This is the proverbial "rest of the story" of Steve Nesbit, a fitness trainer who passed away in March.
I first met Steve in the late 1990s. We lived in the same apartment building and would frequently run into each other in the elevator. One day, he invited me to his all-female weight training class at a neighborhood fitness center where he worked. I attended his class twice a week and it wasn't long before I could see the physical results.
I was hooked.
It was the toughest, yet most enjoyable, fitness class I have ever experienced. Steve sat atop a huge gray exercise ball at the front of the class, counted reps and watched as we all lifted the weights. He instructed us to "go lighter or no weights at all, just keep moving."
His eyes were on us, behind his trademark sunglasses, to ensure we weren't slacking. If one of us failed to keep up, we'd all hear about it and the reps would start over from the beginning. He created nicknames for each of us. Why? "Because I can't remember y'all women's names," Steve explained with a smile. "I got way too many!"
Lively conversation would erupt during the 10-minute break between the sets of upper- and lower-body weight-lifting. Steve and the ladies talked about current events, eating habits and whatever else anyone cared to share. If you missed a class, you missed a lot more than the exercise.
As evidenced by his mere $5 class fee, he welcomed anyone who was interested in fitness. He loved to see people transformed, both physically and mentally, and he was thrilled whenever a new person returned to his class after a grueling workout.
Newcomers would inevitably complain about muscle soreness, and he would gently say, "You came back, didn't you? That's all that matters."
I attended his class faithfully for 15 years. And after he had a heart valve operation in 2005, I began to write the following story:
• • •
"Don't even think about quit'n!"
Those are the words you often hear pumped into your ear during a weight training class of fitness trainer Steve Nesbit, owner of Fine Lines Fitness in Peters Township. And Nesbit is no quitter by any means. He came up through the streets of Homewood, struggling with his environment, overcoming many obstacles back then and still -- the guy is truly made of mettle and metal. And now, that precious substance in the form of a heart valve is a part of his body.
It was in the winter of 2005 that Nesbit admitted himself to St. Clair Hospital because he was short of breath. "I knew I had this problem, but I felt I could self-medicate and beat this." He took Lasix, a diuretic, to alleviate the swelling in his feet. Unbeknownst to him, he had only one kidney, which further taxed his heart.
After driving himself to the hospital, Nesbit walked toward the hospital door, having to stop every few steps to catch his breath. His cardiologist told him he was one lucky son-of--a-gun because he got to the hospital just in time to save his own life. Nesbit was immediately hooked up to an IV and was operated on two days later.
Although he knew he had high blood pressure, a precursor of heart disease, he had exacerbated his problem by taking steroids early in his career. Ironically, the steroids that helped Nesbit win the Mr. Pennsylvania title destroyed his heart and nearly took his life as well.
Nesbit says that he understood the dangers of steroids, but "in a world where we put demands on athletes to perform outside the norm, who wouldn't look for a boost?" He cautions that adolescents should never do to their bodies what he did.
"If I had a son in grade school or high school that was into competitive sports and wanted to take steroids, I would absolutely say 'No!' I realize that I took a risk, but that's me -- I thought I was invincible until this happened. Then my heart said, 'I'm in control now.' " Steve regained his health and was back to his training business only a couple of days after being released from the hospital.
• • •
I showed Steve the story, albeit unfinished. He liked it; however, he did not want the general public to learn about his steroid use because of his burgeoning "Bad Boy of Fitness" reality television series. At the time, he did not feel it was good "PR" for his fitness training persona, although he changed his mind later and suggested I try to publish it.
Steve thrived on helping people become physically fit -- to eat well and to exercise. It was his passion and his life. Rest in peace, Steve. I hope somehow you know that perhaps you saved a life by telling your story.
Tila Shapiro Cohen of O'Hara can be reached at email@example.com. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Biography" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.