Personal trainer hopes to inspire others, especially youth
For most of his young life, Sami Kader just wanted to be left alone.
As an overweight child and teen, he didn't feel like he fit in with his peers. That might have been because they often called him "tub 'a lard" or other nasty nicknames. He always got picked last for team sports.
Between seventh grade and his sophomore year at Oakmont High School, Kader gained 100 pounds, ballooning to 300 pounds. He drank six sodas a day, snacked at home and sat on the couch. He prayed to be skinny. He remembers crying himself to sleep - and eventually feeling numb.
It's a feeling he doesn't want any other young person to experience.
Kader, 30, is a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Roseville. He has a soft spot for youth struggling with their weight and is on a mission to promote self-esteem and exercise among kids. He's writing a book that's part memoir and part fitness advice.
In May, he took 15-year-old Abby Wittmayer under his wing, training her once a week at the gym and educating her about nutrition.
"This is something that will affect her for the rest of her life," Kader said.
For Kader, his own health journey began when he was a child and his parents went through a divorce. Dad left home and his single mom was left working to support her kids. Meanwhile, in school, he experienced the taunts of his classmates, which he now says were kids going through their own struggles.
"Bullies are just kids going through their own pain and they don't know what to do, and how to deal with the pain," he said.
Kader unplugged, until one day his sister's boyfriend - now husband - pressured him into going to the gym after school. This man, Don Angle, never gave up on him.
"He taught me to harness the pain and use that for every set, every exercise," Kader said.
Three months later, he got on the scale and weighed 270 pounds. He had dropped 30 pounds.
"(Don) put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Look dude, you did it,' and I remember that feeling,'" Kader said.
A year later, he'd lost 100 pounds and made Oakmont's football team. He's now been a personal trainer for 10 years and recently connected with the Roseville Police Activities League to run a free exercise circuit training program for children 8 to 17 years old this summer.
Kader wants youth to make a positive association with exercise and to not feel alone or doomed. They can change their lives for the better, he said, just like Abby who has given up soda and fast food.
On an afternoon in June, Kader instructed Abby to do two sets of lat pull downs.
"How many waters have you had today?" he asked her.
Kader's goal is to help alter her habits from playing video games to training at the gym. Abby, who just finished seventh grade, said exercise hasn't come easy.
"It's been really hard but I know it will be really good for me," she said. "I used to wake up and not be happy and I just knew I could be with some motivation. It's kind of nice that (Kader's) been through what I'm going through."
He was previously her mom's trainer.
"I'm just so excited for them," Kim Wittmayer said. "I think he's going to inspire her for a lifetime of good health. That's my hope."
Sena Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.
Exercise circuit training with Sami Kader
What: For children ages 8 to 17 through the Roseville Police Activities League. Program combines exercise, self-esteem and team-building.
When: 1-2 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: 110 Corporation Yard Road in Roseville
For more information on personal trainer Sami Kader, visit www.samikader.com.