W is for Weight Trainer: Student inspire clients to get fit

Senior Kaci Kleeman of Santa Claus, Ind., begins her day by lifting weights at the Preston Center Thursday. Kleeman started weight training about a year ago. “I love the feeling of challenging myself and pushing myself until it hurts,” she said.

Zirconia Alleyne

Weight training tends to be associated with a very specific gym population.

Macho men soaked in sweat as the cast iron weights clink and clank together often come to mind.

The sight of rock-hard abs and chiseled biceps can be scary to most gym newbies, but Kaci Kleeman painted her fingernails, popped on her pearls and didn’t let that stand in her way.

“People are intimidated by the gym,” she said. “But that’s what I love about being in the lab. I get to show them around and put confidence in them.”

Kleeman, a senior from Santa Claus, Ind., works for the Health & Fitness Lab in the Preston Health and Activities Center.

As an intern, she meets with clients to establish a fitness regimen that suits their needs and personal goals.

Along with individual training, the Health & Fitness Lab offers free blood pressure checks, body composition measurements, basic fitness assessments and personal wellness profiles. They also have professional personal trainers and massage therapists.

Kleeman said she loves everything fitness.

“I’ve definitely found a passion for it,” she said. “I love spreading that to everyone else and opening their eyes to the benefits of it.”

Taylor Wells, a Russellville freshman and fitness room attendant, usually sees Kleeman working out or helping clients learn the equipment.

Wells said Kleeman is always lifting, regardless of if she’s the only girl.

“She just doesn’t care what other people think,” he said. “I’d like to get back into weight lifting myself.”

Kleeman wants to inspire more girls to weight train, since many think they’ll get buff, but she said that’s not the case.

“I lift four to five times a week, and I’m not big and bulky,” she said. “Weight training actually decreases your risk for osteoporosis.”

As the youngest child with two older brothers, Kleeman developed a tough skin and love of sports.

She played basketball and softball in high school but admits she dropped the ball when she came to college.

“I gained the freshman 10,” she said. “Last May, I decided that it was time for me to get back into high school shape.”

Kleeman dedicated five days a week to exercising: cardio every day and weight-lifting twice a week.

She said majoring in exercise science and researching the benefits of weight training contributed to her confidence in the weight room.

“I just went head on with it and wasn’t intimidated anymore,” Kleeman said.

Trey Moser, graduate student and personal trainer, said Kleeman is extremely dedicated to fitness.

“She’s one of the most fit girls I know,” he said. “She portrays that dedication onto her clients and is a great motivator.”

Kleeman likes to read inspirational quotes that she can apply both in her life and the weight room.

One of her favorites is “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

“In order for you to grow as a person, you’re going to be uncomfortable,” she said. “If you’re always in a place where you’re comfortable, then you won’t flourish.”

Last semester, she won the “Big Red Bench Off,” where girls had to bench press half of their body weight. Kleeman benched 26 reps.

Kleeman said lifting weights helped her self-esteem, which helps her relate to clients who need an extra confidence boost.

“I like to see what their roadblocks are and how we can get past them,” she said. “I can relate to those people because I’ve been there.”