The Fitness Pro

TUCKED in a quiet area of the mall; the long, brightly-lit passageway leading to our destination made me feel like something grand was waiting at the other end. Indeed, when we reached the front desk, an overwhelming sight was there to behold – a huge area full of top-quality exercise equipment, a boxing ring in the center, cardio machines at the back part paired with several flat-screens – all surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows that gave us a clear view of the streets below. For fitness buffs, going there would be like finding a “pot of gold.”

The place is Gold’s Gym, particularly the first Cebu branch that has been recently opened this year. Pegged as the largest co-ed gym chain in the world, Gold’s Gym traces its roots to Venice, California way back in 1965. It is known to be the favorite gym choice of many celebrities and athletes.

Befittingly enough, the club manager of the Cebu branch is a renowned fitness professional in her own right. A tri-athlete, an internationally certified trainer and group exercise instructor, an organizer of several marathons herself – Gold’s Gym is certainly in capable hands under the management of Anna Maria “Annie” Neric.

“Before I was kinda big,” was the first thing Annie said. The reason she found herself in a fitness center all those years ago was simply her desire to lose weight. Getting fit started as a hobby then eventually it became a part of her lifestyle.

“I enrolled myself in an aerobics class in Manila,” she recalled. “It was just for fun then after a while I got so hooked on it. After work, I would go there, where I made friends who are also into fitness. Back then it was just my ‘sideline’. Then they asked me, do you want to train? Do you want to teach?”

At that point, seeing that she really enjoyed what she was doing, Annie decided to quit her job at a trading company to become a full-time group exercise instructor.

This was back in 2000.

In her new found career, Annie did not rely on experiences alone. She said, “I had to educate myself – I attended conventions here and abroad, I took certifications. I always keep up to date with the latest techniques.”

At present, Annie is a certified trainer and group exercise instructor by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as a certified Zumba instructor by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA). She is also a member of both Cebu Executive Runners Club and Team Reborn.

The Big Move

It was in 2007 when Annie found herself in Cebu. “When my husband was assigned here, all the while, I thought I was going to be a housewife,” she said. “But my priority was still to exercise and to be fit, so the first thing I looked for when I arrived here was a gym.”

She joined one of Cebu’s well-known gyms, where she became acquainted with tri-athlete and fellow Manileño Noy Jopson. The latter, upon knowing that Annie is a fitness professional, invited her to be a trainer and instructor in the said gym.

It was also through the invitation of Noy that Annie got into running. She began doing 5k runs, eventually moving up to doing half-marathons, to full marathons (42k), then finally to ultra marathons (50k).

“After that I wanted more, so I thought I might as well go into triathlon!” she said.

In August 2009, Annie participated and was a relay finisher of the IronMan 70.3 held in Camarines Sur. “The next year, I told Noy, I’m going to join again, relay ulit (again). Then he told me: Ang baduy mo! Ba’t relay? (You’re so uncool! Why relay?) Go for full!”

Challenge accepted, as the following year Annie was a finisher in the individual category. “Year after year, my target is always to improve my time,” she stated.

With her husband back in Manila, Annie has opted to stay behind. “I love Cebu talaga

(really),” she said. “This is the only place that I can do so many things in one day.

On Sundays, I go to mass, watch a movie, and go to the beach. Also, here, when I go out of my house I can run, I can bike…”

Her two kids are also based in Manila; one is already working while the other is still studying. “I have two boys. The youngest is medyo mana sa akin (kind of takes after me), he’s into rowing,” the proud mom shared.

Health Tip #1

One simple and basic fitness tip that Annie dished out was, “eat everything in moderation.” She said, “You can eat ice cream, but don’t eat the whole pint!” Take it from the club manager herself.

Age Matters

“I started my first marathon when I was 44-years-old,” Annie pointed out. Since then she has finished three full marathons, one ultra marathon, and four triathlons (three of which she was an individual finisher). Now at 47, Annie is prepping up for this year’s IronMan 70.3 that will be held in Cebu this coming August.

“I want to encourage and inspire women my age that it’s never too late to get fit. We actually should be more active to make us healthier, to have better immunity, to be younger looking, happier, and more active to do more things we enjoy!”

For Annie, age has never been an issue. She said, “If you really want to do something, you have to work on it. Hindi pwede (It’s not possible) you can do a 21k right away.

Slowly, gradually until you reach your goal.”

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