It was no big deal for Kimo Frederiksen to single-handedly devour an entire pizza in one sitting or, in just a 48-hour period, finish off a gallon of cookies ‘n’ cream. “I could eat it three times a day,” he recalls, smiling fondly over his dessert infatuation. “In fact, I sometimes did!”
He was a lazy bum who only took the occasional walk, but it wasn’t enough to keep the pounds down – even at just 2 years old, when, looking back, he was first overweight. For much of his adolescence, he fluctuated between 220 and 230 – peaking at 235 – until he was 15.
“Every time I visited a friend or my dad took us out, it was always fast food or pizza,” recalls Frederiksen, who grew up in Brighton (Kimo is a Hawaiian name). “So, even though my mom was health conscious” – she owned a health food club and cooked tofu and rice frequently – “it was every other environment I was in.”
Image pressure that comes from being gay and “feeling lonely” initially motivated him to take control of his health, but Frederiksen’s knowledge of weight loss was limited to family hand-me-downs – oh, ThighMaster – and Tae Bo videos. Not much was happening. It was time to take it more seriously.
“I remember my 21st birthday: I was a smoker,” the 28-year-old says, “and on my 21st I quit drinking, I quit smoking and decided to get into shape. After getting more involved in taking care of myself and teaching myself how to eat healthy and work out, I decided to help get people in that mindset.”
Frederiksen, who is certified through a six-month accelerated program at the National Personal Trainer Institute in Rochester Hills, was training out of a home he rented in Howell before opening True Body Fitness, a work-out studio at Trumbull and Michigan Avenue in Detroit’s Corktown Historic District, in November 2010.
It’s a small loft-like space, and that’s the point: Frederiksen wanted the at-home vibe to feel cozy – for instance, the music is left up to you, and it helps that he’s always smiling – to take the pressure off his clientele. That’s part of why he adopted a no-attitude motto for True Body, modeled after everything he abhorred about his pervious work at a corporate gym, which he likened to performing on a stage for a crowd of people: “They were all about sales and a lot of the trainers didn’t have the passion, and I was sick of feeling like I had to pressure people,” he says. “When I left there, I wanted to make it not only more affordable for people but also create an environment where people felt more comfortable to open up and be themselves. In a big gym, you have people watching you, people cruising and a lot of attitude. It’s just intimidating.”
True Body is an inviting, low-key space for strength training, endurance drills and lunges without the looks. And, to really create that living-room atmosphere, there’s even a dog: Batman, a Chihuahua who showed up six months ago at Frederiksen’s studio, homeless and hungry. Frederiksen calls him the True Body mascot. And how about his exercise routine?
“Batman doesn’t do pushups, but he can spring and jump… and fly.”
More than fitness
Detroit was the first place Frederiksen wanted to go with his out-of-home studio, but he didn’t have the funds or resources – no one to help him, shabby workout equipment – necessary for opening up his own business. The landlord, however, knew he was onto something and cut him a deal.
“I was shocked to even get that space,” says Frederiksen, who had a friend assist him with a painting of a cityscape mural and then, eight months later, had all of his machines upgraded. “It’s taken a lot of steps to get to where it is right now.”
He’s obviously proud when he speaks about how far the business has come, but that’s not all he feels good about: $1 from each person who attends the group fitness classes, held in an adjoining room where he trains clients, is donated to local charities (close to $450 went to the Ruth Ellis Center recently).
“When I moved here, I wanted to be part of more of a community, so I felt really foolish saying that I wanted to be part of a community and then not doing anything for it,” he says. “And I want people to come here” – those who do are usually gay or female – “and feel like they’re contributing to more than just a small business.”
When Frederiksen first opened True Body Fitness in Corktown, the community reacted with open arms and helping hands – something he hadn’t necessarily experienced in Howell. “Here, everyone recognizes that for the city to prosper, we all have to succeed. Not just one business,” he says. “All of us.”
That need to succeed extends to his mission statement at the studio, where it’s understood that success is measured individually. “My big thing is just respect your body and that everyone’s different,” he says. “Something that might work for me might not work for you, and that’s why it’s good to work with a professional who’s willing to analyze your body, comfort level and goals. My philosophy is: Look at every individual and listen to what they need and what works for them.”
Part of it too, he says, is in the mind. “I’ve realized, having gone through weight loss, that no matter how much you lose or work out, the way you visualize yourself depends on you. You could lose all your weight, but if you see yourself as an overweight, lazy asshole, that’s going to be how you picture yourself.
“Here, I try to encourage a very open environment all about building the ego. If people picture themselves in a higher light, then their body will follow.”
Hey, if Batman can…
True Body’s Fitness Challenge
To meet weight-loss goals, four local business owners – Canine to Five owner Liz Blondy; Hugh owner and Supergaydetroit blogger Joe Posch; City Living Detroit owner Austin Black; and Regina Fortushniak, development officer at Detroit Public Schools Foundation – will compete in True Body Fitness’ first-ever fitness challenge.
“I decided to compete because my boyfriend has been training with Kimo for about nine months, and it was getting embarrassing for me to be with him,” Posch says. “Also, I gained some weight a couple years ago and was having a hard time losing it, and I didn’t want to end up in a situation where I just settled into middle-aged beardom.”
The competition launches today, March 15, and runs for 12 weeks, during which time the foursome will earn points for working out, blogging nutritional factoids and completing homework assignments (like walking across Belle Isle). “The whole point of that,” says Kimo Frederiksen, owner of True Body Fitness, “is to make them more active and more health-conscious rather than focusing on the weight coming off.”
Says Posch: “I really like what Kimo is working toward downtown, building a community that makes better health a consideration. I wanted to do whatever I could to support that.”
Here’s where the rest of the community comes in: Take a photo of yourself exercising and tag True Body Fitness on Facebook. Also, earn points by reposting articles and summarizing, tagging TBF and, of course, working out at the studio. Points will be tracked, and the community member who scores the most will get six months unlimited classes at the studio.