While clients of personal trainer Harold Flemister credits him for their toned bodies, Flemister credits his grandmother for his.
Flemister, 35, who lived in West Africa for the first 12 years of his life, was born with club feet. His parents were told he'd never walk, and doctors recommended amputating both feet.
"But my grandmother wouldn't allow it," Flemister says.
"This was in the 1970s and medical care in West Africa was not what it was in the United States," he says. "My grandmother would not accept the diagnosis. So for the next few years, she'd put me on her back and travel miles, by foot, to a 'doctor' who treated me with herbs and strengthened my feet."
The treatment, along with his grandmother's follow-up care, was successful, Flemister says. Though he still experiences pain in his feet, morning stretches help alleviate the pain and make it possible for him to lead a normal life.
And now, armed with the inspiration of his grandmother, Flemister is turning that determination on his training clients.
"She helped me reach my potential and now it's my mission to help others reach theirs," he says.
Now the owner of Core Fit Pros on Market Street in downtown Chattanooga, Flemister is known to "push" his clients for better results. In trainer terms, "push" can mean lots of sweat, some pain, ripping through the "I can't do it" curtain, even some tears.
"All of my clients have come a long way as a result of hard work," he says. "There's no whining and dining.
"I try to keep it fun. In the beginning, I won't throw you to the wolves, but when it's time to push, I push."
April Long, 37, who began working out with Flemister last September, says he's tough but effective. A breast cancer survivor, Long says she needed a lifestyle change.
"I had never before been on an exercise program, but after five days working out with him, I saw changes," she says. "He's tough, but he encourages me, and it makes me want to work harder. It's a lifestyle change, and I'm doing it for me."
Local attorney Hallie McFadden, 50, who works out twice a week with Flemister, says the workouts are the hardest she has ever experienced.
"I've lost weight and swim, but since I've been with Harold, I've worked harder and smarter than I ever did," she says. "He's gotten me into better shape than I was even when I was a competitive swimmer. My body looks and feels better than it ever has. Harold has helped me reach my full potential."
Flemister says determination is the key.
"It's what my grandmother taught me," he says.
Staying fit is a challenge for everyone, Flemister says, and, at their core, those who want to lose weight or get in shape must focus on one thing -- themselves.
"When I get a client who tells me they are here because their spouse or doctor wants them to lose weight, I know there's a good chance they're not going to make it. You have to do it for you. If you're doing it for you, you stay more focused."
Flemister, whose sessions start at $50 an hours, configures individual programs for each his clients, then ratchets those up a notch.
"I then take each program 10 steps ahead and push them to the next step," he says.
Flemister's clients range in ages from 16 to 70 and he says he's willing to work with any age.
Artist Olga de KleinI, 68, says she's been a client for about 16 months and likes the way he works.
"I do one-on-one with him and he gears his exercises to what I need," she says. "He knows exactly what areas to work on and he is encouraging."
"Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we figure out what they need," Flemister says.
Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at email@example.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/karennazorhill.