Helping others reach their fitness goals

If you ever thought about running as part of your fitness program, Janis Smith can help get you started.

If you’ve ever thought about adding running to your fitness journey, Janis Smith can help get you started. Smith knows first-hand, having completed 5k and 10k races, half-marathons and several marathons.

Smith, 40, operates Fit Fundamental Program, which helps runners prepare for marathons and offers high-energy fitness programs. Her target audience is youths and adults. Her love for fitness began as a cheerleader and track runner in high school.

“I started this program because I have a passion for fitness and running,” she said “I want to help individuals accomplish his or her fitness goals especially, in the area of running. I have trained and helped so many people accomplish their first 5k race, 10k race and marathons. My program is very rewarding.”

Joanne Jemsek began training with Smith in August 2007 in preparation to run a half-marathon (roughly 13 miles), her first. The training lasted roughly three months.

Although Jemsek, 28, has run for about four years, she said training for the half-marathon was more rewarding because of Smith.

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“Janis is very encouraging, selfless and commits time to help others reach their goals,” she said.

Jemsek said Smith ran the half-marathon alongside her to help keep pace and as motivation.

Smith, who works double-duty as a fitness specialist at the Dowd YMCA, holds certification in group exercise, personal training, weight lifting and as a youth coach.

However she doesn’t consider herself a fitness expert.

Demitria Morris, 25 disagrees.

Morris, a college student who has an interest in one day running a marathon of her own, has strength trained with Smith and says she is knowledgeable and tough.

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“Janis is a beast when it comes to training,” she said, laughing. “But she is really motivational and does not let you quit.”

Smith said she concentrates on opportunities to make clients better.

“I am always yearning to learn and become the best that I can be in the area of fitness to strengthen my awareness of fitness in order to continue to assist people with their goals,” she said.

One way she does this is through her training methods. For example, she uses programs, basic to complex, that are tailored individually, or what she refers to as sport-specific training.

“Sport-specific training is targeting specific exercises to strengthen an athletes’ particular sport,” she said.

Whether working with adults or youth, Smith generally tailors her training to include elements of speed, agility, strength, balance, flexibility and core training. As Smith continues to grow her client base, she has one goal yet unfulfilled. “I would like to train some youths to perhaps complete their first marathon,” she said.

Whether her clients are young or old, Smith echoes what healthcare professionals have long said regarding a healthy lifestyle: staying active will help you sleep better, look better and feel better!

And that’s reason enough to stay on your fitness journey.

Janis Smith can be reached at

Unable to hire a running coach due to the shaky economy? You can start by consulting a variety of online resources. For example, offers help for beginners. Here are tips to keep in mind:

1. Consult your physician before beginning a running regime, especially if you are age 40-plus, have a sedentary lifestyle or are more than 20 pounds overweight.

2. Invest in a good pair of running shoes. Run For Your Life, a local shoe store with three locations (Dilworth, University and South Charlotte) is a good place to start. Run For Your Life also has runners’ clubs. Contact for more details.

3. Schedule your workouts. You are more likely to keep your running appointments if you schedule them on your computer, PDA, daily planner, etc.

4. Don’t ignore injuries — remember to train not strain.

5. Expect bad days. It’s a part of starting anything new. However, they pass quickly so don’t give up.

6. Take things slowly. Rushing leads to injuries. The goal is to run, not set records getting there.

Be healthy. Be well.

Sondra E. Z. Hines is an adjunct professor of health and wellness at a community college and is certified to teach group fitness and Zumba. Email:

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