O'Fallon Progress

O’Fallon trainer ‘inspires, motivates’ clients to healthy lifestyles

Chris Gilbert next to the Rock Steady Boxing equipment, a new program geared to help people with Parkinson’s disease.
Chris Gilbert next to the Rock Steady Boxing equipment, a new program geared to help people with Parkinson’s disease. For the Progress

As a youth, Chris Gilbert’s life changed when he started working out. Now he inspires others to achieve goals that they might have thought were impossible.

As owner of C1 Fit in O’Fallon, a personal training and performance center, he offers both group and private sessions. He also has a nutritional and sports supplements outlet on site.

Gilbert, 41, was home sick one day from school in 1986 when he paged through one of his mother’s magazines, “Shape.”

He saw an ad for a “Muscle & Fitness” magazine, obtained a weight bench and discovered his passion. He lived in the country, so friends weren’t nearby. It became a lifeline.

“It helped build my self-esteem and confidence. I didn’t need anybody else to do it. I stayed with it. I was the only kid in junior high who wanted to use the weight room,” he said, smiling. “I wasn’t big into the vanity of bodybuilding. It was more about what I could do.”

That transformation was 30 years ago, and today, he is achieving his dream and helping others to succeed.

People have expectations, like three months and they will be back in shape. It should be ongoing maintenance. A gym shouldn’t be a destination. It should be a part of everyday life, not just a chore.

Chris Gilbert, owner of C1 Fit

He worked as a carpenter for 15 years before opening his own fitness business, inspired by professional athletes who became successful doing what they loved to do.

“I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ If they can do it, so can I,’” he said.

He opened his first fitness center in O’Fallon in 2013, but it soon outgrew the space.

“I expanded. It grew unexpectedly and happily,” he said.

There was never a moment of doubt about locating in O’Fallon — and staying. Another expansion is likely later this year to provide even more open space.

“I love the city of O’Fallon. I like the people here. We have great police, fire and city services. It’s a great community,” he said.

His current location is at 502 W. State St. They are open six days a week, and closed on Sundays. Basically, they are by appointment, and can be open from 5 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., depending on client needs. Eight trainers are currently on staff.

It’s easy to see why his place is so popular. His passion for helping people is obvious as he talks about the benefits of lifestyle changes, no matter what shape or circumstances.

Gilbert said he thinks of himself more as a coach than a trainer.

“We show you and guide you. Our job is to inspire and motivate. We’re excited to do it and keep it safe,” he said.

Gilbert enjoys working with individual clients on improving their mobility and strength. He tailors their work out to their individual needs, and will modify accordingly.

“We make it more personal. It’s not the same structure. It’s trainer-tailored fitness,” he said. “People have expectations, like three months and they will be back in shape. It should be ongoing maintenance. A gym shouldn’t be a destination. It should be a part of everyday life, not just a chore.”

Chris is knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition, passionate about helping people achieve their personal wellness goals, and he brings an extraordinary level of genuine care and concern for each of his clients to the table.

Debbie Belsheim, Rock Steady Boxing

Clientele ranges from school athletes to senior citizens, with area police officers welcome any time.

“If people have had hip surgery, I want them to be able to step with confidence,” he said. “Each client has limitations. Can I push their abilities and not just out their comfort zone? It’s about their progression. We will evaluate.”

He is most pleased about new clients’ reactions to the people-focused way C1Fit operates.

“They say, ‘This wasn’t what I expected,’” he said. “We want everybody to feel like they’re the only person we focus on. We don’t want people to feel like they’re alone. They matter. They have our attention. Nobody just comes in and does their own thing.”

The first step is coming in the door, he said.

“If people put in the effort, if they are dedicated to a more mobile lifestyle — to be able to chase the grandkids around, to not just exist — that’s what we can help with,” he said. “People might have sat at a desk for 30 years, and we help prepare them for an enjoyable retirement. We help with posture and what’s created the imbalance in the first place. We try to undo that mess. Seeing the little changes is enlightening.”

The social aspect is a bonus.

“We learn the individual personalities. We want everyone to feel like they’re part of a team,” Gilbert said.

He is excited about a new program he added two months ago, “Rock Steady Boxing.” With his enthusiastic support, Debbie Belsheim and Mickey Dobbins recently started the non-profit organization at his facility. It’s dedicated to improving the quality of life for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“Chris wanted to be intimately involved in the program. Chris is knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition, passionate about helping people achieve their personal wellness goals, and he brings an extraordinary level of genuine care and concern for each of his clients to the table,” Belsheim said.

“Patients at all levels of symptom progression are seeing improved motor function because of intense non-contact, boxing-style exercise,” Belsheim said. “Exercise is the only treatment that has actually been medically proven to slow the progression of Parkinson’s.”

Boxers train to improve balance, hand-eye coordination, speed of movement, agility, muscle power, mental focus and rhythm. These things are issues for people with Parkinson’s. They can learn a new skill that is fun and a good stress reliever while addressing many of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, Belsheim said.

The trainers are certified through a national program.

“It’s about how we can best serve people,” Gilbert said.

Overall, the trainers keep up to date with continuing education, learning new skills, different trends in machines and how they function.

Gilbert likes to evolve and keep growing.

“I learn a lot from the clients. They teach me more about the business. Am I doing everything I can? Do I need to better research something? Is this useful as a coach?” he said. “It’s not about me. Movement is life. It keeps us healthy.”

When he’s not working, family and community involvement are what’s important to him. Divorced, Gilbert has a 16-year-old son, Sam, that he enjoys spending time with — and beams about with pride.

He is active in the Rotary Club and O’Fallon Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s nice to reach into the community, and be exposed to the work that they do, and be able to help people,” he said.

Q: Do you have words to live by?

A: Find a way, or make one.

Q: Whom do you most admire?

A: Animal shelter and rescue volunteers.

Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?

A: Nikola Tesla.

Q: What is the last book that you read?

A: “Spark,” by John J. Ratey.

Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?

A: A good workout can do both, but trying different Italian restaurants is a close second.

Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?

A: Organized disarray.

Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?

A: Own a gym.

Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?

A: My determination.

Q: What irritates you most?

A: Wasting time.

Q: What type of music do you listen to?

A: Everything from classical to techno.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: Getting to know the gym members’ unique stories.

Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?

A: Traveling the world.

Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?

A: Mark Wahlberg.

Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?

A: An excess of gym clothes, like in my house, office, car, and when traveling, everywhere I go, I have extra.

About C1 Fit

Owner: Chris Gilbert

Location: 502 W. State St.

Hours: Open six days a week by appointment 5 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., closed on Sundays

Contact: chris@c1fit.com or 618-632-5900.

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