Susan became interested in working at Liberty while finishing her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology at the University of Michigan. A love for horses jump-started her career as a personal trainer.
Susan came into Liberty to workout one day, clad in riding breeches. She immediately caught the eye of Liberty’s fitness director, Karen Phillips, who also enjoyed horses. A conversation quickly ensued over their mutual interest. During Susan’s third encounter with Karen, she was hired on the spot. Without an official interview, she filled out her job application on her first day of work, March 9, 1994. One year later, she took over as fitness director.
“When I started working as fitness director,” Susan explained, “the fitness desk and the equipment were in the middle of the current workout floor.” “My office was in the back of the club behind the tennis courts, so I created a little space up front behind a wall. I had just enough room for a desk, a computer, and some files.”
Five years later, Susan left the position of fitness director to Nancy Arnold, to allow more time for school and family. “I wormed my way back to the position,” she shared, “by taking on more and more responsibilities.”
Susan was named fitness director for the second time in 2003, where she served for five more years until R.J. Meske took over the position in 2008. Her service as fitness director totaled ten years.
As a personal trainer, Susan’s interest, education and expertise led her to work with clients in the areas of weight management, autoimmune issues, post rehabilitation, and pre and postnatal care. For personal reasons, she pursued her first certification in pre and postnatal care in 1994. “I had my own issues when I was pregnant,” Susan explained, “and if someone had been there for me, maybe things would have gone smoother.”
“My training over the years,” Susan said, “morphed from working with the ‘come on, come on’ group, to working with older clients and their specific issues.” In latter years, the majority of Susan’s clients were over 40.
Being an integral part of the Transformation Challenge and the Balanced Body program were highlights of Susan’s tenure at Liberty. She’ll be remembered for her innovative ideas and commitment to each.
Susan especially enjoyed her participation in Females in Training (F.I.T.), a class she conducted with fellow trainer Nancy Arnold. “A consistent group of women participated in this class for its duration,” Nancy explained. “We would set up different exercise stations and reserve cardio equipment for cardio intervals between exercises. The women worked hard and we tried to keep it fun and energetic by playing our own music …”
Susan fondly remembered the group as a boot camp of sorts that marched to a special song. She also got a kick out of dressing up for Halloween one year, as a drill sergeant in fatigues!
The decision for Susan to retire was extremely difficult. While she loves her clients and co-workers and considers Liberty her home away from home, she wants to pursue new adventures. She wants to spend more time with her husband and children. She wants to “travel a lot and cook more.” She wants to go to as many national parks as she can, and she wants to ride her bike between Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula and Belle Isle in Detroit (791 miles). She wants to try 10,000 new things!
Susan retires from her position beloved by her clients, Liberty’s members, and Liberty’s staff. She will also be greatly missed by her co-workers.
“I remember meeting Susan on my first day at Liberty almost ten years ago and thinking,” R.J. Meske exclaimed, “wow, I have some big shoes to fill.” “After 10 years of working together, I still feel exactly the same way. Not many people realize how much time she spends preparing everything she does. She puts 100 percent into everything. I will miss Susan tremendously, both as a colleague and a friend.”
“Susan and I have been colleagues and friends for 25 years,” Kate Lambright reminisced. “Susan’s legacy in fitness is the development of the Transformation Challenge; Balanced Body and providing her clients with a road map to healthier lifestyles. For me personally, it will always be her stick figure drawings of exercises for her clients.”
Nancy Arnold explained, “Susan and I got along from the very start.” “I was hired to replace her as the fitness director, and we quickly developed a good rapport as she showed me the ropes. We reached a point where we could look at each other from across the gym and know exactly what the other was thinking … I consider Susan a good friend, and I’m happy she’s moving forward with this new chapter in her life.”
“I met Susan in 2003,” Rich Fernandez shared, “just after I was hired as a new trainer.” “Because of her, I am a better person and trainer today. She’s actually a blast outside of Liberty! Susan’s one of a kind.”
Under Susan’s picture on the wall in Liberty’s fitness facility, she wrote, “I want to make the world a healthier place, one day at a time.”
After 25 years of service, she concluded, “I feel I’ve accomplished that.”