Jumping into the L.A. fitness scene
Alumna's clients have included tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Jennifer Capriati
Fitness trainer Lisa Austin's philosophy on getting fit and staying fit is simple.
"Honor where you are and push reasonably past your mind's threshold," she says. "I set reasonable goals for my clients. I'm not a drill sergeant type of trainer, but I don't accept a lot of excuses, either."
Austin, 33, who graduated in 1995 with a bachelor's degree in exercise and sport studies, also sets a strong example for her clients. She was a two-time All-American in the triple jump and held the school and Southland Conference record in that event.
She was a member of the 4x400-meter relay team that set a UT Arlington record. She qualified for the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals and participated in the 1992 World Junior Championships. She was inducted into the UT Arlington Athletics Hall of Honor in 2000.
Her interest in fitness training began as a student.
"I wanted to learn more about the body and how to get better athletic results and increase my endurance. I like being able to apply what I've learned at UTA to help my clients."
In 1998 Austin moved to the Los Angeles area for the next phase of her career as a trainer and owned her own studio in El Segundo for two years. She's now a personal trainer at the Spectrum Club in El Segundo.
She focuses on core training: developing strength and flexibility throughout the torso. A stable trunk allows the body to generate more power and speed for sports and creates functional strength for daily activities like sitting, standing and carrying things. Her expertise and background led her to work with Reebok to develop instructors and trainers under its name.
Austin's skills have taken her around the world with the Women's Professional Tennis Tour, where she worked for more than two years as a trainer for Martina Navratilova, Jennifer Capriati and Eleni Daniilidou.
"They’re incredible athletes," she said. "It was great to help prepare them before and after matches with specific warm-up drills and cool-down techniques like using a foam roller for stretching."
The tennis tour led Austin to work with Navratilova on her 2006 book, Shape Yourself. Austin developed the book's exercise content.
"It's a book about fitness, longevity and maintaining youth," she said. "It offers a program of food and exercise and draws on Martina's experiences in life and health to motivate others."
Athletics have been a big part of Austin's life since high school in El Paso, Texas. "Like a lot of little girls, I wanted to be famous. I saw Flo-Jo (Florence Griffith Joyner) run and thought track and field would make me world famous."
Several schools, including the University of Houston, recruited Austin, but a visit to UT Arlington cinched the deal. "I liked the campus and it felt comfortable. It was scary to leave home, but living in the dorm meant a chance to meet new people."
John Sauerhage, UT Arlington's head track and field coach, never doubted Austin would find success in school and beyond.
"She's an outgoing person who works hard and is loyal to her friends and teammates," he said. "She was buddies with everyone."
Austin is now concentrating again on her personal training clients. She specializes in athletes or those wanting to push themselves to the next level of fitness.
Marce Livingston, 39, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., began training with Austin after the birth of her second child eight years ago. She credits Austin with a boost in fitness and self-esteem.
"Lisa's exceptional knowledge and expertise blew me away," Livingston said. "She pushes me hard and makes me feel capable, strong and successful every time we train."
Austin also specializes in mothers who want to return to athletic endeavors or get fit again. "A lot of my clients are mothers who are extraordinarily dedicated to maintaining a healthy image of fitness. They all want to stay fit, and some want to advance further than that."
She designs custom programs that focus on what her clients hope to accomplish.
"Lisa laid the foundation of my plan with a creative and amazing knowledge of the human body," said Nancy Russert of Redondo Beach, Calif. "I think of her like I would a skilled surgeon. I just celebrated my 40th birthday, and I told her I plan on being here for 40 more."
Austin also has some teen clients and eventually hopes to work with youth sports teams to improve conditioning and flexibility. She says she'd like to create a legacy of health and fitness in the community.
"My next goal is to work with a variety of athletes in a well-equipped facility here in the South Bay of California," she said. "Fitness conditioning is important for all, but it’s better to start these habits early. It’s true: If you don't use it, you lose it. And it's difficult to get it back!"
Glen Golightly ('84 BA, '93 MA) is a Los Angeles-based writer.
— Glen Golightly