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The In2Fitness clients: front, from left: Gina Canny, Brenda Ostermeier, Lex Bitner, Susan Shelton, Jessi Coombe. Back row from left; Ed Canny, Sheila Garrison, Brenda Beyers, Kim Roate, Angie Gum, Sherry Benton, Chad Jordan, Barb Scharmer, Gayle Johnson
By Erica Cusumano | STAFF
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Snap to it
Fitness guru makes sure her clients are strong
By Kathleen Ostrander

They call her a terror; they say she's mean and she lies. But Lex Bitner, a personal trainer with attitude, wouldn't have it any other way and neither would her clients.

Bitner has a full-time job; she's a personal trainer working out of Snap Fitness in Chatham, she coaches girls basketball at Franklin Middle School and she has a family. She specializes in what she calls a combination of functional strength and flexibility training.

Her regimen works, her clients say, and several of the male clients who never had a woman trainer before said she's tougher on them then her male counterparts are.

"Traditionally, the emphasis has been on strength," Bitner said, "but I emphasize flexibility, movement and balance." When she assesses a client, she finds out about their lifestyle because that will dictate their fitness regime.

"If I've got a small business owner that does a lot of lifting, we're going to build on range of motion, balance and stability. If there's an interest in weight loss or some specific toning, that has an effect, too," she said. "I try to work multiple muscle groups."

Bitner works out of Snap Fitness in Chatham, and district manager Josh Kruse said she's brought a lot of clients to the gym.

"She sets up exercise boot camps for us. She's really good about helping somebody when she sees they may be doing something incorrectly on one of the machines."

A trainer for less than three years, she said she goes to the workshops to maintain her certification and above and beyond. Her clients range in age from junior high to 60, and she's just started breaking into the area of sports specific training.

At a training session at Snap, several of her clients are doing circuit work; that is, they go from one exercise and/or machine to another in a certain amount of time doing a certain amount of repetitions.

"She lies," hissed Sherry Benton, "she's got that stopwatch and she says it's just another minute and five minutes later you're still working." Benton and her friend, Kim Roate, come to be "tortured" together.

"We complain a lot, so that keeps things hopping," Roate said.

"Lex is very passionate about what she does. We were in a car accident and she worked around our injuries for quite awhile," Benton said. Roate said she was working out, but she needed the individual attention and motivation.

"You want to get rid of those love handles, she can do that," Roate said with a laugh.

Chad Jordan works with Bitner as well as another trainer in St. Louis.

"She's put me through some of my hardest workouts," he said. "My trainer in St. Louis said he can see the difference."

Ed Canny, a Springfield firefighter, and his wife, Gina, both use Bitner as their personal trainers.

"We like her a lot," said Ed Canny. "We do core (body) work and abs. I've noticed better flexibility and better endurance," Ed Canny added.

Gayle Jackson, owner of the Apple Barn in Chatham, is a Bitner regular.

"I'm never leaving her," Jackson said. "I can move better. I have no problems with manual labor."

Bitner said Jackson had flexibility issues when she first started training and now has no back problems even after working long hours.

"She likes to see us suffer," quipped Jackson. "I hate her toys." The crack about toys is echoed by some of her other clients.

What they call "toys" are kettle bells, exercise bands and discs and medicine balls. They are all weights and exercise aids that emphasis flexibility and strength in different parts of the body. Bitner's toy box at the gym is what she says helps keep the clients coming back.

"Some would call it non-traditional, but changing to these different types of items during a workout helps keep the boredom away and helps work out a bunch of different areas," Bitner said.

She said although she works a desk job, the personal training seemed natural when she thought about it. "I've always been a sports enthusiast," she said. "I like to work out, play golf, coach basketball. A lot of people have problems staying motivated and they can't keep working out.

"They get on a treadmill or use some dumbbells, and that's better then nothing. I say, if you are going to work out, get someone to show you how to make it worthwhile."

A fellow desk jockey and client, Brenda Beyers, said as she approached the 50-ish mark, she wanted to so something more in terms of a workout.

"I actually read an article in The State Journal-Register about people who stayed out of nursing homes longer because they maintained their upper-body strength," she said.

"Now, I see that after I have been working out I have more energy. I work long hours and I stay more alert. I'm stronger," she said with a big smile, "I'm better since I started working with Lex."

Bitner said she's intent on keeping workouts fresh and keeping her clients motivated. She also said she's enjoying breaking into the area of working with young athletes.

Stopwatch in hand, she carefully watches her charges - "four more" she yells - with a surprisingly loud voice for such a small woman. "Keep that hip down."

"I love training, I love making it fun and different. We never do the same exercise twice," Bitner said.

Want to work out?
Snap Fitness has several locations in the greater Springfield area, and it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. An access card from Snap admits clients to any of the gyms that Snap operates. See www.snapfitness.com for more information.

Reach Lex Bitner, who operates "In2fitness personal training," at lex.bitner@yahoo.com. Bitner is a certified fitness trainer through International Sports Sciences Association and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Story published Friday, July 3, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 4 )

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