Raised in the shadows of the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Texas-born Bert Myers has packed more into 55 years than most people do in a lifetime. A former standout in track and football at Los Angeles’ Dorsey High and a father of four by the age of 23, Myers has woven lessons learned from sports and family into his own fabric, which has made him one of the most popular personal trainers at Laguna’s Art of Fitness.
Myers was new in town five years ago when Marian Keegan, founder and owner of Art of Fitness, hired him. He didn’t have great educational credentials at the time, but he had years of real world experience. “He’s had his ups, and he’s had his downs, and he’s always kept a positive attitude,” said Keegan. “And so he can relate to a lot of different people on a lot of different levels.”
The youngest of three brothers, Myers was just 4 when his mother left his father. When he was 8, she enrolled her sons in a Pop Warner football program run by the local chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. “She was smart,” said Myers. Playing football, he said, “kept us straight, it kept us out of trouble, it kept us away from all the bad stuff that was out in the streets.”
Sports taught the young Myers discipline and the importance of hard work. But his first real life lesson came seven years later, when, at 15, he became a father. “I didn’t go out with other kids and go play and go to the prom and all that. I had to take care of my child,” he said.
During his first year enrolled at Arizona State his third child was born. To support his growing family, he dropped out to become a professional sprinter with the All American Track Club. “If I didn’t run track, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Myers.
His fourth child, Minisha, who he coached in track at Dorsey High, said her father’s love of fitness “just trickled down to us. All of us are very active.”
Myers developed his talent as a trainer and motivator by working with his kids. “He’s a big people person,” said Minisha of her engaging father. But the biggest reason for his success is “he gets results,” she said.
“He’s got the perfect mix of personality and motivation and inspiration that keeps you going,” said Heather Kenihan, who began working with Myers at Art of Fitness because he shared her belief in “the old fashioned, hard-core way” of working out, she said.
As strength and conditioning coach at Dorsey High for nine years, Myers helped develop a number of future NFL stars. But he’s quick to point out that “our main thing was to get kids to go to college. What ever comes after that, that’s a blessing.”
He still helps many Dorsey alums get in shape each year before the start of NFL training camp.
Art of Fitness is his home base, but Myers’ reputation has taken him around the world. He recently spent several weeks in the Middle East, training the children of wealthy Saudis, who discovered Myers while vacationing in Laguna. He’ll soon be off to the Hamptons to train a doctor and his wife. “I’ve never advertised in my life,” said Myers, who relies on word of mouth and referrals to build his client base.
Myers is an expert at getting the most out of his clients. “He can push you without pushing you too hard,” said Kenihan.
“I have to get into their head to take them to the next level,” said Myers. “If they pick up one pound more, or they walk one mile more, or they walk five feet more, that is a plus.”
Sometimes his ability to help people overcome challenges transcends the gym. Recently a local woman brought her anorexic teenage daughter to him. “I had to get into her head and tell her how she can feel good about herself, and she has to eat,” Myers said. “Those challenges are very hard, but that’s part of the game.”
A lifelong vegetarian, Myers is hoping to parlay his talents as a vegetarian chef into a health food catering business that will appeal to “health conscious” Lagunans. “I can make a veggie patty taste like a Fat Burger,” he said, laughing.
With the energy of a man half his age and a body to match, Myers’ continues to have an influence on the next generation. He’s already starting to train several of his 11 grandchildren. “It’s all about doing the right thing and the right thing comes back,” he said.
Laguna Mayor Toni Iseman will be at Art of Fitness this Saturday, July 2, for a ribbon cutting ceremony recognizing the establishment’s nearly 10 years in the community. For more information about Art of Fitness and Bert Myers, visit www.artoffitnesslaguan.com