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Personal Training Success Stories

Get Inspired, Get Results. *Individual exercise results may vary.

Melissa showing off her upper body strength with personal trainer Collin K. (Photography: Benjamin Margalit)
Melissa performing a TRX plank with personal trainer Collin K. *

Melissa Connolly


By: Patricia Nugent


Two years and seven months ago…” is how Melissa Connolly begins her story about battling breast cancer.

It’s neither a starting point nor an ending point, but rather a turning point.

On September 20, 2016, she was on the surgical table for 14 hours to undergo a radical double mastectomy. Two days later, she had to have another emergency surgery due to a complication.

Though the battle has been long and arduous, and she’s now in remission, Melissa has remained upbeat and positive.

“Since no one in my family has ever had breast cancer, it came as a total shock when I was diagnosed,” she says. “It felt unfair, like I was getting the fuzzy part of the lollipop. I was 53 at the time, busy with my business, and as a wife, and mom to an 18 and 22-year-old.”

The surgery and subsequent recovery period left her weak, especially her upper body muscles.

“I couldn’t lift my arms more than a few inches,” she recalls. “I couldn’t even wash my own hair. My husband had to do it.”

She knew she had to somehow regain the strength and joined a gym to take group classes, but she says they weren’t for her.

“I was not keeping up with the rest of the folks, I was unsure of what I was doing and how I was doing it. I felt I was holding up the class,” she says.

Then in December, she saw an ad on Facebook for Fitness Together in Concord, and thought she’d give it a try.

The studio differs from others in its client-centered focus. Nationally certified trainers tap into the latest science and techniques to custom-create a program around the client’s needs that’s delivered in private, fully equipped exercise suites. In addition to the two private suites, the studio is also putting the finishing touches on its small group training suite, perfect for groups of four to six members.

The Right Place
“I needed someone who could work with me one-on-one, at my own pace,” Melissa says. “Everyone here is so motivating. When I first came, I could barely pick up the weights, and now I’m doing burpees and pop-jacks. My goal is to be able to do pushups. I’ve already lost two percent of my body fat and gained five pounds of muscle.”

Studio Manager Dawna Natale says Melissa is a dedicated client, coming three times a week and always bringing a winning attitude. She also works with trainer Collin Kepley, who recently came to Cleveland from North Carolina, where he earned a degree in exercise science from UNC Charlotte.

As for Melissa, she says she has more energy than ever before, sleeps better, and feels wonderful. “I plan to live to be 100,” she says. “And I plan to be dancing.”

Todd P. performs a landmine row with Fitness Together's personal trainer Collin K.
Todd P. performs a landmine row with Fitness Together's personal trainer Collin K.
FT client Todd P. exhibits his strength on the TRX
FT client Todd P. exhibits his strength on the TRX *

Todd and Susan Petersen



By: Patricia Nugent

As successful trial lawyers with a bustling practice and four busy kids ages 10 to 17, Todd and Susan P. were starting to feel as if their lives were running them instead of the other way around. 

Age 50 is around the corner and we wanted to hit it running instead of sitting,” says Todd. “It had been a long time since we had exercised in any meaningful way and we were primed to get back in shape.”

In February, a friend suggested they try the newly opened Fitness Together in Concord.

"With so much time invested in work life and family life, the first thing to go is your own schedule,” says Todd. “What made Fitness Together so perfect is the professionalism and accountability. We have our calendar back, scheduling sessions three times a week.” 

Studio manager Dawna Natale says the dynamic duo came to them with very different goals. Todd sought to lose weight and build muscle tone, while Susan, who is thin, wanted to build her core and use exercise as a means of destressing from her hectic job.

“After our initial assessments, we were able to custom-create programs to fit their unique needs,” she says. “They seem to enjoy the science- and research-driven techniques delivered one-on-one in private, fully equipped exercise suites.”

She reports that in the span of just two months, Todd went from 143 pounds of his 222-pound frame being muscle, up to 155.6 pounds accounting for muscle on a 217-pound frame, which took his body fat percentage from 36 percent to 26 percent.

Todd says he pays more attention to how he looks and feels than the number on the scale. “The clothes never lie,” he says, and notes that his are fitting quite nicely now.

“And even though it wasn’t Susan’s goal to lose weight, she did as a side effect of the training. Her body fat percentage went from 29 percent to 21 percent,” says Dawna. “She has strengthened her body and says the workouts have boosted her mood.”

“I would never have been able to achieve any of this without the trainers, who use their assessment numbers and measurables in each workout,” says Todd. “Before coming here, I never really enjoyed exercise. It was just something I had to do. Now, since every session is different and geared toward my goals, it feels like fun.”

Dawna reports that in addition to one-on-one training, this month the studio is thrilled to open its small group training suite.

“Our Pack training is perfect for friends who like to work out together in groups of four to six,” she says, noting that the suite has all the same bells and whistles as the private studios in terms of equipment.

Make Massage the Perfect Counterpart

What’s better after a vigorous training session than a relaxing massage? Just two doors down from Fitness Together, Elements Massage Studio takes the same individualized protocol to customize each massage to the client, soothing tired muscles, tissues and joints.

Massotherapists combine different modalities to best fit a person’s needs, whether it’s healing, rejuvenation or relaxation.

Massages range from Deep Tissue to Swedish, Sports, Trigger Point and Stretch Massage, and clients can add their favorite aromatherapy scents as well.

Elements Massage is offering a limited time special of $40 off a monthly membership for new members. 

Fitness Together is located at 7651 Crile Road, in Concord. Call 216-278-7766 or visit for more information or visit the Facebook page. Find out more about Elements Massage at