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Another Endoresment for Shawn O’Brien and Excel Fitness

Another Endorsement for Shawn O’Brien and Excel Fitness

by Martha Price Miss Hartford County 2011


I had the pleasure of working with Shawn O’Brien at Excel Fitness in preparation to compete in the Miss Connecticut Scholarship Pageant.  He helped me reach my goals of slimming down, toning up, and most importantly, living a healthy lifestyle.  After several personal training sessions, Shawn has provided me with a wealth of knowledge about health and fitness which I am sure to use for the rest of my life.

One of the most valuable things that Shawn taught me was how to challenge my body using a variety of equipment and techniques.  He tailored my workouts to accommodate the equipment I had at my school’s gym.  Before working with Shawn, I usually played it safe by containing my workouts to the treadmill, elliptical, and stretching area.  Now, I’m confident and comfortable using every piece of equipment, lifting weights in the weight-room, and lunging across the room with 10 lb dumbbells. Needless to say, I am now much better equipped to stay in shape.  Since I typically travel to Connecticut on the weekends, I was wary about not being able to keep up my workout regimen at home.  Shawn provided numerous creative alternatives to maintain my workouts using the limited equipment I possessed.  The variety of exercises I learned was not only effective, but it also made my workouts interesting and continuously challenging.  From this experience, I have taken away a wealth of knowledge about how to get fit no matter where I am or what equipment I have.

Martha Price - Miss CT Top 10
Martha Price - Miss CT Top 10

Before I started working with Shawn, I assumed that his role would simply be to help me get in shape.  After our first session, I knew that Shawn was more than a personal trainer.  His genuine words of encouragement helped me not only persevere through challenging workouts, but also through the stress and pressure of competing in a pageant.  Shawn constantly reminded me to stay positive and keep working hard to achieve my goals.  His optimism is contagious, and made me feel as if I could accomplish anything I set my mind to.

I am very blessed to have had Shawn on my support team as I prepared for the Miss Connecticut Scholarship Pageant.  I took the stage feeling confident, healthy, and focused.  With Shawn’s help, I was a top 10 finalist.  I am excited to continue using the knowledge that I have gained from working with Shawn not only in preparation for future pageants, but also in my everyday life.

Forever Grateful,

Martha Price, Miss Hartford County 2011


Excel Fitness 2-Week Guest Pass with Free Session (click here)


Testimonial for Excel Fitness by Kaitlyn Tarpey

Dear Shawn,

As a pageant girl I’ve attempted numerous diet and exercise regimes: Some great… some not so great. It’s imperative that I live a lifestyle promoting healthy habits, and I couldn’t seem to find the perfect niche. Working with you helped me find not only my inner-fitness-guru, but also the habits and workouts I needed to maintain my preferred body image.

You made sweating glamorous and kept me smiling through all my rigorous routines.  You kicked my butt into TOP shape and I felt like I had one of the most competitive swimsuit bodies at Miss Connecticut; I would not have made top ten without your help.  You not only were supportive in my preparation, you ensured I had the tools necessary to maintain this body for the rest of my life. I’m so proud to say that I’m at the same weight today- 4 months after Miss Connecticut- that I was the day of my swimsuit competition.  I would not be as healthy as I am today without you.

When I was crowned Miss Rocky Hill 2011, I was skeptical to have to drive to Excel from Stamford, CT but you ended up being worth every mile!  I’m so thankful for all of your tips and support through my journey and I can promise you I will be in touch not only for future events but also for everyday lifestyle questions.
All the best to you and everyone at Excel,

Kaitlyn Tarpey

Miss Rocky Hill 2011

Lee S. Testimonial for Jeff Roux @ Excel Fitness

Investing in personal training with Jeff Roux is by far the best money I ever spent on my fitness goals.  I recommend him to every person I know who has a fitness, weight loss and/or health-related goal, even if seemingly unattainable. Jeff will help you get there! I’ve trained with Jeff for over 5 years through a variety of stages in my life: wedding preparation, post-back injury (not related to workouts with him), triathlon preparation, maintaining fitness and now post-pregnancy fitness and weight loss.

Jeff has never – I mean NEVER – missed a training session or called in sick. Each time Jeff has tailored the training session to meet my very personal and specific needs. Jeff has his thumb on the pulse of emerging fitness trends and exercise science, keeping the trainings new and fresh, but keeping me safe from fitness fads. There are many poorly educated meatheads out there pretending to be professional personal trainers. Jeff is not one of them!  Jeff is attentive, respectful, energetic, positive, reliable and an expert on motivation. In less than four months after the birth of my son, I am back into my favorite (pre-pregnancy) jeans.  Thank you Jeff Roux!

– Lee S.

Testimonial- Lynn Sweet-Dobrow for Excel Fitness and Matt Knight

In April of 2010, I came to Excel Fitness hoping to make a change in my life.  Over a period of two decades, due to personal responsibilities and health issues, it had become increasingly difficult for me to engage in a number of activities that I had enjoyed in the past.  I had spent 20 years trying unsuccessfully to return to and maintain a healthy weight, I had knee issues from my youth, and I was experiencing varying degrees of pain in my neck and upper back daily from a whiplash injury. As I approached a time in my life that would allow me greater freedom to pursue my own interests once again, I came to the conclusion that I did not simply need to lose weight.  I also needed to become stronger and more physically fit.  With knee, neck, and back issues, I knew I should not attempt this on my own.

Matthew Knight was the first person I met at Excel, and helped to form an incredibly positive impression.  He was professional and courteous from the start.  During our first meeting he took care to understand my history and my lifestyle as well as my goals, and helped me to understand how Excel could help me reach those goals.  He explained what a reasonable rate of improvement might look like with my commitment and Excel’s support.  I decided to join Excel and to sign up for some personal training sessions with Matt.  It has proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I had never imagined working with a personal trainer before, but the first sessions with Matt were so helpful that I decided to continue.   Matt’s positive and supportive manner enabled me to focus during my visits instead of feeling ridiculously self-conscious about what I couldn’t do.  Within a short period of time I noticed decreased neck and back pain and increased strength.  In the course of the coming months, I went from taking muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory medications regularly to taking them rarely.  In addition, thanks to Matt’s further guidance regarding cardio work and diet, I was losing weight.  In the first four months, I had lost 20 pounds. 

The workouts that I do with Matt are completely different than any I could attempt on my own.  Matt uses his wealth of knowledge and expertise as a trainer to tailor my sessions to my personal needs, and to work multiple muscle groups at a time.  It’s obvious that he keeps my neck and knee issues in mind and that he plans my workouts around strengthening these areas without stressing them.  This individualized approach is just one characteristic of Matt’s training that helps me to meet with success.

I am continually amazed that while Matt has trained professional athletes, he is also able to be incredibly patient and thorough with those of us who have little or no experience at all, and to maintain a positive spin on things in order to keep us motivated.  Matt’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious and keep me looking ahead to meet my goals, while his calm and steady demeanor keep me from ever feeling overwhelmed.  As a teacher, I encourage my students to work toward and celebrate those small, steady improvements that add up to larger achievements over time, but hypocrisy strikes when I sometimes expect great leaps from myself.  Matt puts this in perspective for me.  At Excel, I am the student and Matt is the teacher.  He reminds me of how far I have come, educates me regarding his choice of exercises for me, and offers me unwavering guidance and support through each step of the way.

At the end of this month it will be one year since the day I first walked into Excel.  I cannot believe the progress I have made.  Thanks to Matt, I have lost a total of 38 pounds so far, and I have more living to look forward to every day.

Lynn Sweet-Dobrow

Testimonial – Deby Van Ohlen

March 21, 2011

To: Excel Fitness (www.excelfitnessct.com)

Attention:  Matthew Knight as My Trainer

I checked out Excel Fitness due to recommendations from people I trust.  I joined the gym due to the atmosphere and the qualifications of the owners and trainers;  I am an active participant because of Matt Knight, my personal trainer.

I am now in the best shape and lowest weight that I have been in since high school.  I feel that this success is directly attributable to my work with Matt.  He is extremely knowledgeable about exercise physiology and is able to easily adapt exercises and customize the workout to my needs and issues (such as elbow tendonitis, arthritic wrist, etc.).  He approaches the sessions with encouragement, humor, and a desire to see you always improve.  Along with his exercise expertise, Matt takes the time to know you so that he is able to push you to the point of optimal results without injury.  He also explains why he is having you do the different types of workouts which make the session make more sense.  As a massage therapist, I have been able to share several of the stretches Matt has shown me with my clients.

I have recommended several of my friends and clients to Matt and they all concur with my high opinion of him.  Matt is a real asset to the gym and I am extremely happy to have him as my trainer.


Deby Van Ohlen

Client Testimonial To Excel Fitness – Tara Cappa

Client Testimonial

by- Tara Cappa


I have always struggled with my weight.  As a young overweight adolescent to an even more overweight adult it has always been a losing battle.  Granted I had my ups but had even more downs as a result of my yo-yo dieting and exercise.  My detrimental ways came to a head when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in late 2007.  It was an obvious red flag that I was out of control and needed to make some serious lifestyle changes.  But it was quite some time before I had my “moment.”

One day in the summer of 2009 I looked at myself in the mirror and could hardly recognize what I had become.  As I stated before I was never a thin girl, but the person staring back at me was not at all what I could have imagined.  It was then that it became clear that it was time to kick this unhealthy lifestyle for good.  At 215+ pounds it was a decision that had to be made not only for myself but in order to see my son grow up and not miss a thing.  I knew my health would suffer greatly if I kept on the same destructive path.  So as I had done so many times before, I started with a combo of cardio and dieting and was very successful as I had been in the past….but I knew I needed to take things to a different level.  I started communicating with Shawn O’Brien through Facebook.  Having lived down the street from Shawn all my life, I was hesitant and slightly embarrassed to discuss with him my situation.  Once I did, it was the best decision I could have made.

Excel Fitness was holding their own “Biggest Loser” contest and Shawn thought it might be a good thing for me to look into.  I joined the program on February 1st of this year and have not looked back since.  As part of the contest I was able to meet with Shawn on a one-on-one basis and he helped me with a workout and diet regime.  Even though I had been succeeding with weight loss he helped me to realize that I was going about things in the wrong way.  He developed a workout plan that included both cardio and weight training as well as helped me design a healthy eating plan.

Once I got back into the gym, I realized how much I loved the weight training and how much I had missed it!!  For the three months of the competition I had a great support system between the other contestants and the encouraging Excel Fitness staff.  I started the competition at 164lbs and 34% body fat and ended at 138 lbs and 26% body fat.

The contest was the just the beginning of what was to come.  I was so grateful that I had the chance to be a part of something so positive and did not want it to end.  I became so comfortable with Shawn that I decided I wanted him to train me personally on a weekly basis.  In June I begin meeting with Shawn weekly and we took off running utilizing the tools I had been given the previous months.

I am currently down another 15+ pounds and even more incredible is that I have dropped to 18% body fat.  I have made the healthy eating and exercise a lifestyle change and could not be more happy with my results.  Of course I have my days when I want to just give up and go back to the old me but I always think about what Shawn and the rest of the Excel staff has helped me to accomplish and do not want to let them or myself down.

I am sure you have heard the old saying if I can do it then anyone can, but I am living proof that it is a very true statement.  With the proper guidance I truly have “exceled” and am looking forward to a healthy and prosperous life!

Client Testimonial – Larry Fischer

I have worked with an old friend’s father, Larry Fischer, for about six years.  When Larry came to me he  needed some serious help with his levels of health, fitness and strength.  I did help him and here is his story:

My name is Larry Fischer. I am a 63 year old retiree living in West Hartford, CT.  I’ve had the disorder, Reiter’s Disease since the early 1990’s. This disease is also known as Reactive Arthritis, an autoimmune condition that develops in response to an infection in another part of the body. Over the years, I’ve been on many different arthritic medications. Unfortunately, none of these medications gave me long lasting relief from pain and stiffness in all of my joints.

I was very athletic and played many sports thru my 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s. Unfortunately, I had to give up playing the sports that I loved when the Reiter’s Disease attacked my body around 1991. This was difficult for me both mentally and physically.

In January of 2004, I started to train with Shawn O’Brien. Due to the pain in my joints, I had not exercised in close to fifteen years. At this time, I absolutely had zero strength and flexibility. In fact, during my arthritic flare-ups, I often had a difficult time getting up from the couch. My muscles were so weak from inactivity that, even without any weights at all, I could not raise my arms to a completely horizontal position. Linked to this was the fact that I suffered from an irreparable torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder which prohibited me from being able to simply straighten my right arm. Also, there was so much arthritis in my right knee that I could not straighten the leg and had a difficult time walking.

When I first met with Shawn, he asked me what I wanted to accomplish. I listed my goals as follows :

  1. Decrease in pain and stiffness.
  2. Better strength in all of my muscles.
  3. Some measure of flexibility and agility.
  4. A stronger core, especially in the abdominal muscles.
  5. Better cardio.

My real dream was to get back on the basketball and tennis courts but I didn’t think that was possible so I didn’t list that as a goal. Shawn, on the other hand, approached the training in a very positive and supportive manner. He felt that playing basketball and tennis again was something I could accomplish with his training and my hard work.

Shawn turned out to be a miracle worker. Knowing that I had limitations due to the arthritis, he brought me along slowly. With his excellent training methods, my strength  and flexibility increased dramatically in both my upper and lower body. Here are some examples. As for the upper body, he provided me with a diverse number of shoulder exercises that strengthened the muscles around the damaged right rotator cuff and allowed me to have a much greater range of motion. He helped me to strengthen my right knee and gave me a number of stretching exercises that lengthened the knee. Before long, I was not only walking better but I actually began running for the first time in fifteen years. I trained with Shawn for approximately one year. With his tremendous support, I was able to realize all my goals and return to the basketball and tennis courts.

Shawn has a number of abilities and characteristics that make him a wonderful trainer. He’s a terrific all around athlete and knows the type of flexibility, agility, speed and weight resistance exercises necessary to improve one’s performance in many sports. He has a wealth of knowledge not only in physical training but also in nutrition and in the mental approach to making better lifestyle changes. He has a very friendly, outgoing personality and makes his training workouts fun and challenging at the same time. Shawn has a great deal of compassion. He is someone you feel you can easily talk to about your fitness progress, your lifestyle and any problems you might have in your daily life.

Shawn and Jeff Roux own Excel Fitness. They genuinely love people. Their training package includes good nutrition and an improved lifestyle. Bottom line, they want you to be healthy. Excel Fitness has a membership that includes senior citizens, middle age folks and people in their 20’s and 30’s. Shawn and Jeff keep the workout rooms, locker rooms and kitchen area spotless. They both have a great sense of humor. The club is so friendly and everyone gets along so well. It’s no surprise that Excel Fitness has won the award of “best fitness club” in Greater Hartford the past few years.

If you want to improve your fitness and your overall health, you ought to stop by.


Testimonial from Paul Bunker – Working with Jeff Roux at Excel Fitness

At the age of 53, I decided to embark on a second career as registered nurse.  As I continued my science and medical studies, I realized I would have to be in top physical shape to withstand the daily demands of nursing, and to be an effective role model in promoting wellness to my patients.  I needed to be in the best shape of my life.

While I had always worked out and stayed in decent shape, I decided I had to do more and started a weight training program in earnest.  My program was a mish-mash of exercises I had picked up from magazines, the internet, and just watching other people in the gym.  After making some nice gains, the steady improvements began to plateau, and I was constantly plagued by annoying joint inflammation caused by repeating the same exercises over and over again.  And, I had a hard keeping my body fat low.  It was time to consider hiring a trainer.

When I moved to West Hartford, and asked friends for advice on selecting a gym and a trainer.  Excel Fitness was the overwhelming response, and trainer Jeff Roux was suggested as being the best match to my fitness goals.  After visiting the Excel Fitness web site, I was impressed with the facility, but a bit apprehensive about working with Jeff, whose impressive background includes success as a competitive bodybuilder.

I needn’t have worried.  At our first meeting, Jeff put me at ease as I explained to him that I wanted to be in the best shape possible in 18 months, by May 22, 2010 – the date of my graduation from nursing school.  He accepted my goal, did a personal assessment to create a baseline, and designed an exercise program to get me started.  From day one, the effect of his training program on my body has been intense and wonderful,  to say the least.

Jeff always explains the purpose of each exercise, and demonstrates its proper form and execution.  He consistently pushes me beyond my own self-perceived limits, and provides me with fresh approaches to standard exercises and adding new ones.  For my part, I am encouraged to train to my real potential each time, and I have not sustained any training injuries, as I had in the past.

The result:  I felt I had reached the best shape of my life within 12 months, but in the past six months I have added more muscle, lost more body fat, and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon.  I am able to wear clothes sizes I wore when I was in my 30’s, and friends and family have noticed the change in my body, with the comment “You must live in the gym!”  Well, I train just a little over an hour three times a week.  That’s just a bit more than three hours a week to be in the best shape of your life at any age!   My doctor once said I am his most boring patient, as I take no medications, and have never had any surgery.

Getting back to my graduation as a RN on May 22, I was able to walk proudly onstage at the age of 58 with my white scrub top tucked into my pants, in the best shape of my life.  And I have Jeff Roux and Excel Fitness to thank for this accomplishment.

Paul Bunker

Client testimonial – Kate Ottavio

After seeing my post last week about the need for women to embrace weight training, client and friend, Kate Ottavio, asked if she could post a testimonial here on our blog. Of course we said yes!
I grew up a dancer and horseback rider – constantly active and always on the muscular side. I always ate what I wanted in any proportion healthy or unhealthy, but stayed at what I thought was a comfortable 145 pounds at 5’7” tall.

I was introduced to Shawn O’Brien, co-owner of Excel Fitness through my business manager. I am the reigning Miss Rocky Hill 2010 and at the time, was prepping for the big Miss Connecticut pageant. Sticking to a regular routine of weight training and a little cardio on my own, I was about 23% body fat.

Then Shawn started working with me. I had regular hour-long session each week with him covering a variety of exercises and muscle groups. Unlike trainers I had before, Shawn didn’t make me feel tired and utterly worn out after a workout. I felt refreshed and energized. Not only that, but I craved healthier foods and my appetite decreased (and trust me when I say I like to eat!).

Seven percent body fat later, I competed in the Miss CT pageant and won the preliminary and overall swimsuit award and placed first runner-up in my first year with the Miss America Organization – and I feel fantastic.

Thanks to Excel Fitness and Shawn for everything – I am so appreciative of your help!

Photo credit: Mike Orazzi

Kate Ottavio, Miss Rocky Hill 2010