A passion to help at Slim & Fit

Mike Bullinger practices what he preaches. The 53-year-old New Orleans, La. native is the owner of Slim & Fit fitness center in Springwater Plaza on Route 202 in Chadds Ford Township.

He keeps fit himself. He ran in the recent Philadelphia Marathon, finishing in just more than 3-and-a-half hours. It was his 14th marathon. Bullinger also used to run the New Orleans Police Department gym as a volunteer.

But, Bullinger said, his passion is helping people. His Slim & Fit center is how does just that, offering individual and group fitness classes as well as nutrition counseling for young and old alike, from 14-year-olds to people in their 80s. Consider Dave Lawrey.

Lawrey is an 81-year-old from Chester Heights whose wife died earlier this year. He said he began putting on weight and his doctor told him to get out of the house and be with people. He said he was looking to do that when he came upon Slim & Fit.

“This came from on high,” Lawrey said with a smile.

Let’s not forget the upper body.

It’s been working. Since starting a two-day per week program in September, working with staff member Lisa Dickerson, Lawrey has lost 10 pounds and said he’s feeling much better.

“I whipped it off here,” he said. “It’s easier than you think. I feel like a baggy-pants vaudeville actor.”

Lawrey likes the personal attention. It allowed him to work on other issues, such as balance, while addressing his weight gain and other fitness concerns.

Bullinger, who has degrees in psychology and marketing, said the idea is to transform people from an inactive lifestyle to a lean lifestyle, and to make that transformation permanent.

“It’s not a diet. It’s not going to the gym where you just exercise on your own. We guide the folks. We teach them a lot when it comes to nutrition and teach them a lot when it comes to fitness,” he said.

Bullinger and his staff give clients programs to do at home to get them moving and motivated. He said he knows the motivation is working when people start showing progress from doing the work at home.

“That’s what we want to do, get people to make that permanent change in their lives, to have a fit lifestyle.”

There’s no magic bullet. The biggest obstacle people have to overcome, he said, is to actually be ready to make a change.

“It’s up to them. Some people think the act of walking through the door is enough. Then, when you start seeing people looking for excuses not to be here or excuses not to eat a certain way, then you know they’re not ready to make the change,” he said.

It’s a matter of self-accountability, according to Bullinger. People have to want to make that change. Neither Slim & Fit, nor anyone else, can do that for them.

“Without that accountability, they’re not going to do it on their own.”

The staff does what it can to help get people to that stage. Each program is written specifically for that individual, Bullinger said and the staff works around limitations and tries to push them.

Another situation Bullinger faces is that people expect him to be their friend, but sometimes he can’t be that when he has to push them. He said he recently lost a client because of that.

“We’re here to make a change. We’re not here just to help folks go through the motions,” he said.

As for the programs, people can sign up for a one- or two-day per week personal training session, called the Fit Training. And there is the Slim Program. Most clients do both. The Fit Training is a 12-week program, he said, because it takes that long to see results. In the center, program fuses strength training with cardio.

The Slim Program includes a grocery shopping list as well as meal replacement and healthful foods.

Bullinger is also trying to generate interest in a recently started group fitness program. Included in that program are cardio kickboxing, non-contact formal boxing — hitting pads, not people — body pump and Zumba. Body pump is a cardio strength-training program with free weights. More classes will be developed if there is demand.

Slim & Fit charges $50 per hour for the personal training. Bullinger said the going rate is $70 per hour. Meeting with the Slim coach is $25 per half hour visit once per week.

Prices for the group sessions range from a $16 walk-in visit to $140 for 10 classes or $260 for 20 classes.

Top photo: Dave Lawrey, 81, does some leg presses under the watchful eye of personal trainer Lisa Dickerson at Slim & Fit.

About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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