Leslie Byzewski helps Maple Grove—and big corporations—get fit

MAPLE GROVE MAGAZINE - MAY/JUNE 2007
BY GINA CZUPKA
PHOTOS BY KELLI STANKO

Leslie Byzewski might tell you a few things you're not ready to hear. It's not that she'll make you feel bad, but she'll help you look at yourself with honesty. Byzewski, is a certified personal trainer, and to an exercise philistine it can be a little startling to have someone mention shortcomings that would otherwise be swept under the rug—or hidden under a sweater, as the case may be.

Byzewski isn't rude, though. Walk into her studio (763-300-0187), and though Byzewski is at the back of the long, open space, she smiles, and by the time she's halfway to you, her hand is extended in greeting. Her sunny disposition charms you from the start, and her devotion to her cause is so ardent that she could convert anyone in a matter minutes. Her credo of “Be fit, be smart, be healthy” is what she wants to instill in everyone who crosses her threshold.

Though she says she didn't grow up in a particularly athletic family, Byzewski says that she always has enjoyed exercising. “I can't ever remember not working out and loving every minute of it,” she says. Byzewski earned her degree in business, but fitness was never far from her mind.“ [It's] been a passion for a long time. I knew that at some point, I would make it a focus,” she says. She hadn't anticipated making a career by this point in her life—she had imagined it would come later. “But it's good for me that it did,” she says. “It's a successful business, and I count my blessings for it every day.”

 

She also points to her family as an inspiration for her interest in fitness. Keeping up with son Max and husband Bill, both of whom love sports, is one reason, but there is also a more serious side. “On both sides of my family, we've seen heart disease, diabetes, obesity … what motivates me is health. I learned by the time I was in my 20s that if I wasn't in a [fitness] class, I was going to be struggling.” That realization has had a great impact on Byzewski's life, and she encourages others to take it to heart as well. “The only way to longevity is to treat your body well. You have to be consciously aware of the decisions you make,” she says.

FITNESS GURU - Leslie Byzewski (right), helps Lynn Culllinen get in shape.

The health issues that Byzewski's family has had are anything but uncommon in America today. She is able to rattle off a litany of facts that are rather startling: “Two thirds of Americans are considered to be overweight or obese, we have over 9 million obese children in America … 50 percent of all health care claims come from obesity-related issues.” Exercise has the potential to help alleviate those problems, but it's difficult for most people to fit it into their schedules. Byzewski, who graduated with a degree in business, has set her sights on helping corporations encourage healthy lifestyles among their employees.

For the last five years, Byzewski has worked to raise awareness for corporate wellness. With statistics that show how corporate health-care expenditures have skyrocketed, she points out that healthy employees are happier, more industrious and have better attendance. It's a win-win situation—employees get the benefit of leading healthy lifestyles, and businesses see a boost in productivity and the bottom line.

Early on in her effort, Byzewski partnered with the American Heart Association to give speeches on heart health, and from there it grew into a full-fledged health initiative that she takes to some of the biggest corporate campuses in Minnesota. “I work with organizations not only on presentations but on wellness committees, health fairs, providing nutritional information, writing articles for their [internal] publications, going on site and actually doing workouts with employees,” she says. “I'm helping them understand that the benefits of employees who are healthy will far exceed their expectations.”

Byzewski says that she will continue and even ramp up her efforts to change unhealthy work environments. “My passion is working with women, and all people, in a vocational way—because I know what I'm doing is changing the lives of others.”