Gloria Leonard used to style hair. Now she styles bodies.
For Leonard, 56, co-owner of Immortals Fitness in Mukilteo, it all started with her own body, when she was 42.
“I started getting fat, and I said, ‘This cannot be true,’ ” she said. “I had always been on the leaner side and not worried about my weight. I put on so much weight that I didn’t like anything about how I looked. So I thought, ‘What can I do?’ ”
She started exercising. “I would work out late at night because I didn’t want anyone to see what I looked like.”
Now she competes in bodybuilding contests wearing a bikini.
“The first time I ever competed was when I was 51. Up until then, I really had not worn a bathing suit in about 25 years,” she said. “Last year I did the master’s nationals. I got seventh place in the over-45 bikini division.”
She plans to compete in an upcoming bodybuilding show in Pennsylvania.
Leonard and her husband, Jeremy Shaw, opened their first gym in 2012 with the focus on personal training. Earlier this year, they expanded to a larger 8,000-square-foot space in the same warehouse complex to add open gym memberships, a sprinting track and a warrior obstacle training course.
On Fridays, their four pugs, ages 2 to 14, join them at the gym.
“We call our Fridays ‘Pug Friday.’ They are like our little mascots. They play for about 10 minutes then lay down,” Leonard said.
Members can also bring their dogs.
The gym was a stop in the recent Amazing Race Mukilteo, an annual event where teams solve clues, find locations and complete challenges. Participants did the Warrior Warm-up of eight drills.
Members do it every time.
The gym offers a “90-day transformation program” that includes a tailored nutrition and fitness plan. The exercise regimen is 50 minutes of training, three days a week, with a weekly weigh-in. Many of the members are women over 40.
“She helps us stay in the box,” said member Linda Angevine, of Everett. “It is so easy to get distracted and be pulled off somewhere else. Somebody calls and goes, ‘Hey, Linda, let’s go for happy hour appetizers.’ ”
Angevine comes for group sessions, which include cardio, strength training and nutrition.
“She inspires us,” she said of Leonard. “Look at her.”
Leonard said anybody can shape up.
“I was a hair stylist for 25 years,” she said. “This was a hobby that went overboard.”
Leonard gives us an idea of what makes her tick and how she helps in the gym.
How many times a day do you get asked: “Can you make me have a body like yours?”
That question makes me giggle. I don’t think anyone really wants the body of a 56-year-old woman (post menopause). It sounds like a nightmare. That is what drove me to the gym.
What is the most simple thing people can do to get in shape?
Mindset. Start by believing it is possible. Make a plan to change, whether that is hiring a trainer, joining a gym or a visit to your doctor to assess your current health.
What is their biggest obstacle?
Themselves. They continue to want change without changing anything in their life.
What about diet?
A big part of our program is to teach people good nutrition, and we try to make it make sense to their lifestyle. We cycle our meal plans so we give people plenty of food on workout days; extra carbs and fats. They don’t feel like they’re starving.
Talk about the basket of small notebooks at the counter.
From the day they start, we start recording everything they do. Every workout is charted. It tells the story of your journey in terms of getting stronger and stronger. You see all the numbers escalating.
What is a specialty at your gym?
We do a lot of free weights. We like to teach people to lift heavy. We’re here to help them do it and to do it safely. We’re not really that big into competitions. I want people to do if it gets them to that next goal.
How did you meet your husband?
On a fitness website. We were both looking for a mate with similar lifestyles.
How did you get four pugs?
Our pugs are all rescues. They are like people. They are great greeters, then they do their own thing.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be and why?
Apostle Paul. It would be communion. He wrote some of my favorite books in the Bible. He surrendered his life fully, trusting God for everything.
People would be shocked to know…
I was never an athlete. This sounds crazy. My brother owned a gym for about 20 years and I never walked in it. I never even showed up for the grand opening. I just had no interest in exercising. I’m not even sure I like working out, but I know it is necessary to maintain a healthy body.
What’s your proudest moment?
My transformation. Getting fit and healthy, changing careers at 50 and moving here to Washington, opening a gym.
What are you wearing?
I am always dressed in black. Our alarm goes off at 2:45 a.m. Monday through Friday. I don’t have time or energy to think about it much. Black tights, black top. It rarely changes.
What are three things in your fridge?
Spinach, egg whites and mustard.
What is your pet peeve?
When people think it’s luck or genetics that I look this. I had to change my lifestyle, train, sacrifice indulging in sugar and pastries on a daily basis.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Cinnamon bread. Actually, bread of any kind.
Do you know someone we should get to know better? Send suggestions to abrown@herald net.com or call 425-339-3443.
3616 South Road, Suite A4, Mukilteo; 206-455-8188; www.immortals-fitness.com.
Yes, you can try this at home. It takes about five minutes for newcomers and three minutes for seasoned athletes. The stretches help workout performance and posture, lengthen muscles and connective tissue, improve mobility and range of motion, and to minimize injury.
10 walkouts to a plank: Use your hands and toes to make a tabletop, push-up position with your body in straight alignment holding yourself firm.
5 burpees: Start with a squat thrust, from a standing position, then lower down on your hands, kicking feet back to push-up position.
10 football drills: Side-to-side shuffle conditioning drill like you see done by football, basketball and soccer players.
10 referees: Cross your arms back and forth across chest to warm up chest, shoulders and arms.
10 arm windmills: Make wide arm circles forward and back.
10 squats: A deep squat movement to warm up the lower body. “Stack your body like you’re going be boxed in a little UPS shipping container,” Leonard said.
10 high knee marches: In place, alternate raising each knee as high as possible.
10 jogging steps: In place, to get your heart rate up.