Instead of calling out his students for slowing their feet too much during Zumba, Jeffrey Brous, with his hand to mouth, mock yawns in an almost comedic way, reminiscent of Groucho Marx.
His facial expressions and constant smile may conjure up images of the funny man, but the bespectacled Brous, 31, of Horsham, is serious about health and physical fitness.
"One of my goals as a trainer is to help build confidence," said Brous, who began at Horsham Athletic Club in May as a personal trainer. "At the end of the day if my clients aren’t successful … what could I have done better so that I can help these people actually succeed?"
Brous, who is competing alongside doctors, coaches and the like as one of 16 semi-finalists in Philadelphia Magazine's Be Well Philly "Health Hero" contest, definitely leads by example.
In the nomination letter for the Health Hero contest, a student wrote that Brous shares his "positive energy" via workouts and "mentoring" and "spends countless hours giving back" through Zumbathons and fundraisers.But, before he could begin doing for others, Brous first had to learn to love himself. Prior to coming out of the closet, he had eaten his way to more than 400 pounds.
It wasn't until 1999, while studying culinary arts in college, that Brous started to take better care of himself. During the following three years, the "majority of the weight came off," he said.
"It was quite an experience," Brous said. "My mom kept calling me the incredible shrinking man."
Now 200 pounds leaner and healthier, Brous, through his full-time job as a personal trainer, is active about 38 hours per week and works out in addition to his Zumba, Yoga, meditation and boot camp classes, about 5.5 to 7.5 hours a week.
"It’s a lot, but it’s worth it," Brous said. "If I can’t do what I want my students to do then that’s me as a failure as a teacher. It’s about staying ahead of the game."
To learn more
Voting is open for Brous and three other semi-finalists through Monday. To see the 16 contestants in the running, click here. The winner of each of the four rounds will square off in the finals in October. More details are available here.