Personal Fitness Advantage in Plantation, FL: A Fascinating Origin Story

Plantation, Florida’s Personal Fitness Advantage personal training studio was created from one person’s serious illness during infancy, a love for strength, and the rehabilitation of a serious low-back injury.


Personal Fitness Advantage, or PFA, evolved out of a love for what strength training can do for someone, an understanding of what can happen with improper exercise, and a belief in the value of personalized fitness training.


Founder Doug Jackson, M.Ed.,CSCS may not have survived beyond infancy. Born in April 1980, he was born significantly premature and required multiple major surgeries that kept him in the hospital until the Thanksgiving of that year. This early experience played a major role in his psyche growing up and he viewed himself as weak and unathletic.


He states, “Change your story and change your life.” When a friend joined the wrestling team, it caught Doug’s interest but he was too timid to do something like that which didn’t fit into his view of himself. But the next fall, he saw a sign on the coaches’ bulletin board about wrestling and inquired with St. Francis DeSales Coach Mark Marinelli. The same day Marinelli threw him into a pre-season strength training workout with a few other wrestlers. For a week after that first workout, Jackson was so sore that he had a hard time getting dressed in the morning.


But he kept up with the workouts and finished the wrestling season. It was an observation during this period that started to get him to think about exercise physiology. He had noticed that he didn’t develop strength and actually got weaker through those first six months of strength training. After taking two months off after the season ended, he revisited the weight room and was fifty percent stronger. “I’ve never seen anything else like it and have never talked to anyone else with the same experience, but it gave me a sense that the body needs some recovery between workouts; and that ultimately the body will adapt when given the opportunity. My body gained a tremendous amount of muscle while resting for two months after six months of brutal training. My body was building that muscle just in case it ever had to endure that sort of abuse again. It’s an interesting snapshot into exercise physiology, stress, recovery, and adaptation.”


It was only within his second year of strength training that his low-back started to give him trouble. He wrestled a second season and continued developing his strength training program. By the time he was sixteen, he was in physical therapy for his low back. “Unfortunately, my experience with physical therapy was very basic. They were just going through the motions. I had to start rehabbing my low back on my own.” By his senior year, By the time he rehabbed his initial injuries and had squatted 350lbs with a 148lb bodyweight in a powerlifting competition.


Jackson was zoned in and went full steam ahead earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Psychology at Bowling Green State University. He wanted to be a personal trainer. “I thought it was the greatest thing…I didn’t realize that most people didn’t consider it a real or respectable career option.” “I loved strength training and what it did for me, but I also saw the problems that could occur from the experience I had with my low back. I was passionate about coaching people and personalizing fitness programs to maximize results and minimize risks.” He pushed for the development of an improved personal training program at Bowling Green and then led the program until he opened Personal Fitness Advantage in Ohio in 2003.


After moving to Florida in 2005 for a business partnership that ultimately failed, Personal Fitness Advantage re-opened in Plantation in early 2009.


Today, with over 20,000 hours of personal training experience under his belt, Jackson has a busy schedule of clients and manages a committed team of personal trainers at Personal Fitness Advantage in Plantation. “The amazing thing is that we are probably learning more rapidly now than ever before, in terms of optimal training. We take on a lot of the challenging cases to there is an absolute necessity to constantly get better.”


Between his strength training experience and his experience with small business and entrepreneurship, the lens he sees his past through and how he sees life has been affected. “When I was a kid, I was sort of a wall flower, sort of going along for the ride of life. Now, I seem myself as a survivor. Life is tough at times and you either get stronger or weaker with each challenge. But you always fight to create the life you want. When you fight for what you want, you normally get stronger. When you back down, you automatically get weaker.”


For more information about Personal Fitness Advantage, call them at (954) 472-2115.

7 Reasons People in Plantation Tell Everyone They Know About Personal Fitness Advantage


Someone suggested that we put together this ’7 Reasons’ list about our business. These seven things, I believe, truly detail the PFA experience and what we aim for:


“7 Reasons People in Plantation Tell Everyone They Know About Personal Fitness Advantage”


1. We aim to keep the workouts challenging, fun, and safe. One-on-one personal training sessions are highly personalized. And our small group training is small enough (average of three to four people per group) that there is even personal coaching in the group setting as well!


2. All of our regular instructors are nationally certified. The founder is a nationally-published, industry expert with a Master’s Degree, who has over 20,000 hours of personal training experience. He still works 10-15 hours in the business every day. You won’t be dealing with “missing in action” ownership.


3. In our ninth year of operation, we are your safe bet for high quality personal training. We are a boutique operation that keeps its facility clean and space managed to optimize your personal training experience. Because each client has a set appointment time, it never gets too crowded and you are never waiting on equipment!


4, We’re are the Cheers of Plantation. Soon after joining, everyone will know your name. Our clients regularly tell us that not only are the trainers friendly, but the other members are as well!


5. Convenient small group times daily, including both morning and evening times. Many clients utilize a combination of one-on-one training, along with small group training. We have been on the leading-edge of using this “hybrid” approach to give our clients the best possible experience. By the way, our small groups are small! Unlike other companies that pack up to twenty people or more into a group session, our groups range from three to six people, with the average group having three people in it. This allows for the personalization and coaching of clients that we believe in.


6. Meet us for an in-depth initial consultation to figure out the right plan for your needs, goals, and budget. Whatever plan we recommend, you get to try it before you buy it.


7. We specialize in training mature professionals and older adults. We have an expert understanding of that clientele and their needs. We aren’t a meat market and you won’t feel intimidated. Clients are professionals who are here to train, get better and improve their lives.


If that value proposition speaks to you, give me a call at (954) 472-2115. I want to hear about your and your goals!


Trainer Spotlight: Emily Jackson

Emily's picture used on web profile


1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised for the first 5 years of my life in Managua, Nicaragua, but have lived in beautiful South Florida for the past 30 years. Before entering the personal training world, I used to work as an administrative assistance for many years. I’m also a mom of two beautiful children, a wife, a traveler aficionado, and enjoy running and/or strength training to stay in shape.


2. How and why did you get into Personal Training?
After the birth of my two beautiful children and having traumatic deliveries with both, health and fitness became important to me. Struggling with my health after pregnancy, I was in search of learning how to be healthier, stronger, leaner. I also realized how important working out and fueling my body with the proper foods were to my success. When I noticed the changes in my own health and body, I knew I wanted to share the gift of fitness with others. I became an ACE Certified Personal Trainer in January 2017 and I truly enjoy helping my clients live a healthier life and reach their fitness goals.


3. What is your philosophy on how someone should train?
Although everyone’s schedules are so busy, I believe that exercise and nutrition are an important part of our daily lives. I’m an advocate for both exercise and nutrition because it will keep your muscles strong, prevent many health problems, and improve quality of life. In general, a training program should be safe, enjoyable and meet the client’s goals and it should challenge your muscles. Yet, whether someone prefers to do strength training, yoga, Pilates, running or simply walking every day, if they enjoy it and stick with it, that’s what’s important.


4. What is your philosophy on the trainer/client relationship?
My philosophy on a trainer/client relationship are mutual respect, good communication and honesty always. These criteria are very important and allow the trainer and client to work together as a team to achieve the client’s goals. Full knowledge of the client’s medical history, nutrition habits and physical abilities or limitations helps me guide and support them to achieve realistic goals in a safe and effective manner.


A Few Notes from the 2017 Functional Aging Institute Summit



Since 2016, Personal Fitness Advantage has been utilizing concepts from the Functional Aging Institute with our clients where appropriate. Emily and I recently attended their 2017 Functional Aging Summit. Emily and I alternated the sessions we attended so the other could watch Matthew and Sophia which we brought along :)


Here are some of my notes from the speakers I had a chance to see.


Marc Middleton, Founder of Growing Bolder:


doug with marc middleton


The opening speaker was Marc Middleton, the founder of Growing Bold media company. One of Middleton’s key concepts was ‘compressed morbidity’. It term sounds very… morbid. Compressed morbidty can be defined as…. compression of the time horizon between the onset of chronic illness or disability and the time in which a person dies. Initially sounding negative, if you frame it, what we are talking about maximizing quality of life and minimizing the time of poor quality health before we pass. Here’s a clip of Dr. Andrew Weil from Youtube describing ‘compressed morbidity’:



Dr. Phil Plisky, Doctor of Orthopedic Physical Therapy:


“Movement precedes brain development.” Dr. Plisky said that he heard this from a professor of pediatrics and that the statement was a “aha” moment for him. This probably could use greater explanation, but my take away was that this was sort of like the chicken or the egg. But what I understood out of this was that learning new movements helps spur brain development in child development. And if it does that, what does it do for brain health as we age?


Martin Pazzano, Founder of Activate Brain and Body:


Exercise stimulates neurogenesis. Walking…99% of the walking we do is on autopilot, so as good as walking is, it isn’t doing a whole lot for the brain. Pazzano stated that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is triggered by exercise with 60%-75% of your maximum heart rate.


Although hiking opportunities are somewhat limited for those of us who live in South Florida, Pazzano was a big fan of hiking and its potential benefits for both the brain and cardiovascular system.


Dr. Liz Joy, MD, immedate past president of the American College of Sports Medicine:


doug with dr joy


Dr. Liz Joy, the immediate past president of the American College of Sports Medicine was the final speaker. She discussed the ACSMs push for the use of a ‘physical activity vital sign’ within medicine. I figure most docs feel that they have enough to worry about, but there’s really no question that exercise is a crucial aspect of disease prevention. So the ACSM would like to see doctors or medical staff quickly asking about someone’s exercise habits, in addition to the standard blood pressure, etc., when starting a patient’s visit.


Here’s a few nuggets from Dr. Joy:


“Physical activity reduces the odds of acquiring sarcopenia in later life by 55%… better than any medicine.”


“Leisure-time physical activity at midlife performed at 2x/week was associated with a reduced risk of dementia by 52% and Alzheimer’s by 62%.


Trainer Spotlight: Molly Fonseca

Molly Fonseca Trainer Profile Pic



1. Tell us a little about yourself.
My family and I recently relocated to Ft. Lauderdale from San Francisco, having grown up in Tampa it’s great being back on the East Coast and very much feels like home (besides that fact that it’s hard to complain when you can enjoy the beach 365 days a year). I love health and fitness and am continuously learning what’s new in the industry to not only apply it to my daily routine, but more importantly incorporate into my client’s programs. I have a passion for helping other become their “best” self by providing them with the support, motivation and education needed to achieve their fitness goals. Family is very important to me and when I’m not in the studio working, you’ll find us spending our time outdoors appreciating this beautiful world.


2. How and why did you get into Personal Training?
After a few years in corporate America I realized my passion wasn’t working in an office, but rather in an industry where I could help people live a beautiful healthy lifestyle. In 2014 I entered my first fitness competition and placed third in my group, at that point I knew personal training was the career I wanted to pursue so I could help others achieve their goals the way I did mine. Training for such a unique competition taught be a lot about the body, workout routines and how nutrition plays an important role in achieving fitness goals. Soon after my competition I began studying for both personal training and nutrition certification while managing two different studios in California. This allowed me to immerse myself in the culture while I worked towards fulfilling my long-term goal of taking on my own clients.


3. What is your philosophy on how someone should train?
I believe it’s important to set both short and long-term goals and look at everyone individually to understand their needs in order to develop a personal training program. I believe fitness success is as much mental as it is physical, a positive attitude with a little tough love and discipline are what will make someone’s fitness journey fun and rewarding.


4. What is your philosophy on the trainer/client relationship?
The most important aspect of a trainer/client relationship is to have an open line of communication. For me, it’s necessary to check in on a regular basis with my clients to make sure they’re feeling ok, don’t have any new injuries and to make sure we’re still working towards the goals that we originally set. As a client, it’s just as important to reach out if you have questions, comments or concerns. It’s the trainer’s responsibility to provide a safe and effective training program and it’s the clients job to follow that program and be true to a healthy lifestyle in and out of the studio.


Trainer Spotlight: Jonathan Belluomo

Jon B Headshoot


1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a New York native but was raised in South Florida. I hold a degree in Exercise and Sport Science and as well as being a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sport Medicine. I love with my love for weight training, outdoor calisthenics, playing piano, and screenwriting.


2. How and why did you get into Personal Training?
After my internship with a local physical therapy assistant, I came to fall in love with helping clients reaching their personal goals. I pursued training both one on ones and group classes while keeping my clients motivated and respecting their physical limitations.


3. What is your philosophy on how someone should train?
Goal driven and functional. I have found that my philosophy of training has been focused on primarily listening and delivering on my clients wants and needs. Many personal trainers have become saturated with a “what works for me will work for you” mentality and have caused many injuries with such a philosophy. A personal trainer should always give their client what they ask for while using their own knowledge to efficiently but safely reach their goals.


4. What is your philosophy on the trainer/client relationship?
I have worked with many personalities throughout my career, both friendly or confrontational, and in the end, as long as you’re on time to your appointments, respect one another, and do what’s required to hit your goals: you will always find a synergy with one another.


Trainer Spotlight: Sabine Banholzer

Sabine Picture 2 - used on web trainer profile


1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Born and raised in Germany, I moved to South Florida two years ago, together with my husband Roland. Having been an athlete for all my life I always imagined myself to work in the fitness world one day. At the age of three I started my figure skating career and also developed a passion for dancing. In my teenage years, I was given the amazing opportunity to attend a boarding school for athletes. And even after high school I kept following my passion and went to study Physical Education at the German Sports University. During my time at college I got certified as a group fitness instructor and started teaching Pilates and other group exercise classes. I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Exercise Science and a Masters degree in Education. I am a teacher in Cooper City and I still get to live my dream and work as a personal trainer. In my free time I love to travel.


2. How and why did you get into Personal Training?
I’ve always been into sports and health since I was a kid. As I learned more about fitness and nutrition along the way, I became very passionate about exercising and leading a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, many situations in life have shown me that there can be physical setbacks for many reasons but determination and a positive attitude can go a long way in handling those difficulties. This is why I believe in the approach that fitness is wellness as a whole for the mind, the body and the soul. I knew that I wanted to help people on a professional level by passing on my knowledge and giving them the motivation as well as the confidence in themselves to make a lifestyle change and live the healthiest they can be. I became an ACE certified Personal Trainer in 2015 and I truly enjoy helping my clients to reach their goals. In the same year, I also became FMS certified which allows me to put special focus on functional and healthy motion.


3. What is your philosophy on how someone should train?
I believe that exercise is an important and meaningful part of our daily life. Although schedules are busy nowadays, I think exercise and a healthy nutrition plan should be incorporated into our lives to become a routine as it can prevent many health problems and improves the quality of live tremendously. In general, a training program should meet the client’s goals and it should challenge your muscles and cardiovascular system while also focusing on the mind/body connection. It should be safe, rich in variety, and enjoyable as well. Over the years, I realized that what works for one person may not work for another one. A professional Personal Trainer must have the ability to analyze each client’s individual situation and accommodate their training and needs to match their fitness goals and lifestyle.


4. What is your philosophy on the trainer/client relationship?
The most essential things for me in a good trainer/client relationship are mutual respect and a good, open communication at all times. It is important to me to learn about the client’s goals, schedule, preferences, and habits in order to be able to design the best custom-made training program possible and to obtain the maximum benefit. We will only be successful if we work together, as a team.


Owner Spotlight: Doug Jackson



1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been a trainer since 2000 and love what I do. I was your stereotypical weak, un-athletic kid that was introduced to a vigorous strength training program when I was 14 and fell in love with it. I was born in Ohio and spent my youth in both Ohio and West Virginia. Growing up, I loved the outdoors and earned the Eagle Scout distinction. I went to school at Bowling Green State University in Ohio for both my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Exercise Science. I started the original Personal Fitness Advantage in 2003 and then came down to South Florida in 2005. In 2005 I met my wife Emily and we know have a daughter, Sophia, and son, Matthew.


2. How and why did you get into Personal Training?
I am passionate about strength training. And I am passionate about doing it with the most up-to-date and safe means. When I first got into strength training, I used bodybuilding and powerlifting routines. By the time I was 18, I had won a local powerlifting meet, but had an orthopedic surgeon tell me that I had the back of a 60-year old construction worker because of the abuse I had put it through. So I really love personal training for the benefits it can provide someone. And I’m passionate about operating at the level of a professional, rather than a hobbyist, so I can deliver the best training that our clients deserve.


3. What is your philosophy on how someone should train?
First and foremost, the training should match the client’s goals. There are scientifically established protocols that work for various goals, whether it is muscle strength, muscle building, increased range of motion, better muscle endurance, or cardiovascular function. I’m most interested in working with clients that are interested in developing sustainable, long-term strength and fitness routines that are focused on function.


4. What is your philosophy on the trainer/client relationship?
I think the core values of the client and trainer have to match up. Our core values at PFA include continuous improvement, responsibility, initiative, performance, respect, and teamwork. Our clients that live and breathe these values tend to do the best in our work together. Since it’s rare that I’m taking on new clients these days, my focus has shifted to working on the relationships with all of our clients and the training team. Oh… and by the way, we want you to have some fun during this process as well!


The ‘PFA Way’ – Are our core values the same as yours?

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I haven’t been doing as much writing recently, but I wanted to
take a moment to share with you our core values at PFA. Why?
Because PFA is growing and it’s important to maintain the
culture we want as we grow. It’s ultimately the alignment of core
values that makes a good fit between a fitness facility and its clients.
Our core values are:
1) Continuous improvement
2) Responsibility
3) Initiative
4) Commitment/Performance
5) Teamwork
6) Respect

1) Continuous improvement:

I expect myself and each member on our team to continuously improve.
And our best clients believe in the same philosophy for themselves.
It’s important to note that it’s not realistic to improve in all areas all the time.
But if you are still maintaining fitness while improving another important area
of your life, that still fits continuous improvement in our book.

2) Responsibility:

I make mistakes every day. When things falter at the facility, I take a step
back and check what responsibility I might have in the situation. The more
I watch ‘successful’ individuals, the more I believe that their ability to take
responsibility is a key factor in their success.

3) Initiative:

This is something I’d like to see our team improve on and something
I’m working with them on. For your part, take the initiative to stay on
top of your workout schedule. If you are in a small group, sign up for
your sessions. If you know you will be traveling, think in advance
(sometimes thinking outside of the box) about how you will get extra
workouts in to make up for your time away. Second is letting us know
if you are ‘stuck’. Whether it’s getting some extra help with nutrition
or getting a body composition measurement, take the initiative to let
us know you need some help.

4. Commitment/Performance:

Commitment, with the right plan, leads to performance and results.
When someone says ‘I’ll try’, I know that 85% of the time or more,
“I’ll try’ means that it’s not going to get done. Do it or don’t do it.
Realize that ‘trying’ is a weak attitude that will get almost no
results. If you want results, commit.

5. Teamwork:

I love it when I see a long-time client taking a moment to
help a new client feel welcome. That means the world to me and
really makes a difference for the new client as well.

6. Respect:

Good personal training is in large part about a respectful
relationship between client and trainer. It’s NOT a transactional business
where the ‘client is always right’ or the ‘trainer is always right’. You will get
the best out of the entire PFA team when you think of us as partners in
your fitness goals. As such, the best relationships I’ve seen between trainer
and client include good listening, open communication, and a little ‘give
and take’ from both sides. When you treat a fellow client, facility manager,
intern, or volunteer with respect, you will strengthen your partnership with PFA.
Here’s an examples of one of our clients that is living these core values.

I hope this shares the culture we are aiming for, a so-called “PFA Way”
moving forward. I’m looking forward to seeing you in the gym!
Commit to fit!
Doug Jackson, M.Ed.,CSCS

Trainer Spotlight: Bill Duesler

Bill Duesler Trainer Profile Photo (270x203)


1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Upstate New York and attended Colgate University. I played both football and baseball in college and played semi-pro football for 4 years. Upon graduation, I moved to Florida and embarked on a career in Banking. After many years as an executive in the Banking industry, I decided to change my career and pursue my life long passion and dream of becoming a Certified Personal Trainer.


I am married, have 2 children and 4 grandchildren.


2. How and why did you get into Personal Training?
I learned the value of a solid fitness and nutrition plan at an early age. I spent a great deal of time evaluating successful and positive individuals, both personally and professionally. The common denominator that each of these individuals possessed was the strong desire to be fit. Being a Certified Personal Trainer enables me to convey those insights to our valued clients. Regardless of what stage of life one is in, and despite any physical limitations, there is a fitness plan for everyone. I had a passion to be a part of delivering such a plan to our clients so they can be the best they can be and enjoy life to the fullest.


I enrolled at the Fitness Institute International in Boca Raton. This prepared me to successfully complete the requirements to receive the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association) – CPT Certification.


3. What is your philosophy on how someone should train?
First and foremost, one should have a training program that addresses one’s goals and objectives. The training program should include resistance (strength), endurance and cardio, and flexibility training. The degree of each is dependent on individual goals. My role in the training process is to develop a program that incorporates these functions in proper proportions and fits the needs and goals of the client. This program must ensure safety and take into account any medical or physical limitations the client has. The most critical component of any successful training program is consistency. This is a difference maker in being successful in attaining one’s goals and aspirations.


4. What is your philosophy on the trainer/client relationship?
Total open and honest dialogue is essential. This is important in designing a program that takes into consideration any and all physical limitations and helps achieve established goals and objectives. The perfect balance includes a solid commitment from the client and a program design by the trainer that creates a positive environment for the client and one that encourages and promotes a positive and fulfilling experience.

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