Mt. Pleasant couple, both personal trainers, live and teach a healthy lifestyle
For his 54th birthday party in April, someone found a picture of Juan Pulido showing off his muscles back when he was a 21-year-old Marine.
“I was horsing around and flexing, and compared to now, I'm pretty much the same,” Pulido said. “Cut the head off, and the body looks the same.”
Juan and his wife of two years, Charlotte Pulido, are testaments to the preservative power of fitness, having spent their lives pushing themselves to be lean, muscular and healthy.
In March, the Mt. Pleasant Borough couple took home the men's and women's prizes in a bodybuilding contest for people 50 and older and continued their rigorous pre-competition diet and workout regimen for Juan to place first and Charlotte to place third in the “masters” category at another bodybuilding competition in May in Alexandria, Va.
For the past year, the Pulidos have worked as personal trainers, instructors and fitness coaches at the Regional Family YMCA of the Laurel Highlands in East Huntingdon. Between classes, personal training for clients and their own workouts, they spend up to 10 hours a day at the gym, five days a week — and sometimes a sixth day on their own.
In their spare time, they compete in bodybuilding contests, usually in the “masters” category for older competitors, though that can range from 50-and-up to 35-and-up. But even when the competition is 20 years younger than they are, the Pulidos aren't as worried about winning as they are having a good time.
“The advantage for me is that it's fun for me. I don't have to prove anything,” Juan said.
“There's not the same pressure,” said Charlotte, 53. “The spectators are very gracious when they find out how old you are.”
Juan, whose parents were Cuban refugees and arrived in the United States in 1966, joined the Marines and spent eight years stationed in North Carolina. But his fascination with fitness and the honing of the human body started earlier, he said.
“I was attracted to the idea of what my body could do. Watching the Olympics was a big inspiration,” so he started distance running. He decided to take on his first marathon in his 40s.
“It was about challenging myself,” he said. “I had a friend who bungee-jumped, and I thought, ‘That's easy; you just fall!'”
Charlotte had started working out in college, as a student at Eastern Carolina University, and came to like how it made her look and feel. She took jobs as a personal trainer to pay the bills after college — with the perk that it gave her a free gym membership she couldn't otherwise afford.
She then moved into education, spending 21 years as a school librarian. But when she was able to retire, she decided to go back to work as a trainer.
“I knew when I retired that 51 was too young to be hanging out doing nothing,” she said.
The two had known each other from when Juan worked with special-needs students at Charlotte's school, but both were married to other people at the time. Three years later, Charlotte was widowed and Juan was divorced when they found themselves enrolled in the same class at Carteret Community College in Morehead City, N.C., learning to be physical trainers. They were married last year and moved to Mt. Pleasant to be near Juan's parents, who lived in the area along with Juan's brother, Rick.
“It's been awesome. We work out together, and she keeps me honest when we're getting ready to compete,” Juan said.
For 12 to 16 weeks before a competition, their exercise routine is weightlifting in the morning and cardio in the afternoon. Every meal, taken every three hours, is carefully weighed, measured and calculated for the right amount of carbs and protein.
“Maintaining that is very difficult, especially when you have a birthday,” Charlotte said. “I did a competition about a year and a half ago that he didn't. ... Seeing him have a beer or a slice of pizza made it much harder.”
In addition to physical training and classes, the couple offer overall health and nutrition coaching to help their clients meet broader life goals; rather than just “lose weight” or “look good in a bathing suit,” they help their clients set goals over a multi-year time frame, Juan said. Charlotte emphasized how nutrition and exercise can affect overall energy and even pain.
“(Juan) taught me great things about being meditative, clearing my mind and destressing, which I really needed,” said client Sara Monkelis, 32, of Youngwood. “I'm not as tired and I can keep up with my kids,” ages 3 and 1.
Because many of their clients — and now the Pulidos themselves — are older than 40, they focus on ways to adjust workouts to help manage and avoid the aches and pains that come with aging.
“A lot of our clientele here at the Y are 40 and older. I'd say 90-plus have issues with their shoulders from working out the same way they did in their 20s,” Juan said. “We still get sore. ... There are exercises we used to do that we can't do the same way anymore.”
Bea Jarbeck-Burk, director of fitness at the Regional Family YMCA of Laurel Highlands, said the Pulidos had been a valuable addition to the Y and living examples for their clients.
“You can have teachers who train but don't follow a healthy lifestyle. But (the Pulidos) live it, they teach it: They are both great trainers,” Jarbeck-Burk said.