Fit to live

For fitness professional Billy Goda, fitness is the essence of life.

For fitness professional Billy Goda, fitness is the essence of life. 

“What do you get from fitness?” he asks. “You get more energy. You sleep better. You’re more confident. And you alleviate pain.”

But, he says, 80% of Americans don’t work out. Also, 80% of the people who belong to gyms don’t use them. Thus some 70% of Americans are “deconditioned,” having lost fitness and muscle tone through lack of exercise.

These people are not lazy, Goda says. What they could use is a personal trainer, such as himself, to show them how to work out properly, which will in turn garner results and continue to motivate them.

Trainers, of course, cost money. Goda will not say what he charges but notes that an industry standard is $100 to $200 an hour. But, he adds, 95% of Americans can afford to pay a trainer $100 a week for one session or $1,000 for three months, to learn how to work out properly and achieve results. All they have to do is give up eating out once a week.

An initial workout with Goda — who calls his business Bull Fit Health and Wellness — involves an assessment, particularly of the body’s core (the upper and lower abdominals and the sides, or obliques), which is key to alleviating back trouble, he says.

“If the core is strong, everything can be strong.”

After warming up the heart and waking up the body, he has the client engage in more challenging movements. Variety is important.

“You can’t do the same thing over and over again. You can’t just walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes.”

With a trainer, you don’t have to reinvent the fitness wheel.

“You learn what the trainer has been doing his whole life.”

Growing up in Ardsley, where he attended public schools, Goda was passionate about sports and writing. At Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, Goda majored in English and theater and wrestled. Why wrestling?

“It’s one on one and there are no excuses, just you and another guy.”

It’s also a team sport that can teach you how to confront fear. Goda says that the nerves you face before taking to the mat prepare you for other challenges you’ll face. (These are life lessons that the Croton-on-Hudson resident passes along to his children, both of whom play team sports — his son, basketball, baseball and football; his daughter, lacrosse and field hockey.)

It was his love of writing that led Goda to a career in fitness.

At Columbia University, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting, Goda applied for a work-study job and wound up managing the university’s fitness center on weekends, helping others who were also working out. When he graduated, he went to work for Definitions Private Training Gyms in an era (the early 1990s) when there weren’t as many gyms as there are now. He taught fitness and he coached high school basketball.

At the same time, he obtained a number of writers’ grants so that he could concentrate on writing plays that he describes as “existential thrillers.” 

“I made sure I had a lot of time to write,” he says. “I was writing, living in (New York City), young and loving it.”

His “No Crime” (1999) was included in the anthology “Best American Short Plays.” “Dust” (2008-09) was produced Off-Broadway. 

“It got mixed reviews,” he says. “But I’m proud of it.”

Having tasted that success, however, Goda found his relationship with writing changed.

“I always think writers are people who can’t not write,” he says. He likens it to a love affair. You finish a work and think the affair is over. But then come the rewrites and you think, “Thank God, we’re dating again.”

Yet after “Dust,” he says, “I didn’t feel compelled to write.”

He went to work for New York Sports Club in Dobbs Ferry and started creating a system that led to his book, “The Personal Trainer’s Roadmap to Success.” He read business books like Jim Collins’ “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t.” He left New York Sports and joined the teams at the Saw Mill Club and Saw Mill Club East, both in Mount Kisco, leaving once Covid hit to start his own business. His goal now is to get three to five clubs to implement the fitness system he outlines in his book. He also wants to put his video on alleviating back pain on YouTube.

Along the way, he adds, he has acquired the 10,000 hours that journalist Malcolm Gladwell says you need to master a skill — “10,000 hours of writing, 10,000 hours of fitness and 10,000 hours of training.

“The key to being a trainer is you have to be passionate about it,” he says. “You want your clients to believe in the dreams they thought they no longer possessed.”

Among those clients are people who are 93 and 98 — mentally acute and playing tennis and golf.

“When you work out, you have a better quality of life. It sharpens you intellectually.”

Or as one client told him: “I can’t believe I have muscles at 75.”

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