Overweight Fitness Instructor Whips Women Into Shape

    When most think of going to a fitness class at their gym, they think of a fitness-crazed, super tiny, super athletic person leading the class, yelling “C’mon!” or “You can do it!”

    Not at the L.A. Fitness club in Capitol Heights. Class attendees double-time it as healthy and “thick” fitness instructor Michelle Gibson counts them down from the front of the class.

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    “Four more, three more, two more, one!” Michelle yells, twirling her rope. She jumps faster and faster until the rope and her sneakers blur on the hardwood.

    “Show-off!” yells a woman from the back of the classroom. Michelle laughs as she demonstrates hinge-kicks high above her own head. “Fight for your sexy!” she commands her class.

    Heavier fitness instructors and personal trainers are becoming more common, owners of health clubs and gyms say. Carol Espel, the national director of group fitness for Equinox, said she had observed the trend at conferences, in her own gyms and at other clubs. “There’s always been a handful of overweight trainers,” she said, but the number rose after research in the late 1990’s showed that it is possible for people to be overweight and also very fit. Since then, she said, many clients have come to value exercise for its effect not just on weight but also on health, and they have grown more accepting of overweight trainers.

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