6 of the Most Fit Milwaukeeans

Six locals reveal their very personal reasons for staying in shape

Why do you work out? A strong motivation that goes beyond toning up and losing weight can be the key to sticking with a fitness plan. “Some people haven’t found their ‘why’ and look at exercise as something they have to do,” says Karen Berenson, owner of RunFit MKE. “I encourage clients to find their ‘why.’ There is so much that fitness can offer.” Read on, and let these stories inspire you to dig deep to find a “why” that’s all your own.

Photo by Matt Haas

Cate Charlton

Occupation: Chiropractor, Thiensville
Age: 64

Beginning with dance classes at age four, Cate Charlton has enjoyed multiple trends in fitness: aerobic dance (“Cheesy moves, but I was hooked”), step and Jane Fonda videos. Exercising helped her manage two demanding careers, first in advertising, then as a chiropractor. “There is nothing like being in a class with great music, fun moves and all these people around you doing the same thing,” she says. Since 1983, Charlton has led classes at Elite Sports Clubs – River Glen, including kickboxing, Pilates and yoga. She recently got certified to teach POUND®, which uses weighted fluorescent green drumsticks. When Charlton’s husband died last October, teaching allowed her to get away from the sadness for at least a few hours. “When you’re teaching a fitness class, you’re definitely in the moment, in the energy field,” she says.

Photo by Matt Haas

Tami Gemmell

Occupation: Owner, Azana Salon and Spa, Brookfield
Age: 41

Tami Gemmell has gone from gaining the “freshman 15” pounds her first year of college to losing that weight, then going on to place 13th out of 121 women in a national-level physique competition in New York City in 2001. Today, she says, “I stay fit so I can enjoy happy and healthy friendships.” The Muskego resident’s routine includes weight training and using the new Pelaton bike for 45-minute cardio sessions, both four to five times a week. In between super sets of weight training – in which she pairs a major muscle group with a smaller muscle group – she does abs. Gemmell also uses the Wakesurf Edge Balance Board to prepare for wake surfing at the lake she and her husband live on. “Exercise is and always has been my ‘drug,'” she says. “It helps to clear my mind, elevate my mood and battle the effects of stress. And it helps me sleep.”

Photo by Matt Haas

Martha A. Cuenca Rivera

Occupation: Homemaker; coordinator, Latinos por la Salud (Latinos for Health); part-time printer
Age: 36

With a husband, three kids, a part-time job and volunteering, Martha Cuenca Rivera has little time for exercise. Yet it’s a priority, especially after she had health problems. “My doctor said I had to start eating healthy,” says Cuenca Rivera, who lost 20 pounds. Now, she prepares tamales and enchiladas with less fat and more veggies. In summer, she leads the Burnham Park Walking Club, part of Latinos por la Salud at the 16th Street Community Health Centers. Weekly, the group walks 30 minutes, then does Zumba, yoga, NIA or salsa for 30. Cuenca Rivera also walks, has Zumba classes and does aerobics at home. “Latinos have higher-than-average rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” she says. “Keeping my family healthy is my motivation.”

Photo by Matt Haas

Regan Andersen

Occupation: Personal Trainer, Optimal Fitness
Age: 29

Many people take up exercise to lose weight, but not Regan Andersen. “My freshman year of high school, I was a tall, skinny kid with little skill but a lot of love for the game of basketball,” he recalls. To bulk up to play in college, which he did at Cal State, Fullerton, Andersen developed a structured eating plan and a regular workout schedule, increasing from 185 pounds to 245, at 6 feet 7 inches. “I told myself I was going to get stronger and not be pushed around by anybody,” says the Milwaukee resident. His routine today is carefully structured. “I try to get all major muscle groups (legs, back, chest) in twice a week,” he says. “I also make sure to spread the days out so I am not overdoing a certain muscle group. I also have one full rest day each week…. On those ‘off days,’ get your sleep,” he advises. “Sleep equals muscle recovery.”

Photo by Matt Haas

Karen Berenson

Occupation: Owner, RunFit MKE, Third Ward
Age: 39

After 12 years in financial services, Karen Berenson decided to follow her true passion – health and wellness – and become a personal trainer. “Working out myself lit something inside of me; it made me feel more like myself,” she recalls. So she got certified. She opened her own gym last fall. There, she helps clients improve balance, strength, flexibility and agility. For her own routine, Berenson does circuit training twice a week. And because cancer struck five close family members, she has run five marathons to raise money for cancer research. Berenson also says exercise is her emotional outlet. “It helps me stay emotionally and mentally stable,” she says.

Ted Tousman

Occupation: Retired pharmacy consultant, active with UW-Milwaukee’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
Age: 76

Photo by Matt Haas

All of his adult life, Ted Tousman has belonged to a gym. “I get motivated to exercise there,” says the East Side resident. “What else am I going to do – just stand there?” Over the years, he has run on the treadmill, lifted weights and bicycled out-of-doors. “There’s nothing more enjoyable than a bike ride on a beautiful day,” he says. After a major heart attack four years ago, Tousman is even more committed. Today, he belongs to four gyms so he can work out close to whatever he’s doing. He usually visits a gym every day. “If I don’t, I get stiff,” he says. In nice weather, he walks in Lake Park, and he has added stretching exercises on the floor to address back problems. “At 76, I’m doing pretty well,” he says. “Wherever you are in your journey, keep moving. If you don’t, your journey won’t likely be as long.” ◆

Styling by Michelle Warren

Clothing provided by InStep, Macy’s & Yellow Wood Gear

‘Milwaukee’s Most Fit’ appears in Milwaukee Health, a special issue from Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the issue on newsstands beginning Monday, July 3, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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