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julie diamond, 53, personal trainer, los angeles

ageist EDITORS | february 8, 2018

A typical week for the excellently named Julie Diamond involves teaching four full-body workout classes and then one-on-ones with private clients — some of whom want to look awards-show fresh, or prepare their body for the rigors of an action film. When she has time, and she always makes it, she’ll take a boxing or pilates class to get a flavor of the instructor and the needs it can potentially address in some of her other clients.

"We get bombarded with so many choices and information with health and fitness and I think that’s one of the things that has been so intimidating about fitness for those that haven’t been in it and are trying to get into it — people who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s,” she says. “It isn’t that complicated. Even something as a little bit, goes a long way.”

Diamond’s holistic approach is heavy on finding the right mindset and taking care of things like nutrition, beyond the typical goal of just looking good. Her current mission is her biggest since starting in fitness more than two decades ago: building out a comprehensive fitness program for women over 45 to show them, as she puts it, “that beautiful aging is possible.” And its roots are in some painful personal history.

When Diamond was in her early 20s, her parents, both successful academics in Maryland, fell ill. They led stressful lives, smoked and drank, and Diamond came away from the experience thinking that things could’ve been different if they just took a few small steps.

“I think lifestyle and stress and the environment is 90 percent off it,” she told me. “I think our genes play a certain role, but studies show you can change that with healthy choices and taking care of yourself.”

A fashion marketer at the time who had worked in LA before returning home to the East Coast, Diamond began studying health and fitness with the goal of eventually helping others. In her early 30s she took the leap.

“I thought that if I could just help one person change their life that would be worth it. I wanted autonomy with a career. And I thought, ‘This is great because I’m helping people and making a difference.’ Really pushing the health and wellness aspect of fitness. Not just, ‘Let’s get in shape to look good,’ it’s, ‘Let’s get in shape to live longer.’ ”

More than transforming soft bodies into shredded muscles, Diamond found deep satisfaction in the incremental improvements made by her clients — like drinking more water, or taking moments to simply stop and breathe more often. When she moved her business out to Los Angeles 14 years ago, she knocked on the doors of doctors’ offices and physical therapists.

“I took on anyone, and all kinds of different injuries,” she says. “So I learned along the way. Working with physical therapists and doctors allowed me to learn even more about the human body and mind.”

She’s worked with people recovering from serious physical injury, as well as those who are battling heart disease or cancer. The through line in every successful story has been the approach both her and the client have taken.

“The most important thing is mindset,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how much they are doing. But I want them to get into the mindset of, ‘I can do this.’ ”

That mission resonates throughout her work. And it’s the driving force behind her new business — one she hopes to scale to reach a wider audience.

“We can’t reverse the aging process. One of the things I push is taking a different outlook on that,” she says. “We are privileged to age. We are the only society to look at aging the way we do. Most other societies have a much more positive viewpoint of it. But we can retain our strength, and retain our youthful components through nutrition and exercise and mindfulness.”