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The Empower Personal Fitness Training Team

Our team is really what sets us apart from other gyms, fitness centers or training studios. While we each have our own areas of expertise we work collaboratively as a team and together we have amassed decades of knowledge and experience in the fitness industry. We meet weekly, we share ideas, we share clients and we regularly attend continuing education so that we stay current with scientific research and trends in the fitness industry – all to ensure that you see results.  We bring the passion, the knowledge, the motivation…you bring your commitment.

Jessica M. Bottesch

Co-Owner

Jessica M. Bottesch

MA, LAT, ATC, CSCS

Co-Owner, Durham & Raleigh

Jessica is co-owner of Empower Personal Training. She and Ronda Williams founded the company in 2004 and share responsibility for all aspects of the business. Her main focus is on the advertising, marketing and client relationship functions. Additionally she works collaboratively with Empower’s management team to help Empower realize its vision of Empowering people and communities to live stronger, healthier, happier lives.
Through Jessica’s efforts, Empower continues to expand its client base and professional knowledge. She has developed a dynamic team of the finest fitness professionals in the area and imparted her passion and enthusiasm for an integrated approach to health and wellness.

With athletic training practice at both the high school and collegiate level and over 18 years experience in the health and fitness field, Jessica has trained clients of all ages, run athletic enhancement programs, worked with clients suffering from orthopedic injuries, and helped hundreds of people reach their health goals and incorporate fitness into their lifestyle.

Jessica is nationally certified and a North Carolina state licensed athletic trainer. She is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) as a Sports Fitness Specialist (SFS). She is also a certified BLS Healthcare Provider trained in CPR + AED rescue by the American Heart Association. Jessica is an active member of the National Athletic Trainers Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Academy of Sports Medicine and IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
Jessica received her B.A. in Exercise and Sports Science and her M.A. in Athletic Training/Sports Medicine from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. GO HEELS!

When not working, Jessica enjoys watching and participating in sports and outdoor activities, spending time family including her husband and children and their black lab Sierra, as well as hanging out with friends- traveling, reading, cooking, eating, dancing, listening to great music, and simply enjoying this good life.

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Ronda Williams

Co-Owner

Ronda Williams

MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS

Co-Owner, Durham & Raleigh

Ronda is co-owner Empower Personalized Fitness. She and Jessica Bottesch founded the company in 2004 and share responsibility for all aspects of the business. Her main focus is on business development, strategic planning and creating and assessing benchmarks for success and growth.

Since opening in 2005, Ronda has helped Empower increase its footprint by almost 2/3 its original size, achieve important tactical milestones, develop and implement best practices and ensure that Empower is ready and able to adapt to the demands of the marketplace.

With over 20 years of experience in the health and wellness field, Ronda has worked in several different settings including the clinic, high school and on the collegiate level as the Head Athletic Trainer. She has also taught high school Health, Physical Education and Sports Medicine classes. Ronda’s knowledge of pre and post rehabilitative therapeutic exercise coupled with her passion for teaching others the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors led her to pursue a career in personal training.

Ronda is a nationally certified and North Carolina licensed athletic trainer. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and a certified BLS Healthcare Provider CPR + AED by the American Heart Association. She holds active memberships with the National Athletic Trainers Association, the National Strength and Conditioning Association, the National Academy of Sports Medicine and IDEA Health and Fitness Association.

Ronda received her B.A. in Exercise and Sports Science with a concentration in Sports Medicine from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed her master’s degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management with a concentration in Sports Management at North Carolina State University.

Ronda enjoys the challenges surrounding the growth and development of a small business. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, being outdoors, spending time with her husband and daughter, reading and playing with her dogs Bailey and Winston.

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Nestor Paonessa

Assistant General Manager

Nestor Paonessa

MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS

Asst. General Manager, Durham

Nestor brings over 10 years of combined experience in the fields of sports medicine and personal training to the Empower team.  He has worked with clients of all ages and abilities, and specializes in exercise programming for sports conditioning, weight management, injury prevention, post-injury rehabilitation, and general health and wellness.  Nestor’s life and fitness philosophy is simple:  ”If it is to be, it is up to me.”  He strives to live and train by those words, and hopes to instill them into every client.

Before joining the Empower team in 2012, Nestor served as the Assistant Fitness Director at Alamance Country Club in Burlington, NC, where he developed and administered fitness programs for the club’s diverse membership, including golf and tennis conditioning, post-rehabilitative exercise, endurance sport conditioning, senior fitness, and exercise for persons with chronic diseases and disabilities.  Prior to that, Nestor worked as a Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was directly responsible for the healthcare of NCAA Division I wrestling, cross-country, and track and field teams.  These experiences have provided Nestor with the tools and knowledge to adapt to and meet the needs of a diverse clientele.

Nestor is a BOC Certified and NCBATE Licensed Athletic Trainer, an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, an ACSM Exercise is Medicine credential holder, and is currently pursuing additional certification as an ACSM Health Fitness Specialist.  He holds a Master of Science degree in Exercise and Sports Science from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise and Sport Science with concentration in Athletic Training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When he isn’t busy working or cheering on the Tar Heels, Nestor can be found running outside with his wife Ashley, hiking and backpacking in the North Carolina wilderness, playing tennis, scuba diving and sailing in the Caribbean, or cooking and playing the piano at home.

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Blaine Warren

Personal Training Director

Blaine Warren

BS, CSCS

Personal Training Director, Durham

Blaine has almost a decade of experience as a personal trainer and exercise physiologist.  He has worked with clients from the age of 8 to 95 and everywhere in between.  He is passionate about using his knowledge and personality to help people reach their goals through exercise and positive lifestyle changes.
Blaine has experience training athletes of all levels from beginners to professional.  He has helped numerous golfers and tennis players sharpen their performance, and he is an avid golfer and tennis player so he has a unique level of understanding when it comes to the physical demands of these sports.
 Blaine has also worked with people with a wide range of medical issues including heart disease, Parkinson’s, dementia, stroke, autism, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity.  His patient and steady approach translate well to a variety of personality types.

Blaine earned his Bachelor’s degree from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, majoring in Kinesiology with a concentration in fitness leadership.  Blaine is certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).  Blaine joined the Empower Team in 2012.

In his free time he enjoys running, strength training, and playing golf and tennis, as well as watching the Tar Heels with his wife Leigh and their pit bull Sampson.

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RJ Lisander

Director of Client Relations

RJ Lisander

PYT, RYT-500

Director of Client Relations, Yoga Instructor, Durham

RJ Lisander, RYT 500, has been practicing yoga for over five years and shares with her classes her love of the practice of yoga through the integration breath work, yoga postures, mudra and yoga nidra meditation, while delicately weaving anatomical and physiological information with the philosophy of yoga to inform her classes of the flow they are experiencing. Influenced by the grounding of her yoga therapy background and the energetic, vinyasa-like rhythm of Prana Flow®, RJ’s classes provide balance and an overall feeling of well-being. Come and experience the transformation that occurs when the mind, body and breath are aligned.

Prior to being a yoga therapist and yoga instructor, RJ was an interior decorator for national and international home decor organizations.

RJ is a member of International Association of Yoga Therapists, Yoga Alliance and is CPR AED certified.  RJ holds a 200-hour Prana Flow® teacher certification from Evolve Movement, Raleigh, NC and is working toward her 1000-hour certification in yoga therapy through a combination of intensive study with Joseph and Lillian LaPage at Kripalu and internships. Additionally, RJ holds a Bachelors of Arts in English with a minor in Creative Writing from West Virginia University.

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J.J. Yager

Director of Client Relations

J.J. Yager

Director of Client Relations, Raleigh

J.J. joined the Empower TEAM in October 2013 as Director of Client Relations, Raleigh.  She views fostering relationships as her most important role in sharing Empower’s health and wellness mission with the community.  She brings a wide range of experience with her including her previous position in Member Services at Lifetime Fitness where she also served as a coach for Run Club and Cycle Club.

J.J. has degrees in Biology and Chemistry from St. Andrews Presbyterian College where she played soccer and served as captain of the women’s soccer team.  St. Andrews gave J.J. her first coaching position and she has enjoyed sharing her love of soccer, and later running and cycling, ever since.   She believes that challenging yourself to be fit makes you more capable in every aspect of life.

In her spare time, J.J. loves to be outside whether she is running, riding her bike, camping, gardening, or playing with her dogs Finn and Hazel.  She also loves to travel to new places and learn about different cultures.  She will read anything you put in front of her, but her favorite authors are David Sedaris and Bill Bryson.

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Chris Lathrop

Personal Trainer

Chris Lathrop

BS, CSCS, ACE-CPT

Personal Trainer, Durham

In 2010 Chris received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he majored in Kinesiology with a concentration in Fitness Leadership. He spent his senior year working with individuals suffering from chronic back pain and studied the effects of strength training on Parkinson’s disease. Before joining the Empower team, Chris gained extensive practical knowledge prescribing exercise to adults over 50 in the UNCG HOPE Program (Helping Older Participants Exercise) as well as training other individuals with a variety of different physical limitations. His diverse experiences have given him a greater understanding of the ever evolving dynamic between our physical and psychological selves. These experiences have led Chris to use a variety of different approaches to help clients stay active and reach their goals. From seniors coping with chronic pain, to 20 year olds getting in shape for boot camp, Chris has used his education and creativity to develop exercise programs for a diverse group of clients. He believes in using exercise programs that safely lead each individual toward their goals without leaving them bored from repetition. Chris approaches exercise from a realistic standpoint and understands that everyone must discover what wellness means to them.

Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With his free time Chris enjoys playing golf, running, and just being outdoors. He also likes spending time with his German Sheppard and loves to learn about American History.

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Angelo Iovino

Personal Trainer/Group Fitness Instructor

Angelo Iovino

BS, ACSM-CPT

Personal Trainer/Group Fitness Instructor, Durham

As a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves Angelo brings energy and motivation into his training sessions. His fitness philosophy is one that incorporates creativity and humor in hopes to create a fun environment that will ignite you to give 100% and keep you coming back for more.

Angelo joined the EMPOWER team in 2013 and is eager to help spread their fitness ideals throughout the Triangle Area. Angelo has experience working with people from a wide range of ages and athletic abilities. His group fitness skills range from circuit training, to aqua fitness, to choreographed workouts and beyond. He also has been a practicing percussionist for several years and incorporates his passion for music into his classes.
Angelo received his Bachelor of Science degree as a Health Fitness Specialist through East Carolina University in 2011. He is also certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as a Certified Personal Trainer. Angelo’s original passion for group fitness stems from his work with Les Mills and his group fitness certifications through the Les Mills organization.

In his spare time, Angelo enjoys remaining active by doing HIIT, playing sports, staying outside and playing music with friends and family. He also tries to surround himself with positive, like-minded people who keep him motivated and full of life.

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Tiffani Cox-Kuchyt

Personal Trainer

Tiffani Cox-Kuchyt

MS, BS, ACSM, NASM, NASE

Personal Trainer, Durham

Tiffani has over ten years of experience in the fitness industry working with clients of various ages, ability levels and health conditions. Tiffani believes in being knowledgable and educated in all forms of training techniques and applying the best methods to help her clients reach their fitness goals and improve their quality of life. Providing her clients with creative workouts that constantly challenge them to grow and improve is what makes her clients eager for their next session. Her clients have included both healthy and the clinical population from cancer treatment patients to professional competitors.

Before joining the Empower team in 2013 Tiffani has held several positions within the health and fitness field. Her previous positions include personal training at commercial and private facility and working as an Exercise Physiologist and Human Performance Specialist for Shepherd University. Her past experience has provided a wealth of knowledge and understanding of physiology and biochemical process that occur due to exercise induced stress. Tiffani has used this information to designing specific programming for the clinical population including cancer, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, joint replacement patients, PTSD and TBI.

Tiffani is certified as a Personal Trainer and Group Instructor with the American College of Sports Medicine, National Association of Sports Medicine, and the National Association of Speed and Explosion. She is also a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association who awarded her “Female Athlete of the Year 2010″. Tiffani graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Physiology from Shepherd University and her Masters of Science in Enhanced Athletic Performance, Injury Prevention and Corrective Exercise from California University of Pennsylvania.

In her free time Tiffani enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with her husband Patrick and their Basset Hounds Clark and Jessie. She is also an experienced Bikini and Figure competitor with the NC and VA NPC organization.

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Amanda Fontaine

Personal Trainer

Amanda Fontaine

MS, CSCS

Personal Trainer, Durham

Amanda Fontaine has experience in the fitness industry working with a variety of clientele, from children to older adults, professional athletes and general fitness clients. She provides a fun training environment, is energetic and always encourages people to reach their goals. She constantly changes the workouts to challenge you and create variety. Amanda joined the Empower TEAM in 2013.

Before joining the Empower TEAM, Amanda worked as a Performance Specialist with Spectrum Sports Performance in Orlando, FL. She began as a Sports Performance Specialist Intern and then was hired as a Performance Specialist. There she found her niche and passion working with the General Fitness Clientele.

Amanda is currently a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). She graduated in May of 2013 with her Master’s Degree in Sports and Exercise Science-Applied Exercise Physiology from the University of Central Florida where she also received her undergraduate degree with a Bachelor’s in Health Sciences. She is also considering continuing her education with a PhD in Sports Medicine.

Amanda danced for over 16 years and pre-professionally with the Orlando Ballet. For fun Amanda enjoys doing mud races, salsa dancing, and playing tennis. Amanda has a huge passion for fitness and overall well-being and is thrilled to be a part of the Empower TEAM.

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Patty Shoaf

Personal Trainer

Patty Shoaf

BA, NSCA-CPT

Personal Trainer | USA Cycling Certified Coach | Durham

With over 20 years of experience in the fitness field, Patty’s expertise and knowledge enable her to assist clients with a full range of fitness needs. Patty guides her clients through every aspect of their workout, maximizing their training time and helping them to perform better than ever. From the competitive athlete to those simply wanting to get fit, Patty has the know-how to help all of her clients succeed. She takes the guesswork out of the equation leaving only measurable results. Patty joined the Empower team in 2006.

An avid athlete, Patty is a former collegiate basketball player, the winner of several natural bodybuilding competitions, and a former professional cyclist. She is currently training for Aquabike events, which involve swimming and biking. Patty earned the bronze medal as a member of Team USA Duathlon. During this season, she was the 3rd ranked duathlete in the United States, and was named to “Inside Triathlon’s” IT list.  In 2011, Patty became an Ironman, completing IM Louisville as a race walker.   She was selected as one of the Ironman Foundation’s highlighted athletes to tell her story of triumph over osteoarthritis.   She is a coach and trainer who truly cares, and wants to inspire her clients.

She is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and American Council of Exercise (ACE) as well as USA Level II certified cycling coach, with a power meter distinction.  Patty received her B.A. in Physical Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

When she is not training clients or herself, Patty enjoys playing with her little 2.5 pound dog Lancie.

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Kelly McLaughlin

Personal Trainer

Kelly McLaughlin

BA, NASM-CPT

Personal Trainer, Durham

With over 10 years of experience in the health and wellness field, Kelly joined the Empower team in 2012.  She comes to Empower with great background of working with a variety of clients, ranging from young children to young at heart adults in their 80′s.  She believes that everyone is in a unique position with both their strengths and their needs, and she takes pride in designing individualized workouts to help her clients achieve their fitness goals.   With a patient, yet passionate approach to training, Kelly wishes to motivate others to accomplish things they never believed they could.

With a BA in Psychology and a minor in Exercise Science, Kelly graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of NC Chapel Hill in 2000.  She is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

“Walking the Walk” is critical to Kelly.  She comes from a competitive swimming background, where she competed for UNC all 4 years, and ended her swimming career at the US Olympic Trials in 2000.  She now is an age group elite triathlete, and has finished in the top 5 of her division in 3 out of the 4 Ironmans in which she has raced.  She has been named as an All American triathlete numerous times, and has won a variety of NC and SC races since she took up the sport in 2001.

Most of her free time is spent at the pool training herself or playing with her young swim protégés, riding her bike, or running.

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Rob King

Personal Trainer

Rob King

NASM-CPT, TRX-GSTC

Personal Trainer

Rob King’s years of experience in the health and wellness industry have provided him with experience working with clients of various ages, ability, health conditions, and health goals. Rob believes in the functional training approach, not only as a way to help clients achieve their health and wellness goals, but as a way to teach clients how and why the body works through the use of proper exercise technique and effective program design. His experience with clients includes healthy individuals looking for improved general health, high school and collegiate athletes, as well as chiropractic rehab patients.

Before joining the Empower team as a personal trainer in October 2013, Rob worked with private clients in a number of “traditional” gym environments which exposed him to multiple philosophy’s and techniques that enable him to work with a variety of clients and their unique fitness goals. In addition to his personal training expertise, Rob has experience working with kettlebells and the TRX suspension training system.

Rob is a graduate of Cazenovia College in Cazenovia, NY where he majored in Sports Management in 2006. He holds a personal training certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and a TRX-GSTC certified instructor. Rob is working to obtain his Performance Enhancement Specialist certification through the National Academy of Sports Medicine as well as Sports Medicine TRX certification.

In his spare time, Rob watches sports, plays lacrosse, goes on hikes, and enjoys the outdoors.

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Greg Maness

Personal Trainer

Greg Maness

MS, CSCS, USAW Level 1 Sport Performance Coach, ACE-certified Personal Trainer

Greg Maness

MS, CSCS, USAW Level 1 Sport Performance Coach, ACE-certified Personal Trainer

Greg is an experienced fitness/sports performance professional that has worked with clients of various ages, backgrounds, and fitness levels. In addition to having worked with adults looking to improve their health and fitness, he has served as a sport performance coach working with both scholastic and professional athletes. Whether a client is a student-athlete, a weekend warrior, an elite/professional athlete or simply someone looking to improve their overall health and fitness, Greg believes that he can help that individual reach their respective life or performance goals.

Prior to joining the Empower Personalized Fitness TEAM, Greg worked as a sport performance coach for an area training center, where he trained adults looking to improve their health and fitness, as well as a variety of scholastic athletes and professional basketball players. In addition, he has worked as a personal trainer for an area training studio. He has also played a variety of sports. Greg’s experiences as an athlete, as a sports performance coach and as a personal trainer have reinforced his belief that in the “game of life” we are all athletes. As such, we need to train for performance.

Greg is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), a USA Weightlifting Level 1 Sport Performance Coach, an American Council on Exercise-certified Personal Trainer, a National Academy of Sports Medicine Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), a Training for Warriors Level 1 Instructor, an International Youth Conditioning Association Youth Speed & Agility Specialist Level 1, and he holds a U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Track and Field Technical Certification. In 2001, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science from East Carolina University, with a minor in history. In 2007, he received a Master of Science in Exercise Science and Health Promotion (Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention) from California University of Pennsylvania.

Greg enjoys attending sporting events, reading, traveling, watching movies/TV, and working out/training. As an adult, he has competed as a member of baseball and ice hockey teams. He is also a competitive amateur weightlifter, having competed in his first meet in January 2012. Greg is the happy owner of a beautiful beagle girl, Frannie Savannah.

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Cody Johnson

Personal Trainer

Cody Johnson

BA – Exercise and Sport Science, NASM – CPT

Personal Trainer

Cody Johnson
BA–Exercise and Sport Science, NASM – CPT, Professional Trainer
Cody has experience working with clients of all ages, exercise abilities, and backgrounds. He approaches his training sessions with a fun, entertaining, and personable attitude while constantly challenging his clients to reach their fitness and wellness goals.
Prior to joining the Empower TEAM in 2014, Cody held a position at Chapel Hill Training, a small private personal training studio in Chapel Hill, NC. He was also a fitness professional and administrative intern with EMPOWER before joining the TEAM as a personal trainer. His experiences have exposed him to a variety of training philosophies that he has combined to formulate his own with the intent on helping his clients achieve their goals. He believes in a functional approach to exercise with a major focus on ensuring an enjoyable workout.
Cody is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). In 2014, Cody received his degree in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He hopes to further his education by obtaining a Master’s Degree as well as earning his Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification through The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
In February 2012, Cody joined the UNC-Chapel Hill varsity Football team as a walk-on. His tenacious effort and dedication earned him a full scholarship his senior year. In his free time, Cody likes to play pick up sports, work out, and enjoy his time with friends and family.

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Zach Connell

Personal Trainer

Zach Connell

M.Ed- Sports Science & Nutrition, BA- Exercise & Sports Science, CSCS, Pn1, ACSM-CPT

Zach has been a self-proclaimed athlete since birth and is a lifelong student of human metabolism and movement.  His main goal is to help others optimize the quality of their lives by achieving their health and fitness goals regardless of what they may be. This goal has led Zach to acquire a diverse skillset through various academic internships while obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters degree in the University of Texas at Austin for his academic work. These experiences include: a season long work study position with UNC Sport Medicine (football) focused on injury rehabilitation and concussion research, 2 years strength and conditioning experience with UNC football and UT men’s basketball, 1 year in a dietary supplement and metabolism research lab at UT, and a year long position as a sport nutrition intern with the UT baseball team during the 2013-2014 season.

In addition, Zach has had the opportunity to work in a commercial gym setting as well as serve as a weight room supervisor for group training. He has experience working with all kinds of individuals ranging from special populations to professional athletes.

Zach has had the fortune of being with the EMPOWER team since 2014 and believes that fitness is a lifelong journey. Regardless of where you are on your path, Zach would gladly welcome you to the EMPOWER community in hopes of helping you achieve the best version of yourself. He aims to accomplish this through motivating and fun training sessions. His specializes in strength and conditioning, mobility rehabilitative training, and habit based nutrition coaching.

When Zach isn’t busy coaching or training himself, he enjoys cooking (mainly experimenting with new homemade ice cream flavors), live music, playing sports, spending time with family and friends, and cheering on his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers and Tar Heels.

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Ugonna Ukwu

Group Fitness Instructor

Ugonna Ukwu

Group Fitness Instructor, Durham

Ugonna has over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry.  She has worked with clients young and old, beginning health seekers to elite athletes, and courageous overcomers of various health challenges.  Ugonna likes to use motivation and enthusiasm to inspire her class participants to maximize their workout and have fun while doing so. She believes that exercise can be personalized and enjoyable as a lifestyle, not a short term forced goal.

Before joining the Empower team this year (2013), Ugonna has held various positions in the health and wellness field.  She has served as a group fitness instructor, dance choreographer, and personal trainer for community events, the YMCA, Pulse, Yale University and UNC Chapel Hill.  She has also served as a health coach and educator through a City-wide Blood pressure intervention program and a biometric screener for various employer-sponsored health fairs.  Such experiences have enabled Ugonna to utilize many different instructional and motivational techniques to empower various levels of clients to perform optimally and practice healthy lifestyle habits.

Ugonna is a certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).  She has held past certifications as a group fitness instructor through National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA, formerly known as NDEITA) and Interactive Fitness Trainers of America (IFTA).  She has also been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), and a Health Coach through the National Society of Health Coaches (NSHC).

In addition to being a fitness enthusiast, Ugonna enjoys Latin and international dancing (salsa, bachata, cha cha, kizomba, rumba), blogging, and serving in her church and local community.
Thanks so much!

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Sydney Decker

Group Fitness Instructor

Sydney Decker

BS, CPT

Group Fitness Instructor, Raleigh

Sydney has over a year of experience in personal training, group fitness, and athlete performance training. She grew up playing softball, soccer, and martial arts. Upon high school graduation, Sydney changed gears and started doing boxing, kickboxing, and MMA training. Sydney is a positive and supportive person who is passionate about helping people get excited about exercise as well as giving them the knowledge and tools to make it a lifetime commitment. She believes in challenging yourself, setting goals, and balanced diet and exercise. Her philosophy is that each individual has to find an activity that they enjoy, that is varied, and also have an overall balanced well-being for it to be sustainable. Sydney has worked will many different special populations with ages ranging between 8 to 85.

Before joining the EMPOWER Team in 2013, Sydney held positions within the health and wellness field.  She has worked at several gyms such as Meredith College, LA Boxing, Duke Diet and Fitness, and Cardinal Gibbons HS as a personal trainer, helping athletes with weight lifting, speed and agility training, and as a boxing and kickboxing instructor.  While completing her bachelors degree in Exercise and Sports Science from Meredith College, Sydney did an internship at Duke Diet and Fitness.

Sydney is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and will graduate from Meredith College with a BS in Exercise and Sports Science in December of 2013.

In her free time, Sydney enjoys playing sports, being outside, running, spending time with her family and her Great Dane Gracie.

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Caroline Pope

Group Fitness Instructor

Caroline Pope

BA, AFAA/BTS

Group Fitness Instructor, Raleigh

Caroline Pope has been teaching group fitness classes for six years. While attending kickboxing classes during high school, she became fascinated by fitness. She was able to combine her lifelong dance experience and love of music with powerful, rhythmic punches, kicks, jumps, and combos to get an amazing workout. Caroline has worked with college students, local athletes, middle aged and senior populations and believes every person, no matter their ability or age, can be motivated and pushed to not just achieve optimal health but prevent pathology. She aims to bring something exciting and new to each class to keep participants’ minds and bodies constantly challenged. Caroline joined the Empower team in 2013. Caroline began teaching kickboxing classes her freshman year at UNC-CH and quickly expanded to other cardio and strength classes, including cardio dance and interval training. Core and lumbopelvic integration are fundamental pillars of her classes. She has been a mentor to instructors in training and has taught various classes at O2 fitness and Healthtrax in Raleigh. Each gym has different populations and fitness levels, and part of the lure for Caroline is discovering how to make classes fun and individualized in a group setting. Caroline is certified as a Group Fitness Instructor through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and is Group Kick certified through Body Training Systems (BTS). She received a BA in Psychology and Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012 and is currently in her second year at Meredith College to obtain her Master of Science in Nutrition degree this May. After her dietetic internship next year she will become a Registered Dietitian to continue helping people achieve optimal health and wellness. When she’s not studying, Caroline enjoys traveling with her newlywed husband Taylor and dog Tybee, dancing, painting, doing hot yoga, and trying new cuisine.

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Amanda Caruso

Group Fitness Instructor

Amanda Caruso

AFAA –CPT, ACE- Group Fitness

Amanda has been involved in Personal and Group Fitness for almost 4 years. She started her career in the pool setting, as a private swim instructor and then became an Personal Trainer and  Group Fitness Instructor. She has worked with all different skill levels and works to help modify for the needs of class participants.   Fitness is a journey and never a destination; once we reach one goal we need to create a new goal.  Also wellness is not a one size fits all, it is important to try an array of different types of exercise and find what fits you best. Amanda Caruso joined the Empower team in 2014.

Amanda has been a personal trainer in Western New York for 3 years before relocating to North Carolina. There she taught a variety of classes each week, including cycling, yoga, functional fitness for older adults, aqua, and strength and core based classes.

Amanda is an Aerobics and Fitness Association (AFAA) certified Personal Trainer and American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified Group Fitness Instructor. She holds specialty certifications in MaddDogg Spinning, TRX Level 1 Suspension Trainer, multiple BOSU certifications, and multiple FiTOUR certifications, including strength, core and functional training, stability training, and aqua.

Her passions for fitness lead her to her recent challenges, of competing in Ironman Triathlons.

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Adam Decker

TRX Instructor

Adam Decker

TRX Instructor

Adam Decker’s passion for fitness, along with his desire for learning and exploration with different fitness modalities makes him an excellent addition to the Empower Team. He has been working as a personal trainer for several years, recruiting clients and helping them to obtain their goals in the triangle area. Working in a local Pilates studio since 2012, his focus has been strongly based form and alignment, insuring clients will have a safe and effective experience with their training. His broad range of clientele includes children as well as people in their 60s and beyond. He has worked with people who are very fit, as well as numerous individuals who are working out for the first time. His collaboration with Physical Therapists and Structural Integrators’ has helped people who are recovering from injury continue onward in their progress, developing specific plans for the needs of these clients.

Before joining the fitness world and most recently joining Empower, Adam was and is a singer with a deep passion for music. Starting his professional music career in 2005, and has appeared in the Top 20 in America’s Got Talent Season 2, and on the Top 40 in American Idol Season 11, in 2012. He studied theater at Cortland State University and Vocal Performance at Ithaca College (NY).  Adam is currently lead singer for the local pop sensation, Spaceship Days and they continue to gig locally, regionally, and nationally with this up and coming band. They recently won Video of the Year at the Carolina Music Awards in July!

Adam Decker is a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Certified Total Resistance Exercise Trainer. His passion and drive for continuing education has made his knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology apparent through his practice. His commitment to improving the health an well being of his clients makes him the quintessential group fitness instructor of the triangle.  His free time is spent writing music, watching collegiate and professional football, and spending quality time with his wife and son. We are proud to call Adam Decker one of our own.

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Elijah Sacra

Yoga/Group Fitness Instructor

Elijah Sacra

Yoga/Group Fitness Instructor

Elijah is a United States Marine Corps Veteran, a career health and wellness practitioner, trainer and educator with twenty-three years of experience.  He upholds the ideals of upscale, honest, friendly, and professional service.  Elijah’s commitment to high standards and professionalism has won him acclaim from the media, peers and his clients.  Utilizing his knowledge of Human Performance, Wellness, Holistic Nutrition & Health Coaching as a blueprint, he empowers his clients to achieve optimal wellness and become their own guru.  He has worked extensively with private clients, executives, families, corporations, sports teams, the military and law enforcement while delivering services in homes, fitness studios, gyms and wellness centers.  His services are targeted to the beginner all the way to the elite athlete.  He has extensive experience working in concert with physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists while delivering services to populations under clinical care.  These include patients of obesity clinics, those recovering from surgeries, individuals living with traumatic brain injuries, amputees, cancer patients, the blind, and many who suffer from chronic illness and injuries.  Elijah’s philosophy and methodology is grounded in postural alignment, breath connection, mindful functional movement, nutrient density and emotional wellness.   He applies these tenets to core performance, strength and conditioning, flexibility, cardiovascular health, skill development, corrective and rehabilitative exercise, nutrition and holistic health coaching.  He has studied with some of the most elite mentors in functional movement, yoga, mind-body medicine, strength and conditioning and nutrition.  In 2009, Elijah founded Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness (SFHW.ORG), an all volunteer 501c3 nonprofit organization providing holistic and integrative health and wellness education and training to Wounded, Ill, and Injured service members, veterans and their caregivers.  Their curriculum is delivered as professional military education for hundreds annually to clients under the medical care of the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.   He has served on an Executive Roundtable and Vision Sharing Board for Non-Profit and Community Participation in Achieving “World Class” Standards of Care and Services for Wounded Warriors at the New Joint Services Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and is currently on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Veterans Business Association.

 

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Rachel Wright

Yoga Instructor

Rachel Wright

Yoga Instructor, Raleigh

Rachel began practicing yoga her senior year of college. Over the years her passion for the practice has overshadowed all other paths including: Off Broadway acting debuts, teaching theatre to the amazing children in Manhattan’s West Village, and the amusing sea of experiences and interests that accompany young urban life. Rachel joined the EMPOWER Team in the Fall of 2013.

Her passion for yoga was fueled by different schools all over the world. Most recently she returned from Koh Samui, Thailand where she completed a 500 hour Ashtanga based teacher training. This incredible and intense schooling increased her worth as a teacher by broadening her knowledge base and stabilizing her personal practice. Rachel also received a 200 hour teacher training at New York City’s Prana Flow infused Sonic Yoga. In addition she earned a Kid’s Yoga Teacher certification from New York’s big hearted, industry leading, Karma Kid’s Yoga. Lastly, she received a Mom and Baby Teacher certification from the experienced Joythi Larson in New York City.

Rachel loves the transformative power of yoga on her mind, body, and spirit. She believes the practice will allow you to transcend to a level of higher awareness giving birth to a healthier, happier, and truly free life.

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Anne Constable

Yoga Instructor

Anne Constable

Yoga Instructor, Durham

Anne has been teaching yoga since 2004, when she completed her 240 hour training at North Carolina School of Yoga. Since then, she has completed workshops in Prenatal Yoga, Senior Yoga, and Yoga for Athletes. Anne is passionate about teaching yoga because of its many benefits, including relieving stress; increasing self- awareness, flexibility and strength; improvements in posture, balance, and respiratory and cardiac functioning; and its positive effects on mood, spirituality, and overall wellness. Her ultimate goal is that every student is energized, relaxed, and more positive at the conclusion of every class.

Before joining the EMPOWER team in 2012, Anne taught a variety of yoga classes throughout the Triangle area. Most recently, she taught a multilevel class at the YMCA’s American Tobacco Campus. She also taught Yoga for Active Older Adults at the Lakewood Y. At the YMCA, Anne had the opportunity to teach adults of all levels and ages, modifying the class for their individual needs and abilities. She has also taught classes for educators after school, and community classes in three neighborhood clubhouses. At Blue Point Yoga Studio in Durham, she taught prenatal yoga which focused on preparing for “conscious birthing” through increasing the strength, comfort, and confidence of the students; breathing exercises to increase comfort during pregnancy and delivery; increasing the connection between mother and baby; and offering support and a sense of community among the students.

Anne is employed as a speech-language pathologist in Wake County Public Schools. She received her undergraduate and Master’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dog, cycling, practicing yoga, reading, attending concerts, and socializing with friends and family.

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LAUREN MANGILI

Pilates Instructor

LAUREN MANGILI

BS/M.Ed, ACE, AFAA, IFTA

Pilates Instructor, Durham

Lauren is a fitness/wellness/health promotion specialist.  She is experienced in fitness/wellness program planning, design and implementation with a primary focus on promoting adherence by offering motivation and support.  Lauren is certified to teach a variety of fitness formats and has found that Pilates training is a form of exercise that allows participants to fully experience the mind/body connection.

Lauren Mangili is currently the Associate Director Campus Recreation/Director of Fitness at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1995. Before working at UNC Lauren had several years of experience working in Campus Recreation, specifically with fitness/wellness and student staff development at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Lauren completed her undergraduate degree in Health Management/Business Administration from the University of Arizona and a graduate degree in Health Promotion & Exercise Science at Bowling Green State University.

Lauren and her husband, Mike, have three sons (Nick, Tony and Joey).  She is an avid sports spectator/fan and enjoys teaching/participating in a variety of group fitness class formats and believes “with a positive attitude anything is possible!”

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Anna LaBarre

Dietitian / Nutritionist

Anna LaBarre

MS, RD, LDN

Dietitian / Nutritionist, Durham & Raleigh

Anna is a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian/nutritionist. She is an experienced nutrition educator, counselor and coach; she teaches a whole foods and whole body approach for preventing and treating disease, inspires realistic and sustainable lifestyle changes, and provides encouragement and accountability on one’s journey to achieving personal health goals.

She specializes in weight loss, empowering clients to heal overeating and emotional eating tendencies, decrease food cravings, practice mindful eating and cultivate a healthy relationship with real food. She is experienced in heart disease prevention and reversal (improving all modifiable heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides and elevated blood sugar levels). Others areas of her practice include using foods to reduce inflammation and improve inflammatory conditions, increasing energy and improving mood through diet, and helping those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to navigate the gluten-free diet.

Anna obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Foods and Nutrition from Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. Her graduate work includes research in sustainable food systems, local and organic foods and farmers’ markets. Anna’s work experience includes the associate dietitian role at the Rice Diet Program in Durham, NC. Teaching nutrition classes and workshops, facilitating group discussions and giving cooking demonstrations were among her primary responsibilities. She has also worked at Personalized Nutrition, Inc., a private practice of dietitians. Anna has avidly been involved in the Durham-Chapel Dietetic Association, serving on the board for more than 4 years, including the role of President. She is also a member of the North Carolina Dietetic Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In her free time, Anna enjoys being outdoors, especially gardening or hiking the Eno River Trails. She also loves to cook and spend time around the table with family and friends.

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Lori Glenn

Massage Therapist

Lori Glenn

LMBT #4301

Massage Therapist, Durham

Lori Glenn is a graduate of the Medical Arts Massage School in Raleigh and has been licensed in North Carolina since 2003. Her interest in bodywork began in college with arts and life drawing classes. Lori is also a level 2 Reiki Practitioner certified in the Usui Shiki Ryoho system. She has received training in massage methods such as Swedish, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point, Hot Stone Massage and Reflexology and is currently working toward her certification in Visceral Manipulation with The Barral Institute.

Lori has worked in the corporate environment for almost seven years doing chair massage, working to improve her clients understanding of their body while sitting at a desk daily. She is also a certified GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® trainer and has been fortunate to study with master trainers Kathy Van Patten, Sebastian Plettenberg, Miriam Barbosa and with the creator Juliu Horvath. Teaching this movement has deepened her understanding of the body and how it moves. Lori also teaches educational workshops to couples and groups in massage and movement.

When Lori is not working on clients, she is involved in working with a few different non-profits and charity events. She sits on the board of Barefoot Acupuncture and Wellness. She has been involved with a local ladies arm wrestling charity event and has helped organize a Halloween event with CIS of Durham. She also enjoys spending time with her dog, Boone.

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