Years before opening her own studio, Nancy Hildebrandt was a management consultant who traveled nearly every day for business.
And her health was suffering for it.
“The more I got into my career, the less I was working out,” said Hildebrandt, the 51-year-old owner of Pinnacle Fitness in Libertyville. “My career was going great, but my health was going down and down.”
It wasn’t until Hildebrandt’s mother was diagnosed with two types of cancer at age 79 that she left the road to care for her. The experience motivated Hildebrandt to take stock of her own unhealthy lifestyle and do something about it.
“Watching her go through that put me a little to shame. It really got me back into the mindset that I need to get myself healthy,” she said.
Hildebrandt believes her mother recovered in part because of her strong level of fitness. Both her parents were active adults: Her mother would do yoga, Jazzercise and strength training, while her father played softball, volleyball and lifted weights.
There were no excuses left for Hildebrandt, who left the corporate world to become a certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. She worked in small facilities before opening her own studio about four years ago.
Pinnacle Fitness doesn’t have the typical gym machines that many people have a hard time using but instead focuses on functional movement training.
Hildebrandt promotes this fitness philosophy in her new book, “Stronger Than Ever: Functional Fitness to Renew Your Strength, Balance, and Energy for Your Best Years Yet,” co-authored by Dan Ritchie, co-founder of the Functional Aging Institute.
Hildebrandt believes in exercise that encourages people to move the way they would in their everyday lives – without a machine guiding them.
“Think about being on a squat machine and you’re sliding your back along a pad. In life, you don’t have a pad,” she said. “I never felt comfortable using those machines and I knew they weren’t working well for me, so I started doing other things out of necessity. I really liked that because I felt like I had more control and was using my own body to stabilize myself.”
At Pinnacle, short-interval, whole body workouts include the use of free weights, kettle bells and dumbbells.
“It’s a methodology designed with a long-term lifestyle in mind, so the things you need to do and want to do, you’ll be able to do more easily with less pain and less injury,” Hildebrandt said.
As she writes in her book, you can be fit any age, Hildebrandt said.
“Once they get over 40, a lot of people think, ‘I can’t do that, I’m not strong enough or I’m too old.’”
“The book really shows it’s never too late to start,” she said. “I have clients starting with me in their 60s who’ve never exercised in their lives doing pushups. They didn’t ever think that would be possible. Watching the transformation is phenomenal.”
Client Jane Collins, who is pictured on the book’s cover, said the machines at typical gyms never motivated her. She prefers Pinnacle’s functional fitness approach and enjoys the camaraderie of the small group training sessions that are limited to four people.
“The nice thing is you never know what you’re going to get for a workout,” Collins said. “It’s always different. Sometimes we have workouts where all we use is our body weight. It’s hard.”
Approaching 60, Collins has some knee pain, but staying strong helps relieve it. Regular exercise “is now a priority, where it never was before,” she said.
Diane Sherman, 52, attended high school with Hildebrandt. She reconnected with her friend through a Zumba class and followed her to Pinnacle.
“She knows exactly how to make training fun and effective. I miss it when I don’t go,” she said. “It’s fun, it’s quick and I’ve seen results. I’m stronger and fitter. Everything is taut now, but even more than that, I feel really good.”
Pinnacle Fitness offers small group training, one-on-one training and a variety of fitness classes. Learn more at www.getfitatpinnacle.com.
If you go
WHAT: Pinnacle Fitness
WHEN: 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday to Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to noon Saturday
WHERE: 1758 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
INFO: 847-281-5185 or www.getfitatpinnacle.com