Rudy Hayek says that as a youngster, he was never much of an athlete. But in the late ’70s, a latent talent clicked on when he was introduced to Shotokan, or Japanese karate. By July 1979, he had earned his black belt in the discipline and it changed everything for him.

A music and business major at the time, he shifted his focus to kinesiology, graduating in 1982 from California State University, Northridge, and segueing into the world of personal training. For the past 20 years, he has managed to keep fresh his passion for helping others achieve better physical fitness.

“When I first began training people in the early ’80s, personal training was very elitist—it was all movie stars and celebrities in those days,” he recalls. “That’s not what lured me to the business; I wanted to deliver personal training to average people.”

Around this time, the Los Angeles Times covered a trainer colleague, and his friend was overwhelmed by the volume of phone calls from people seeking his services. Hayek was in the right place at the right time, and launched his business by helping his friend with the surge of interest the article stirred.

Hayek uses his own experience to relate to the challenges his clients face on the path to achieving their fitness goals. For example, after seeing the Ironman Triathlon on television in the early ’80s, he and a buddy decided they were going to one day compete in the grueling race. There was just one tiny problem—Hayek did not know how to swim. With perseverence and an iron will to steer him, Hayek not only earned his gills, he trained his way up a continuum of graduating distances to complete the exhausting Ironman test of mind and body five years later.

From this he learned lessons that he still uses with clients—mainly, that training for a goal is indeed a process. He passes on to clients that they cannot change their bodies overnight because they didn’t get out of shape or overweight in a matter of weeks. Such empathy makes him a credible and patient guide.

Over the years, Hayek has added new dimensions to his career to keep his skills and his mind from getting stale. He recently sold his stake in Sierra Health and Fitness, a successful personal training gym in Sierra Madre, California, just north of Los Angeles, which he owned for about eight years. Privately, he still trains about 15 clients, either in their homes or at two nearby facilities. Ironically, this once-proclaimed non-jock names functional, sports-specific training as one of his specialty areas now, training many basketball and football players.

Hayek also is focused on writing a book, the working title of which is Customize Your Body: A Woman’s Fitness Guide to Becoming Her Own Personal Trainer. He writes a weekly health and fitness column for his local paper and teaches an adult education class called “Body-Type Fitness for Women,” which employs concepts from his book on self-training the mind and body.

As reflected by the content of
both his book and his class, Hayek
is a staunch believer in teaching self-empowerment to his clients. He sees the future of training going more toward integrating mind and body skills for total lifestyle training, advising trainers to begin investigating these concepts now. “It’s important to become more oriented and educated in teaching lifestyle skills to our clients so they can function better in their personal lives,” he said. “Improving quality of life via stress reduction seems to be the biggest need among all people. This was made especially evident by the events of September 11. Exercise releases this stress and brings relief.”

One of the strongest take-home messages Hayek offers all trainers, but especially young ones, is this: Be kind to yourself first. “People in our industry are giving of themselves so much all the time that they forget to take care of themselves,” he observes. “If you want to be an example to your clients, be rested and achieve balance in your own life first.”

Reported by Sandy Todd Webster IDEA PERSONAL Trainer March 2002