F.I.’s outstanding team of trainers and instructors recently saw the addition of two bright new talents: Danielle Tinnirello and Erik Borenstein.
Personal Training’s Rising Stars
F.I.’s outstanding team of trainers and instructors recently saw the addition of two bright new talents: Danielle Tinnirello and Erik Borenstein. Danielle is both a group exercise instructor (AFAA-certified) and a personal trainer (ISSA-certified) and is currently working toward certification in Sports Nutrition. She counts strength training, fat-loss, functional fitness, and HIIT Training among her specialties. Erik, also with an ISSA certification in personal training, received his degree in Kinesiology Physical Science in 2010. He specializes in strength and conditioning and sport-specific training and nutrition. Knowledgeable, passionate, focused, and a devoted couple, their high spirits, exuberance, and sheer “joie de vivre” cause the energy level in the gym to tick up a couple of notches whenever they’re on the premises.
Paths To Personal Fitness
Danielle: I started playing soccer at the age of 5. I played for about ten years until my team broke up and I decided not to continue. By high school, I’d become a completely different person. My path forward was unclear, I wasn’t involved in anything physical, and my health wasn’t at its best. In 2010 I found myself at my heaviest weight of about 200-215 lbs. I was unhappy, uncomfortable, and knew I needed to make a change. I’d reached the point where I was wearing stockings under my jeans so I didn’t have to buy larger sized pants, and felt unhealthy mentally and physically. I just wanted to feel good in my own skin.
Around that time, I was getting ready for my senior year, which meant prom. I set a goal for myself: to be able to wear a dress comfortably—for the first time in a while. I’d also just started my first job, working at Fitness Incentive in the nursery. I was literally surrounded by fitness! How could I work in a gym and not participate in all that was going on around me? So, just like many new members beginning their fitness journeys, I too found myself in the back of the aerobic studio, hoping Corinne wouldn’t call me out in front of everyone. Sure enough, though, she did! Embarrassed as I might have been at first, I felt the support from the instructors and also members around me. I grew more and more comfortable, and it wasn’t long before F.I. began to feel like a family.
Erik: I can hardly believe it now, but fitness was never actually something that I was interested in. I was your typical, average kid, who probably enjoyed too many Ring Dings and Twinkies growing up, which led to a slight weight problem that I only became aware of approaching fifth grade. And as everyone knows, kids will be kids: they’ll make fun and pick on you. As a result, I developed some severe anxiety and a pretty negative self-image, in spite of the fact that people generally seemed to enjoy my company. I took pride in my ability to make people laugh and enjoy themselves. I fell into the habit of thinking “I guess this is the new normal.”
I was fortunate in that I had a very close group of friends, including my brother Brandon and cousin Kevin. We’d hang out all the time, playing every game from digital (Pokémon) to analog (football and soccer). I particularly loved football and idolized my cousin. He’d always been a monster, and I admired how easily things seemed to come to him. Strong as an ox, while being one of the nicest people you could meet. But the reality was that my health had become an issue impossible to ignore: I found myself sucking wind just riding my bike to the field where we would play football, just .7 miles down the road. So I guess my original motivation was to make it down my road and not look and feel like I’d run the New York City Marathon (Hey, we all start somewhere!)
Paths To Professional Fitness
Danielle: Eventually I’d migrate from the back of the aerobic studio as a member to receiving my group exercise certification and instructing from the stage. It was a huge step for me—I loved the feeling of leading the class and pushing members through their workouts. Keeping them motivated was motivation for me. After receiving my certification in GroupX through AFAA, I became more interested in strength training. It was no longer about weight loss or a number on the scale. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted to do things I didn’t think were possible. This led me to receiving my personal training certification through ISSA.
I’d graduated from St. John’s with a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising Communication. However, I decided to pursue my career within Health and Fitness when I realized I was planning my schedule to fit in my clients over spending more time at school with my Advertising group members. Whatever free time I had I wanted to be in the gym or doing something relating to it. I wanted to be teaching classes, working with clients, helping others reach their goals. I wanted to learn more about fitness, how I could make my classes better, what I could add to workout routines… it was an ongoing thought that I was truly passionate about.
Change does and did not happen overnight…it occurs gradually. Slowly but surely I began implementing changes in my physical workout routines and also my eating habits. I educated myself along the way and applied what I learned to my everyday life. I realized fitness is a lifestyle; in the gym, outside the gym, anywhere. It takes into account both your mental and physical strengths and acknowledges that the best thing about the journey is that it’s ongoing. There will always be ways I’m looking to improve, to grow, to learn. The two most valuable lessons I’ve learned thus far are these: once you change your mindset, the rest will follow and that balance, persistence, and consistency are the keys to success.
Erik: I decided to make a career out of fitness mostly because my entire life I was told that I was not good enough or could not be good enough to do exactly what I wished to be doing. This message was delivered not by my friends or family—who love and support me more than anything—but by the mass of people I met along the way who either did not make fitness a lifestyle and/or career or were afraid of failure. But I was raised very well, and with a pretty good head on my shoulders. I learned very quickly that someone telling me I could not do something has no influence on whether or not I could actually succeed. The only person who can control the things and actions I do is myself.
I remember as a kid looking at some of these other huge sports icons and thinking “I could do that if I were only this,” or “I could be like them, I just need to I need to do more of that.” In reality, I came to understand, I’m nowhere near being like them, and they are nowhere near being like me! The only thing I needed to focus on was being myself. It’s a message I really strive to communicate not only to the clients that I train today but to everyone I meet. I want them to feel like they can be exactly who they are because that is 100% the best you can give.
Danielle: My motivation comes from a few different people. My family, especially my mom, is number one. She is one of the strongest women I know. Diane, who is on the F.I. cleaning staff, is always working hard at everything she does. There is never a minute when she doesn’t give her 100%, whether it is with her own workout or even getting that last speck of dust off the cardio machine. Secondly, my boyfriend Erik is my biggest support and motivation. Since we started dating (and no, we did not meet in a gym… weird) I am truly the happiest I’ve ever been. He makes me feel like I can do whatever I set my mind to and together we can accomplish many great things. Thirdly, Sue Brunjes, another F.I. trainer, has and continues to inspire me every day. She has become both a good friend and a workout partner who helps me challenge myself when I don’t think I’m capable. Lastly, Fitness Incentive’s staff and members motivate me to keep going, supplying the reasons I seriously LOVE what I do. I love being in an environment where everyone is on their own journey, yet it all feels like we’re in it together.
Erik: My father and mother both work incredibly hard. My mother supports me in all my endeavors, is always positive, and always driving me to do my best. My father is a 4th-degree black belt in Americanized jujitsu. He has been training for over 28 years, and he and his mentor Bob have helped me to meet some of the most influential people in the fitness industry such as Fred Masarah, a personal friend of Joe Wieder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andre the Giant, Franco Colombo, and many others. My brother is currently studying to be a nurse anesthesiologist and has himself lost over 50 pounds and is currently bench pressing more than 100 pounds. He inspires me every single day and can literally bring a tear to my eye as I watch his journey and transformation. It’s similar to my own, but he’s his own man, achieving in his own way. It’s a beautiful thing.
I went on to do my first bodybuilding show in which I placed first in my group and first overall in my division, and I would repeat that four times over. I was also competing in and finishing strongman events, two of which were staged here on Long Island. I currently hold a record of 51 repetitions on a flat bench press of 225 pounds, which places me in the top 2% of the world to have accomplished this feat. I’ve appeared as a fitness model everywhere from Nike and Adidas to Muscle and Fitness and Men’s Health magazines. I am currently deadlifting 3.5 times my body weight, squatting 3 times my body weight and bench pressing over 415 lbs. These achievements are wonderful and inspire a favorite message: with no special ability and with nothing but what you were born with, you too can achieve personal greatness. Understanding this was a pivotal moment and led to my decision to teach what I have learned over the years to others. This is really what makes me the happiest.
My fifth-grade teacher Nicholas Commanzo was also a huge pivoting point in my life because he taught me that my anxiety could be controlled through the form of exercise he loves (almost as much as I did) best: football. He’d find ways to distract my random outbursts, bouts of depression, and anxiety with sports talk, and different insane feats of strength that this huge man would perform. Since I’ve been given this forum, I’d like to take the time to say “thank you.” Not just to him but to my family, my friends, my loved ones, everyone who kept me grounded. You all helped me become what I am today.
Why Fitness Incentive?
Danielle: I initially applied for a position in the nursery at Fitness Incentive because both my mom, Diane, and also my aunt, Linda, were both working at F.I. It was like a family affair. I was hired and started working at Fitness Incentive about 7 years ago. I then made my way to working the Front Desk, instructing classes, and becoming a personal trainer. I am also a part of the business’s Marketing Team. I chose Fitness Incentive as a place to not just work but to grow, and also because of the members, my fellow employees, and my amazing supervisors.
Erik: I actually had never heard of Fitness Incentive, as I am from the Middle Island/Centereach area. I’d met my girlfriend, Danielle, and that is when things changed for me. She is truly wonderful, and I love her and her family. She’s also my best friend and she does nothing but drive me to be better and better each and every single day. It’s a quality shared by many at F.I., where everyone is so supportive and real. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “To be normal? I would hate that!” For anyone reading this, I challenge you as I have been challenged: find someone who really motivates you, drives you and pushes you to be the best you there is.
Danielle: It’s just on example among many, but of the amazing clients I train and members I instruct in my classes, Maryann Mahoney’s transformation has been unbelievable, and I am so grateful to be a part of it. Maryann stepped into the gym weighing over 300 lbs. and immediately hopped into my limited enrollment class, Fit Force, despite how intimidating it looked. From not being able to step up, squat down, or jump rope, Maryann is now doing all these things and more. Her transformation has been 100% both mental and physical, focused on her strengths, on what she is capable of doing now, and what she will be capable of as she works forward. Thank you, Maryann, for giving me the inspiration and drive to do my best as a trainer, a mentor, and a good friend. Keep up the hard work. I’m so proud of you.
I receive great satisfaction from people doing something they didn’t think was possible. It comes from everyone giving their all at the gym…from being there and in the moment. Working to become a better version of themselves. I love being a part of everyone’s individual journey, and I am truly thankful to have a part in their story. It has been said that “if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life!” And I’m doing just that.
Erik: Each and every one of my clients are spectacular in their own way, each pursuing their own goals and achievements. Tony, for instance, came to me with the bench press of 155 pounds and through the course of seven months he is now bench pressing 350 lbs. for 315 for repetitions! And that’s not all…he is now the king of squats. He had some back and other underlying injuries which we have isolated and corrected. Add a parallel squat of over 500 pounds—at over 40 years old—and you just know that age is simply a number! Amazing, as are two other clients of mine: Joe, who through training on his own and training with me is currently a professional wrestler and had his first debut on WWE Raw! He worked up to a bench press of 350 lbs. and is getting stronger in every way every single day. His brother Jake is a phenomenal ice hockey player at the age of 17, and 6 feet 2 inches he has a bench press of 335 lbs. and a leg press of over 1,300 lbs. I’m so proud of him and all the work he puts in—he is all heart and hard work. These three guys get together and the weights start flying, which inspired another client, Robbie, to lose over 30 pounds when nothing had worked for him in the past. He gets stronger and stronger every single time I see him. His first-time deadlifting, he hit over 400 pounds after some form correction. He is truly a powerhouse, and I’m very grateful that I met all of these phenomenal people. There are many, many more I could mention but this article but would be 27 pages long.
About the Interviewer
Paul Smith is a frequent contributor to Fit to Print. He manages marketing for Fitness Incentive.