Father and son are true success stories at the gym
Wed, April 24, 2013 at 16:06
Brad Spiegel in Cherry Hill Health & Racquet Club, Chuck Epstein, Fitness, News, Weiner

Rick, left, and Matt Weiner worked together to get in shape.There are many degrees and levels of success. It would be difficult to argue that what Matt Weiner has achieved is nothing short of the ultimate.

Matt is a 14-year-old Cherry Hill, N.J., boy who in the past four years has transformed himself – in appearance, personality, school and leadership – like very few have at his age. And most of it was the outcome of the time and effort he spent getting in shape at Cherry Hill Health & Racquet Club.

IHRSA is currently reaching out to its members for inspirational and success stories just like Matt’s as part of “How my gym membership helped me.”

Matt story began as a suggestion from not only on Matt’s behalf but his father’s, too. And the simultaneous necessity to get back in shape may be the overriding reason why Matt is where he is now, as well as Rick, his father, who is looking and feeling at age 54 like he did 20 years ago.

Coincidental signs

About four years ago Rick “was read the riot act” from his doctor after a not-so-encouraging check-up. He was told his tri-glycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure were not at healthy levels. Then, when he got home he and his wife, Karen, got a letter in the mail from Matt’s school informing them that their 10-year-old son had gained 22 pounds during the school year – weighing 135 pounds on a 5-foot body.

Before and after pictures of Matt Weiner.Can you say wake-up call, times two?

“The worst thing to do as a parent is to be a hypocrite,” said Rick, who was 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds at the doctor's appointment. “I told him about my diagnosis and the letter. I said lets tackle this together. We’ll do it as a team. We’ve always spent good times together, now it will be extra special because we’ll be training together.”

Matt said he never thought of the consequences of what he ate and how much he weighed. Even though both of his parents worked out – Rick more lifting weights, Karen a runner, even completing marathons – they never pressured him to play sports or go to the gym.

“I didn’t really think about it until my parents said it was a problem,” Matt said. “I would put something in my mouth and never thought about how it could affect me. When my parents said I needed to do something about it I said, ‘OK, I’ve got to change’.”

And that is pretty much the attitude he had for the following two years. Rick started him slowly, asking to walk a couple minutes on the treadmill. That increased with goals – 10-minute miles and one pushup, then faster mile runs and more pushups, and so on. He even hired a trainer at the club, Paul Blocker, to push Matt even further and in ways he felt he could.

But it wasn’t enough. A happenstance – when Matt noticed how “ripped” his father was – that the younger Weiner decided to emulate his father’s eating. Cutting out fatty foods and sweets – wasted calories – and sitting down to the same meal that his healthy-eating father was enjoying helped him slim down and tone up. Prior to that Matt was eating less, but not really losing weight.

“The fact that my father was next to me the entire way, that was the biggest part (of this entire process),” said Matt, who with the change in his diet weighed in at 107 pounds, on a slum 5-foot-5 body two years after the letter from his school. “Not only is he, and my mother, an inspiration but I love them so much and love to spend time with them. I’ve always seen them working out and eating right. I said if they can do it, so can I. That was the key.”

Success outside of the gym

In addition to looking better and feeling better Matt is now playing sports he never had thought of participating in, let alone excelling at.

He started by running on his school’s cross country team – winning the first meet he entered. “He had the ribbon in his hand and was crying in car. That made it so much more intense,” Rick said.

His father said he is now a sprinter – 400 meters, 200 meters – and I one of the fastest in New Jersey in his age group. He got better at basketball and baseball and he is the classmate others try to better in gym class.

“I am not sure if anything surprises me with him,” his father added. “He has always been very coachable and a good listener.”

In the classroom Matt said his grades even improved. Feeling better about oneself, and feeling better physically, can do wonders in all facets of life. Matt has even thoughts of using his new love of health and physical fitness as a career when he gets to college.

“I feel like I am a better person than was,” Matt said. “I worked hard for it; I learned how to be a hard worker … Since I started where I did and am now at where I am due to hard work I feel I am better for it.”

Role model

Matt Weiner is not the only teenager in Cherry Hill hitting the gym. A handful of his friends saw the success Matt had and now, too, go to Cherry Hill Health & Racquet Club.

Matt and his mom, Karen, after a race.“That is what it is all about - getting healthy one at kid at a time,” said Chuck Epstein, president of the club. “We all read about the reports on childhood obesity. I walk on the streets and at the mall. I know what is happening to kids. To see this group do something about it is very fulfilling.”

The club, which stresses being family oriented, has a junior responsibility program where children can work out with a parent. But now, in light of Matt’s success, has a teen fitness program that runs for two months in the summer. It is free for ages 12 to 17 and, as a bonus, anyone who uses the gym 16 times in the two months will earn $20 to their school’s phys ed program from CHHRC.

Brian Kosa, general manager at the club, said he and the membership kept track of Matt’s progress.

“Matt is a very motivated kid. Both his mom and dad were religious in coming here and they really encouraging this lifestyle and healthy eating at home,” Kosa said. 

“All of the members noticed Matt doing workout, his intensity building and his results. Now his confidence is high, he has become a leader.”

And what does the “leader” have to say to those who may be in the situation he was in four years ago?

“It’s not going to happen overnight. You won’t make a personal best every time out,” he said. “You have to stay positive and be upbeat. As you continue to go to the gym and work out you will get better and better. There are days it will be hard to go to gym and be inspired. The more you go the more you will like it. Soon you will enjoy it and it will then be a part of you.”

If you are a member club and have a success story, e-mail pr@ihrsa.org.

Article originally appeared on IHRSA (http://www.ihrsa.org/).
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