Five years ago, Doug Bopst was overweight. He ate fast food and junk food. He smoked. He partied. At 20, he could hardly walk without getting out of breath.
He hit rock bottom when he was arrested on drug charges and sent to Harford County jail. But prison probably saved his life, he said.
"I was with a guy in jail who kept after me to exercise," said Bopst, 25, of Sparks. "I had nothing else to do all day. At first, I couldn't do one push-up. I couldn't walk a quarter mile."
When he was released 74 days later, he was stronger and lighter. He got a job, hired a personal trainer and continued to work out.
The old Bopst weighed 190 and had 40 percent body fat. Today, he weighs 135 with 8 percent body fat.
He found a new lifestyle and his dream job, working at the Maryland Athletic Club Express in Hunt Valley since the end of 2010.
"I knew I wanted to help other people. I knew if I could get myself into shape, I could motivate others to do it too," he said.
He was hired as a fitness specialist and has since become a certified trainer.
"Doug is truly an inspiration," said Helen Whelan, general manager of the MAC Express. "He is proof that you can change you life and go in another direction. He is a real success story."
Bopst noted his arrest on his employment application, but Whelan didn't notice it, so he brought it up when he was offered the job.
"He then told me his story and I felt he deserved the job," Whelan said. "This year, he is the highest grossing personal trainer in the entire company."
Bopst helps people who need personal attention to keep on track. One of his star clients is Katie Medved, 22, of Reisterstown, who has lost 65 pounds in the past year.
Medved met Bopst after her mother, Maria Yanson, who works in corporate wellness for MAC, invited him to Thanksgiving dinner last year.
"I was athletic in high school at Notre Dame Prep, but then I got Lyme disease and was in and out of the hospital for two years," Medved said. "I got depressed and ate. I would then yo-yo diet, losing 10 pounds, gaining it back and then some more."
Medved, now a senior at Temple University, said she lost 45 pounds in six weeks working with Bopst. "He knows a heavy person's weak points," she said. "He kept telling me to focus on the weight I lost, not on the weight I still want to lose."
Bopst went the extra mile when Medved hurt her ankle at school and wasn't able to keep up with her regular workouts.
He researched gyms near Temple that had a pool and gave her a membership.
"I don't do that for all my clients, but Katie and her family have kind of become my family," he said.
He does add personal touches for others. He found he was following a client as she parked at a restaurant. He followed her in, helped her choose dishes that wouldn't wreck her success at the gym and then left. "I keep reminding clients that nobody is perfect. If you're not perfect, there's always room for improvement," Bopst said.