STEUBENVILLE - Veteran newsman-turned-gym rat Paul Giannamore figures it's about time he explained to the reading public why he traded his computer keyboard in for a state-of-the-art elliptical machine.
It had less to do with the demands of news writing than the long hours, high stress and sedentary lifestyle that come with it.
"I don't talk about this a lot," he said. "But in the fall of '09 I weighed 310 pounds. I went to a doctor and found out my liver was failing because I had so much fat - I was developing fatty liver disease which, essentially, does the same thing as lifelong alcohol abuse, it starts to harden up and scars. He told me, 'If you want to be here in four years when your son is done with college, you'd better change your ways.' I walked out of the doctor's office. It was kind of weird. I was scheduled to come down here and talk with the owner of Anytime Fitness, Arieh Ordronneau. At the end of the interview, I asked him how much. He told me and I signed up."
A NEW CAREER — After more than 30 years in the news business, former Business Editor Paul Giannamore has carved out a new life for himself as a “Fitness Rebel.” Giannamore, now managing Anytime Fitness in Hollywood Plaza, was one of 25 “rebels” chosen from some 2,000 gyms across the country to help inspire Americans to live a healthier, happier and longer life. - Linda Harris
The rest is, as they say, history. He started working out a few times a week, "spending an hour, hour-and-a-half three or four times a week" in the gym. Before long he was looking and feeling better, and when the opportunity to manage the gym opened up, he was more than ready for the change.
"I was a late middle-aged guy leaving a job he'd had for 30 years to work in a gym because he loved what it's done for him so much," said Giannamore, who joined the Anytime Fitness family on Labor Day 2011.
His story found its way to the ears of the powers-that-be at the company's corporate headquarters in Minnesota, "and I ended up being one of the Fitness Rebels, one of 25 people chosen from 2,000 gyms for the first year of the Fitness Rebellion to try and change the conversation about fitness. For too long, people have had this idea that fitness is for somebody else."
The Fitness Rebellion isn't a competition, he says. It's not about being the workout king (or queen) who spends more time in the gym than the person next to you. Rather, it's a movement, a life-and-death battle against a sedentary lifestyle. And in a country where two out of every three people have a weight issue, it's a rallying cry for a happier, healthier way of life.
It is, Giannamore said, a way of thinking and living that celebrates "the little wins," like being able to walk past the jelly bean jar without grabbing a handful or getting up at 5 a.m. to work out even when you don't feel like it.
"With the Fitness Rebellion we celebrate the little victories - the day you had the head cold and really just wanted to go home and bury your head under a pillow, but instead you came in and worked out for 20 minutes - that's a victory," Giannamore said. "If you come in and manage to survive six minutes your first day on the elliptical, and the next day you do seven - that's a victory. Those are the things it's all about - it's not about losing a dramatic 120 pounds in three months - that's awesome and all that, but the real world for the rest of us is the little victories, little steps at a time."
And though the Fitness Rebellion started with Anytime Fitness, it's not an Anytime Fitness "thing," as he puts it. Anyone can join regardless of whether they belong to a gym - any gym - or not.
"We're trying to get people to realize we can change the world, change the fitness conversation, one person at a time," he said.
He said the 2012 Fitness Rebels are "trying some different things within our gyms to honor the little victories - like when I see a member come in who's obviously having a lousy day, I go out of my way to tell them they're doing good and it will get better, just keep up the good work."
Occasionally, you'll see him sitting at the end of a walking trail passing out coffee as a reward for those who got off the couch that day.
"Sixty percent of the population does not work out, doesn't do anything," he said. "We're after that 60 percent pushing them to just get off the couch and try something."
Giannamore's personal "fitness rebellion" has seen him drop 90 pounds - going from 310 to 220 - over the past three years. "My original goal was 200, and I'm still aiming for it," he adds. "It goes in fits and starts. But now that I'm working here, I have my personal trainer looking over me and pushing me, every three weeks or so he changes it up.
"I never thought my story would be that interesting. ... I'm just an older guy who was sick of being sick and decided to try and take care of himself. I guess that's what we're supposed to be doing."
He said the moral of the story - his story - is that if he can do it, anyone can.
"It's a completely different lifestyle," he adds. "My cholesterol is down, my liver numbers are down. ... everything's where it should be. Three years ago, my doctor couldn't even give me pills for my cholesterol because of my liver."
Visit www.fitnessrebellion.com to find out more about the Fitness Rebellion or the 2012 "rebels," including Giannamore.