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Training takes expensive turn Fitness: If you've got $10,000 to spare, Chicago-based Jim Karas will whip you into shape.


Oprah doesn't want him, and he's tried like heck to get her. He waves at her while she's running; he tries to get her attention in the elevator of her apartment building.

But Jim Karas still isn't deterred.

"We send her press kits; we send her letters," he says.

Oprah Winfrey would be a nice jewel in Karas' crown, but the Chicago-based fitness trainer is doing fine without her. Karas offers a one-week intense fitness makeover to anyone who can produce $10,000 for the effort. That's 10 times $1,000. No small change.

And, guess what?

He says seven people have signed on - one for two weeks - since he started the service in April.

The key, Karas says, is worming his way into his clients' lives, and being so effective that they're motivated to change their lifestyles and eating habits.

Ten thousand dollars is good motivation for starters.

But Karas, who has been a fitness trainer for 12 years, pushes flabby CEOs and overweight entrepreneurs until even they wish he would stop. And he includes all those who circulate around them.

"I spend time with anyone who comes in contact with them on a regular basis," he says. "You can't have your administrative assistant ordering bagels and Danish when you're supposed to be eating fruit and yogurt."

What does he do, exactly, for $10,000?

"I had dozens of people say, if only you'd live with me, if only you'd make me do it."

Well, he does.

"It's total immersion. I check the garbage. I follow them around as much as they'll let me. I get into the cupboards. Then for one year, I call them on a weekly basis and hold them accountable."

In what way?

"I don't put up with a lot. I say things like, 'I know you were out of town last week; what is the scale saying? Why aren't you [scheduled] for another two workouts?' "

Truth be told, Karas doesn't know how effective his training will be long-term. And he won't give out names of his clients. But he's confident.

"I know everyone is progressing well. They're now working with personal trainers I interviewed for them. I fax their chefs recipes. I really do keep on them."

He keeps on himself, too. The 6-foot, 173-pound former money manager lifts weights four times a week, and keeps "a running tally in my head of what I'm eating." He never fails to weigh himself daily and leaves room for the glass a day of wine he loves.

And he happily takes cash for his services. Five of his exclusive clients paid by check, Karas says.

But sorry. No American Express.

"I really do deal well with a very intelligent person who wants to make a change," Karas stresses. "We don't call this the Berlitz course for the body for nothing."

Ten tips from the $10,000 trainer

* Only use a balanced beam scale, similar to the one in your doctor's office. Others aren't as accurate.

* If it shines, don't eat it. Shine means oil, which means fat. Olive oil is 100 percent fat.

* Stop eating pasta in restaurants. The noodle itself is high in calories and most restaurants coat the pasta in butter, margarine or oil to keep it from sticking.

* When at a buffet, select the smallest plate and try not to talk near the buffet table. Move away, so you're not tempted to reach for additional portions.

* Eat 100 fewer calories a day for 35 days, and you'll lose one pound.

* Buy a heart-rate monitor. It's the single most important indicator of how your heart is responding to exercise.

* Never think, "I exercise, so I can eat whatever I want." Most people overestimate the amount of calories they burn during exercise.

* Include strength and resistance exercises in your workout routine. After the age of 20, the average person loses one-half pound of muscle per year. And muscle is metabolically the most active tissue.

* Small people beware. You can't eat as much as bigger and taller people.

* Stop thinking you have a bad metabolism. "I have yet to come across a client with a bad metabolism, just bad . . . habits."

Pub Date: 12/27/98

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