Fitness, Not Fads

by Mitch Allen

Many families know Bob Neidlinger from his 12 years as the director of bands for Copley-Fairlawn City Schools. During that time Bob touched the lives of thousands of talented kids, including my own two daughters. But few know that the 54-year-old gregarious grandfather secretly struggled with weight gain, high blood pressure and the threat of diabetes. And yet fewer know about his passion for roller coasters or that the staff at Cedar Point refused to allow him to ride the Millennium Force because he was too big to fit safely in the seat.

“It was embarrassing,” the Fairlawn resident recalls. “People were staring.” But not even that experience was enough to encourage Bob to get serious about his health. For that, it took a trip to the emergency room. “I went to the ER with dizzy spells,” Bob recalls. “They told me I had likely had a TIA [transient ischemic attack]. My family doctor said that’s it; I had to lose weight and get in shape.”

That was when Bob read a feature about personal trainer Jeff Cook. “I had tried all kinds of fad diets before,” Bob admits. “They would work for a while but the weight would always come back. My wife, Peggy, and I bought weights and exercise machines for the basement but even with a big-screen TV there for motivation, I never used them. Nothing worked until I started working out with Jeff. It’s private and he holds me accountable.”

According to Jeff, Bob has worked out with him four days a week every week since January. “He missed one day when he had a fever,” Jeff says. “He’s very committed.” “I joined a local fitness center and went a few times, but it was too easy to say, ‘Today I’m not going,'” Bob adds. “But I have an appointment with Jeff. He’s here waiting on me.”

Since starting his fitness training, Bob has lost 54 pounds and 29 total inches, including 10 inches in his waist. He is off one of his two blood pressure medications and his sugar levels are down, taking him out from under the shadow of diabetes.

Today the retired band director is incredibly active. He’s enjoying a part-time teaching gig at The University of Akron; he’s working with A-1 Sports Sales, a local promotions company; and he’s the music director at West Hill Baptist Church.

“Best of all,” Bob shares. “I can now keep up with my six grandchildren.”

Fairlawn resident and Perkins Middle School teacher Lori Stone isn’t riding the Millennium Force, but she’s been on a roller coaster just the same. She worked out with Jeff two years ago and lost 25 pounds. Then life got in the way. “I took a year off from exercising and the weight came right back,” Lori says. “Like Bob, I read the story in Mimi and reconnected with Jeff this summer. Since July I’ve lost 30 pounds.” “She’s also lost 25 inches in her waist, hips, legs, and back,” Jeff interjects.

So how was Lori able to get back on the right track? “In that year off I realized how quickly my health deteriorated,” Lori explains. “I could feel myself aging: body aches, pain, I grew tired quickly, I was out of breath going up the stairs.” Lori also had health concerns; she was battling high cholesterol, high blood pressure, very high CRP [cardio reactive protein], and she was stressed. “It was time to get serious,” Lori insists. “And I like coming to see Jeff because everyone here is not age 20 and buff. It’s very welcoming. Jeff encourages me to eat more protein and he prints out informative and encouraging articles to give to me.  And I would never push myself at a gym the way he pushes me. But he doesn’t overdo it. I’m never too sore to get out of bed in the morning.”

Lori’s husband and two daughters also encourage her. “I usually work out around 4:00 after school and my family knows that ‘this is what mom does.’ There are always a million other things to do housework, laundry, dinner but my health is important, too. I’m lucky that my family is so supportive.”