Woman undergoes weight loss, lifestyle change at Gold’s Gym

FBI agent loses more than 70 pounds; has taken up boxing and running 5Ks
By: Sena Christian, Granite Bay View
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During one of her first workout sessions at Gold’s Gym in Roseville, Linda Russo was expected to run around the parking lot of a shopping center.

“Is he crazy?” she wondered of her trainer, Al Kaufenberg.

Russo was out of shape, nearly 100 pounds overweight and lacked the endurance to jog a few yards without quickly losing her breath.

Kaufenberg shouted words of encouragement — “Come on, Russo!” — and during subsequent training sessions he continued to make her jog around that parking lot. Two years later, what was once a torturous few minutes of running is now an activity she can do and barely break a sweat.

Russo, 54, trains at Gold’s Gym under the tutelage of Kaufenberg, who leads her in a variety of exercise regimens: circuit training, weight training, boxing and sport-specific training.

“I train with her five days a week so it’s good to mix it up,” Kaufenberg said. “She’s made a big transition. She’s lost over 70 pounds. She’s got muscle tone now, she’s got stamina, she’s got endurance.”

These training programs and related equipment are also available at Gold’s Gym in Granite Bay. Joe Gold opened the original Gold’s Gym, nicknamed The Mecca, in 1965 in Venice Beach, Calif. Today more than 600 of these co-ed fitness centers operate in about 40 U.S. states and 30 countries serving 3 million members.

Russo, an FBI agent, used to be unable to fit a holster around her waist. At the shooting range, she’d get tired shooting a gun.

But the moment Russo realized she had to make a change occurred a few years ago when she embarked on a trip to Italy. She weighed about 225 pounds and needed a seatbelt extension on the airplane.

“I like to travel. I thought, this is not good,” she said.

Russo was also suffering health issues and her job was negatively impacted by her poor health. But she didn’t just want to diet and attempt a quick weight-loss fix. She wanted to incorporate exercise as a regular part of her daily life, and she wanted a personal trainer to keep her motivated and accountable.

“It’s been a good match,” Russo said. “(Al) kicks my butt when he needs to kick my butt.”

During the very first training session, Kaufenberg worked his client’s abdomen muscles. To get off the floor, she had to roll over to her side and pull herself up.
“Now she springs up, no problem,” he said.

Kaufenberg credits his gym’s unique circuit training and sport-specific training options as part of the reason Russo has excelled. He said most gyms don’t have these options available.

As for Russo, in addition to dropping pounds, she has significantly lowered her blood pressure and cholesterol, improved her balance and can run a 10-minute mile.

“I was even challenged gardening,” she said. “But now I can squat, no problem. Exercise had never been a part of my life. Now, I feel guilty if I don’t go to the gym.”

She’s taken up boxing at the gym, which she enjoys and is running 5Ks. The avid traveler is off to France next year, where she plans to explore the cities and villages on foot, without getting winded.

“My energy is better,” Russo said. “I feel the confidence. I like being active. When I started, my attitude was good and I stayed with it. Some people get discouraged, but I didn’t get discouraged because I knew it was for me.”

Sena Christian can be reached at


Gold’s Gyms offers a month-to-month membership for $29 a month. No long-term agreement required. Gold’s Gym is located at 8665 Auburn Folsom Road in Granite Bay and 5110 Foothills Blvd. in Roseville. For more information, visit