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Personal trainer to test his mettle in London

Timonium's Stephen Holt will take on competition

By Jon Meoli, jmeoli@tribune.com

8:56 AM EDT, September 19, 2013

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When Timonium resident Stephen Holt travels to London later this month to compete in the Life Fitness Personal Trainer to Watch competition, he'll have an hour to craft a workout before a panel of judges.

But for Holt, whose 29 Again Custom Fitness is located near his home in Timonium, the key to success for both himself and his clients is the long-term plan built around each specific person — not a generic, hour-long workout.

"You can show that you're horrible in one day," Holt said. "You can't show how good you are in a day. You need a good six weeks, at the least. Being a good personal trainer is a lot of back and forth. You find out what's working, and you make adjustments. You can't do that in one day."

The competition, which will be held Sept. 27 at the Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre, St. Albans in London, is the culmination of a two-part process that will determine a winner in the 3-year-old contest, said Lauren Kamm, digital media and public relations manager of Life Fitness.

In the first portion, which Kamm said was judged by seven fitness professionals, was based on criteria such as the trainer's number of certifications, years of experience, and number of clients.

Kamm declined to say how Holt scored in the first round, but said, "Just from looking at him, he does have significant years of experience and certifications from a number of reputable certifying bodies."

That Holt owns 29 Again Custom Fitness shows his business acumen, and his nomination makes it clear that "it's his life passion," Kamm said.

"It's not just a hobby for him," she said. "He's been building a very long career. He definitely stands out for the volume and variety of the work he does."

Holt, 53, said he began to focus on training when he was playing football at Duke University, where he said 14 of his teammates went on to the NFL.

"That was 35 years ago," Holt said. "I've been in and out of the business since then, and full-time for 15 years."

After 11 years as education director at the Maryland Athletic Club in Timonium and two at the Baltimore County Club, Holt opened his own gym to hone the individualized training methods he believes in.

His system — and the workout he designs for the competition next week — will be based off his three-four-five system, which he said, "works your whole body the way your body likes to move."

The system focuses on the body's three orthogonal planes, four muscle sling systems, and five basic movement patterns.

What won't be evident in the competition, however, are the personalized workouts his clients get. Anne Currie, a client and assistant who lives in Towson, has a workout specially tailored to strengthening her hip and ankle.

Everyone in the gym gets their own workout, and can develop it at their own pace — something Currie didn't see at other venues.

"You had 50-some year old women that were not in good shape trying to do the same thing as someone who was 20-some- years-old," Currie said. "I just thought the chance of injury was so big."

Currie, 44, said the clients usually complete their workouts in groups, creating the camaraderie some people seek when working out.

"It's not one-on-one training, but it's personalized." Holt said. "People come in at their scheduled times and they're working with 4-5 people at the same time, but each person has their own specialized workout."

"I feel like we're really close-knit gym," Currie said. "Everybody gets along great and cheers each other on."