and started working the front desk at a community fitness center. When her manager mentioned that he was thinking of becoming a personal trainer, it sounded like something that would suit her well and she took classes be become certified.

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After working as a trainer at an area gym, she decided to build a home studio eight years ago where she works with clients. Her clients have included women in their early 20s to octogenarians, and she has worked with individuals with Parkinson's disease.

She said she also has a passion to help educate others on things they can do to help their bodies work better.

“I find my self getting more compelled to do talks on improper body mechanics and how they can lead to potential injuries or issues down the road — how you sit, lift, climb stairs — a lot of people aren’t aware of how these should be done and how it will affect you,” she said.

In addition to working with clients in her in-home fitness studio, she also has been a hair stylist for 48 years and has an area in her home that serves as a beauty salon. She teaches Zumba twice a week at Anytime Fitness in Cedar Lake and babysits a couple days a week for her grandson and granddaughter.

Her biggest piece of advice is to keep moving. “Don’t quit what you’re doing,” she said. “If you stop you’re not going to get back there very easily. If you don’t stop in the first place, you won’t have regrets.”

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