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Trainer of stars adds common sense to the workout

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Remember Melanie Griffith's "bod for sin" in the movie "Working Girl?"

Michelle "I am Catwoman -- hear me roar" Pfeiffer in "Batman Returns?"

Sarah Jessica Parker's flatter-than-a-high-roller's-hard-luck abs in "Honeymoon in Vegas?"

While you may be thinking "good genes," they're thanking Kathy Kaehler, personal trainer to the stars, and so in demand in Hollywood that she can command $75-$125 an hour to make glamour types step, crunch and sweat themselves into shape for that next big role.

Along with Ms. Griffith, Ms. Pfeiffer and Ms. Parker, Ms. Kaehler has trained Candice Bergen, Meg Ryan, Julianne Phillips, Bonnie Raitt, Farrah Fawcett, Rosanna Arquette, Justine Bateman and more.

But lesser mortals also can take classes with Ms. Kaehler for $10 an hour at her fitness studio in Los Angeles, or at home with her video "The Kathy Kaehler Fitness System," featuring aerobic step training, strength training with weights, leg and abdominal work and stretching.

In a recent telephone interview from Cleveland, where Ms. Kaehler was touring as spokeswoman for Avia athletic shoes, she said she has two new videos in the works and hopes to release them by February or March.

One features three workouts, each a different aerobic activity, and is intended to be used, say, Monday-Wednesday-Friday before being rewound.

The second, a 30-minute tape, works the lower body only.

What makes Ms. Kaehler different -- and puts her in such demand -- is that she's not just another pretty face with a killer body. Combine her training with her natural, common-sense approach and you get results and motivation.

Her credentials include a B.S. in exercise science from Hope College in Michigan and a stint at the Coors Wellness Center in Golden, Colo., where she tackled exercise regimens for people with cardiovascular disease, the overweight and the elderly.

She also got the stamp of approval from the godmother of personal fitness, Jane Fonda, who hired her as program director at Ms. Fonda's Laurel Springs Retreat in Santa Barbara, Calif.

From there, Ms. Kaehler developed fitness programs at some of Los Angeles' top fitness studios before opening her own.

"Exercise has been pretty much my own life," says Ms. Kaehler, 30, who was born with a dislocated right hip and underwent several operations before a pin was placed in the hip when she was 5.

"My parents probably never thought I would excel in athletics, but it was something that came easy for me, even at that young age," she says.

"For me, it wasn't in my mind, I guess, that I couldn't do any better. It was more like 'I have a pin in my hip, and I can really do well.' "

Ms. Kaehler is 5 feet 7 inches tall, reluctantly admits to weighing 137 pounds ("It sounds so heavy, but it's muscle"), and is a size 12 on top, 8 on bottom.

She works out 25 to 30 hours a week, but remember that working out is Ms. Kaehler's job.

She advocates strength training with weights, noting that the American Heart Association recently endorsed such workouts, but she suggests using fairly light weights -- 5 to 8 pounds -- and doing lots of repetitions.

"This is especially important for women, because it can help with maintaining bone density when we have osteoporosis," she says. "It's also something that keeps the metabolism elevated for a longer period oftime and burning calories after exercise."

Ms. Kaehler also endorses walking as a key program for weight loss, and that's not just because she is Avia's spokeswoman, she says.

"Mile per mile, walking to running, you will burn the same amount of calories, but from walking you will burn more calories from fat," she says.

"We used to think walking was just for old people, but it's great aerobic exercise for young and old."

Ms. Kaehler says she incorporates walking into all of her clients' exercise programs. But to noticeably burn fat and increase cardiovascular fitness, you must walk 45 minutes to an hour three times a week. Still, if you can get out to walk only 20 or 30 minutes, it's better than nothing, she adds.

On the other hand, you can exercise too much.

Actress Julianne Phillips, a longtime client who is featured in Ms. Kaehler's video, is "an individual definitely addicted to exercise and who has made it a very large part of her life," Ms. Kaehler says. Ms. Phillips, who stars in the television series "Sisters," also works out with a trainer who specializes in weights. She once told Fitness magazine she does 6,000 crunches a week to keep her tummy toned.

Ms. Kaehler suggests working out four to six times a week, but never seven. And working out more than two hours daily just increases risk of injury unless you're a pro athlete, she adds.

Working out at home with a video works for some people, the downside being there's no trained person there to make sure you're exercising correctly. Ms. Kaehler also urges caution when selecting videos to buy, citing model Cindy Crawford's exercise video as one that's "just unsafe."

"There are a lot of people out there putting out tapes who do not have credentials, and it's hard to determine who's qualified and who's not," Ms. Kaehler says. "A lot of celebrities out there think they can put a tape out there and make a lot of money, even if they're not qualified."

To help ensure you're buying a safe tape, look for the American College of Exercise (ACE) label on the video cover, Ms. Kaehler suggests, adding that, although she is certified, the ACE label is not on her tape because her renewed certification arrived after printing deadlines. It will appear on the new video covers.

Ms. Kaehler also warns against unreal expectations of yourself.

For example, she says she lives by the "90-10 principle" -- consuming little fat, salt and sugar, and a lot of carbohydrates, protein and water 90 percent of the time. But 10 percent of the time, "Boy, I just let go," pigging out on macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and mashed potatoes with butter, and chocolate, she says.

Those unreal expectations go for others, as well.

One night a small, mousy woman came to Ms. Kaehler's exercise class, huffed and puffed her way through for a couple of weeks, and then disappeared.

Six months later, Ms. Kaehler got a call from Michelle Pfeiffer. She had just gotten this movie role, and she felt she needed to get in shape, Ms. Pfeiffer said.

Eight months' worth of 4:30 a.m. workouts later, the small, rather mousy exercise class dropout slithered into her Catwoman catsuit and clawed her way into movie history.

"In fact, she got so addicted to exercising . . . she continued working out," Ms. Kaehler says.

However, once you get a good body, you're stuck with it for a while.

That's why, in some shots, Ms. Pfeiffer's biceps appear less than 19th-century ladylike in her current role as Countess Ellen Olenska in "The Age of Innocence," Ms. Kaehler says.

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