Meet SOme of Our Students

Student Spotlight: Rhett Gaddes

Rhett is just about ready to graduate from Life Time Academy. Check out his video interview on the decision and experience.

Student Spotlight: Jill Jurgens

We capture an interview with student Jill Jurgens on how Life Time Academy is helping prepare her for a career in personal training.

Student Spotlight: Lee Syndergaard

Lee was an Academy graduate that quickly has moved up the ranks and into management at Life Time Fitness.   Based in MN, please meet Lee Syndergaard. Lee Syndergaard was never athletic as a child. In fact he was raised in a home where sports and athletics were not encouraged. Many people struggle with being overweight, but Lee was on the other end of the spectrum, struggling with being underweight.
One day Lee decided he had enough of the "put some meat on your bones" comments & joined a gym. He had no idea what I was doing or where to start, as he explains, "I just started moving heavy things around at the gym. Eventually I started to see results; with that and the positive comments I received, I gained more confidence and wanted to keep going. I started setting and attaining goals and even inspring those around me to make changes in their lives."


Becoming a personal trainer wasn’t something Lee seriously considered at first, although in retrospect it was always at the back of his mind.  In the past he helped friends and family members work out and eat better, but had remained with his sales and marketing career. In the summer of 2012 Lee decided being a personal trainer was his goal; after talking to his wife about it, who fully supported the decision and even sent him the link to Life Time Academy, he enrolled. Although Lee knew the Academy costs more than a fast-track online certification, he realized that investing more time, money and energy would allow him to hit the ground running and enjoy long-term success in the industry.Lee explains, “I knew going to the Academy would give me a chance to play a more direct and active role in helping members live a healthier, happier life. I hit the books hard, worked my tail off, passed the certification exams.As of August 1st I’ll be a personal trainer at the St. Louis Park Life Time Fitness!”

As to his fast track to a successful career, Lee comments, “I have no doubt that the Academy helped me secure the position.Of course it helps that it’s the club where classes take place, so this gave me exposure to their management team, and vice versa.From day one with the Academy my goal was to excel in my studies and be a stand-out student so that when the time came to look for a job, I could write my own ticket and have department heads coming to me with offers.”
Lee’s fitness goals have evolved over the years.Initially he just wanted to gain weight, mainly for asthetic reasons; now he’s more interested in prolonging his life, overall health and wellness as well as providing a good example for his son.Lee applies what he learned at the Academy to his own fitness.For instance, he mapped out a 12-month program focused on increased lean muscle mass and cardiovascular health.His goal is to gain one pound of lean muscle each month while getting body fat percentage down to 10%.

In closing, Lee says, “Playing an active role in the success of my clients and others I come in contact with is one of the main benefits to becoming a Life Time Academy certified trainer.I have watched people make small changes in their lives which have eventually lead to big changes in their health and happiness.To inspire people to make positive changes, big and small, is the legacy I hope to leave to the world.” Lee’s favorite quote is:  “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Lee Syndergaard

Student Spotlight: Courtney Chappell

Courtney is based in Houston and has an incredible story to share. She graduated in October.  

Courtney Chappell was always an athlete; she had been involved in sports since she was old enough to hold a ball. She played softball, basketball and ran track. At the beginning of her H.S. freshman year, she was 5'7" and weighed 165 pounds. However, in one year she went from 165 pounds to 211. She was very active, both on and off season. Despite this she was the only one in her family who was overweight.

In her sophomore year she noticed some concerning changes in her body; eventually she was diagnosed with polycistic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The weight gain and inability to lose it made sense. Courtney says, "It took me a year to wrap my head around how to lose the weight in a way that worked best for me. In the Spring of 2012 I decided I wasn't going to diet but I was going to eat healthy."


Courtney Chappell

Student Spotlight: Kathy Miller

Kathy Miller has been happily married to her husband, Greg, for 26 ½ years. She's a proud mom of 2 — Jeffrey, 23 yrs & Kevin, 18 yrs. Kathy had been in the financial services field for years, but her family health history encouraged her to take a hard look at her career path. Her mother died of pancreatic cancer; her father is close to stage 3 of Alzheimer's. Her brothers and sister all had health issues. About 3 ½ years ago, she read an article that stated if a parent has Alzheimer's, then his/her children would be 30-50% more likely to get it. However, it stated that if the offspring were to exercise, chances of contracting Alzheimer's would come down dramatically. This was the start…

Kathy decided to act. She began a serious fitness regime, working with Life Time Fitness personal trainer, Josh Strathres. She also worked with dietitian Samantha Bielawski. Kathy was taught the "proper" way of exercising, i.e. zone training. She worked with Samantha and learned she was gluten intolerant, changed her diet substantially and lost 15 pounds. Kathy says, "Through proper on-going education from Samantha and with on-going personal training sessions with Josh, I'm becoming stronger and stronger every day!" After 3 years of working with Josh & Samantha, Kathy truly began to benefit and understand the skills that Life Time Trainers bring to their clients. Kathy says, "It is Josh's training that has given him the abilities and keen perceptive skills, to keep track of how I was doing, feeling, and what I was struggling with. It's his caring that has made an impact in my life. I have become a happier, healthier person…anxious to help others who are in the same shoes I was in!!"

In November 2012, Kathy’s hopes, dreams and a little bit of karma came together with an early Christmas present. Kathy noticed a business card for Life Time Academy at the front counter and saw that the Academy was coming to Michigan, and was going to be run out of the Rochester Hills Club.  Kathy spoke with Curtis Lowe at Life Time Fitness in Minnesota. Then she spoke with Tim Veihl, one of the two instructors at the Academy in Rochester Hills and he answered all of her questions. She quit her job on December 21, 2012, is now enrolled as a student at the Academy, and she hasn’t looked back, since.According to Kathy, life with Lifetime Academy is fantastic!  Although Kathy was a little overwhelmed initially with 11 textbooks arriving on her doorstep, she soon realized that this program is a step-by-step process and very manageable.  Kathy feels her instructors are an excellent resource and are extremely knowledgeable. As the coursework progresses, it is getting more interesting and has really opened Kathy’s eyes to the expertise that she has been exposed to for the last 3 ½ years. 

When Kathy graduates, she will have four certifications including personal fitness training and corrective exercise specialist (just to name a few). Her goal is to work for Lifetime Fitness; she feels the philosophy & top-notch employees has made Kathy, as a client, feel comfortable and appreciative of their expertise.  She wants to inspire as she has been inspired; eventually, she hopes to work with children and their families to fight childhood obesity.   

In addition to her passion for educating and training others to reach their fitness goals, Kathy has her own personal success story to share. Over the last 3/ 12 years she has lost a total of 18 lbs and 14% body fat. Throughout her journey, Kathy has realized that: “I can do it all in my Lifetime!”  Becoming a certified personal trainer with the Academy is a big part of that and she is excited to be a part of it!!


kathy miller

Student Spotlight: Jim Robinson

Jim Robinson has helped many Fortune 500 companies in his professional career. But, according to Jim, "Its the people within these companies that makes a difference. I wanted to help people that work their whole life stay as young as they can." He felt the best way to accomplish this goal was a dual career as a part time personal trainer, essentially to "help people stay young in America." In addition, Jim had had Life Time Fitness trainers that helped him get into shape to compete in the Alpha Showdown, several Triathlons including the Life Time Tri in MSP ; and many Obstacle Races. These trainers were very helpful to Jim and he wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Jim decided to enroll in the Life Time Academy Personal Trainer Certificate Program. His education at the Academy set him apart from the competition in a number of ways. Jim explains, "Sure you can read a book and watch PowerPoint all day long, but hands-on is what is important. The Academy allows you to observe and test your skill set before you go out there on your own. Being able to learn from real trainers is a huge bonus."Jim continues, “When you become a PT there is no one on the floor looking over your shoulder and if you don’t get it right you will lose clients fast. The Academy makes you  think about what you will be doing post graduation. If you work hard and apply your knowledge and experience, you will ramp up your PT Business much faster. Life Time Academy provides you the best chance of hitting the ground running!”

Today, as a Personal Trainer at LA Fitness, Jim leads a number of regular specialty classes including Weight loss, Boot Camp, Triathlon 101 and Masters Swimming;  he also offers a Corrective Exercise training session to his clients. He has trained up to 18 Clients in 1 month and he only does this part time! He likes being a PT because he can help others reach their goals; the continual growth and learning involved in being a personal trainer also appeals to him.Jim’s personal workout regime is a challenging mix of cardio, weight lifting, and swimming in addition to the classes he teaches every week. Jim does 35 minutes of cardio exercise each day (it’s never the same type so he calls it “Cardio Confusion.”)  He lifts 3 times a week, swims when time permits & participates in one indoor Triathlon per month. His biggest achievement as of late is that he has run 26 5K’s in 6 months! 

Jim’s Favorite Quotes:“Keep moving forward!” “Quiters never win…winners never quit!“If I can do it you can do it!”

Jim Robinson

Student Spotlight: Keila Rector

Keila Rector is an inspiration to everyone around her. Happily married to Allen Rector for 13 years, she is a highly successful business woman with three children, a very busy, active social life, with strong ties to her community and her church. Keila has been an Herbalife distributor for five years; in that time she created over a million dollar business and opened her own nutrition club where Herbalife nutrition could be shared in Eden Prairie. Because of the results in Eden Prairie, in 2012 Keila's location was voted the #1 weight loss center.

On a personal level, she has an impressive story to tell. Keila had been a collegiate volleyball player and was always very fit, but after sustaining injuries and three kids later she was in a very different situation. 5 years ago she was 80 pounds overweight. She lost those 80 pounds in only 10 months with a complete change in her nutrition. Three years ago Keila and her family moved to Eden Prairie and she joined Life Time Fitness. Keila explains, "Life Time helped my family build relationships. It's not just a gym. It's a community of like minded people, there's nothing else like it on the planet. I hope that every member that is new, or is even a veteran club member, feels that connection and sense of companionship that I gained here." Keila joined Life Time Fitness Chanhassen in 2009; she lost 4% body fat in 30 days through participating strictly in group fitness classes. This year Keila decided to embark on a new challenge, to matriculate into the Life Time Academy with the goal of becoming a Group Fitness instructor. Given her busy professional career & family life, it was purely her passion for Life Time and for a healthy way of life that drove her to the Academy. Keila explains, “I wanted to get into training and share that with others because I love being in an environment where everyone is in a similar mindset, their energy fuels you to have a better experience. The relationships you build, helps you to stay accountable to your workouts. I wanted to be able to impart that feeling to others. Plus, I want the people I’ve helped to focus on fitness as well as nutrition. Life Time is the place to do that."

Keila is enjoying her coursework at the Academy. She remarks that it is truly a team environment; studying and training in a group has been great. Clearly the instructors and faculty live the healthy way of life; they are committed and passionate about what they do. Keila remarks, “Jeff Rosga, the Director of the Academy, continues to teach Group Fitness classes and provide personal training to a few clients to stay connected. He understands the group fitness instructor needs & requirements. Plus, the power of a qualified, motivating coach is so important; he is the epitome of that. We are lucky to have access to this kind of talent; the instructors here are the best trained and the most knowledgeable; I would be honored to be a part of that community as well.”


Keila feels that working towards her Group Fitness certification “completes the circle” because living an active healthy life style encompasses BOTH nutrition and fitness. This is Keila’s mission in her business as well as her personal life. She chose the Academy because it will ensure she is qualified, not just certified to be successful in her industry.  Upon graduation, Keila’s dream is to help people infuse fitness into their lifestyle by becoming a Group Fitness Instructor for Life Time. Becoming a Group Fitness Instructor at Life Time would be her dream come true and her motivation. Keila say, “I am honored to help promote my association with Life Time Fitness. Being in the Academy, at the completion of the certification I know I will be completely prepared and ready for a successful, additional career. I'm a business owner and the only other company I'd represent outside of my own is Life Time. It is all because of what it brings to people.”


Today Keila has maintained her weight, continues to lose body fat and has gained lean body mass. Her workout regime consists of studio cycle/outdoor cycling, warrior sculpt, total conditioning, swimming and running.  Through the encouragement of the coaches, instructors and members at Life Time she has competed 5 Triathlons in the past 2 years, cycle races and multiple 5k's.

Keila’s Favorite Quote::  "For whom much is given, much is expected." In other words, if you are given a lot, you are expected to give in return a lot. Keila feels she have been given so much and it's time to give back to others. This is the philosophy that she lives her life by and one we should all aspire to!


Keila Rector