Gym: True Balance Studio, 1021 Cathedral St.; 410-800 2812; truebalancestudio.com Rate: $35-$75 (hour) Style: Tough, basic and no-nonsense Workout philosophy: "You're the creator of your own life experience. If you want something, you have to go after it." Favorite move: Lateral step-overs, where one steps over a bench with one foot, then the other Indulgence: Chocolate chip cookies Years ago, a tanned, buff and essentially fat-free Ali True won a state bodybuilding competition. But that girl is gone. True left her behind, along with the crash diets and endless workouts she lived on. True wanted a sensible life. That was anything but. "It's not practical, it's not healthy and it's way too extreme," True says about competitive fitness. "There's nothing balanced about it." Balance has become True's mantra. In her sparse Mount Vernon gym, among the few embellishments are some paintings of the astrological signs. Though the imagery seems out of place among the all-business equipment, it's there for a reason. True's father made it for his Libra daughter who, these days, is happy to be ruled by the scales. True opened True Balance Studio in 2007. With its corrugated metal ceiling and scuffed floor, it's decidedly no-frills -- not unlike its owner. One morning over the holidays there's a partially eaten pumpkin pie on a counter -- a gift from a customer. Rock music plays softly on the stereo. True is coaching Lorena Andon, a self-proclaimed "personal trainer junkie" who drives into the city twice a week from Owings Mills to keep herself trim and toned. While Andon performs a seemingly never ending series of assorted squats, True keeps a close eye on her form. It's one exercise after another, with almost no pause between them. True corrects and counts. Growing up in Ellicott City, True worked at a gym during high school. She eventually became a lacrosse coach at La Salle University after graduation and, at the same time, began to dabble in personal training. After her competitive-fitness phase, she moved to California for a stint where she worked at Equinox, a West Hollywood gym. There she trained celebrities such as actor Dolph Lundgren, with whom she traveled to movie shoots in Africa and China. True, who's 36, is about to have her second child. Her first, a little boy named Jake, has become a fixture at the gym. His highchair sits in the corner and his swing dangles from an industrial chain attached to the ceiling -- right next to a pair of rings that True has clients hang from while pulling their knees up to meet their chin. "I try to make people their strongest," she says. "And it comes out in their personality, in their career and in their family life."
Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun