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(Center) Personal trainer Teresa Lance helps her clients strengthen their stomachs during a session at Burn Fitness on the Third Street Promenade. Lance's day often starts before the sun rises, allowing her time in the afternoons to beef up on her studies and check out the nicest restaurants before crowds arrive.

(photo by Rachel Dardashti)

Well before the sun peaks through the dark night sky and the streets of Santa Monica arise, personal trainer Teresa Lance begins her day. Dressed in tight yoga pants, a T-shirt and tennis shoes, Lance is perfectly attired to take on her first client; it is barely 5:30 a.m. While Lance’s day starts before most people are awake, her enthusiasm is apparent as she greets her clients at Burn Fitness with a strong voice and wide grin. It is obvious that she has been awake for some time.

Lance’s clients show up back to back until noon, when her work in the office, or rather the gym, is over. In the afternoon, she studies anatomy, physiology, and physical therapy at home. At 46, Lance has finally achieved the perfect schedule for her temperament.

“When I want to go to a restaurant I go at five when it opens. I never have to wait in line, even for the trendiest restaurants,” Lance said.

She was not always a personal trainer. Sixteen years ago, Lance decided it was time for a career change. After 13 years of nylons, suits and paperwork as a legal assistant, Lance admits she was not looking forward to “another 25 years” in her position. At that time she looked for other, more enjoyable, professional endeavors.

“I had heard if you can make your hobby your career it was the best of both worlds,” she said.

Today Lance continues her education and offers training for physical recovery, healthy living, and weight loss.

On a recent Tuesday morning Sasha Horowitz trained with Lance to aid her recovery from knee surgery. As Lance guided her through several exercises and goaded her to improve her knee function, her expertise and experience were clear. Utilizing free weights, weight training machines and balance balls, she pushed Horowitz to strengthen her knee and enhance her range of motion. Unlike other trainers who may bear down on their clients like drill sergeants with taunting and criticism, Lance offered encouraging words to motivate Horowitz. Furthermore, she culminated the session with a massage that rivaled a physical therapist.

Lance cares most about improving her client’s physical abilities. She revels in her clients’ small accomplishments such as Horowitz’s ability to complete one more exercise than she did on her last visit. Her biggest satisfaction, however, comes when she helps someone achieve a meaningful goal.

Lance maintains that the most important part of motivating one’s self to live a healthy life is to choose a goal that can be clearly visualized and accomplished. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep clients’ objectives attainable and healthy. When encountering someone with an unrealistic body image Lance attempts to work with them to realize their true measurements and discover the reasons behind their unhappiness.

“I always make an effort to bring them back to earth about why they’ve chosen a particular goal,” she said.

There are times, however, that no amount of logical discussion or coaxing can alter mental conditioning. When a client continually shows up to sessions without eating or has a serious eating disorder, Lance will encourage them to see a therapist or will refuse to train them.

In her own life, she exercises regularly and even prompts herself to drink a homemade green concoction chalk full of vegetables and fruit.

Lance’s clients have all been with her for several years and do not plan on quitting any time soon.

“Teresa is the best trainer in the city,” said Marla Abari, her client of seven years.

It is Lance’s attitude and frankness that make her unimpeachable. She genuinely loves her work.

“Personal training is very one-on-one,” said Lance. “You need a certain amount of tact, but also be hard-nosed to push people and motivate them.”

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