Health & Family

Fort Mill woman is ‘Next Fitness Star’ finalist

Personal trainer Noell Yanik, 31, doesn’t care if her clients eat dark chocolate or cheeseburgers every day.

The only thing she asks for is confidence.

Yanik, of Fort Mill, S.C., is one of five finalists in Women’s Health magazine’s “Next Fitness Star” competition. The winner will star in her own DVD workout series, receive a marketing team to build her brand and be featured in Women’s Health. The five finalists also appeared on the July/August cover of the magazine.

A celebrity judging panel and the public’s votes will determine who is named the 2014 Next Fitness Star. Voting ends Aug. 1, and the winner will be announced on “Good Morning America” later in the month. The judges chose the finalists based on essay questions and social media followers from thousands of applicants. Now the judges will assess which contestant they think is the most inspirational and passionate.

For Yanik, a career as a personal trainer has been the goal since she learned how to strength train in 2006. She loved how much confidence she gained from it and the idea of motivating others.

A Charlotte native, she spent a brief time in Fort Mill before moving to Louisville, Ky., in 2009 for her husband Neil’s job. There, Yanik was able to quit her job as a chemical supply saleswoman and commit to becoming a personal trainer.

She started fitness company BodyBootCamps with another trainer, and business took off. When she wasn’t running boot camps, she was in a training session with a client.

“I could tell that it was my thing, that there was not going to be anything else that felt more natural to me,” Yanik said. “And other than being a mom, there hasn’t been anything that’s felt as natural.”

When they learned they were expecting their first child (Lucas is now almost 2), Yanik and her husband moved back to Fort Mill in 2012 to be closer to family.

Yanik works mostly out of her home, using her strength-training-meets-yoga style to help mostly “new mommies” in her neighborhood regain their confidence.

“I love to see women’s confidence grow while training,” she said. “It’s really why I do what I do.”

Her program runs three to four months and focuses more on toning the figure, rather than weight loss, through combined weight training, cardio, Pilates and yoga.

Yanik said her training is more than about helping people feel their best – it’s also about teaching people they are more capable and powerful than they think.

“There’s something about Noell that makes me want to be a better version of me,” said Stephanie Sherrill, a Fort Mill resident who has been training with Yanik for a year and a half. “That’s what really surprised me, how she inspires me to just be me – a more athletic and more fit me.”

Yanik’s struggled with weight loss on her own: After college, she said she put on weight after partying too much in school, and her strictly cardio-based exercise routine wasn’t working. And another time right after she had her son, she was breast-feeding and couldn’t work out as much as she had wanted.

Now, she works out about two to three times a week on her own. She does yoga twice a week, Pilates once a week and cross-training twice a week.

Yanik encourages her clients to live a healthy, confident lifestyle, but she doesn’t require them to stick to a strict regimen of fruits, vegetables and lean meats. Yanik indulges at least once a day on either red wine, dark chocolate, cheeseburgers or pizza.

“You have to put splurging into your regimen,” she said. “I don’t believe in being so cut and so thin. I have a body, and I want to enjoy my life, and food is a beautiful part of my life.”

Yanik and her family are promoting the contest, but at the end of the day, all Yanik can do is sit back with a piece of chocolate or glass of wine and hope for the best.

“It’s been a very surreal experience. It’s been a dream come true,” she said. “It’s unbelievable to me still.”